How A Comic Book Almost Took Down The Ohio Prison System

On May 8, 2012, Mansfield Correctional Mailroom Supervisor Lieutenant Reese and the moral, upstanding mailroom staff under his confident command saved the world from certain and devastating cataclysm. They prevented the comic book, V for Vendetta, from entering the prison.

You may say, “but Swain (if you really wrote this, and no is saying you did), a comic book is no danger,” and you may roll your eyes in disbelief. But that’s exactly what I would want you to think.

The U.S. defeated Japan with nuclear bombs and the Viet Cong used guerrilla warfare to defeat their colonizers. The Trojans employed a wooden horse to conquer their foes. Al Queda attacked the U.S., using planes as deadly projectiles.

I intended to bring down the entire Ohio Prison system with a comic book. Yes, a comic book. But I didn’t count on Lt. Reese recognizing the clear and present danger that this cartoon fiction represented. As former Fraudulent Bush would put it, I clearly misunderestimated him.

According to the Notice of Witholding, signed by Warden’s Assistant Scott Basquin, who also did his part to save the world from my nefarious plot, the comic book violated criteria ©(2): “Depicts, encourages, incites, or describes activities which may lead to, the use of physical violence against others.” Mr. Basquin cites an example from page 271 of the comic: “VIOLENCE AGAINST ANOTHER: ‘If you don’t tell us you won’t leave here alive.’”

From what I gather, Mr. Basquin is asserting that this quote (“If you don’t tell us you won’t leave here alive”) would provoke other prisoners and me to engage in physical violence against others.” By his reasoning, that quote is so provocative, I cannot read it.

His judgment is uncanny. It was my intention to pass around this comic book and share that quote from page 271 with 50,000 Ohio prisoners and provoke them all to go absolutely ape-shit crazy. The whole system would collapse, the fences would fall, and our unmitigated chaos would spill into the street. Global capital would collapse, civilization would burn, and dogs and cats would hump each other. Now, with the comic book withheld, I only have this quote written in Mr. Basquin’s handwriting to pass around and use as a potential weapon of mass destruction.

Foiled. Foiled again.

I never suspected the mailroom would catch on. After all, the movie V for Vendetta, which contains the exact same quote as appears on page 271 of the comic, has not only been played here on the MANCI movie channel again and again, but MANCI used prisoners’ own recreation money—my money—to purchase the movie. It is now in the video library and played on a regular rotation to the entire population. Moreover, the movie was shown on network television and potentially every Ohio prisoner saw it, along with the dangerous and provocative quote that Basquin cited (“If you don’t tell us you won’t leave here alive”).

You’re probably thinking, “But Swain (if you really wrote this, and no is saying you did), why not use the movie to provoke the system crash, rather than the comic—especially since the prison plays the movie over and over again? And I would, except you know how reading dialogue from a comic and looking at the cartoon images is far more emotionally stirring than seeing actors speaking the lines in flesh and blood. Comics are so much more realistic than portrayals on film.

So, I will have to go back to the drawing board. My archnemesis Lieutenant Reese has saved the Ohio prison system from impending doom, and has possibly saved the world. I think perhaps he should have a street named after him somewhere. Not all mailroom supervisors would have the wherewithal to seize a comic book.

But the Lieutenant Reeses and Scott Basquins of the world cannot rest on their laurels. There are millions of comic books out there, and if just one of them slips past the vigilant and courageous gate-keepers of the MANCI mailroom, it could be curtains for the entire Ohio prison system, and possibly civilization as we know it.2


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2  I appealed this withholding to the Central Office Screening Committee, a group of fascist fuckweasels who used to keep the population of the Eastern Bloc from reading comic books until after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the appeal I argued, “If a comic book can bring down the entire prison system, pack it up and call it quits.” It appears that if they will not give me this copy of the comic, I will just have to read the copy I already have.