I already commented on this when the story popped up at Bleeding Cool last week, but today’s Newsarama article on the fact that Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s The Boys #34 evidently won’t be distributed in Germany suggests that there are still quite a few misconceptions regarding German law when it comes to the treatment of insignia used by unconstitutional organizations—such as, in this case, the swastika.
So here are some facts:
o The law in question was, in fact, introduced by the Allies as part of the “denazification” process after World War II.
o The law in question, as per its letter, “shall not be applicable if the means of propaganda or the act serves to further civil enlightenment, to avert unconstitutional aims, to promote art or science, research or teaching, reporting about current historical events or similar purposes.”
o Consequently, it’s not a case of the German government actively prohibiting the publication or distribution of, say, comic books with swastikas on the cover. Rather, the choice whether or not to publish or distribute those books is up to the people who publish or distribute them.
In this particular case, it means that Diamond chose not to distribute The Boys #34 in Germany—likely as a preventative measure, in case German authorities might not agree that the exception cited above applies to the comic.
But it’s not true that “the use of the swastika on the cover of the issue precludes it from being sold in Germany,” as Matt Brady claims in the Newsarama article. As Darick Robertson rightly points out, American Captain America comic books or Hollywood films involving Nazis have always been sold and displayed in Germany without any trouble. That’s because German law or authorities have nothing to do with it: It’s the distributor’s decision.
(That said, swastikas have been obscured in German reprints of the same comics, as well as in the German versions of computer games such as Lucasfilm Games’ Indiana Jones series to avoid getting in conflict with that law. But to those instances, the same applies: They’re preventative measures by the people who make or distribute the material, not censorship.)
If you’re looking for more information on the law in question, Wikipedia has a nice write-up to get you started.