Manga is a japanese form of comic illustration that includes sexually explicit graphics. The collection that the U.S. Post Office seized as it was being shipped to Handley included comics of children being sexually abused.
Handley did not have any criminal history nor did he possess any real child pornographic images.
Although the psychologist assessed that Handley was not "disclosing enough" Handley admitted he searched the Internet for manga with stories involving the sexual abuse of minors. The prosecution stated that "The works at issue do not even have arguable scientific, literary, artistic, or political value, such as Vladimir Nabokov's famed novel, Lolita, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, or even Alan Moore's recent, but controversial, graphic novel, Lost Girls. By the defendant's own statements, the works for which he was convicted of receiving and possessing are clearly obscene." Okay, so Handley, by his own admission, perved over nasty fantasies involving cartoon minors. Ick.
Oh and by the way, for anyone wondering if looking at manga comics leads people to becoming sex offendors: "there is currently no developed to estimate risk for future sexual offending for individuals possessing sexual images in Manga or Anime." In other words, it's illegal because.
One of my heroes, Neil Gaiman, who fought in defense of Handly, recommended that anyone interested in comic art look through their comic book collection. S. Clay Wilson's Underground Comix...even Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" series could be considered obscene. He said "I wrote a story about a serial killer who kidnaps and rapes children, and then murders them." (The Doll's House) "We did that as a comic, not for the purposes of titillation or anything like that, but if you bought that comic, you could be arrested for it? That's just deeply wrong. Nobody was hurt. The only thing that was hurt were ideas." (http://splashpage.mtv.com/2008/11/24/neil-gaiman-on-the-obscenity-of-manga-collector-christopher-handleys-trial/)
It comes down to the line. Where is the Perv line in art? Where is the art line in art? We've talked about what constitutes art on this show several times - this is an example of what happens when a legal system determines something is NOT art and is not protected under creative laws.
I just posted several nude drawings I did on my facebook page, some of which explore bondage themes. If my friends network didn't consist almost entirely of erotic authors, artists, performers and art lovers - there is no doubt that my ONLINE DIGITAL "ART" would offend some. But I'm protected because it's art. But for how long?