Found Object - A very graphic novel

Comic book panel stirs up controversy

Who knew that a naked Picasso could still cause such a stir in Rome, where the late artist is at the heart of a contentious obscenity case?

To clarify, we're talking about a nude depiction of Picasso himself, not one of his paintings; the "obscene" material in question is a comic book; and the flap is taking place in Rome, Georgia.

Earlier this month, Gordon Lee, owner of Legends, a comics and toy store in Rome, was scheduled to stand trial on felony charges for violating a seldom-used state law against distributing books containing nudity without a warning label.

Lee is accused of giving a comic book in 2004 to a 7-year-old boy that contained portions from The Salon, a graphic novel by award-winning artist Nick Bertozzi. The story portrays a real-life meeting between Picasso and painter Georges Braque in 1920s Paris in which the eccentric Spanish Cubist is shown naked in his studio, enraged at being disturbed while working on a painting of a nude model.

On the morning of Lee's trial, however, Rome prosecutors withdrew the felony charge and announced they would reindict him on misdemeanor charges of exhibition of harmful materials to a minor.

Alan Begner, the Atlanta First Amendment attorney defending Lee, says he plans to challenge the constitutionality of the law, a portion of which was already overturned earlier this year.

Lee's legal costs are being underwritten by the New York-based Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.