As a teenager, Mike Diana took after the underground comix community, namely Zap Comix, and self-published Boiled Angel, his first handmade comic zine hallmarked by his flagrantly explicit and taboo black line drawings. With up to 300 in circulation at the time, Diana hoped to circumnavigate the conservative eye of Largo, Florida, yet intended to create the most offensive zine ever made. Enough to become the only person thus far in the United States to receive a criminal conviction for artistic obscenity.
When an undercover law enforcement officer got a hold of an edition of Boiled Angel, Diana was at first mistakenly connected to the previously unsolved Gainesville, Florida murders. Taken to trial in 1994, Diana was found guilty for publishing, distributing and advertising obscenity. He served four days in maximum security and three years of supervised probation and community service, was ordered to stay away from minors, was preemptively forbidden from drawing, and was subject to warrantless searches of his home for “obscene” material.
Opponents accused him as a Satan-serving glorifier of rape, murder, torture, child abuse, bestiality, necrophilia, to name a few of his controversial subject matters. Others were shocked and enraged at an apparent violation of First Amendment rights. According to Diana, “I want to make people more aware of the things [that] were going on around them…if they’re going to get mad at something, I want them to get mad at the fact that these things really happen.”
Confrontational in its vulgarity and satire, Diana’s work commands its audience to acknowledge and feel the bizarre and ugly in our collective existence. His legacy is a wake-up call, a reminder of our ceaseless struggle to reconcile the absurd relationship between freedom of expression and the world of political correctness and censorship. Besides his foray into First Amendment martyrdom, Diana is a master of his craft and a champion of the authentic ethos of comic art. He asks that you don’t look away when he unforgivably holds up a mirror to a society that deemed his very act of drawing, a crime.