‘The Trial of Mike Diana’ Is the Frighteningly True Story of an Obscenity Conviction

By  · Published on November 5th, 2016

The man behind ‘Frankenhooker’ needs your help creating something far more serious (but just as ridiculous).

The story of Mike Diana might surprise, upset, and infuriate you. The fact that it all occurred in Florida will not surprise you in the slightest.

Diana was a young man in the mid ’90s who self-published a small comic zine filled with grotesque, humorous, and intentionally offensive images. It had a tiny circulation and was only sold via a mailing list, but when a cop in his small Florida town got a hold of an issue all hell broke loose. First they thought the comic suggested he was responsible for a series of nearby serial murders, but they soon moved on to the belief that his artwork could possibly inspire killers. Diana found himself charged with obscenity, and at the trial’s end a jury of ignorant, fearful people – ie Floridians – found him guilty. It was the first conviction of a US artist for obscenity.

He was sentenced to three years in prison.

For drawing a gross comic book.

It’s an insane tale of conservative, small-minded people who knew obscenity when they saw it, and of the young man caught up in their witch-hunt. It’s also a fairly unknown story – he was the first artist to be tried and convicted on charges of obscenity – but now that story is on the verge of being told in full.

Frank Henenlotter, director of cult comedy/horror classics like Frankenhooker and Basket Case, is bringing Diana’s story to the screen, and he needs your help. They’re running a Kickstarter campaign for the film, and as of today they’re halfway to their goal with only twelve days remaining. Check out the video below.

The finished film will feature archived news video along with brand new interviews with Diana, the various personalities involved on both sides off the case, and a host of current talents (including Neil Gaiman, Stephen Bissette, and others) who recognize the importance of the First Amendment and the freedom of the press.

Being a Kickstarter campaign there are additional rewards beyond the warm sensation you’ll feel in your gut for helping bring Diana’s story to a wider audience. Some of the options still available include pins, Christmas cards, the film on various home media formats, comic books, original drawings, and more.

Diana’s story is an important one, and you can be an important part of ensuring it gets told. Head to their Kickstarter page now and do your part for obscenity!

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.