TSA Bans Comic Books in Checked Luggage for Comic-Con

San Diego Comic-Con has become so much more than just a comic book convention. But comic books remain the heart and soul of Comic-Con.

a group of comic books

In addition to attendees being there to buy comic books, vendors flock to Comic-Con to sell their comic books as well.

That’s why participants in Comic-Con were shocked to find this notice waiting for them at the San Diego airport after Comic-Con.

UPDATE: The TSA says they are not responsible for the comic book ban (United is).

The TSA banned comic books from checked luggage for flights leaving San Diego after Comic-Con.

This is problematic in a few ways.  First, attendees tend to purchase rare comic books that they are trying to keep in pristine shape.  Yes, you can do with when you have a few comic books in your carry on–but remember, this is a convention.

People aren’t flying out to San Diego to purchase *one* comic book.

Second, while large vendors enter into freight shipping contracts, small vendors rely on their checked bags to get their wares to and from the convention.

This is especially problematic for independent comic book artists who are bringing their own (sometimes self-published) collections.  These are usually packed into hard-cases, specially designed to make sure the books don’t get dinged up in transit.

This seemed too weird to be true but United Airlines confirmed the ban on Twitter:

The strange part is–while United is directing everyone to TSA for more information, United is also the only airline I can find who is enforcing this.  This does not mean it is the only airline.  I just don’t see any outrage from people flying other airlines.

According to United, this restriction is for this weekend only and does not include books–just comic books.

Why ban comic books?  According to someone on Twitter who claims to be former TSA (so take it with a grain of salt), the glossy pages of the comic book show up strangely on the x-ray machine and have to be individually searched.  (It looks as if this person deleted their tweet–I can’t find it again)

I’ve found some evidence backing this up though, from a range of people complaining about the TSA telling them they had too many comic books in their bags.

If this is true, it sounds as if the ban is so they do not have to use extra TSA manpower during the weekend (or perhaps, they suddenly found themselves overwhelmed and issued this suddenly).

It does not surprise me that glossy magazines can set off the scanners.  A lot of things can.  My body glitter set off the detectors.   So it is not something specific to comic books.

I have not found an official TSA statement on this.

People tweeting the TSA directly have not received a reply as far as I can tell.

United said TSA’s ban is for the “weekend”.  Since Comic-Con is ongoing throughout the entire weekend, a lot of people (especially vendors) fly back on Monday.  I’m interested to see whether or not people run into issues today.

(Please note, I wrote this article two hours before publication, so there may be an update from the TSA by the time it goes live. If I have wifi connection at that time and there is an update, I’ll put it in the post.)


About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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  1. So since when are drawn pictures inside cardboard and paper posed such a dire threat to Western Civilization?

    The TSA is officially useless and an utter waste of taxpayer dollars and oxygen. Good riddance.

  2. United and TSA. Two ridiculously extra stupid institutions in USA. The same country which have outstanding educational institutions such as Harvard, Yale, UCLA, among lots of others. Amazing!!!

  3. It’s probably something in the ink like metals that screws up their scanners.

  4. This is not correct. TSA did not ban the items. Please see current articles indicating it is erroneous information.


  5. The TSA posted this….

    “We’re always testing procedures to help stay ahead of our adversaries. We were testing the removal of books at two airport locations and the testing ran its course. We’re no longer testing and have no intentions of instituting those procedures.”

    Are the two connected?

  6. FYI, I travel frequently with a suitcase full of soft-cover books that have glossy covers, usually packed in a large cardboard shipping box inside a regular suitcase. On one occasion, a couple of months ago, TSA cut open the box and flipped through the pages of all 36 books in the box. In the same suitcase I had a locked box with a declared firearm (I generally travel armed), and they weren’t interested in taking a look at that, at all–they merely confirmed with me verbally that the gun was unloaded in the locked box (as is required).

    So, the goofy-sounding “glossy covered printed materials mess up the scanning machinery” may have some truth to it independent of ComiCon. On the other hand, I travel this way almost weekly, and that’s only ever happened once.

    Just sharing the experienced.

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