New Yorker on the 1950s comic book panic

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11 Responses to “New Yorker on the 1950s comic book panic”

  1. UnderRat says:

    I tend to blame EC comics for my values and code of conduct. As a child, they taught me a form of simple kharma that church really never did. If you were an evil person who screwed over good people, the good people would come back from the grave and eat your liver.

  2. Nelson.C says:

    If art can be seriously good for you, though, it follows that it can be seriously bad for you [..]

    Is this necessarily true? I know that lack of any art at all can be seriously bad for you, but I find bad art can be quite stimulating (using my own subjective criteria for bad art), whether I disagree with it or its execution.

  3. mh76 says:

    Actually, it’s been a while since I’ve read it, too, but I think he was “coming down” from the effects of his diet pills and THAT is why he was acting a little loopy. But either way, it did little to help him out, no question!

  4. kip w says:

    Our pal Gordon G met Wertham at a convention, and got his autograph (plus a two-line verse that he pubbed in his zine). That said, I still hold it all against the good doc, who probably staged his crusade because sales of The Show of Violence had levelled off and he wanted another big money maker.

    The Gaines book is a classic. I keep it on a front shelf and pull it out frequently to check things. I flashed on a comment about the MAD trips, and a song the Usual Gang sang at Bill on one of their flights when I was looking at one of the “MAD About…” books (I think it was the 60s — if not, it was the 50s; it’s boxed up just now in anticipation of another move) and saw the dedication. From memory:

    “To the Memory of William M. Gaines:
    FUN AROUND THE CLOCK
    YOU BET WE HAD OUR FILL”

    I looked at that odd statement for several moments, and then I realized it was (A) a fold-in, and (B) offered sincerely in the spirit of affection.

    Alas, I’ll never meet the big lug, but I can still re-read that book.

  5. Talia says:

    Much better than later froggy.

  6. Robert says:

    You know, looking at that cover, the woman looks evil. Her eyes are white and her eyebrows are lowered. She looks mean and pissed. So maybe the guy with the axe is the hero? I’m just sayin’.

  7. Takuan says:

    loved the trial scene in the Betty Page movie

  8. OM says:

    Q: Is Wertham still alive?

    A: If not, anyone up for organizing a mass grave pissing? :-)

  9. Christopher says:

    Thank you for this… I’m currently listening to the kickass podcast novel Brave Men Run, which is in a world that essentially only has two differences from our own that I’ve seen: 1) comic books were banned in the 50s because of these historical hearings, and 2) they have superpowered beings (the Sovereign) that are just coming to light, and that no one knows what to expect because, well, the comic books were banned. Awesome stuff.

    http://www.mattselznick.com/writing/brave-men-run/

  10. binky says:

    See also, “Paul, the Horror Comics and Dr Wertham,” by Robert Warshow, collected in The Immediate Experience: Movies, Comics, Theatre, and Other Aspects of Popular Culture

  11. planettom says:

    You know, it’s very easy today to say, “Oh ho ho, those silly 1950s people and their Senate Subcommittee witch hunts!”

    But part of the reason that EC comics and TALES FROM THE CRYPT have the mystique they have today is exactly because of that forbidden fruit. Otherwise they very likely would have vanished into obscurity.

    If you look over those 1950s comics, parents being concerned that these may not be appropriate for their children was a legitimate concern.

    Remember, you didn’t go into some SIMPSONS Comic Book Guy’s cave domain in the 1950s to buy these, they were on a spinning rack in the drugstore next to the LITTLE LULUs or whatever. It’s not That Crazy that some parents thought, maybe I’d like to not have the humorous vivisection stories there. Having some sort of Comics Code Authority stamp their approval, just like the movie ratings we have today, isn’t that ridiculous.

    Did they go overboard? Sure.

    I note that there’s recently been a new TALES FROM THE CRYPT comic, the first new “official” stories in over 50 years.

    Possibly a new Senate Subcommitee would be useful to call people to testify why these new ones turned out so crappy.

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