The Library of Congress has just opened up 222 boxes' worth of files and papers on Fredric Wertham, the scaremonger whose book Seduction of the Innocent
led to widespread bans, burnings and censorship of American comic books. Wertham wasn't just a nutcase pro-censorship crusader: he was also (paradoxically), a civil rights pioneer who worked for racially integrated education in America (he also appeared in defense of Ethel Rosenberg, later executed for spying for the USSR).
Among the items in the Library's collection of Wertham's papers is a selection of comics he deemed offensive, with notations he wrote inside.
Papers of Comic-Book 'Villain' Open at Library
His copy of "Kid Colt, Outlaw" (1967) includes a note that of the 111 pictures, 69 were scenes of violence. An issue of "Justice League of America" (1966) includes markings calling attention to the sounds of violence like "thudd," "whapp" and "poww."
In addition, Wertham's papers include patient drawings and his analysis of those sketches. He writes of a young patient: "This case demonstrates the confusion created by comic books between fantasy and reality ... cruelty in children's play especially directed against girls."
Wertham testified six times under oath on the harmfulness of comic books, including providing testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. Though the committee's final report did not blame comics for crime, it recommended that the comics industry tone down its content voluntarily, thus resulting in the Comics Code Authority.
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