Comics historian Craig Yoe celebrates Banned Books Week with the Forbidden Comics bundle
Banned Books Week is just around the corner and to help prepare readers for this event, the folks at Humble Bundle have put together a collection of challenged and banned comics.
A portion of the proceeds goes towards benefitting The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, who helped curate this limited time bundle. Many notable creators are represented here including Alan Moore, Scott Snyder, Jeff Smith, Jeff Lemire, Garth Ennis, the Hernandez brothers, and even Cory Doctorow himself.
The Humble Comics Bundle: Forbidden Comics Supporting Banned Books Week runs for two weeks and ends Wednesday, October 7, 2015 at 11 a.m. Pacific time.
For such a unique bundle about controversial comics, it only felt fitting to call upon an individual just as unique to provide the very first Humble Bundle intro; enter comics historian Craig Yoe, no stranger to the most salacious corners of comicdom.
Take it away, Craig!
Mother was horrified.
She discovered my gaily-painted childhood wooden toy box now had a big steel padlock on it that I had got from Miller's Hardware Store. And it had a hand scrawled sign defiantly affixed: KEEP OUT! THIS MEANS YOU!
Mom became hysterical when I refused her demands to open the box to reveal its hidden contents. She could only imagine what dark secrets it contained.
It WAS filled with terribly embarrassing stuff that I didn’t want anyone to see because it would reveal emblematic objects of my conflicted, tormented adolescence: “men’s magazines” and “children’s comic books.” Both types of opposing fare were dishonorable possessions for a 13 year-old. Men’s magazines were impure and could incite youthful lusts and comic books were a symptom of some kind of sick arrested development.
When he arrived home, Dad pragmatically dealt with this worrisome kerfuffle. He calmly took a hacksaw from his huge metal toolbox and readily sawed off the lock of my diminutive wooden chest. Dad then made me haul my shame to the backyard incinerator and light a match to that terrible, terrible contraband!
As the men’s mags with the girly pics and the comics with the kiddie fare went up in flames and big tears streamed down my zit-marked adolescent face, my dad assured me I would someday be proud of this moment because I was now ceremoniously joining the esteemed ranks of the Grown Ups.
In my lifetime of adolescent rebellion (probably fueled by this incident like gas on a fire) I went on to devote myself to immaturely accumulating hoarding-quantities of comic books. And at one point I even procured a subscription to Playboy (though when renewal time came, I realized I’d rather spend the money on more comic books).
My avocation became my vocation as I now make my living publishing collections of vintage classic comic books. It doesn’t take Doc Freud to realize that this is obviously a thinly disguised psychological and pathetic way to symbolically preserve the hijacked comics of my youth that were burned at Fahrenheit 451.
You may laugh or cry about my little life experience but you will be horrified to learn that there was a time in America’s history that there were, in fact, organized mass burnings of comic books! In the 1950s, parents, teachers, politicians, religious leaders, scoutmasters, librarians, and other unsavory types had reluctant kids round up their comic books and torch them. What is a good rant these days without calling someone a Nazi? Yes, the photos of these comic book burnings I’ve reproduced in some of my books of comics history look not unlike the photos we’ve all seen of Nazis burning books as part of their march for world domination.
In 1938, Superman lit a fire in the eyes of kids happy to give depression-era dimes to candy store owners in exchange for adventures of the caped immigrant, flying and fighting for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Superman’s greatest foes, though, weren’t baddies in his printed, four-colored paper adventures but real life self-appointed do-gooders. These critics claimed from the outset that the Man of Steel was stealing children’s innocence and endangering the country’s moral fiber by glorifying vigilantism, fascism and probably a few other ism’s.
Everybody is entitled to his or her opinion, and I can see the criticism of superheroes. I really can. But anything that smacks of censorship rankles me. The criticism of comics and their superheroes, and especially their later crime and horror fare, grew in the 1950s to the point of the public square book burnings. Seduction of the Innocent, a book by a Dr. Fredric Wertham, drummed up tremendous anti-comics sentiment. At the same time, grandstanding politicos looking for scapegoats to demonize and looking for future votes mounted Senate investigations into comic books and their supposed role in the nation’s juvenile delinquency problem.
Candy stores and newsstands were now nervous about even carrying comics. Parents were tighter with the allowance money, and sales plummeted.
Publishers went out of business and artists found themselves on the streets or, worse yet, having to join the advertising field!
To save their sorry asses, the publishers that remained had to band together and adopt the Comics Code Authority a self-censoring initiative that sanitized for our protection the beleaguered 10-cent funnybooks. Comics were lowbrow to begin with—and I like that—but now the publishers were putting lipstick on Porky Pig.
Of course that’s all behind us, folks!
But wait! Superheroes aren’t the only fascists. There are always real ones lurking and censorship is always one of their primary tactics. Why, comics in this very Humble Bundle have been criticized and removed from library shelves and school curriculums by people who want to tell others what they can and can’t read! Now some of these comics here have unfortunately transcended the base four-color nonsense of my childhood and are even now considered high-lit—I try not to hold that against them and, anyway, people should be free to read what they want! I don’t judge and in my judgment no one else should either!
Yes! True! Fascists or their henchmen, ill-meaning and sometimes even well-meaning fellow citizens, want to saw the locks off of our toy chests and march us to the backyard incinerator and make us burn our comics—even today!
These nefarious people want to see our comics, certainly the controversial ones, destroyed! This is the opposite of Truth, Justice and the American Way. It’s dangerous to our freedoms! It’s un-constitutional censorship!
Worse yet, I strongly suspect these controlling parental-types want us to... GROW-UP!
Comic book lovers of the world unite!
Hold onto your right to read whatever precious junk or hi-falutin’ lit-ter-a-chur you want to read!
Hold onto your comic books, even questionable ones like the funny books featuring fascist guys that wear capes and cowls and their underwear on the outside and slug people for a living!
And—most importantly—if it hasn’t already been tragically stolen from you, hold onto your immaturity and…
Craig Yoe with Clizia Gussoni, via their Yoe Books/IDW imprint, reprint classic comics of all sorts in beautifully designed hardbound books. These collections include numerous volumes of Pre-Code horror comic books that your mother and the U.S. Senate didn't want you to see. Vice Magazine called Craig Yoe, "The Indiana Jones of nerd-perv artifacts!" Visit http://YoeBooks.com
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