Remember When Comic Books Were Dangerous?

No?

Well time for the Old Professor to drop some history.

These days comic books are a great source of entertainment and collecting them has become mainstream.

But it was not always so acceptable to read or collect these treasures.

Like today when some blame society’s ills on video games and music so it was that comics were accused as the source of juvenile delinquency in the 1950s.

Comic books are successful almost from their inception in the early 1930s, but also subject to attack by critics for the low quality of the art and writing, and for the emphasis on violent stories and images. These attacks come from adult critics, not the millions of monthly comics readers — mainly children and teenagers who love the vivid illustrations and exciting stories in the books.

After World War II, readership dwindles for popular superhero titles, such as Superman, Wonder Woman, and The Spirit, and many comics turn to gory, true-life stories, or tales of horror and the supernatural. E.C. Comics’ Vault of Horror, Crypt of Terror, and Haunt of Fear cram their pages with severed heads, drug use, and graphic violence. Some of the most popular of these extreme stories come from the pen of comic artist Jack Cole.

Throughout the decade, attacks against the violent comics mount. Citizens’ groups and religious organizations pressure publishers and news dealers to drop the most offensive lines. Newspaper editorial pages and national magazines debate the influence of comics on the young.

In 1954 the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency holds hearings on whether comic books inspire juvenile delinquency. A lead witness, psychologist Dr. Frederick Wertham, testifies that comics “create a mental readiness for temptation” and create “an atmosphere of deceit and cruelty” for children. He even attacks Superman for “arousing fantasies of sadistic joy in seeing others punished while you yourself remain immune.”

E.C. Comics publisher William Gaines speaks in the comics defense, emphasizing his stories’ endings, in which the criminals always pay for their crimes. “Good taste” is his only criterion. Senator Estes Kefauver asks if an E.C. Comics’ cover displaying a woman’s severed head and a bloody axe is Gaines’ idea of good taste. Backed into a corner, Gaines boldly answers ‘yes.’ The exchange makes the front page of the next day’s New York Times.

The committee’s subsequent report declares no proven connection between comics and delinquency. Nevertheless, the Senate calls for self-regulation by the comics industry to keep violent titles out of young hands. Seeking to diffuse the negative publicity, the comic book publishers create The Comics Magazine Association of America. The new trade group publishes a strict code of guidelines to control what content the comics will permit. The guidelines focus exclusively on crime and horror comics. Within a short time, the genre is no longer commercially viable.

The imposition of the Comic Book Code bankrupts many of the horror and crime publishers, and many of the artists and writers leave the business for good. The most notable failure is E.C. Comics,

I always wonder why the dialog in the early comics was so horribly bad….like it was written by a 4 year old on Zanax……now you know.

Class Dismissed!

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

7 thoughts on “Remember When Comic Books Were Dangerous?

  1. I vividly remember the days when the comic book censors arrived on the scene and destroyed some of the best comic books ever produced. I was into EC horror comics too. I also remember when the motion pictures I watched in theaters was “Approved” by one censorship “Board” or the other ….I remember a later time when motion pictures and television producers tried their best to remove all portrayals of violence from their productions … You could watch the cowboy fire the gun but you could not watch the one who got shot fall to the ground … the camera always cut quickly away from that ….I always wonder why there are not censorship assholes today watching the unrestrained violence and gore in modern day video games …but I am glad that we can now watch some things on streaming services where the producers are not ashamed of nor restrained from showing full frontals and full ass shots and where violence has once more gained its rightful seat in the privacy of homes willing to endure.

  2. I don’t think we had any censorship of those comics here. I remember enjoying some of those titles in the early 1960s, chuq.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. LOL – they totally missed the real dangers – Mad Magazine and Classic Comics. Mad opened my eyes and Classic Comics was great when you had to write a report but forgot to read the book in time – he he he.

  4. Leave it to the people in Congress who want to appear to do something important every so often to tackle life-and-death issues like comic books, even back in the day.

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