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Library of Congress Opens Records of Anti-Comic Book Shrink 257

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the sum-of-old-fears dept.
eldavojohn writes "Some light is being shone on comic book history today as the Library of Congress opens up the 222 boxes of a German psychiatrist's evidence and papers against comic books. Dr. Fredric Wertham is well known by comic book fans as the author of Seduction of the Innocent, a bestselling book linking comic books and juvenile delinquency — leading to a full blown congressional investigation (some say witch hunt) of the comic book industry. Wertham was long involved with criminal trials before campaigning against comic books and promoting industry and government censorship for children. Ars adds a little more context for the younger crowd and notes that he later tried to move against television violence but couldn't find the publisher backing he had against comic books."
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Library of Congress Opens Records of Anti-Comic Book Shrink

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  • Ah yes, Wertham (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Captain Splendid (673276) * <capsplendid&gmail,com> on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:02PM (#33416720) Homepage Journal
    As much as Dr. Dickhead and Congress should be excoriated appropriately, let's not forget that the Comics industry bent over backwards to censor itself. If they'd shown a little more backbone, imagine what Lee and Kirkby could have done with the "Marvel Way" in the sixties. Imagine not having that fucking glut of saccharine Archie products.

    Mind you, we probably wouldn't have gotten Mad magazine if things had turned out differently, so it's hard to be judgmental.
    • Re:Ah yes, Wertham (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MozeeToby (1163751) on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:10PM (#33416838)

      I don't know, it seems to me that often the best stories are written when the authors hands are tied a little bit. Typically, code or no code, the author will get the message out that they're trying to get out, but with the code in place it puts a check on the author, preventing him or her from taking the easy way to make their point. It encourages authors to look at both sides of situation more thoroughly than they would have otherwise which in my opinion adds more depth to the story.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        It gives them the luxury of looking at both ways better, while preventing them from doing things the second way, regardless as to whether it's the best way of expressing their message. Genius.
        • Re:Ah yes, Wertham (Score:4, Insightful)

          by MozeeToby (1163751) on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:20PM (#33416982)

          regardless as to whether it's the best way of expressing their message.

          Close, but that isn't quite what I said. More accurate would be "...regardless as to whether it's the easy way of expressing their message". There will always be times when going against the code will make the better story, but I feel that rather than making the story better it often just makes the story easier to write, which is a hard thing for most authors to resist.

          If you want your main character to be a criminal for instance, the easy way to do things is to have the criminal succeed and get rich off his crimes. With the code you can't do that, a criminal can't profit from his crimes, so what to do? You have to come up with other ways of having him 'win', through personal relationships, character growth, overcoming adversity, etc.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Hojima (1228978)

            But you have to look at what comic book writers were trying to accomplish, and what Dr. Wertham was trying to accomplish. This guy thought he found a correlation between violent media and delinquency. Did it ever occur to him that the naturally violent children will be attracted to the comic books and later become criminals, regardless of what they are subjected to. This man compared leaving the responsibility of controlling media for parents to anarchy. It would be more accurate to compare the restriction

            • Re:Ah yes, Wertham (Score:4, Insightful)

              by stonewallred (1465497) on Monday August 30, 2010 @03:03PM (#33418226)
              Your first few sentences pretty much sums up today's world. No PB&J sandwiches at school, because some kid may be allergic. WoD because some folks become addicted. Plenty of medications removed from the market, which are effective and work well, because one out of 100 million folks might die if they take it. IIRC correctly, Seldane was the sinus medication prescribed by a doctor that could cause heart stoppage in a very small percent of users who had heart murmurers. So instead of simple solution, don't prescribe for patients with heart murmurers, the government banned it for all folks, because of a sub-set of an already small sub-set. Let's avoid delving into such things as airport security, DHS, and other topics demonstrating the exact same ideas.
          • by Kidbro (80868)

            Close, but that isn't quite what I said. More accurate would be "...regardless as to whether it's the easy way of expressing their message". There will always be times when going against the code will make the better story, but I feel that rather than making the story better it often just makes the story easier to write, which is a hard thing for most authors to resist.

            Let me rephrase what you said, or perhaps draw this to its conclusion (which you may or may not already have thought of): This may force bad

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jandrese (485)
        Tied an artists hands a little bit can be good, but the code was a straitjacket--especially in the original incarnation. And attempting to publish without the CCA logo was suicide. Many distributes wouldn't even carry your product, and towns enacted ordinances making non CCA tagged comics "adult material" and illegal for distribution inside of the town boundaries. It took decades for the industry to recover, and even now comics retain the stigma of "kids stuff about moralistic superheroes and fluffy anim
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Culture20 (968837)
        And it makes kids think "Evil" is robbing a bank without guns, and yelling "Drat!" or "Curses!" when a superhero shows up. Instead of Evil being a man with an axe holding a severed head. Sometimes the best way to portray a villain is not with subtlety.
        • Actually, it's funny. The Joker started out as a homicidal lunatic, but of course when the comics code got done with him he was robbing banks without guns and saying "Drat!" and "Curses!"

          Now he's back to being a homicidal lunatic again.

        • I think the best way to portray a villian is with subtlety. That's how they're portrayed in Real Life, anyway.

          A guy with an axe and a severed head is just a homicidal lunatic that likes lopping heads. He can be stopped with a handful of lead or a quick maser beam or a mutant power.

          If the evil is an enourmous corporation or a government, how can you stop that? What could Superman do against BP or the RIAA?

          • by Culture20 (968837)

            What could Superman do against BP or the RIAA?

            Melt their eyeballs with heat vision? They don't own any Kryptonite.

          • by Talderas (1212466)

            What could Superman do against BP or the RIAA?

            Given that Superman has been documented on many occasions to be a super dick, he'd probably destroy Earth to deal with BP and the RIAA.

          • If the evil is an enourmous corporation or a government, how can you stop that? What could Superman do against BP or the RIAA?

            They way he solves all the world's problems, by tossing them into the Sun!

      • by MrHanky (141717)

        Yeah, without the MPAA's ridiculous rules, South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut wouldn't even have a fucking point.

      • Re:Ah yes, Wertham (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tverbeek (457094) on Monday August 30, 2010 @03:00PM (#33418196) Homepage

        While it's true that necessity is the mother of a great deal of creative invention, there are a great many stories which simply could not be threaded through the eye of the needle which is the Comics Code.

        The Code did more than just say things like "no boobs" and "no decapitations". It dictated which points of view could be expressed. A writer couldn't write a story which questioned the authority of the police. A writer couldn't do a story which expressed the idea that maybe crime does pay. These were specifically disallowed. The Code even declared entire topics off-limits. You couldn't write a story about drug use... pro or con. (The first mainstream comics to defy the Code were about the dangers of drug use.) You couldn't write a story expressing an opinion about homosexuality, because the subject couldn't even be mentioned. At best you might be able to fashion a Star-Trek-like metaphor for the topic you wanted to comment on, but that kind of vagueness leaves your point open to misinterpretation or just going over people's heads, which makes for a weaker story, not a stronger one.

        The Code's overriding principle was that all comics should be suitable for children. It was tantamount to requiring that all movies in cinemas be rated G or PG. That wasn't just a challenge to storytellers' creativity, it was an assault on it. You simply cannot write a sophisticated, nuanced story about complex themes, on an adult reading level under the Code. Because kids couldn't handle that.

        If you want writers who "look at both sides of a situation", read a newspaper. Most good writers of fiction have an actual point of view, and use their writing to express it. They shouldn't have to work around a system which declares their point of view impermissible, or the topics they wish to explore off-limits.

      • See: Nickelodeon Ren and Stimpy vs. SpikeTV Ren and Stimpy.
    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

      Yes, and let us remember this lesson when the question of self-regulation comes up in any context.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DMiax (915735)
      Actually, it was just Hays code [wikipedia.org] all over again. Funny how these things happen at decades of distance for different mediums. Let's see if the plot repeats with videogames...
    • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Monday August 30, 2010 @02:43PM (#33418014)

      As much as Dr. Dickhead and Congress should be excoriated appropriately, let's not forget that the Comics industry bent over backwards to censor itself. If they'd shown a little more backbone, imagine what Lee and Kirkby could have done with the "Marvel Way" in the sixties. Imagine not having that fucking glut of saccharine Archie products. Mind you, we probably wouldn't have gotten Mad magazine if things had turned out differently, so it's hard to be judgmental.

      The problem with this is that you are applying modern behavior to events that happened over 50 years ago. Or to put it another way, what you suggest is kind of like going back in time to the 1950s and getting angry because nobody has a cell phone. (That's "mobile phone" to you non-North Americans).

      I've read some books that talk about the era, which was before I was born. One of the problems is that people and American society were a lot less litigious back then. Sometimes people screwed you over and you didn't go to court over it. You just took it and moved on. People didn't run around suing each other over everything like they do today. I guess, in theory, Bill Gaines of EC and publishers of similar fare could have tried to stand up, but the reality was that the distributors wouldn't touch books that weren't blessed by the "Comics Code" and the Code was specifically written to put companies like EC out of business by forbidding them from doing exactly what they had done. And keep in mind too that plenty of publishers of what I will call "family safe" comic books such as Archie, various Disney comics (these are a lot better than many realize - look up Carl Barks for more info) and others were more than happy to play along with the Comics Code because they didn't do what it forbade and they were really happy to see competitors driven out of the business. Some people probably really did believe that comics turned kids into juvenile delinquents and those people thought that the Code was just doing a public service. There's always been a rumor that John Goldwater, the publisher of Archie Comics, was infuriated by Mad's (then a comic book not a magazine) parody called "Starchie" and he vowed to put EC out of business. Goldwater did substantial work for the Code and it's probably no coincidence that a lot of what the Code forbade applied to EC directly.

      Mad became a magazine specifically to evade the Code. It was a huge gamble that worked. But many artists, writers and others in the comic industry lost jobs and had to scramble to find new ones thanks to the Code. I'm pretty sure that if Bill Gaines and others could have stood up to the Code they would have.

      • No, it's a lot simpler than that.

        One guy, with a bunch of assertions, managed to get enough members of Congress alarmed. The comic companies, instead of challenging the claims on their merits, and you know, defending themselves and their work in any way, pissed their collective pants, and asked only question: How far apart would you like us to spread our cheeks?

        What was instructive about this episode (and similar ones in that decade), is that it was an early sign that the US, this supposed bastion o
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jythie (914043)
      Hard to say if showing backbone would have worked. They were a weak and unpopular industry in the middle of a moral panic in an age where blasphemy was still a punishable offense. The few publishers that did try to stick up for themselves were tarred and feathered and, more importantly, did not survive as companies.
    • Rewriting history (Score:3, Interesting)

      by westlake (615356)
      As much as Dr. Dickhead and Congress should be excoriated appropriately, let's not forget that the Comics industry bent over backwards to censor itself. If they'd shown a little more backbone, imagine what Lee and Kirkby could have done with the "Marvel Way" in the sixties. Imagine not having that fucking glut of saccharine Archie products.

      The comic book was on the fast track to extinction after World War Two.

      Mikey Spillane was in paperback and so, for that matter, was Dashiell Hammett. Trash or class fo

  • by Pojut (1027544) on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:03PM (#33416738) Homepage

    I love how some of the most outspoken people against video games (as well as comics, porno, etc) are often the same people who are against government expansion. Government intervention is always bad...unless it regulates something these people don't agree with.

    I'm looking at you, Mitt Romney...amongst others.

    • by CannonballHead (842625) on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:38PM (#33417238)

      Government intervention is always bad.

      There is the problem. I know a lot of people reject propositions with a boring and overly-simple argument of "government is too big," but that doesn't mean that all people who are in favor of a small [federal] government take that route, and it doesn't mean that they think that all government intervention is bad. You're unecessarily reducing a viewpoint to a ridiculous. Claiming that those who are against "government expansion" are in favor of anarchy (if government intervention is always bad, then anarchy would be good, because it would be no government intervention).

      Of course, you are probably just exaggerating to make your point, which is probably what the people you're arguing against are doing, too... meaning we're all arguing against exaggerated opinions of the other side, which means we're not even really arguing about something real ;)

      I'm a "small government" sort of guy. Didn't Romney do the health care thing in MA? Isn't that "government intervention?" Doesn't he still claim it was a good idea? Of course, that was at the state level, not the federal level... but still.

      I suppose I'm nit-picking. But the exaggerations on both sides make any sort of meaningful political discussion impossible. Democrats, according to some Republicans, quite literally want to drive America into the ground and give our land over to Muslim countries. Republicans, according to some Democrats, want to literally milk the people's money out of them through corporations and wouldn't mind if [insert large corporation] actually ran the country. Usually, these are supported by huge jumps from a given action to a motive. Actions are easy to see. Motives are pretty difficult.

      As an example, from my own ideological POV's typical party member, "Obamacare" is clearly an attempt to set up a completely socialist government in America. It's also, clearly, an attempt to ruin America and give it to Iran. It's also clearly an attempt for Democrats to gain more federal power. Of course, some of those clear motives are rather mutually exclusive, but we'll ignore that. The action that caused all this was a health care bill, but we clearly know the motive behind it.

      The same goes for Democrats. They clearly know the motives behind Repuplicans blocking a given bill (it is undoubtedly an evil and nefarious motive, like wanting to get more money from corporate lobbyists, or wanting to ensure they get re-elected, etc). My whole point? We are so caught up in ascribing motives that we can't even argue about the real substance - the legislation itself.

      And, to wrap up, exaggerations about POV's - including "small government" folks being against any government intervention at all, which then boils any discussion down to "well what about [something the government does that is necessary]???!?! you insensitive clod!" and including "all 'socialists' want to control ever single area of your life just like Russian communism!" - is a part of the can't-have-rational-discussion problems...

      IMO, of course. ;)

      • "Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all."
        The Wealth of Nations,Book V, Chapter I, Part II, 775

        If Government is stripped of all other functions save the defense of property, it is a tyranny of the rich. I believe that is why the rich nearly invariably favor small government. The more desperate the have-nots are, the more they will put up with and the less they will demand. Taking away social safety nets favors the rich employer who desires a pool of desperate, starving, cheap workers.

        But the truly rich make up less than one percent of our population. Why do the non rich desire smaller government? Is it out of some philosophical principle? Well, if humans were commonly genius-saints, perhaps. But we aren't. Most of us start from our assumptions and reason backwards to find support. And most of the upper middle class assume they will be rich one day, despite the lack of any evidence that this is likely. The gap between an upper middle class person making $100,000 to $250,000 per year and an actual owning class person is tremendous. We do not have as much upward mobility in our society as we would like to believe, but everyone believes we do. Why? Simple: anyone who says they don't think they can make it is obviously a failure. Who wants to admit to being a failure? The myth says hard work will make you rich, what, are you lazy?

        This is how the rich fool the middle class into defending the rich from the poor, even though the middle class has far more in common with the poor than the rich.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Then again, I would have to care about the uber-wealthy. Honestly, if I manage to live a decent middle-class life, what do I care how much money they make, even if it's off of me? They REALLY don't intrude all that much on any freedoms I have - I can still go, do, and say pretty much anything I want in this country, and the most anyone else can do is complain.

          We'd just have different problems if they all went away in any case; and, in America at least, if you really do work hard and hold down a decent jo
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by spun (1352)

            The problem is that, of all the economic growth over the last thirty years or so, almost all of it has gone to the top one percent. The owning class are actively redistributing wealth upwards. You may be alright being a slave, but I'm not. The working class creates wealth, by actually working, yet the wealth goes to the owning class, who thanks to socialism for the rich, don't even have the excuse that they are 'risking' their wealth by investing it in job creation. They get bailouts, even if the companies

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          You have made quite an extrapolation from a very specific quote.

          1. Defense of property is not the only function of government and no one suggests that it should be, this is a poor premise to start from.
          2. The rich do not nearly invariably favor small government. Just like everyone else, they favor big government when they think it works in their favor.
          3. The more desperate the have-nots are the more likely they are to do something drastic, like steal from the "have's".
          4. Your definition of "truly rich" is arbitrary.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by spun (1352)

            You have made quite an extrapolation from a very specific quote.

            1. Defense of property is not the only function of government and no one suggests that it should be, this is a poor premise to start from.
            2. The rich do not nearly invariably favor small government. Just like everyone else, they favor big government when they think it works in their favor.
            3. The more desperate the have-nots are the more likely they are to do something drastic, like steal from the "have's".
            4. Your definition of "truly rich" is arbitrary. Many people in the world and this country consider a person making $100k plus as "very rich".
            5. We may not be genius saints, but we do have some principals, such as an innate sense of fairness. We do not take from other what we would not have them take from us if our positions were reversed. You don't have to assume that you will be rich someday to see that taking from them what they have earned is wrong.
            6. Big or small government does not invariably benefit the poor with regard to property or anything else. Those who are for small government would probably argue that it hurts the poor more often than it helps.
            7. There are many, such as myself, who do not think that they will ever be rich. However, I do not believe that makes me a failure, and I do not begrudge those who will be rich. So long as they have behaved legally and hopefully ethically, their success is deserved. The fact that some may not behave ethically is not justification to take from them all.
            8. You may think the middle class is being "fooled", but I think you give them too little credit. You believe they are being fooled because otherwise they would agree with your beliefs. Yet a reasonable person can see flaws with your beliefs, as I have enumerated. You may want to argue over the points, but they are at least debatable. They don't require anyone be "fooled" to believe them.

            If your viewpoint really is that the middle and lower class should rise up and take from the rich because they have that power and it would benefit them (they have license to do so in a democracy), then I find your sig pretty ironic.

            1. I'm glad you agree with my point.
            2. We agree here, too. The rich favor big government for the rich, and small government for everyone else. As the rich make up only 1%, I'd say they generally want smaller government.
            3. Are you simply noting the most obvious implications of what I said and repeating them in order to curry favor with me? Yes, this is exactly the major problem with wealth disparity, thanks.
            4. My definition is not arbitrary. When the top 10% own 90% of the material wealth, I think that divid

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Most people don't want to move the discussion beyond that. They want to believe that their set of principles is more "right" than any given policy. They like calling themselves Democrat or Republican and spouting out of context talking points. They can participate in Democracy by simplifying it down to a few axioms and anyone that disagrees is naive, jaded, or just wrong.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Venik (915777)

        My whole point? We are so caught up in ascribing motives that we can't even argue about the real substance - the legislation itself.

        I agree and I blame the comic book industry's irresponsible, apolitical position on the issue. I think more comics should be dedicated to in-depth discussion of new legislation. Who owns the copyright on the character of the Socialistman?

    • Mitt Romney is only against government expansion when the "other guy's" are in charge. Mitt Romney is not a conservative, he is a political opportunist.
      • by Pojut (1027544)

        Which is a real shame, because financially (just based on his employment record), the guy knows what he's doing. Being smart about money isn't the only requirement for being president though, so...

        I think he'd make a good choice for Treasury Secretary or something like that...but I still can't believe he's considered by many to be the Republican front-runner for 2012.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:07PM (#33416792)

    Chief Counsel Herbert Beaser: Let me get the limits as far as what you put into your magazine. Is the sole test of what you would put into your magazine whether it sells? Is there any limit you can think of that you would not put in a magazine because you thought a child should not see or read about it?

    Bill Gaines: No, I wouldn't say that there is any limit for the reason you outlined. My only limits are the bounds of good taste, what I consider good taste.

    Beaser: Then you think a child cannot in any way, in any way, shape, or manner, be hurt by anything that a child reads or sees?

    Gaines: I don't believe so.

    Beaser: There would be no limit actually to what you put in the magazines?

    Gaines: Only within the bounds of good taste.

    Beaser: Your own good taste and saleability?

    Gaines: Yes.

    Senator Estes Kefauver: Here is your May 22 issue. [Kefauver is mistakenly referring to Crime Suspenstories #22, cover date May] This seems to be a man with a bloody axe holding a woman's head up which has been severed from her body. Do you think that is in good taste?

    Gaines: Yes sir, I do, for the cover of a horror comic. A cover in bad taste, for example, might be defined as holding the head a little higher so that the neck could be seen dripping blood from it, and moving the body over a little further so that the neck of the body could be seen to be bloody.

    Kefauver: You have blood coming out of her mouth.

    Gaines: A little.

  • Weasel words (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Dear Slashdot editors:

    Regardless of whether you're right or wrong, the phrase "some say witch hunt" is a weasel-faced cop out. It's a device commonly seen on Fox news to to inject opinion into otherwise factual reporting. If "some people" say it, tell us who. Otherwise, let us know it's your opinion.

    Regards.

    • Re:Weasel words (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Pojut (1027544) on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:11PM (#33416842) Homepage

      I would normally agree with that, but in this instance the term "witch hunt" is commonly used to describe this period in comic (and law) history. The "some people" is referring to the culture in general.

      If you're looking for a wikipedia-style source to be cited, open a phone book.

    • If "some people" say it, tell us who.

      Hordes of comic book fans, and large numbers of the /. regulars.

    • I say it was a witch hunt. They were looking for a scape goat for society's ills rather than taking any responsibility themselves for what their children were caught doing at the time, which is a pretty good definition of "Witch hunt". Is that good enough for you? Anyone else care to back me up?

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:32PM (#33417156) Journal

      Dear Slashdot editors:

      Regardless of whether you're right or wrong, the phrase "some say witch hunt" is a weasel-faced cop out. It's a device commonly seen on Fox news to to inject opinion into otherwise factual reporting. If "some people" say it, tell us who. Otherwise, let us know it's your opinion.

      Regards.

      I wrote that summary and CmdrTaco posted it without editing so I guess some if not all of the blame should be on me. And I'll concede that the statement is not accurate. There were staged comic book burnings [wikipedia.org] and during the testimony, Kefauver and Wertham (a German doctor no less) opened their testimony with statements calling Hitler a "beginner" when compared to the comics industry as well as flat out claiming comic books affected children to the same way Nazi propaganda indoctrinated children. Several books on the history of comics detail this testimony including Bradford Wright's Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America.

      So I must confess I was wrong to use that phrase, clearly "a witch hunt" would have more sound logic than what was used in an attempt to have the government replace the parents in guiding their children. Tell me though, if you don't think it was a witch hunt, why did backing dry up when they tried to move on to television to clean up all the violence that children saw in the moving pictures? The unrealistic violence of Larry, Moe and Curly is okay because ... ? Also, you do know that after the reformation of the comic book industry, juvenile delinquency did not plummet, right? We can still purchase said comic books today. So it seems you have the public burnings to spread fear and you have the oddly selective nature of who is guilty but the "worse than Hitler" testimonial logic is probably more faulty than "weighs as much as a duck" so I don't know what the right label would be.

      Perhaps a better label would have been "insanity?"

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Hylandr (813770)
        Dewd,

        Grow a backbone and don't candy coat the truth please.

        It's Politic season and this witch hunt is just more grandstanding for votes the same way craigslist is under attack by AG's of various states.

        The only way to hurt these bastards is to vote them from office, and vote away their expensive pensions just for having served a single term.

        Just my honest .02 - Don't Mod me bro!

        - Dan.
      • Tell me though, if you don't think it was a witch hunt, why did backing dry up when they tried to move on to television to clean up all the violence that children saw in the moving pictures? The unrealistic violence of Larry, Moe and Curly is okay because ... ?

        There was much more money made with television than with comics at the time. I doubt that Magnavox and RCA would have taken kindly to a witch hunt in their money growing fields.

      • by Hatta (162192) on Monday August 30, 2010 @02:36PM (#33417932) Journal

        Perhaps a better label would have been "insanity?"

        It's not insanity. Witch hunts are behavior that perfectly normal people in good mental health engage in. It's part of what it is to be human. I'm not saying that it's not wrong and evil and all that, just that this type of evil is part of the human condition. Scapegoating, xenophobia, confirmation bias, all completely normal.

  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:09PM (#33416828)
    Is Congress the new superhero, defending the rights of comic book readers everywhere? Um, no ...

    Dr. Wertham is just an early predecessor to Jack Thompson. These idiots think that anything they don't understand or enjoy should be banned because "clearly it has no moral value". It's a myopic view of art and entertainment that would lead to everyone buying and enjoying the exact same things. Sure, the RIAA, MPAA and big radio would love that but it would kill creativity as we know it.

    Comic books and video games aren't my cup of tea but that doesn't make me think they should be banned because those who enjoy them are delinquents and dangerous. If everyone who didn't share my POV was labeled dangerous ...
    • by Nukky Cisbu (1738668) on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:24PM (#33417048)

      Dr. Wertham is just an early predecessor to Jack Thompson. These idiots think that anything they don't understand or enjoy should be banned because "clearly it has no moral value". It's a myopic view of art and entertainment that would lead to everyone buying and enjoying the exact same things....

      I take a possibly more cynical view that like so many other politicians, pundits and activists, their "cause" is nothing but a horse they've hitched their career cart to.

    • by Moraelin (679338) on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:42PM (#33417278) Journal

      Actually, it seems to me like that kind of idiots has an even bleaker view of it all.

      They didn't just think that a violent comic or a violent game just "clearly it has no moral value", but rather that people and especially teenagers will mindlessly do whatever comics/games/tabletop-games/anything tells them to. Let's not forget that the book was called "Seduction Of The Innocent". And really that was the whole thrust. They think that if a 16 year old sees a comic cover where a guy with an axe is holding a woman's severed head, they'll go like mindless zombies and do a verbatim copy of the deed.

      Or in more modern days that if some 16 year old spends an hour a day sniping in some FPS, next thing you know he'll climb on the school and snipe people, because he's just that mindless and unable to distinguish between reality and video games. Or that while a 17 year old may be old enough to be trusted to do that sniping (M rating is good enough there, see?) God forbid that he ever sees a boob, 'cause he's not ready for _that_ yet. He'll probably go on some rape spree than ends up with him giving the town council a facial shot. Or, really, dunno what.

      And if you thought _that_ is stupid, well, at least one Chick Tract seems to be based on thinking that AD&D actually teaches children to cast real spells. But I digress.

    • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:56PM (#33417492)

      It is not accurate to lump him in with Jack Thompson, did you read the article linked to Ars?

      In the 1940s he opened an outpatient mental health clinic in Harlem for the poor.

      "Wertham was an eloquent critic of Jim Crow segregation. His research on its harmful psychological effects was cited in the 1954 Brown versus the Board of Education Supreme Court case. And he spoke out for the welfare of people behind bars, including Ethel Rosenberg, who was eventually convicted and executed for espionage, along with her husband, Julius."

      He was trying to help society and try to make the world a better place, he just added 2+2 up and got 5.321 when it came to violence and comic books.

  • Bad idea (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:09PM (#33416830)

    Damnit, you're not supposed to open the shrink wrap. Do you know how much value this has lost?

  • by Blackeagle_Falcon (784253) on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:13PM (#33416878)
    It's not Congress opening up these records, it's the Library of Congress.
  • futu (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mestar (121800) on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:19PM (#33416962)

    "(some say witch hunt)"

    For example, all of us.

    --
    I'd like to say you are wrong, so I will.

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:20PM (#33416978) Homepage Journal

    Worst story EVER!

    Rest assured, I was on the internet within minutes, registering my disgust.

  • X-Ray glasses (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bit9 (1702770) on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:20PM (#33416990)
    The only juvenile delinquency that comic books ever made me want to delve into was with the X-Ray glasses they always advertised on the back page of the comics. For a little boy, I apparently had quite the dirty mind. The thought of being able to see through girls' clothes held more awe and wonder for me than any amazing stunt Superman or Batman could ever pull off.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Culture20 (968837)

      The only juvenile delinquency that comic books ever made me want to delve into was with the X-Ray glasses they always advertised on the back page of the comics. For a little boy, I apparently had quite the dirty mind.

      Didn't some of those Xray spec ads show a guy leering at his "skeletal" hand with young women in dresses in the same field of view? The ad was begging you to think of the logical conclusion to the picture-story.

      • by bit9 (1702770)
        Yeah, but it wasn't the girls' skeletons that I wanted to see, and I'm pretty sure that the thoughts that went through my head were precisely the thoughts the advertisers wanted me to have.
    • Re:X-Ray glasses (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Abstrackt (609015) on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:28PM (#33417102)

      The only juvenile delinquency that comic books ever made me want to delve into was with the X-Ray glasses they always advertised on the back page of the comics. For a little boy, I apparently had quite the dirty mind. The thought of being able to see through girls' clothes held more awe and wonder for me than any amazing stunt Superman or Batman could ever pull off.

      I hear the TSA has a few job openings.

  • Demonization? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Millennium (2451) on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:23PM (#33417024) Homepage

    Until we can synthesize Wertham in his time, he will be demonized by historians for changing the comic-book industry and affecting the way generations of adults see comic books.

    And why should an enemy of freedom such as this man not be demonized? The trauma this man has inflicted on American media culture -such that entire media are still seen, more than 50 years later, as fit only for children- should be viewed with no other lens than pure, unadulterated contempt. There is nothing wrong with demonizing a demon.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gad_zuki! (70830)

      Seriously, "enemy of freedom?" Oh, I don't know about. Werthan wasn't some power mad dictator who unilaterally banned comics. He reflected the concerns of parents at the time and was an eloquent spokesman for the censorship position. Its important to realize what mainstream American society was in the 1950s and 60s. A lot of media at the time was fairly sanitized, except for comics, which kids bought and often broke down into two categories. Detective stories which may involve adult themes like rape and mur

    • The trauma this man has inflicted on American media culture -such that entire media are still seen, more than 50 years later, as fit only for children...

      I'm not so sure about that. I was into adult-oriented comics for a while, got out of it in college when money got tight, then just recently I went back into a shop specifically to try to find something kid-oriented that I could use to try to hook my 7-year old. I mean, yeah, they were there, but I had to look pretty hard. I might be an exception, but I've flip-flopped. Now I view almost the entire media as being fit only for mature readers, where the kid-stuff is the exception.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dargaud (518470)
        I wouldn't call all all those super-hero comics 'adult oriented'. In 99% of the cases, their stories are so puerile that only children would want to read them. Or maybe brain-damaged adults. I've read about 10000 adult comics. By adult, I mean not porn or gore, but the same kind of 'adult' who enjoys a good drama movie that is clearly not intended for children. But those kind of comics, while thriving in other countries, are almost non-existent in the US.
  • by Zaphod-AVA (471116) on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:27PM (#33417092)

    Those dang kids and their __________, it's ruining them!

    Video games
    Magic the Gathering cards
    Dungeons and Dragons
    Comic books
    Rock and Roll
    Jazz music and dancing

    How far back you want to go?

  • by dameron (307970) on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:31PM (#33417140) Homepage

    Golden Age Comics [goldenagecomics.co.uk] has many of these pre-code comics in friendly formats (i.e. not pdf) and available free downloads. Registration is required, however, as they are quite strapped for bandwidth, especially considering a single comic can easily be 30-50mb.

    They also have a donations page [paypal.com] if you're feeling generous wrt the free service they provide.

    So check out some of these pre-code comics, they vary in quality immensely, but it's an interesting look back at what was considered vulgar and damaging to children 50+ years ago.

  • by airfoobar (1853132) on Monday August 30, 2010 @01:34PM (#33417196)
    Video games are corrupting our youth! Comic books cause delinquency! The internet is limiting our attention span!

    Whatever. Save the children: brain-wash them to be "pure and innocent".. or the world will come to an end.

    I know for a fact that I wouldn't be where I am today had I not had comic books when I was little, games like the Lucasarts point'n'click adventures when I was a teenager and the internet later on. I literally taught myself to read and write English and French (2nd and 3rd languages) through those things, and was given an incentive and the means to learn about computers and programming, which I happily and successfully make my living off today. There is no doubt in my mind that I would be a completely different person had Dr. Wertham and his minions deprived me of those.

    So, I want whiners like that guy to just shut the hell up. I don't want them to censor my comic books, ban my video games or disconnect my internet, and I will fight tooth and nail to make sure my kids (if I ever have kids) will have unfettered access to all the stimuli I had when I was young (be those "good" or "bad" in Dr. Wertham's view).

    I would go as far as to say, film ratings are stupid. What if a 12-year-old watches a 18+ movies instead of just Disney cartoons with rainbows and flying unicorns?

    Good thing Dr. Wertham is already dead, because he would just HATE webcomics (omg, comic books on the internet! It's the work of the devil!)
  • I'm Ok (Score:2, Funny)

    by SnarfQuest (469614)

    I read these "so called" violent comic books in my youth, and I never became a violent person. If you keep saying so, I'll hunt you down and beat you to a bloody pulp!

    • by blair1q (305137)

      ...and meet an ironic and bloody end on the last page.

      I win. Society wins. Justice is served. At least in the comic books...

  • This is just the unboxing article. Wait for the review, after someone has read through the papers. Or at least scanned them in.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      You have to wonder if there are a few mint copies of otherwise nonexisting titles in there...

  • David Hajdu's "The Ten-Cent Plague" gives a good, readable history of the reaction against comics including the events discussed in in the summary and TFA. The book becomes slightly polemical at points but overall is a good read.

If Machiavelli were a hacker, he'd have worked for the CSSG. -- Phil Lapsley

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