The Ten-cent Plague

The Ten-cent Plague

The Great Comic-book Scare and How It Changed America

Book - 2008
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In the years between World War II and the emergence of television as a mass medium, American popular culture as we know it was first created--in the pulpy, boldly illustrated pages of comic books. No sooner had this new culture emerged than it was beaten down by church groups, community bluestockings, and a McCarthyish Congress--only to resurface with a crooked smile on its face in Mad magazine.-- From publisher description.
Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780312428235
0312428235
9780374187675
0374187673
Branch Call Number: 741.59 Hajdu 03/2008
Characteristics: 434 p., [8] p. of plates :,ill. ;,24 cm.

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n
ndp21f
Sep 05, 2010

The final issues of EC's horror and suspense titles included an editorial note under the headline "In Memoriam": As a result of the hysterical, injudicious, and unfounded charges leveled at crime and horror comics, many retailers and wholesalers throughout the country have been intimidated into refusing to handle this type of magazine.   Although we at EC still believe, as we have in the past, that the charges against horror and crime comics are utter nonsense, there's no point in going into a defense of this kind of literature at the present time. Economically, our situation is acute. Magazines that do not get onto the newsstand do not sell. We are forced to capitulate. We give up. WE'VE HAD IT!   Naturally, with comic magazine censorship now a fact, we at EC look forward to an immediate drop in the crime and juvenile delinquency rate of the United States. We trust there will be fewer robberies, fewer murders, and fewer rapes!

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ndp21f
Sep 05, 2010

Comic books are definitely harmful to impressionable people, and most young people are impressionable," said the psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, author of an incendiary tract, Seduction of the Innocent, which indicted comics as a leading cause of juvenile delinquency. "I think Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic-book industry.

d
DavidB
Jun 15, 2009

On the stories accepted, Murphy's censors enforced the minutiae of the Code fastidiously… For an issue of 'Love problems and Advice Illustrated’, the opening "splash page" art for one story, "Love Flirt," was published with the head of an attractive young woman floating in a full page square of solid black; the character’s entire body had been brushed over with ink. Throughout the tale to follow, black patches covered sections of panels, and word balloons had cryptic blank spaces where dialogue had been whited-out—censored like letters from prison, as if comic-book artist and writers really were convicted gangsters, mailing their stuff from Sing Sing. A young man, approaching a woman at a party in “Love Flirt,” said, “Come on” –blank space—“Let’s dance”—sizable blank space. The whited-out areas ended up suggesting unspeakable, mysteriously titillating thoughts

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multcolib_rossb May 23, 2016

Both a fun and funny history of the birth of the comic book industry, and a chilling account of how public hysteria and fear can censor and ultimately bring down an entire type of media. It encouraged me to track down some of the vintage comic books series that are mentioned in the book, many of which are available at the library!

d
DavidB
Jun 08, 2009

Comic books have been criticized since their inception as being bad for young minds but the research has always been shoddy— based on fear and condescension rather than research and the pursuit of truth. Even though comics have gained acceptance since the turn of the new century and have gone completely mainstream, still they're viewed from the opposite end of the telescope.

This exhaustingly researched and meticulously thorough treatise looks at the beginning of comic books— from their birth and early childhood where the producers had no idea what their doing, to the backlash from communities, organizations and government legal bodies that nearly destroyed them. Although this book is detailed and explores the issues, it’s never dry; it’s pacing and descriptions are so good it reads like a pulp novel.

Author David Hajdu interviewed numerous men and women who were working in the comic industry from the thirties through the late fifties. He did the work that the legislators, pundits and “pseudo” Doctors who criticized comics never bothered with; Hajdu looks at those who were working in the field during comics struggling beginnings and tries to understand their motivations, inspirations and what they were trying to accomplish. This book centers around the notorious “crime comics” of the 30s through 50s but places them in context with their meaning, intent, culture and environment. This book is as much about how comic-books affected culture as much as it is about how culture affected them.

The book’s scope stretches as far back as the first comic strip in 1897 and concludes abruptly with the demise of the infamous EC Comics. Those who are well versed in comic-lore are sure to find new and enlightening information. The best part of this expose is that it stays away from the over-explored origins of the major comic-book characters. It looks at the industry, the people who condemned it and the writers and artist behind the panels. Hadju doesn’t completely glorify or vilify anyone, remains pretty objective and is frequently witty and funny.

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