60 years of Seduction: Fredric Wertham and the Comic Book Code of 1954

In 1954, the United States Senate held subcommittee hearings on the corrupting influence of comic books on the nation’s youth. Testifying against the comic book industry was one Fredric Wertham, M.D. Wertham’s testimony was also a promotion of his book, Seduction of the Innocent, an account of Wertham’s experience and findings working with juvenile delinquents (who may or may not have been comic book readers). On the 60th anniversary of Wertham’s testimony, we take a look back at Wertham’s book and the effects of the Senate Hearings on juvenile delinquency, including the rise of the Comic Book Code and the fall and rebirth of the comic book industry.

An innocent and her comics, life.time.com

An innocent and her comics, life.time.com

Seduction of the Innocent Footnotes

  • CMAA Comic Book Code of 1954, in David Park, “The Kefauver Comic Book Hearings as Show Trial: Decency, Authority and the Dominated Expert,” Cultural Studies, 16.2 (2002), 259-288.
  • Also available at Jamie Coville’s comprehensive comic books website, http://www.thecomicbooks.com/cca1954.html

Footnote 1:

  • Sterling North, “A National Disgrace,” 8 May 1940, Chicago Daily News.
  • David Hajdu, The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America, New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2008.
  • David Park, “The Kefauver Comic Book Hearings as Show Trial: Decency, Authority and the Dominated Expert,” Cultural Studies, 16.2 (2002), 259-288.

Wertham Notes

  • Bart Beaty, Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture, Jackson MI: University Press of Mississippi, 2005.
  • Sally Cline, Zelda Fitzgerald: Her Voice in Paradise, New York: Arcade Publishing, 2003.
The Red Dupe, http://cbldf.org

The Red Dupe, cbldf.org

Footnote 2:

  • Amy Kiste Nyberg, Seal of Approval: The History of the Comics Code, Oxford MI: University Press of Mississippi, 1998.
  • David Park.
  • Fredric Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent, New York: Rinehart & Company, 1954.

Footnote 3:

  • Bart Beaty Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture, Jackson MI: University Press of Mississippi, 2005.
  • Carol L. Tilley, “Seducing the Innocent: Fredric Wertham and the Falsifications That Helped Condemn Comics,” Information & Culture 47.4 (2012), 383-413.
The head in question http://www.thecomicbooks.com/gaines.html

The head in question, thecomicbooks.com/gaines.html

Gaines Notes

  • James Barron, “William Gaines, Publisher of Mad Magazine Since ’52, Is Dead at 70,” New York Times 4 June 1992, B11.
  • David Hajdu, “His Mad World,” New York Times Magazine 28 December 2008, p 28.
  • “Testimony of William Gaines, Publisher, Entertaining Comics Group, New York, N.Y.” Available online at http://www.thecomicbooks.com/gaines.html
  • David Park, Cultural Studies.
Gaines announcing the end of his new trend comics line. life.time.com

Gaines announcing the end of his new trend comics line.
life.time.com

Footnote 4:

  • Jamie Coville, “The History of Comic Books,” thecomicbooks.com.
  • David Hajdu, The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America, New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2008.
  • James Barron, “William Gaines, Publisher of Mad Magazine Since ’52, Is Dead at 70,” New York Times 4 June 1992, B11.
  • David Hajdu, “His Mad World,” New York Times Magazine 28 December 2008, p 28.

Baseball Notes

  • “Baseball is Ruining Our Children” pictures by Wallace Wood, in Mad Magazine #34, 1957, also available in Mad About the Fifties, edited by “The Usual Gang of Idiots,” New York: Mad Books, 2005.

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