Comic Books

by Pessimists Archive

In the 1950s, America declared war on the comic book. People feared that they’d turn children into hardened criminals, and so opponents burned them in large piles, states banned them, and the U.S. Senate investigated their dangers. The man leading the charge was a psychologist named Fredric Wertham, whose research fueled people’s fears. In this episode, we take a close look at Wertham to ask: How does someone come to yield so much cultural influence? And how should the rest of us react?


•  Making Sense of Moral Panics, by Sarah Monod de Froideville

•  Seducing the Innocent: Fredric Wertham and the Falsifications That Helped Condemn Comics by Carol Tilley

 A regressive formula of perversity: Wertham and the women of comics by Carol Tilley

The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck, the OG comic book

• “Comic Books Injurious to Children, Mothers Decide” (1942)

• Gabriel Lynn comic book study (1942)

• TIME Magazine: “Are Comics Fascist?” (1945)

• Map of comic book burnings

 “Confidential File” TV report on comic books (1955)

• Wertham’s 1954 testimony to the Senate committee: transcript, audio

 Mornin’!!! with Bill Schulz and Joanne Nosuchinsky

• Danny Fingeroth’s new book about Stan Lee, A Marvelous Life

• Paul Levitz, former DC Comics president

• Heroic music played in the middle of the episode

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