Pulp Demons: International Dimensions of the Postwar Anti-Comics Campaign

Pulp Demons: International Dimensions of the Postwar Anti-Comics Campaign

Pulp Demons: International Dimensions of the Postwar Anti-Comics Campaign

Pulp Demons: International Dimensions of the Postwar Anti-Comics Campaign

Synopsis

The campaign in the United States during the 1940s and 1950s to rid comics of their violent content had far-reaching and deeply felt reverberations. The anti-comics crusades led to book burnings, town meetings, Senate investigations, and the draconian Comics Code, recognized as the most oppressive act of self-censorship in the country's history. Pulp Demons is the first systematic study of the fallout of this American controversy abroad. Illustrated.

Excerpt

John A. Lent

It is difficult to know how comic books became the whipping boys of self-anointed moralists, anti-communist (and in some instances, communist) factions, and governmental, religious, and educational authorities, almost simultaneously in the 1940s and 1950s. Equally perplexing is how anti-comics campaigns exploded worldwide; Martin Barker notes such eruptions in at least twenty countries on four continents.

The easy answer is that publication of Dr. Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent and the subsequent fallout from the U.S. anti-comics furor were the culprits. As authors in this book point out, however, strong feelings about comic books and their possible links with juvenile delinquency and poor scholastic performance predated Wertham's book, both in the United States and in some of the other eight countries these authors discuss. They were also present before the often-cited “What's Wrong witb the Comics?” radio town meeting (2 March 1948), and even Sterling North's highly charged blast in the Chicago Daily News in 1940, where he declared, “The effect of these pulp-paper nightmares is that of a violent stimulant… their hypodermic injection of sex and murder make the child impatient with better, though quieter, stories.”

Genesis of controversy

How far back one traces the attacks on comics depends on how broad the definition of the medium is, for the newspaper funnies also had their detractors. in 1909, Ladies' Home Journal denounced newspaper strips in an article, entitled, “Crime Against American Children; Comic Supplements of the Sunday Paper.” the following year, Good Housekeeping joined the fray with . . .

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