Tuesday, 9 May 2017


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

The following tale was STAN LEE's way of dismissing
FREDRIC WERTHAM's 'crusade' against comicbooks.  Not
the carton, but rather the content of some of them, which, read
in the context of the times, probably were a concern for a lot of
parents.  Of course, Wertham may have over-egged the pudding,
but I don't think diminishing him by suggesting he was mentally
unbalanced was the best way of addressing his point of view.
However, it's an entertaining tale, so read and enjoy.


John Pitt said...

One of these days, I really MUST get around to reading at least one of those infamous fifties EC's!
I know that I would have bought them at the time if I was a few years older!

Kid said...

I've read a few and they're readily available in reprint volumes, JP. They'd probably be considered pretty tame nowadays, but they should be viewed in the context of the times. In 1931, the movie of Frankenstein was considered genuinely scary, but it would hardly raise a hair today. However, back then it was scary - just as some of those old horror comics were to the readership of the time.

John Pitt said...

It's like all the "who-har" about Scream! in the eighties! I bought and read all of those and honestly couldn't see anything I would object to my kids reading!

Andrew May said...

Some of the non-EC books that Wertham took offence to are now in the public domain - and have their onw page at comicbookplus.com (http://comicbookplus.com/?cbplus=seductionoftheinnocentcollection).

My own theory (which I think I've probably mentioned before) is that as soon as Wertham started publicly blaming comic books for juvenile crime, defence lawyers across America jumped at the idea and encouraged their young clients to emphasize their comic-reading habits in court, to demonstrate their diminished responsibility and hopefully get a more lenient verdict. So it was a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.

TC said...

Russ Cochran made a career out of reprinting EC comics in the 1970's, '80's, and '90's. Deluxe hardback books, double-sized (64-page) comic magazines, and standard size (32-page) comics.

As Kid pointed out, they may seem tame by today's standards, but they must have been shocking in the 1950's.

The Atlas (1950's Marvel) comics (Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish, Strange Tales, Journey Into Mystery) may have been watered-down imitations of EC, but they were suitable entertainment for preteen kids, who would have been (IMHO, anyway) too young for Tales From the Crypt or Weird Science. Some of those stories were reprinted as secondary features in Fantasy Masterpieces in the 1960's, and in Where Monsters Dwell and Where Creatures Roam ca. 1970.

Kid said...

Well, Scream was a totally different bag of spiders, JP, and nothing like some of the EC stuff. Also, I think that many adults very often forget how they were affected by certain things as a child, and because of that, if something seems innocuous to them as a grown-up, they think it's okay for kids. I've known some adults who allow their kids to watch movies that are totally inappropriate for them, but because the parents can't see anything wrong with them, they don't think their kids will either.


Hi, AM, good to hear from you. I think you're probably right on that to a degree, and Wertham probably fanned the flame of public hostility towards comics, but I think there was a lot of truth in his basic premise, in that, while comics may not have been instrumental in creating delinquents, some of them certainly had images and themes that were in questionable taste when it came to kids.


I've got some of those magazines and comics, TC - never bothered with the books 'though. There's one EC story where a guy peels off what he thinks is a mask from a woman, only to find she wasn't wearing one. He'd peeled off the skin from her face. I reckon the accompanying image would've been pretty disturbing to any 10 year old who was reading his older brother's copy, 'though, as you say, they weren't really aimed at young kids.

Rip Jagger said...

I'm pretty much a if-they-want-to-read-see-it-then-they-should kind of guy, but I will confess that when go to some movies (Kong Skull Island being a recent example) I see really small kids in these flicks which feel to me to be really much too intense for such wee ones. Comics crusades had a host of motives and the best account of it I've read recently was The Ten Cent Plague.


Rip Off

Kid said...

I'll have a look at that link later, RJ (busy just now), but I still feel there was a sound basis at the centre of Wertham's concern in how some comics might affect some kids, but he made the mistake of taking it too far.

paul Mcscotty said...

Whilst I think that Wertham went a bit overboard on his judgment of these comics I would agree with Kid that at the time (and even now in some cases) the art (if not the stories) could be pretty brutal. Some of the covers were pretty wild, even by today’s standards. I recall covers where: the lower part of a mans face was being burned off as a woman watches: one with a close up of a man was being hung: various detailed acts of cannibalism, and a Don Heck cover of a close up of a mans face with a bullet through his skull. I’m not one for censorship as a general rule but I can see his point , I just think it was taken too far and maybe just asking comic companies to tone the covers etc down a tad would have been a more realistic reaction. Personally I used to love these stores and kids (boys especially) love gore. Computer games get the same attention now , I myself don’t think reading these comics or playing PC games would make you do “anything bad” - I think that’s already inside a person’s make up (there is of course always the exception). Reading pulp horror and playing PC games all the time is perhaps not the most valuable use of your time of earth , but it’s a harmless and fun activity in moderation. If you disagree with me I will hunt you down and kill you all : )

Kid said...

And it's the exception we have to worry about, PM, because their action have a disproportionate effect on those it affects. However, I think such things can damage people - and society. And I'm not even talking about making them do bad things. The fact that, in the case of computer games, kids nowadays view realistic decapitations and dismemberments as 'harmless fun' is a negative and harmful influence in itself in my view. There's something sick about it. Society has become corrupted and doesn't even see it.

paul Mcscotty said...

Yeah we lose and gain and lot with technology (PC games) and changing attitudes . I always refer to that wonderful speech by Spencer Tracey in the brilliant film “ Inherit the wind”:

“ Madam, you may vote, but at a price. You lose the right to retreat behind the powder-puff or your petticoat. Mr., you may conquer the air, but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline etc……. “

I’ll use any excuse and plagiarise any lines to sound “deep” so I will.

Kid said...

When I want to sound deep, I just lower my voice a notch, PM. You know the old saying by Voltaire - "By appreciation we make excellence in others our own property." So feel free to appreciate the excellence of Spencer Tracy's speech as much as you like with a clear conscience.

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