Prevent corruption of young minds by banning horror comics in the 1950s – Daily Breeze

Threats to the American way of life seemed to lurk around every corner in the 1950s.

Sam gnerre

Today’s topic posed a particularly pernicious danger: the corruption of American youth through crime and horror-based comics, which exploded in popularity at the start of the decade.

Make no mistake, the comics in question depicted scenes of crime, violence, gore and macabre with unbridled gusto, and should not have been allowed to be sold to young children. But their proliferation has sparked what, in retrospect, appears to be a classic overreaction among arbiters of morality, common decency, and good taste.

Comic strip historians date the origin of comics to the early 1930s, with the publication in 1938 of “Action comics # 1, ”Superman’s debut, marking their rise to mass popularity.

Comics have always relied heavily on fantasy and the supernatural, so the rise of horror-based comics isn’t all that surprising. First illustrated adaptations of the stories of Edgar Allan Poe and Mary ShelleyFrankenstein ” were comic book characters.

Comic book expert Adrian Wymann quotes the 1943 publication of Robert Louis Stevenson’s book “Dr Jekyll and M. Hyde “ in 1943 by the Gilberton Company in its “Classic Comics” series as the first comic book entirely dedicated to the horror genre.

The release of “Sinister # 1 ″ by Avon Comics (a division of Avon Books) in 1947 was the first comic book to consist entirely of original horror stories. But it was the arrival of EC Comics that really started the horror comics trend.

Max Gaines had started Educational Comics as a traditional comic book group, but his son William changed the management of the business after the death of the elder Gaines in 1947. The young Gaines began publishing detective novels, d ‘horror, sci-fi and, later, satirical comics, CRAZY magazine in 1952. Oh, and he also changed the name of the company to Entertaining Comics.

With the arrival of CE titles such as “The crypt of terror, “The Horror Chest, “Tales from the Crypt “ and “The den of fear “ in 1950, the new direction of the small business took shape. And his comics gained popularity among teenagers, who often passed the comics down to their younger siblings.

By April 1954, EC’s production had enough visibility on the cultural landscape to attract the attention of Congress, especially the United States. Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, chaired by Senator Estes Kefauver. Time The magazine estimated that horror comics made up 25% of all comic book sales.

In search of quick answers to a complicated social evil, the committee attempted to link the rise of post-war delinquency to the influence of sordid comics.

  • Dr Fredric Wertham scans a horror comic book. Undated photo. (Credit: Wikipedia)

  • Torrance Herald, November 4, 1954, page 26. (Courtesy of Torrance Newspaper and Historical Directory Archives database, Torrance Public Library)

  • Torrance Herald, November 18, 1954, page 1. (Courtesy of Torrance Historical Newspaper and Directory Archives database, Torrance Public Library)

  • Ladies Home Journal, November 1953 issue, page 50.

Kefauver relied heavily on the testimony of Dr Fredric Wertham, a psychiatrist who theorized that the comics were responsible for juvenile delinquency, which he personally believed but did not rely on relevant facts or studies.

His sensationalist article from November 1953 in Ladies House Journal, “What Parents Don’t Know About Comics,” sparked outrage and the publication of his full book condemning “”Seduction of the Innocent ” (Farrar & Rinehart) in early 1954 further fueled the flames.

The Senate hearings generated huge publicity, enough to alarm parents across the country. The fear was kindled and local governments across the country took inspiration from Kefauver.

The Los Angeles County Board of Directors banned violent comics on November 15, 1954. The resort towns of South Bay, Manhattan, Hermosa, and Redondo all had their own bans on horror comics at the time.

Outrage is also growing in Torrance. The Herald of Torrance joined the fray in early November 1954, sending a reporter to discuss the comics with a sixth-grade class at the Riviera School; many students said they believed books should be kept by children their age.

After increasing pressure from local PTAs and other parent groups, Torrance City Councilor Albert Isen, who will become mayor a year later, proposed an emergency ordinance banning the sale of these comics. The ban was passed unanimously on December 7, 1954. (Isen continued to tout his role in enforcing local comics in his mayoral campaign ads until the 1960s.)

Nationally, the comic book industry had already gotten the message and started scrambling to clean up its image. Mainstream publishers hastily formed the Comics Magazine Association of America and its subsidiary Comics Code Authority in September 1954. The latter group quickly published its own self-check. Comic book code a month later.

Its provisions explicitly prohibited the kind of subject matter and graphic representations that EC Comics and its imitators had so successfully sold. The code, which affixed a postage stamp-like seal of approval to every non-violent comic book published, essentially put EC out of business.

William Gaines then devoted his energies to CRAZY magazine. The popular satirical monthly had started as a comic book, but became a magazine in 1955, allowing it to avoid the restrictions of the Comic book code.

Horror comics would return in the 1960s with the advent of “Sinister “ (1964) and “Sinister “ (1966). As CRAZY, they were comics in magazine form, allowing them to escape the regulations of the code. Essentially niche publications, they only trafficked the kind of stories and illustrations that sparked the frenzy of the 1950s, but by then the Crusade Against Horror Comics had become one. distant memory.

Sources: “Haunts of horror or tombs of torture?” American comics and the horror genre 1939 – 1955 ”, By Adrian Wymann, The thought balloon blog, April 10, 2014; Los Angeles Times archives; Redondo reflex archives; “Horror comics”, Time magazine, May 3, 1954, page 78; Torrance Press-Herald archives; Wikipedia.

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