Fredric Wertham’s Vile Legacy Continues in Today’s Modern Comics

No more sexualized depictions of women!!

 

The Akron Beacon Journal wrote about the history of the anti-comics witch hunt that ensued in the wake of people like Fredric Wertham in 1954, and the city’s own role in what was to come at the Senate:

 

In November 1954, comic books were Public Enemy No. 1 in Akron.

“The Impact of Comic Books on Our Children” was the subject of a state conference at the Mayflower Hotel downtown. The keynote speaker was Judge Charles F. Murphy, a former New York magistrate and specialist in juvenile delinquency, who led a national effort to regulate the content of comics.

And this Ohio city served as a leading center for lecturing.

 

The country was in an uproar over so-called funny books, especially those dedicated to crime stories, horror tales and salacious subjects. With juvenile delinquency on the rise across the nation, some experts blamed comics for leading kids astray.

Werewolves, cannibals, zombies, vampires and murderers leered from the lurid covers of 10-cent books. They were easy targets.

For months, PTA groups and women’s clubs had prodded the Akron City Council to pass an ordinance to impose a six-month jail term and a $100 fine for anyone caught selling “unfit comic books.”

Councilman Howard Walker, a Ward 8 Republican who served as chairman of the public welfare and safety committee, balked at the effort.

“Who is qualified to say which books are good and which are bad?” Walker asked.

Isn’t that something? A right-leaning politician tried to help prevent unfair censorship. And how did the industry thank him? By continuing to support leftists’ politics. Irony is where you find it.

 

Arguably, horror thrillers were easy targets at the time, if only because, from what I can tell, heavy, overt sex and porn wasn’t very noticeable during the early years of the 30s, 40s and 50s, not even in movies, and even then, IIRC, there were forms of censorship going on, as the US film industry rarely used jarring violence and profanity up to the late 60s.

 

In November 1954, Ohio Gov. Frank Lausche sent a letter to Leo Molinaro, executive secretary of the Akron Adult Education Foundation, to commend the group for scheduling a state workshop on comic books.

“My belief is that the condition will get worse,” Lausche said. “Publishers of comic books, motion pictures and other media, in their competitive efforts, do no react generally to self-imposed restraints, but usually keep creeping more and more toward publication of pictures appealing to morbidness, emotions and passions.

Since the turn of the century, they certainly have gone overboard, to the point where they’re not even suitable for adults. Sane adults, anyway. Why, even in the Golden Age, most comics weren’t as overtly political as they are today. And at the time Axel Alonso was Marvel’s EIC, the only real “restraint” they made was in dealing with sexuality. It may not have improved much under C.B. Cebulski either.

The article’s got a list of what the Comics Code initially decreed (which Murphy supported), that should always be paid attention to, as it can be very relevant in this modern era where leftists brought back censorship:

 

  • Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.
  • Policemen, judges, government officials and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.
  • If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.
  • In every instance, good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
  • No comic magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title.
  • All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism and masochism shall not be permitted.
  • All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.
  • Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with, walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism and werewolfism are prohibited.
  • Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
  • Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.
  • All characters shall be depicted in dress reasonably acceptable to society.
  • Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.
  • Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at or portrayed.
  • Respect for parents, the moral code, and for honorable behavior shall be fostered.

 

 

So we see, there’s that CCA rule again, about only depicting females “realistically”, which is no more clearly defined than anything else, not “exaggerating” their physics, and it’s actually offensive to women in real life who do have heaving breasts and such. Wertham and his ilk were sure doing early anti-sex feminists a favor when they pushed for that kind of insult to the intellect. In the past years when Axel Alonso was Marvel’s EIC, the difference is that jarring violence remained otherwise the same, while sex was horrifically censored, recalling the bad job initially done on Rogue of the X-Men in a series spotlighting her and Gambit a few years ago.

 

Ohio State professor Edgar Dale cautioned the audience that the “comic book problem” was actually a “problem of the mass medium environment” surrounding every child and adult.

“We don’t want movies or TV or comics which are merely harmless,” he said. “Absence of harm does not mean presence of good.

“We want comics to be truthful, amusing, whimsical, fanciful and funny. Sometimes we want them to offer a vision of greatness.”

 

Something tells me you wouldn’t hear a university professor making this case today, if the faculty he/she works at is far-left enough.

 

Despite the best efforts of comic publishers, juvenile delinquency didn’t end.

Over the decades, the problem was blamed on pinball machines, rock ‘n’ roll, divorce, television shows, drugs, contraceptives, pornography, horror movies, role-playing games, rap music, video games, the internet and cellphones, among other corrupting influences.

And comic books, the former Public Enemy No. 1, couldn’t get arrested today if they tried.

No, but they could be shunned at universities and other such establishments, even if they did meet the standards of the moonbats now in charge there. There’s only so many past geniuses, not the least being Stan Lee, who’re being thrown under the bus when they’re not being exploited by PC advocates to justify their twisted beliefs. Say, and what’s this about juvenile delinquency? Maybe they’re kidding, but I get the feeling the paper’s alluding to the recent propaganda denouncing people who play RPGs as “sexists and racists” without making any distinctions about anything. And they’re not really objecting, are they?

 

Worst, this article doesn’t mention modern censorship trends among the left, whether it was the hostility to artists like J. Scott Campbell, negative attitudes towards right-wingers in comicdom like Chuck Dixon, or how censorship advocates worked their way into jobs within an industry they didn’t even like and set about wrecking it. If only the distant past can be spotlighted, and not the recent present, then no problems have been solved at all. And who knows if the paper’s writers really do think censorship is a bad thing?

 

Originally published here.

Avi Green

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

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