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La plaga de los cómics

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Durante los años transcurridos entre el desenlace de la Segunda Guerra Mundial y el triunfo de la televisión como principal medio de masas, el entretenimiento más popular entre los jóvenes de Estados Unidos fue el cómic. Tan popular que llegó a provocar la alarma y un verdadero pánico entre los guardianes de la moral y las buenas costumbres. Se llevaron a cabo quemas públi Durante los años transcurridos entre el desenlace de la Segunda Guerra Mundial y el triunfo de la televisión como principal medio de masas, el entretenimiento más popular entre los jóvenes de Estados Unidos fue el cómic. Tan popular que llegó a provocar la alarma y un verdadero pánico entre los guardianes de la moral y las buenas costumbres. Se llevaron a cabo quemas públicas de tebeos por todo el país. Varias ciudades votaron su prohibición. El Congreso intervino y celebró vistas que prácticamente destruyeron las carreras de cientos de dibujantes, guionistas y editores. La plaga de los cómics explora las raíces y las consecuencias de una polémica que estuvo en el origen de un verdadero terremoto cultural. Creados por jóvenes marginados de barrios humildes, los tebeos —chabacanos, desvergonzados y, a menudo, escandalosos— conquistaron de inmediato a los niños y adolescentes y sirvieron a sus autores como lienzo sobre el que expresar sus ambiciones, abordando sin ambages temas como la criminalidad, el sexo, la codicia y la miseria, con creatividad, irreverencia y suspicacia frente a la autoridad. David Hajdu explora las raíces y consecuencias de aquella controversia que, a pesar de haber copado en su día las primeras planas de los periódicos, es en palabras del propio autor «un capítulo prácticamente olvidado en la historia de las guerras culturales, que choca con ideas que hoy damos por sentadas sobre la evolución de la cultura popular, entre ellas el nacimiento de la sensibilidad de posguerra; una sensibilidad hosca y descreída, resignada a la violencia y obsesionada con el sexo, recelosa de la autoridad y anclada en la inmadurez de la juventud, que suele asumirse como consecuencia del rock ’n’ roll. La realidad es mucho más compleja. Elvis y Chuck Berry fueron la banda sonora de un movimiento creado por los cómics». «Escrito con garra y meticulosamente documentado, La plaga de los cómics narra la fascinante historia de los prejuicios y la paranoia que marcaron la recepción del entretenimiento de masas durante la primera mitad del siglo XX y supone un aleccionador recordatorio de la facilidad con la que puede llegar a demonizarse el arte durante épocas de inestabilidad». —Michael Saler, Times Literary Supplement «Antes que el porno, el rap e incluso el rock, la responsabilidad de amenazar la moral de Estados Unidos recayó en los cómics. Este ingenioso estudio cultural funciona a su vez como una penetrante sátira de la mojigatería y la histeria colectiva, dos vicios tan viejos como la propia Norteamérica». —Giles Harvey, The Village Voice «David Hajdu aborda un tema apropiado para una biografía de fan y lo convierte en algo de interés universal. Una historia asombrosa y repleta de emoción». —Janet Maslin, The New York Times «El mejor libro sobre historieta que se ha escrito hasta la fecha en Estados Unidos. Un clásico instantáneo de la historia cultural». —Geoffrey O’Brien, autor de Tiempo de soñar


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Durante los años transcurridos entre el desenlace de la Segunda Guerra Mundial y el triunfo de la televisión como principal medio de masas, el entretenimiento más popular entre los jóvenes de Estados Unidos fue el cómic. Tan popular que llegó a provocar la alarma y un verdadero pánico entre los guardianes de la moral y las buenas costumbres. Se llevaron a cabo quemas públi Durante los años transcurridos entre el desenlace de la Segunda Guerra Mundial y el triunfo de la televisión como principal medio de masas, el entretenimiento más popular entre los jóvenes de Estados Unidos fue el cómic. Tan popular que llegó a provocar la alarma y un verdadero pánico entre los guardianes de la moral y las buenas costumbres. Se llevaron a cabo quemas públicas de tebeos por todo el país. Varias ciudades votaron su prohibición. El Congreso intervino y celebró vistas que prácticamente destruyeron las carreras de cientos de dibujantes, guionistas y editores. La plaga de los cómics explora las raíces y las consecuencias de una polémica que estuvo en el origen de un verdadero terremoto cultural. Creados por jóvenes marginados de barrios humildes, los tebeos —chabacanos, desvergonzados y, a menudo, escandalosos— conquistaron de inmediato a los niños y adolescentes y sirvieron a sus autores como lienzo sobre el que expresar sus ambiciones, abordando sin ambages temas como la criminalidad, el sexo, la codicia y la miseria, con creatividad, irreverencia y suspicacia frente a la autoridad. David Hajdu explora las raíces y consecuencias de aquella controversia que, a pesar de haber copado en su día las primeras planas de los periódicos, es en palabras del propio autor «un capítulo prácticamente olvidado en la historia de las guerras culturales, que choca con ideas que hoy damos por sentadas sobre la evolución de la cultura popular, entre ellas el nacimiento de la sensibilidad de posguerra; una sensibilidad hosca y descreída, resignada a la violencia y obsesionada con el sexo, recelosa de la autoridad y anclada en la inmadurez de la juventud, que suele asumirse como consecuencia del rock ’n’ roll. La realidad es mucho más compleja. Elvis y Chuck Berry fueron la banda sonora de un movimiento creado por los cómics». «Escrito con garra y meticulosamente documentado, La plaga de los cómics narra la fascinante historia de los prejuicios y la paranoia que marcaron la recepción del entretenimiento de masas durante la primera mitad del siglo XX y supone un aleccionador recordatorio de la facilidad con la que puede llegar a demonizarse el arte durante épocas de inestabilidad». —Michael Saler, Times Literary Supplement «Antes que el porno, el rap e incluso el rock, la responsabilidad de amenazar la moral de Estados Unidos recayó en los cómics. Este ingenioso estudio cultural funciona a su vez como una penetrante sátira de la mojigatería y la histeria colectiva, dos vicios tan viejos como la propia Norteamérica». —Giles Harvey, The Village Voice «David Hajdu aborda un tema apropiado para una biografía de fan y lo convierte en algo de interés universal. Una historia asombrosa y repleta de emoción». —Janet Maslin, The New York Times «El mejor libro sobre historieta que se ha escrito hasta la fecha en Estados Unidos. Un clásico instantáneo de la historia cultural». —Geoffrey O’Brien, autor de Tiempo de soñar

30 review for La plaga de los cómics

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kemper

    America 1954 “Howdy there stranger. I’m Chester.” “Hey, Chester. I’m Kemper.” “If you don’t mind me saying so, Kemper, your clothes look kind of odd.” “Well, you’re certainly styling in your overalls. I’ll tell you a secret, Chester. I’m from the future. The year 2011.” “Son, have you been drinking?” “Well, yeah. But I’m not lying. I know it’s crazy, but I’ve got a time machine. A time mower, actually. It’s a long story. I haven’t used it lately after a bad experience running into some absolute morons America 1954 “Howdy there stranger. I’m Chester.” “Hey, Chester. I’m Kemper.” “If you don’t mind me saying so, Kemper, your clothes look kind of odd.” “Well, you’re certainly styling in your overalls. I’ll tell you a secret, Chester. I’m from the future. The year 2011.” “Son, have you been drinking?” “Well, yeah. But I’m not lying. I know it’s crazy, but I’ve got a time machine. A time mower, actually. It’s a long story. I haven’t used it lately after a bad experience running into some absolute morons during the Blitz in England, but I thought I’d give it another try. So I dialed up the ‘50s, and here I am.” “Uh huh. So if you’re from 2011, who’s the president?” “Barack O….Oh, you know what, Chester. If I told you that, you’d never believe me. Plus, there’s a big chance you might have a complete shit fit so we’ll file that under secrets of the future and move on.” “Well, whatever stranger. I think you’re a little crazy, but who am I to judge? I spend every night dreaming that I’m bayoneting Germans at Bastogne again.” “Uh….OK. So anyhow…. What’s going on here, Chester? What’s with all the gasoline? And what’s in those boxes?” “Comic books.” Comic books? I love comic books! I’ve got tons of them from the ‘70s through the ‘90s and graphic novels, too. Oh, wow! Check these out! Old Batman and Supermans….There’s some of the pulp crime ones… Oh shit! There’s a ton of the old EC horror comics… This is great! Hey, why are these all boxed up out….Jesus, Chester! Why the hell are you pointing that shotgun at me?” “First you show up here talking about how you’re from the future? Then you tell me that you like comic books? What kind of sick bastard are you? You’re like Hitler! Or are you a damn commie?” “Did you just ask me if I’m a commie? That’s as quaint as one of my grandma’s quilts, Chester.” “Shut up! I don’t know where you’re from, but around here, no decent person will admit liking comic books. Everyone knows that they’re filthy rags just designed by perverts to turn kids into juvenile delinquents. Hell, comic books are worse than Hitler! And you sit there and say you like them? You’re a grown man. Why would any adult read comics? As soon as the bus shows up with the kids from the school, we’re going to have a bonfire.” “Oh, come on, Chester. You can’t burn them. That’s crazy. Comics don’t make kids into criminals. I’ve read thousands of them, and I’m a respectable member of society.” “You’re out here talking about time machines and presidents named Barack. You’re obviously deranged. That‘s why good Americans are going to burn all the comics we can, and we‘re going to make the politicians pass laws to outlaw them. I‘m not going to let any of these kids turn into Hitler.” “Damn, Chester, you bring up Hitler more than Glenn Beck.” “Who’s Glenn Beck?” “Just this asshat I’m going to keep from being born on my way back to 2011.” “Well, I don’t know about this Beck, but you stand right there and don’t cause no problems.” “You can't seriously be considering burning books. That’s what the Nazis did. You fought the Nazis so you don’t want to be like them, do you?” “It’s completely different. These are just comic books. Not real books.” “OK, I’ll admit that there’s a lot of lurid trash here, Chester, but this is the early stages of a great art form. You can’t just burn them because you don’t like them.” “We gotta protect the kids.” “Oh, come on. The claims that kids became criminals because of reading some comics is complete crap. All of it was done by half-assed opportunistic researchers and politicians. And then all you post-war conformists who were terrified of looking un-American jumped on the bandwagon and decided you could make kids good by getting rid of comics. As a matter of fact, you all have so terrified and hurt the comic industry already that they’re going to start their own self-censorship board, and it’ll be a thousand times more strict than what the movies or TV has to go through. It’ll stifle comics for decades. Hell, it nearly kills the industry.” “I don’t want to hear anymore of your crazy future talk. Now, I don’t want to scare the kids so I want you to leave before they get here. Go on.” “OK, but it’s just…Chester, where I come from, those comics are worth a fortune.” “Bullshit. They sold for a dime each.” “I know, but they’re really rare and valuable in the future. Probably because assholes burned so many of them…Sorry!…Put the gun down, please. Since you’re going to burn them anyhow, why not let me take a box?” “Nope. You’re already crazier than a shithouse rat. You don’t need any more bad influences.” ************************************************** This is a great account of a dark little corner of history that’s not well known outside of comic book fans. During the post-war years comics were at the height of their popularity but looked at with scorn by most of society. When some do-gooders decided that the wild stories were warping children’s minds, America collectively rose up and curb stomped the comic industry. Sadly, almost no one defended them on constitutional grounds or against the shaky anecdotal evidence about how kids were being harmed. Comics were low brow trash and no one would miss them. Except for the kids who read them and the hundreds of people who lost their careers when the industry was hobbled by censorship. Comic fans should read this to get a detailed view of the history and non-comic fans should read it to get an inside view of how mobs can be whipped into frenzies in the name of doing ’good’. But I guess that it was worth it since juvenile delinquency was wiped out in 1954 once the comic code was adopted. Oh, wait…. Well, maybe it’s the video games…

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Brothers and sisters, I take my text today from the gospel of Matthew, chapter 26, verse 41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into TEMPTATION: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. That’s right, now I tell you some things you may not want to hear, you fall into temptation and you’re gonna go on the black diamond express train to hell, that’s right, yes you do. This train is known as the black diamond express train to hell. Sin is the engineer, pleasure is the headlight and the Devil Brothers and sisters, I take my text today from the gospel of Matthew, chapter 26, verse 41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into TEMPTATION: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. That’s right, now I tell you some things you may not want to hear, you fall into temptation and you’re gonna go on the black diamond express train to hell, that’s right, yes you do. This train is known as the black diamond express train to hell. Sin is the engineer, pleasure is the headlight and the Devil is the conductor. I see the Black Diamond as she starts off for hell, the bell is ringing, hellbound, hellbound, the devil cries out “All aboard for hell!” FIRST STATION is Drunkardsville, stop there and let all the drunkards get on board, there’s a big crowd down there drinking jump steady, drinking shine, drinking canned heat, ALL you drunkards, you gotta go to hell on the black diamond express, express train start up and on to the next station. NEXT STATION is Jazz City Central, all you hep cats, all you swingers, smokin weed, stayin out late, co-habitatin, playin saxophone, playin clarinet, you think you’re creatin art but you’re fornicatin, you’re living in sin, you gotta go to hell on the black diamond express, NEXT STATION is Comics Town, all of those artists drawin all that stuff for the little kids, corruptin their ways, corruptin their minds with depictions of sex and violence, makin the little kids in to juvenile delinquents, yes, you gotta get on board, you gotta go to hell on the black diamond express train, that’s right, form an orderly queue, no shovin, no fightin, NEXT STATION! is Porntown, that’s right….. ******* HOW TO SHOOT YOURSELF IN THE FOOT Senate hearings on Comic Books held on 21 April 1954 : Counsel Beaser : Let me get the limits as far as what you put into your magazine. Is the sole test whether it sells? Is there any limit you can think of that you would not put in a magazine because you thought a child should not see or read about it? Gaines: No, I wouldn’t say that there is any limit for the reason you outlined. My only limits are bounds of good taste, what I consider to be good taste. Senator Estes Kefauver : Here is your May 22 issue of Crime Suspenstories. This seems to be a man with a bloody axe holding a woman’s head up, which has been severed from her body. Do you think that is in good taste? Gaines : yes sir, I do, for the cover of a horror comic. A cover in bad taste for example might be defined as holding the head a little higher so that the neck could be seen dripping blood from it and moving the body over a little further so the neck of the body could be seen to be bloody. ******* TWO MINUTE HISTORY OF COMICS 1) First there were crude and bizarre strips in newspaper supplements aimed at immigrant communities – Katzenjammer Kids, Popeye. They could rise to the dizzy heights of Krazy Kat but mostly didn’t. 2) In the 30s along came Superman so then there were hundreds of ripoffs. Comics spun off from newspapers. They got big. Big! Some social commentators decided that Superman was a fascist! “We can only be grateful that there’s only a single S on Superman’s chest and not SS”. 3) The superheroes all wore out and the publishers turned to crime – crime comics! Very violent! Laughing sadists! Floozies who would plug you as soon as look at you! 4) Many citizens became concerned about the rising tide of filth and the comics mostly ditched gruesome crime and switched to LURVE! And the furore died away. Because lurve wins the day! 5) By 1950 the romance turned sour and like a bunch of fish the comics publishers all had another collective change of direction and suddenly it was HORROR! The comics writers and artists lived in their own New york bubble and just didn’t notice the crowd of peasants, magistrates and child psychologists approaching with burning brands. 6) You think I’m kidding? They had bonfires of comics! They burned books in America! 7) A direct link was discovered between Horror and Crime comix and juvenile delinquency. It was obvious. So in 1954 they had their hearings (see above) and by September of that year ALL the horror comics ceased trading and about 800 people in the comix biz were out finding work in the postal service, in bakeries, in garages and they never let on what they used to be for fear of immediate social ostracism. 8) It took five years for comix to revive – this book doesn’t cover the return to glory that was the rebirth of DC (Superman, Batman, et al) and the eruption of Marvel a few years after that. 9) Nowadays no one worries about what kids read. The very idea is absurd. Kids reading? They’re too busy massaging their cvs to read anything.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Rating: 4* of five Just read it. It's sixteen kinds of fascinating and a few more kinds of awesome. Seriously. Just go get one and read it! Quit looking at reviews! Too much good stuff in here that anyone alive in this horrifying over-religioned right wing fucking nightmare country we've allowed to develop in our beloved USA should know about! Censorship and fear-mongering and lying sack-of-shit conservatives are not new developments...just more common than ever. ETA This encouragement brought to y Rating: 4* of five Just read it. It's sixteen kinds of fascinating and a few more kinds of awesome. Seriously. Just go get one and read it! Quit looking at reviews! Too much good stuff in here that anyone alive in this horrifying over-religioned right wing fucking nightmare country we've allowed to develop in our beloved USA should know about! Censorship and fear-mongering and lying sack-of-shit conservatives are not new developments...just more common than ever. ETA This encouragement brought to you by someone who has never liked comic books even when they're called "graphic novels" and got all pretentious and stuff. It's still an excellent read, and a hugely important subject.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    I'm not a real comic book fan, but I found this fascinating. The history & players of comics themselves were interesting with names of publishers, writers, & artists running together into the maelstrom of an emerging product. I recognized some, although not many. In a lot of ways, the early days of the Internet reads the same. A lot of big promises, bounced checks, fortunes made & lost, theft of ideas, & pretty wild characters. It was great to hear how many minorities were employed in the indust I'm not a real comic book fan, but I found this fascinating. The history & players of comics themselves were interesting with names of publishers, writers, & artists running together into the maelstrom of an emerging product. I recognized some, although not many. In a lot of ways, the early days of the Internet reads the same. A lot of big promises, bounced checks, fortunes made & lost, theft of ideas, & pretty wild characters. It was great to hear how many minorities were employed in the industry along with the ideas they came up with. The main story, in gory detail, was the attempts to regulate them, especially the censorship of the 1940s & 1950s. The comics had gone too far. There was a lot of gore & their creators reveled in the free hand they had. Shock sells & there weren't any controls on who bought the product, like kids. Overlooked for years, some took notice & the worst examples tarred the rest with terrifying results, similar to the Salem Witch Trials. This is a cautionary tale that we should apply to similar issues today whenever we think we need to make a law to make us safer or to stop others from doing something we don't like. Or, as Mark Twain said, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” I never knew just how badly so many books, movies, & other entertainments were censored. Freedom of the press, one of our founding principles, has been more of a joke than I like. Many look back on the "Father Knows Best" era with nostalgia, but it was a terribly conservative & reactionary decade. Times were changing & too many feared that. Backed by Dr. Fredric Wertham, a shrink of the Dr. Oz & Andrew Wakefield stripe, plus an ability to ignore statistics, the problem of juvenile delinquency was blamed on comic books. That resulted in a lot of legislators looking into the problem, holding hearings that barely predated the similar ones that Joe McCarthy held. They were much in the same vein. Parodies were taken seriously & many were completely misrepresented with just enough truth in the allegations to make any refutations sound lame in the choreographed venues. - Wonderwoman was bad because of the bondage illustrated by her lasso & cuffs. - Batman had homoerotic overtones due to his relationship with the Boy Wonder. (Who knew what they did together between frames!) - Superman might as well have had an SS on his chest since he so exemplified the ideal of a master race. Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the early 50s & it's point was obviously lost on parents, educators, & church groups who conned kids into participating in burning comics. They also forgot & didn't see how much they were like the despised Nazi's. Dissenting voices were few & often ignored. Of course, some of the kids realized they'd been conned & some who hadn't bothered with comics before became interested in them. Unfortunately, many comics were put out of business by draconian laws that scared their printers, distributors, & resellers from handling their product. EC comics was one that closed its doors. Its main claim to fame is that it was founded by Max Gaines, one of the founders of modern comics, & reluctantly taken over by his son, William Gaines, the founder of Mad Magazine. He's also famous for tanking one of the Senate Subcommittee Investigations. EC's money making comics all had the words "Horror", "Terror", & "Crime" in their titles. These specific words were banned by the Comics Code Authority (CCA). Worse, EC started the committee, but lost control. Overseen by Judge Charles Murphy, the code criteria section was full of truly horrific restrictions that he saw enforced with no common sense. There were many more unwritten restrictions. For instance, Judge Murphy wouldn't let them print "Judgement Day" since the main character, an astronaut, was black & was drawn with sweat droplets on his face. Yes, sweat droplets were bad, no matter what race shed them. The fact that changing the astronaut's race eviscerated the story wasn't a problem. Murphy's censors often made stories incomprehensible by cutting out words or demanding frames be redrawn. Women were no longer allowed to have much or any curves & had to be in skirts, but it was OK for men to be drawn in an overblown fashion. Gaines threw up his hands, shut down EC, wound up changing Mad into a magazine to get around the Comics Code Authority, & remained the publisher until his death, although he did sell the magazine in the early 60s. Unfortunately, the book pretty much ended there. I would have liked to hear more about how comics reemerged from the depths, but not much was mentioned. The CCA is now defunct, but not until 2011. I highly recommend this to one & all. If you're not a comics fan, get the print edition & skim those parts, but read just how bad censorship & mass panic can be.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jason Pettus

    (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.) Fifty years after the fact, it seems that most of us have at least a general idea of the censorious, semi-fascist things that happened in this country during the 1950s, a time when the general populace became very interested in shrugging off the dark noir sweater of World War II and embracing the shin (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.) Fifty years after the fact, it seems that most of us have at least a general idea of the censorious, semi-fascist things that happened in this country during the 1950s, a time when the general populace became very interested in shrugging off the dark noir sweater of World War II and embracing the shiny plastic Modernist reality of a superpower America; this was the period of the Communist witch-hunts, after all, of the Hays Code dominating the movie industry, of the national cultural landscape suddenly overwhelmed by such clean postwar blandness as "Leave It to Beaver." And indeed, this was also the period when Congress, churches and psychologists decided to gang up and declare war against the comic-book industry, a story that has become hazy and ill-defined in our contemporary times, a topic that conjures up nostalgic images of kids with crewcuts and Daniel-Boone caps gathered around book-burning parties in the back lots of public schools, of cheesy pulp covers that look tame to modern eyes and that make us amusingly wonder why everyone got their panties in such a bunch back then in the first place. So it's great, then, not to mention historically important, that a book like David Hajdu's The Ten-Cent Plague has gotten written and published; because as he so smartly reminds us, not only were the efforts to outlaw independent thought back then a lot more insidious and damaging than we collectively remember, but there was also a very good reason these censors got so upset in the first place, a very good reason people like Estes Kefauver and Joseph McCarthy were able to manipulate the public into such a frenzy. Because as Hajdu reminds us, the war against comic books in the '50s was actually a war against children altogether, during the first time in history that children actually developed an identity of their own, apart and separate from what we think of as adults. Let's not forget, after all, even the term "teenager" itself wasn't coined until the postwar period; before then, any person younger than marrying- and job-age was mostly considered a little half-formed animal, a little "human-in-training" that was to be silently tolerated but certainly not listened to, talked to or otherwise acknowledged. (And let's also remember, before the invention of modern medicine, most children only had a 50/50 chance of even surviving to adulthood in the first place; this is something so many of us always forget, when looking back and wondering how adults could be so cruel and callous towards children back then.) As Hajdu methodically shows us, the development of comics into its own industry is in fact a mini-history of postwar culture in general; through a ton of original interviews and lots of anecdotal evidence, he leads us by the hand through the invention of Sunday-newspaper comics supplements in the late-1800s (originally created to appeal to non-English-speaking immigrant adults); then into the process of collecting these "strips" into publications of their own; and then the gradual marketing of such material almost exclusively to children -- something that could've only been done for the first time during this period anyway, because of the US finally being a rich-enough country that even its children suddenly had their own spending money. That's something else important to remember, in this age of ours where teens are considered to be their own marketing demographic (and in fact are considered by most marketers to be the most important demographic of all); that the development of comic books was the also the first time anyone ever thought of simply appealing directly to children for their money, versus appealing to their parents which had always been done before. Combine this, then, with a series of unscrupulous publishers, an industry that few were actually paying attention to in the 1930s and '40s, the simultaneous popularity of dime-novels and pulp magazines for adults, and the initial discovery of the marketing lessons we now know about kids (i.e. sex and violence sell, and sell big), and you suddenly have a strange situation on your hands; a situation where the absolutely most violent and sex-laden publications in the entire country were these very comics being sold to children, during a period when adults were becoming more and more threatened in the first place by the idea of kids developing independent thought. The story of what happened next is fascinating and complex, one that lasted an entire decade and resulted in the permanent endings of hundreds of artists' careers; and this is the story that The Ten-Cent Plague mostly deals with, the story of Congressional hearings and the Comics Code Authority, the story of Jewish and black and gay and socialist artists getting driven out of town on a rail, the story of how America was determined to reinvent itself after the morally ambiguous mess of the film-noir period and WWII, even if that meant censorship and public burnings in the style of the Nazis they had just defeated. And Hajdu handles this story...mmmmostly well in The Ten-Cent Plague, although his style is uneven enough that I feel the need to make a mention of it. The best parts, for example, easily are the ones where he gets into the origins of so many of these now-famous developments, and especially all the original interviews he conducts here in order to get the stories; to cite just one good example, his coverage regarding the formation of MAD magazine is gripping and fascinating, told in a way I've never heard it told before. But there are other moments in this 400-page manuscript that feel awfully padded-out, stuff that simply didn't hold my attention as someone only casually interested in this subject; there are places where Hajdu quotes entire deposition transcripts, other places where he gives detailed bios of the most minor figures you could possibly imagine. I mean, I'm glad all this is there; just from a scholarly standpoint this book is a goldmine, chock-full of primary research and obscure facts. It's just that a lot of that stuff is not going to appeal to the general non-academic reader, and in fact will likely make a lot of people's eyes glaze over a bit while trudging through it. (I mean, sheesh, just the notes and bibliography take up 70 pages of their own.) This is not something I would change about The Ten-Cent Plague, but unfortunately something that does make its score go down a bit; it means basically that you're going to need a natural interest in the subject to begin with in order for this book to be really engaging, not something you can simply pick up and immediately be sucked into, no matter who you are. That said, it's definitely something I recommend, and to a wide range of people too -- not only comics fans, most of whom are going to love the off-the-cuff stories from these '50s masters found throughout, but also those who want to understand the postwar years in this country better, those who are interested in other '50s rebellious subjects like juvenile-delinquent movies, and those who are simply interested in watching how exactly a new artistic medium gets born, develops, and ages into maturity. (In fact, while reading this book I couldn't stop thinking about the videogame industry of our own times, and how its development has in many cases eerily mirrored the development of comics throughout the first half of the 20th century -- from silly diversion to million-dollar industry, and then suddenly into unexpected artistic maturity and respect, exactly what you're seeing for example with this year's Grand Theft Auto IV.) It's not for everyone, but The Ten-Cent Plague is certainly worth taking a chance on, especially if you're one of the people just described. Out of 10: 8.7

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    I heard David Hajdu in an NPR interview discussing this book, and it sounded pretty interesting. I looked forward to reading this, but it was a bit of a disappointment. The central focus of this book is the public uproar over comic books in the late 1940s and 1950s. Relative to the American cultural mainstream of the period, comics could be graphically violent and sexually suggestive. Many so-called experts claimed that they were a primary cause of what was seen as a wave of juvenile deliquency I heard David Hajdu in an NPR interview discussing this book, and it sounded pretty interesting. I looked forward to reading this, but it was a bit of a disappointment. The central focus of this book is the public uproar over comic books in the late 1940s and 1950s. Relative to the American cultural mainstream of the period, comics could be graphically violent and sexually suggestive. Many so-called experts claimed that they were a primary cause of what was seen as a wave of juvenile deliquency and decadence, much as people today blame video games for youth violence. Estes Kefauver, the crusading Senator (some would say grandstander) with presidential ambitions, held hearings on the issue. Comic book artists and publishers were called to testify and were browbeaten. (Anyone who has watched any C-SPAN will know that, in legislative hearings, congressmen and senators love to hear themselves talk.) Comic books were accused of being socially subversive and a danger to America's youth. As a result, many comic publishers went out of business. MAD, which had been published in a comic book format, switched over to being a tamer magazine. Comics were subjected to censorship and bowdlerized as a result. I found the subject matter quite interesting, and I'm sure that hardcore comic book geeks would like this a lot. My disappointment stems from the relative lack of a broader cultural-historical context. There's a lot of potential material here: comics as a cultural medium of immigrants, the working classes, and the young. Many of the comics artists of the 1940s in New York were Jewish or Japanese-Americans, a remarkable fact given contemporary events. Hajdu doesn't do much with this information, except briefly mention it. Hajdu does fill a lot of space with quote after quote from the artists, writers and publishers he interviewed. A lot of this gets numbing after a while. Also, for a book about comics, there are precious few pictures in here, and all are in black and white. Hajdu paints a bleak picture of censorship, suppression and cynical misuse of government power. Yet, comics rebounded as a cultural form. If anything, the satirical bite of comics in the 1960s was more effective than most of the comics of the preceding decade. The storytelling of today's comics is superior to most of what came before. MAD magazine, to my mind, entered its glory years in the late 60s and 70s. All of this doesn't even take into account the variety of comic books today in which the artwork is tremendous and that have complex, deeply psychological storylines. I think Hajdu's account would have been better rounded had he taken account of this revitalization.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    4.0 stars. I am big fan of comics so I may rate this book higher than some because the subject matter is one that really interests me. This book tells the story of the origin, rise and downfall of the "Golden Age" of comics, focusing primarily on the horror/suspense comics (rather than superhero comics) and the efforts to have these books banned or restricted in the 1950s. In addition to being an interesting history of the comic books of the time, it is a pretty good examination of propoganda ca 4.0 stars. I am big fan of comics so I may rate this book higher than some because the subject matter is one that really interests me. This book tells the story of the origin, rise and downfall of the "Golden Age" of comics, focusing primarily on the horror/suspense comics (rather than superhero comics) and the efforts to have these books banned or restricted in the 1950s. In addition to being an interesting history of the comic books of the time, it is a pretty good examination of propoganda campaigns, censorship and the ease with which the "masses" were influenced into demonizing comics as the root cause of juvenile delinquency. RECOMMENDED!! One final note: I listened to the audio version of this book narrated by Stefan Rudnicki (on of my favorite narrators) and he certainly added to the enjoyment of the book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mike (the Paladin)

    This book gives most of the story of "the great comic book scare" but it does it from a somewhat slanted perspective. Oddly in part I agree with the aversion shown to the control freak reaction to comics. I lived through it and while there was a time when comics got hard to find they never vanished. They did end up having to toe a line...and in a way that's not good. (At heart I'm basically of a libertarian mind set). While I sympathize with the book's point of view I don't agree with all that it This book gives most of the story of "the great comic book scare" but it does it from a somewhat slanted perspective. Oddly in part I agree with the aversion shown to the control freak reaction to comics. I lived through it and while there was a time when comics got hard to find they never vanished. They did end up having to toe a line...and in a way that's not good. (At heart I'm basically of a libertarian mind set). While I sympathize with the book's point of view I don't agree with all that it puts forward. Comics under the "Comics Code" era were still good comics and there were some very well done ones. Yes it is a form of censorship, and that is frankly a bad thing. But it didn't destroy the books nor the industry. I was a collector. My collection dated from about 1964 on into the 1970s. Most of this is what is called "The Silver Age" of comics, and I wish I still had my collection. Since the "free spirits" finally "broke free" from the chains of the Comics Code (and remember I was a collector and still going to comics shops up into the 80s and even the 90s to browse), the comics have become darker, more violent and more graphic in every way including the long sought after sexual freedom. And they did it almost in lock step. The comics industry is as bound today as it ever was, only from within...and it's dying. No, The Comics Code no longer decided what young people could read but, thankfully, in most cases it seems parents have. I know that when my kids were of an age to buy comics, the age I bought them, I didn't feel safe allowing them to wander alone through a comics shop. Batman has "realized" his dark potential, Superman still holds on a bit, but they don't know what to do with him and in the last "movie" he was "written" to have produced a child out of wedlock. They don't really know what to do with Captain America, many of his fans still being (like me), conservative etc. so...they killed him. I understand he's coming back, but they still don't know what to do with the character. The Captain America comics made the news a while back when the Tea Party movement was clearly pictured as participating in a riotous demonstration with racial overtones (something that the actual Tea Party has never done anything close to). Marvel retracted (so to speak) the frames and apologized, but you see the problem. Comics are rife with dark themes and darker antiheroes... if they were truly free, wouldn't you think that there'd be a diversity (a favorite word these days) of characters and themes? So, the book tells the story (or part of a story) of some comic history and early censorship attempts. I disapprove of censorship. Neither am I fond of the way comics have gone in the last 30 years. The publishers need to realize that Yes they're free to tell the stories they like, and that's good. Now if they wish to save the industry maybe they would want to consider printing what will actually sell? UPDATE: Since I reviewed this the comic books' industry has come back (maybe not roaring back...but back) largely riding on the backs of some exceptional movies based on comic books. Bale's Batman was a better one and helped wipe out the memory of Batman and Robin (shiver). The Marvel Movies largely harkening back to the Silver Age have been as I said, exceptional. I was a fan of Captain America when young, he was my favorite comic book character (hero) and I was very..."concerned" about how he'd be portrayed in the movie. Happily it was done respectfully and very well.... There may still be hope for the industry. Everyone needs to remember that what we liked most about Stan Lee and Marvel was it's willingness to be different.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Before reading The Ten-Cent Plague I could sum up what I knew about this slice of American history in only a sentence or two - basically, Dr. Frederic Wertham published The Seduction of the Innocent in 1954 and it killed 'The Golden Age' of comic books. (However, the industry's notable revival would be 'The Silver Age,' arguably beginning with Marvel's Fantastic Four by Stan Lee in 1961. In quick succession came Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, Black Panther, etc., to name only a few.) Well, here Before reading The Ten-Cent Plague I could sum up what I knew about this slice of American history in only a sentence or two - basically, Dr. Frederic Wertham published The Seduction of the Innocent in 1954 and it killed 'The Golden Age' of comic books. (However, the industry's notable revival would be 'The Silver Age,' arguably beginning with Marvel's Fantastic Four by Stan Lee in 1961. In quick succession came Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, Black Panther, etc., to name only a few.) Well, here is the rest of the story. In the late 40's / early 50's a movement began that raised concerns about the sometimes explicit subject matter and illustrations in the crime, horror and/or romance comics (which were at times more popular - in terms of sales / readership - than superheroes) of the era. It should be noted that the industry was staffed with folks who survived Prohibition, the Great Depression, and World War II - these are people who knew about bad times. Did the comics lead to juvenile delinquency and crime? There was no hard proof, but nationwide concern (panic?) began to pick up steam. Local laws were put into place to prohibit sales and distribution, and student / parent organizations began to collect and burn books at various locales in the U.S. (That last part was especially shameful to occur here in the immediate aftermath of WWII.) Well, then the federal government got involved, and everything got better, right? Riiiiight. At roughly the same time of Senator McCarthy's communist scare another movement of sorts took place that effectively caused irreparable damage to the industry - production was stopped, publishers went out of business, and hundreds of talented writers / illustrators lost their jobs and NEVER worked again. Author Hadju's presentation is occasionally a little dry or long-winded, but it is a detailed timeline and features lots of interviews / first-hand accounts from both those in the industry and the readers.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    When I think about all the uproar over the last few years over video game violence, about how they teach kids to kill and desensitive them, when I think of all the Jack Thompsons of the world (and thankfully there's only one) suing game publishers for what they purport to do, I am still glad to know that it could be worse - far, far worse. Jack Thompson may be a nut, but he never for one day held as much sway over parents and lawmakers as Fredric Wertham and Estes Kefauver held over America in 1 When I think about all the uproar over the last few years over video game violence, about how they teach kids to kill and desensitive them, when I think of all the Jack Thompsons of the world (and thankfully there's only one) suing game publishers for what they purport to do, I am still glad to know that it could be worse - far, far worse. Jack Thompson may be a nut, but he never for one day held as much sway over parents and lawmakers as Fredric Wertham and Estes Kefauver held over America in 1955. While Joe McCarthy was busy (witch)hunting Commies, these two were going after the comics industry, at first just horror and crime comics, but pretty soon all comics, to them, were "crime" comics. I've read a lot of comics history (Men Of Tomorrow being a great example), but this, to my knowledge, is the first book to look squarely on those few years post-WW II, pre-television when the Great Enemy was comics. Mind you, this was a time when super-heroes as a comic were a fading trend. The war made for some good hero stories, but the kids were looking for something new now, as were all those G.I.'s who read comics overseas. All of the familiar stories are here - M.C. Gaines' strange death, his son Bill helping to make E.C. Comics known for horror, the rise of romance, the launch of Mad, and of course the sub-committe hearings on the juvenile delinquincy,eventually to be associated with Tennessee senator Estes Kefauver.. Thankfully, Hadju , while giving more detail of that moment than most books, didn't just re-iterate every little nuance of the hearings. He did, however, bring a new dimension (and for me, a new hate) to Fredric Wertham, the pyschologist who wrote Seduction Of The Innocent, a book linking comic books to juvenile delinquency. He weaves a pretty good narrative of just how this man became so powerful in his opinions, and how he had the ear of almost every parent and city organization in the country. The reason I say things could be far worse now with video games is that these guys actually had everyone so worked up, almost all the states were passing legislation banning the sales of most comics to almost anyone. A lot of times, they wouldn't even make it on the shelves! I also enjoyed seeing the exact origins of the Comics Code Authority, whose stamp on comics I was used to seeing most of my life (it's quietly been shuffled off now - DC Comics never uses it anymore, and Marvel has their own in-house ratings system). Yet read how the Authority worked, and what they looked for, and try to imagine that companies were still submitting their stories to these guys for approval as recently as five to ten years ago...that's how far-reaching the effects were. The biggest revelation reading this book has to be the first part of the appendix: over fifteen pages, Hajdu lists more than 850 individuals - artists, writers, and others - who never again worked in the business after the crackdown on comics. I can't even begin to fathom that. That would basically be like the entire industry today just disappearing! It was also shocking, to me, to see just how many children went along with all these public book burnings (and so soon after WW II!). Many didn't even realize why they were doing it, but they felt they were doing something good because the PTA said so. As a co-worker of mine would say, there's a lot to anger up the blood in here. "Naturally, with comic magazine censorship now a fact, we at EC look forward to an immediate drop in the crime and juvenile delinquency rate of the United States. We trust there will be fewer robberies, fewer murders, and fewer rapes!' -Bill Gaines, Editor of EC Comics, in the final issues of all of EC's "New Trend" line of horror and crime comics. That's the kind of bitter sarcasm I expect from the guys who created Mad Magazine.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Allan Olley

    This is a really engaging look at the movement to censor comics that lead to the comics code authority in the mid-fifties. It also includes a good introduction to the origin of the modern comic book in the 20s and 30s, including profiling efforts of pioneers like Will Eisner and this takes up a significant fraction of the book, setting the stage. The main focus of the book is the period after WWII to the mid 1950s as the campaign against comics coalesces around people like Fredrick Wertham. The This is a really engaging look at the movement to censor comics that lead to the comics code authority in the mid-fifties. It also includes a good introduction to the origin of the modern comic book in the 20s and 30s, including profiling efforts of pioneers like Will Eisner and this takes up a significant fraction of the book, setting the stage. The main focus of the book is the period after WWII to the mid 1950s as the campaign against comics coalesces around people like Fredrick Wertham. The company that is taken as emblematic of the periods reaction against comic books is EC with its notorious horror comics (and its biting satire in books like MAD) and the narrative basically ends when EC leaves the comic book business (converting MAD to its iconic magazine format). Despite the detailed history going on with all the variant accounts and caveats included I found it very engaging. However, I admit an interest in the subject of old comic books. Lots of personal details about the creators and readers of comics make for an interesting sense of the creation of comic books. This audio book is generally good quality, the narrator has a commanding voice and good range. My only complaint is that he pronounces the name of the Marvel character the Submariner, like Submarine-er rather than the way I have always heard it Sub-mariner. Note that checking the narrator is pronouncing the word correctly for one who crews a submarine, but I think wrong for the fictional character (judging by how his name is given in cartoons etc.).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nicolo

    This would make excellent companion reading to Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. This is all non-fiction though and a well researched book on the history of comic books. Both books have a similar setting, during the period considered to be the “Golden Age” of the comic book. The comic book is an original American innovation. A true melding of narrative and visual storytelling, sequential art has earned legitimacy as an art form and more often than not, they are now cal This would make excellent companion reading to Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. This is all non-fiction though and a well researched book on the history of comic books. Both books have a similar setting, during the period considered to be the “Golden Age” of the comic book. The comic book is an original American innovation. A true melding of narrative and visual storytelling, sequential art has earned legitimacy as an art form and more often than not, they are now called graphic novels. But in the 1950’s, comic books suffered a mass extinction that destroyed a multi-million dollar industry. Concerned by rising juvenile crime wrongly attributed to the reading of comic books by children, overzealous and misinformed parent, church and student groups conducted comic book burnings; and ambitious politicians eager to take advantage of this hysteria for media mileage, conducted hearings similar to the communist witch hunts of the same time period. Somehow people forgot about the freedom of speech and the press. In a senate hearing regarding this issue, one comic book publisher volunteered, eager to clear the name of comic books once and for all. He had this to say: “What are we afraid of? Are we afraid of our own children? Do we forget that they are citizens, too, and entitle to select what to read or do? We think our children are so evil, simpleminded, that it takes a story of murder to set them to murder, a story of robbery to set them to robbery?” In the end, it would be the comic book industry that sealed their own fate by regulating their own product, a desperate act of survival. Even that comic book publisher who volunteered to testify, Bill Gaines, saw his entire product line reduced to one comic book. This book is recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in comic book history. I would say that only half the book is interesting and it is the part that pertains directly to comic books. The other half, which chronicles the rise of the anti-comic book movement is a trying read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael Neno

    I wasn't in a hurry to read The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America when it was first published. I thought I knew enough about the comics industry in the post-WWII era. I was wrong. Due to the diligent investigative work by David Hajdu, I've learned the comic book burnings were much more prevalent and widespread than I'd thought. The legislation on the books against comics was also more widespread. Hajdu not only interviews cartoonists who worked in the industr I wasn't in a hurry to read The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America when it was first published. I thought I knew enough about the comics industry in the post-WWII era. I was wrong. Due to the diligent investigative work by David Hajdu, I've learned the comic book burnings were much more prevalent and widespread than I'd thought. The legislation on the books against comics was also more widespread. Hajdu not only interviews cartoonists who worked in the industry then, he tracks down and interviews children who burned the books. Starting before the beginning of the 20th century, when the first comic strips spoke to immigrants using slang, vulgar humor and thuggish violence, Hajdu traces the attempted suppression of comics from those strips to the reaction against crime comics and then, irrationally, a reaction against nearly ALL comics. It's not surprising the worst of the wrath happened during the time of McCarthy. Hajdu documents it all with not only facts and figures but also observations of sly wit. My only disappointment was that the book ended far too soon (the late '50s). At least one chapter on the effect of the Comics Code Authority in the '60s and '70s, its waning influence and its mysterious ending days would have been not only helpful but practically necessary after hundreds of pages of building up to the CCA's implementation.

  14. 4 out of 5

    ALLEN

    Can a crisis be fomented? Can fear, though possibly ungrounded, provoke changes in public policy? According to author David Hajdu, it can and it did. This story is well told in his book: The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America. According to Hajdu, it was essentially a compendium of "experts" (some legitimate psychologists, others scare-mongers) that arose in the early 1950's and frightened newspaper publishers, parents and educators with their own interpretatio Can a crisis be fomented? Can fear, though possibly ungrounded, provoke changes in public policy? According to author David Hajdu, it can and it did. This story is well told in his book: The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America. According to Hajdu, it was essentially a compendium of "experts" (some legitimate psychologists, others scare-mongers) that arose in the early 1950's and frightened newspaper publishers, parents and educators with their own interpretation of the harm caused by "lurid" comic books. Thus followed the self-policing Comics Code of 1954 and with it, doom to the most over-the-top comics and their covers. Hajdu may have overstated his case, but there was concern in the early Fifties that gory, gruesome or overly sexy comics may have corrupted the morals of youth, leading to delinquency, gangsterism and (of course) tendencies to Communism. It may look silly now, but he did a good job documenting his case and this book is well worth reading. If you'd like to see a selection of the more extreme of such "ruinous" comic-book covers, now presented as vanished Americana and good ol' camp, consider The Art of Classic Comics: 100 Postcards f[r]om the Fabulous 1950s. My review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Phrodrick

    David Hajdu 's Ten Cent Plague: The great Comic-Book Scare and how it changed America, is a tad presumptuous but otherwise a solid retelling of the history of comic books and an effort to brand the entertainment as an evil. It is unlikely to be a new story for those who have followed any of the history of the "Red Menace", Obscenity trials or other efforts of the so called "Blue Noses" to impose censorship on America's demand for folly. IF you are new to this general topic the half will be a fun David Hajdu 's Ten Cent Plague: The great Comic-Book Scare and how it changed America, is a tad presumptuous but otherwise a solid retelling of the history of comic books and an effort to brand the entertainment as an evil. It is unlikely to be a new story for those who have followed any of the history of the "Red Menace", Obscenity trials or other efforts of the so called "Blue Noses" to impose censorship on America's demand for folly. IF you are new to this general topic the half will be a fun and interesting introduction to the stars who believed in and built the Comic Book Empire. The half which focuses on the Witch Hunt area is more or less appealing depending on your thoughts on censorship and religious involvement in the life of the body politic. My personal take on the politics of Cold War America was that among America's leaders, some for partisan political gain and some who were sincerely afraid of what damage any popular media might do if left unregulated or censored. In the decades before and after the "Great Comic -Book Scare" very similar attacks were made on the movies, Television and to lesser extent Radio and News. We still have tight controls over most of television and as for the Press, "Lame Stream" or otherwise, that is a debate for another time. In this context Comic Books were another target for the same people who had gone after Commies and other degenerates. Mostly the same people who made "Banned in Boston" a badge of honor, would later be found stacking comic books for the burning. Both managed to create more demand than to shame readership. Comic Books like other media would trim their extremes, at least for some number of years, decades(?). The bloodiest magazine covers were toned down in much the same way as movie and Television couples, married or otherwise maintained double beds. It is therefore a bit of a reach to specify that the Comic Book Wars changed America. The change, or delay or what every you choose to call it was in play with or without EC Comics. Having not read widely in the founding of the various comic book empires; I rather enjoyed The Ten-Cent Plague. Hajgu is a good historian with an obvious delight in his topic. Learning about how the enthusiasm of the artist and writers tended to over whelm the mostly profit driven publishers was as interesting as the methods later used to cope with Charles Murphy and the Comic Code (CMAA). I have a higher respect for Will Eisener's Spirit comics as well as his other contributions to the field. My personal comic hero's had been Stan "the Man" Lee and Jack "King" Kirby especially from their days at Marvel Comics. That likely labels me an a comic book innocent, but; a. I can live with that label, and b. with this book I have a better sense of why that label is justified. If you are a student of the comic book The Ten-Cent Plague is unlikely to add much to your level of sophistication. There are others, some with greater depth or finer artistic sensibilities. If you are looking for a fast introduction to the history of the media or another insight into the era of the red menace, The Ten-Cent Plague will not disappoint.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jim Marshall

    For the last two years, I've been reading graphic narratives with a small group of doctoral students, and I came to this book because of my conversations with them. We've been concentrating on 'serious' graphic narratives (Speigelman's Maus, Satrapi's Persepolis, Sacco's Palestine, Thompson's Blankets, etc.) as opposed to the 'classic' authors (Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Will Eisner) because we were finding that graphic narratives, though immensely rich and often deserving of the closest of readin For the last two years, I've been reading graphic narratives with a small group of doctoral students, and I came to this book because of my conversations with them. We've been concentrating on 'serious' graphic narratives (Speigelman's Maus, Satrapi's Persepolis, Sacco's Palestine, Thompson's Blankets, etc.) as opposed to the 'classic' authors (Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Will Eisner) because we were finding that graphic narratives, though immensely rich and often deserving of the closest of readings, were not getting a whole lot of respect in scholarship or in classrooms. Too often they were represented as a bridge for 'struggling' readers or as an entertaining break from canonical literature for more successful readers. But in our discussions we found that these narratives, far from being naive or simplistic, actually raised a lot of important questions about how graphic images convey meaning and how verbal and graphic messages can both complement and complicate each other. The reading project made me want to look back to the origins of graphic texts, and this book is a first rate popular history of a particular period in their development. From the mid-1930's through the 1950's, comic books were growing in sophistication, in popularity, and in the range of genres, characters, and topics they introduced--crime, horror, romance, and the supernatural among them. In the late 40's and early 50's however, an enormously powerful political/moral backlash against comic books swept the country, with televised congressional hearings, apoplectic newspaper editorials, wide-spread censorship, and, worst of all, publicly supported book burnings in which students were offered rewards for trading in comic books, which were destined for the fire, for "good" literature which would make them all more wholesome. In one community, kids who participated in the book burning were given a letter that said in part, "Dear Young Reader. You have performed a great service to your country today, by getting rid of those crime and horror books. Those books were like enemies who were trying to destroy good American boys and girls....America is not a land of crime, horror, murder, hatred, and bloodshed. America is a land of good, strong, law-abiding people who read good books, think good thoughts, do great work, love God and their neighbor. That's America." You get the picture. The book is a reminder of how often the books kids enjoy are used against them and how easily we assume that reading about scary, bad stuff will make kids do scary, bad stuff.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    A delightful history of comics, as well as a great introduction to one of the art forms that bolstered the growing culture wars in America, post-World War II. Hajdu spends a great amount of time detailing the rise of comics as a medium for children and, therefore, their ability to subvert the accepted norms in an adult-dominated culture. And for that I'm grateful, because Hajdu clearly loves and has spent a good chunk of time with those original artists; he learns their motives and does not simpl A delightful history of comics, as well as a great introduction to one of the art forms that bolstered the growing culture wars in America, post-World War II. Hajdu spends a great amount of time detailing the rise of comics as a medium for children and, therefore, their ability to subvert the accepted norms in an adult-dominated culture. And for that I'm grateful, because Hajdu clearly loves and has spent a good chunk of time with those original artists; he learns their motives and does not simply portray them as speakers for a silent generation. He points out that many editors were blowhard opportunists first and quality publishers second. He highlights a great number of comics artists who had wanted to work in the fine arts but could not break into the right scene at the right time. All in all, however, these artists grew into their craft and defended it even as the powers that be questioned the validity of a rising outlet for children and teenagers. I can't think of a more American tale. The resulting war between the church, the government, and parents against their children and comics creators makes for riveting reading. Because Hajdu has done his research, collected extensive interviews and clearly loves comics himself, this story does not seem removed from today's modern problems. It actually lines up really well with the ideas that video games rot the brain, and shows the reader how the ebb and flow or cultural conflict between parent and child will always erupt because of an art form and how it is distributed. An eye-opening read, remarkable for what it says about the past and about what may come in this century, when the next big craze hits.

  18. 4 out of 5

    John Porcellino

    A heartbreaking and in-depth look at the Comic Book Scare of the 1950s, when politicians and do-gooders took it upon themselves to cripple a flourishing industry. As a cartoonist, I knew the basics of this story (including information as found in broader histories such as Gerard Jones' excellent "Men of Tomorrow") but "The Ten-Cent Plague" really brings to life the characters involved, and patiently sets the stage describing the various witch-hunts comics underwent in the 40's and 50's-- culmina A heartbreaking and in-depth look at the Comic Book Scare of the 1950s, when politicians and do-gooders took it upon themselves to cripple a flourishing industry. As a cartoonist, I knew the basics of this story (including information as found in broader histories such as Gerard Jones' excellent "Men of Tomorrow") but "The Ten-Cent Plague" really brings to life the characters involved, and patiently sets the stage describing the various witch-hunts comics underwent in the 40's and 50's-- culminating in the draconian self-imposed Comics Code of 1955. Many of the pre-Code Horror and Crime stories were certainly of questionable taste (to put it lightly), but the broad brushes with which comics were painted and the eerie accounts of schoolyard book burnings are scary to hear about even now. Hadju emphasizes the role of EC Comics in the story and concludes with a brief look at their title MAD, which converted to a magazine format, thus avoiding the Code. MAD of course kept alive the rebellious spirit of pre-Code comics, and went on to warp the minds of future generations, leading directly into the Underground Comix movement of the 1960's, and thus today's alternative and art/literary-comics. A must-read for anyone interested in the history of comics or 1950's America.

  19. 5 out of 5

    le-trombone

    A better title for this book might have been "The Circumstances That Caused Bill Gaines To Create Mad Magazine" It's not unusual to focus on a small group to make a larger historical point, but the details of the anti-comic book hysteria (and it did reach the point of mob panic) could have been covered in greater detail. As it is, the details that we do get, from a senator with presidential ambitions to the "doctors" who would use psychobabble to find the inherent dangers of this still new art fo A better title for this book might have been "The Circumstances That Caused Bill Gaines To Create Mad Magazine" It's not unusual to focus on a small group to make a larger historical point, but the details of the anti-comic book hysteria (and it did reach the point of mob panic) could have been covered in greater detail. As it is, the details that we do get, from a senator with presidential ambitions to the "doctors" who would use psychobabble to find the inherent dangers of this still new art form merely tantalize us. The circumstances around Bill Gaines, almost the only one to stand up to the investigative committee are important, and he deserves the attention he gets in the book, but he's not the only actor in this play, and their stories deserved more fleshing out. In a sense I am complaining that the book is too short, which is partly true. What we should have gotten was two books, one focusing on Gaines, the other on the history of the form including the change from hero comics to crime comics that spurred the hysteria in the first place. In short, the tendency to skip around does not help what is, boiled down to it's essence, an outline of the history.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Matt aka

    The Ten-Cent Plague changed my life! OK, that was an attention-getting headline but let me explain what I mean. I have been a card carrying comic book collector for over 32 years now without stopping. I have collected Marvel and DC superhero comics books such as Avengers, Daredevil, Captain America, Justice League, and Superman back to the 1960s. But I never knew much about the history of the golden age of comics from the 1940s and 1950s. This book tells a great story about the creators of the go The Ten-Cent Plague changed my life! OK, that was an attention-getting headline but let me explain what I mean. I have been a card carrying comic book collector for over 32 years now without stopping. I have collected Marvel and DC superhero comics books such as Avengers, Daredevil, Captain America, Justice League, and Superman back to the 1960s. But I never knew much about the history of the golden age of comics from the 1940s and 1950s. This book tells a great story about the creators of the golden age comics. Comic books were the main source of entertainment for kids back then before TV and a billion other forms of online streaming entertainment. A kid would buy a comic for just a dime and share it with all his friends. Stories were raw and uncensored and included genres of crime, horror, romance, westerns, and more. But in the early 1950s several influential people began speaking out against comics. Comics were believed to cause juvenile delinquency. Horrible crimes such as murder and attacks on other children were blamed on ideas that they got from reading comics. Comics were collected a burned and kids were told to denounce comics because parents said comics were bad for them. The world and comic books changed. As a comic book nerd I loved reading this book and I give it five out of five stars. Why, because it gave me a whole new appreciation for comic books and where they came from. There are several detailed accounts about comic book publishers such as Lev Gleason and his Crime Does Not Pay crime comics and the amazing EC Comics titles. I have now begun seeking out some of these golden age comics and find them a refreshingly new way of enjoying collecting and reading comics. Superhero comics and now movie and TV shows may be all the rave now but there was a world of comic book stories, publishers, and artists that created the true golden age of comics long, long, ago.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    In The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America, author David Hajdu attempts to examine the birth of the comic book in America and trace its childhood and adolecense up to the point where people generally freaked out about how this wicked, perverted, and macabre art form was mauling the morals of this great country and how it had to be stopped. Or at least injured a bit. We get incredibly detailed discussions of how these funny books started out as Sunday newspaper s In The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America, author David Hajdu attempts to examine the birth of the comic book in America and trace its childhood and adolecense up to the point where people generally freaked out about how this wicked, perverted, and macabre art form was mauling the morals of this great country and how it had to be stopped. Or at least injured a bit. We get incredibly detailed discussions of how these funny books started out as Sunday newspaper supplements, then pulpy entertainment for teens, then darker and more meaty fare that included side servings of sex, horror, mystery, intrigue, and weird bondage fantasies (I'm looking at you, Wonder Woman). Hajdu sets a huge cast of characters on parade through the pages, including artists, businessmen, writers, politicians, and crusaders for the moral majority. The bredth and depth of original research Hajdu dug through is quite impressive. He cites from original interviews, letters, and other sundry documents, and gives us personal and detailed accounts of each player's story, eccentricities, and contributions. Unfortunately the author seems to be a better researcher than he is entertainer, and the book gets mired down in WAY too many details about WAY too many people. After a while I couldn't keep them all straight, and what's worse I really didn't care to. To use an apt analogy, the book was like a comic full of dynamic, detailed, and flashy images, full of splash pages and crazy action without much focus. It's impressive from a technical standpoint, but it wouldn't compare too favorably to a better crafted book with neat and more easily comprehensible art guided by orderly and appropriate transitions and word baloons that don't crowd out the subject. Going along with this idea, the other thing that I found lacking about The 10 Cent Plague was that for a book about comics, it didn't have nearly enough pictures. Hajdu periodically does an admirable job using words to thoroughly describe the contents of the comics in question, but it seems like it would have been a lot more effective and efficient to simply include a picture of it there on the page. There is a section of photographs and some sample art, but it's not nearly enough given the subject matter. All in all, I can't really recommend this book unless you're particularly bent on learning about the early history of comic books. Hajdu presents some neat trivia and the occasional vignette or story that stands out from the rest of the noise, but in general it's way too detailed, too cluttered, and lacking in focus just for the sake of cramming in as much information as possible.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Trin

    A workmanlike account of the rise and fall of comic books, from their creation in the early part of the 20th century to their near-destruction at its midpoint. Hajdu provides ample quotage both from interviews with comic book creators and from the various writings of comic book detractors. Basically the two arguments can be summed up thusly: Pro-comics: FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION! Also, sex and violence really sell! Anti-comics: THINK OF THE CHILDREN! Also, my anti-comics screeds really sell! Hajdu (and A workmanlike account of the rise and fall of comic books, from their creation in the early part of the 20th century to their near-destruction at its midpoint. Hajdu provides ample quotage both from interviews with comic book creators and from the various writings of comic book detractors. Basically the two arguments can be summed up thusly: Pro-comics: FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION! Also, sex and violence really sell! Anti-comics: THINK OF THE CHILDREN! Also, my anti-comics screeds really sell! Hajdu (and, I think, the average reader, myself included) naturally sides with the comics folks, even though some early works were apparently really nasty—though nasty enough to make Garth Ennis or Frank Miller blush, I can’t say. The book itself is thorough and readable, but never thrilling; someone else compared it to a term paper, and I think that’s fairly accurate. I’d only recommend it if you’re really interested in the subject—or writing a term paper yourself.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I enjoyed The Ten-Cent Plague, but I have a significant gripe. If you're going to force the reader through the origins of comic books (the beginning of the story, and information I've been over multiple times), you ought to give them the end of the story as well. Horror comics didn't go away. Marvel, DC, and Warren were publishing many of them in the 1970s, and the ones I read as a kid were pretty gruesome. The Comics Code that was created to police the industry became a joke that was either ign I enjoyed The Ten-Cent Plague, but I have a significant gripe. If you're going to force the reader through the origins of comic books (the beginning of the story, and information I've been over multiple times), you ought to give them the end of the story as well. Horror comics didn't go away. Marvel, DC, and Warren were publishing many of them in the 1970s, and the ones I read as a kid were pretty gruesome. The Comics Code that was created to police the industry became a joke that was either ignored or completely abandoned. The masses and their hysteria moved elsewhere as we all realised that our problems weren't really rooted in comics. Best of all, comics are still here.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Diz

    This book covers the history of comic books from the rise of comic strips in the late 1800's to the fall of the comic book industry in the 1950's. It's eye-opening to see that at the same time as the Red Scare, Americans were doing their own authoritarian censorship based on nothing more than the quack science of a pop psychologist. It shows how people were manipulated to crusade against comics while ignoring the real problems of society. I highly recommend that fans of comics read this book. This book covers the history of comic books from the rise of comic strips in the late 1800's to the fall of the comic book industry in the 1950's. It's eye-opening to see that at the same time as the Red Scare, Americans were doing their own authoritarian censorship based on nothing more than the quack science of a pop psychologist. It shows how people were manipulated to crusade against comics while ignoring the real problems of society. I highly recommend that fans of comics read this book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kent Winward

    An enjoyable review of the hysteria that developed in the early 1950s over comic books, where it closely followed communism as a threat to the home and hearth. Congressional hearings and book burnings serve as a reminder that current societal fears are tired retreads of the same efforts of the establishment to maintain power. Fear and hysteria fueled by no facts, plus comics. I think the title a bit oversells the impact of the comic book scare, but it does show how even something as benign as a An enjoyable review of the hysteria that developed in the early 1950s over comic books, where it closely followed communism as a threat to the home and hearth. Congressional hearings and book burnings serve as a reminder that current societal fears are tired retreads of the same efforts of the establishment to maintain power. Fear and hysteria fueled by no facts, plus comics. I think the title a bit oversells the impact of the comic book scare, but it does show how even something as benign as a comic can become a rallying point for the obsessed.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    A really smart and well-written look into postwar culture via comics. While the larger narrative of comics' demise might be familiar to some, the hundreds of interviews Hajdu included reframes the story altogether such that it looks at larger tensions in America to define self and place. A great read -- even if you're not into comics. A really smart and well-written look into postwar culture via comics. While the larger narrative of comics' demise might be familiar to some, the hundreds of interviews Hajdu included reframes the story altogether such that it looks at larger tensions in America to define self and place. A great read -- even if you're not into comics.

  27. 4 out of 5

    John

    I listened to the audiobook version. An informative history of the great comic book scare in the 1950s. The author did a good job providing the history opposition to comics, from the funny pages in the Sunday papers to "crime comics." These critiques reached its peak in publication of Seduction of the Innocent by Frederic Wertheim, which resulted in Congressional hearings and state legislation. I was generally familiar with the story, but was surprised at the attempts by many groups (the Catholi I listened to the audiobook version. An informative history of the great comic book scare in the 1950s. The author did a good job providing the history opposition to comics, from the funny pages in the Sunday papers to "crime comics." These critiques reached its peak in publication of Seduction of the Innocent by Frederic Wertheim, which resulted in Congressional hearings and state legislation. I was generally familiar with the story, but was surprised at the attempts by many groups (the Catholic Church, the American Legion, school and church leaders) to promote comics burnings in the aftermath of WWII. The book does a good job detailing the destruction of a whole industry, and the shame that attached to many talented artists that worked for it. The author's extensive research and interviewing is apparent. I thought the narrator did a good job with the accents, but I am no expert. This book is a good nonfiction adjunct to Michael Chabon's novel The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay if you enjoyed that book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bill Buckley

    Interesting account of sort of the history of comic books and how they were censored and vilified in the 1940's and 50's. EC comics went out of business along with many others. They had government hearings about comics and people actually burned them at the time. This book mentions MAD magazine, which started a as a comic but became a magazine after the scare. I used to read it, was pretty good. A side note: comics came back strong in the 1960's with Marvel and DC. This book was published in 200 Interesting account of sort of the history of comic books and how they were censored and vilified in the 1940's and 50's. EC comics went out of business along with many others. They had government hearings about comics and people actually burned them at the time. This book mentions MAD magazine, which started a as a comic but became a magazine after the scare. I used to read it, was pretty good. A side note: comics came back strong in the 1960's with Marvel and DC. This book was published in 2008 which was the year the MCU launched with Iron Man. Soon to follow: Thor, Captain America, and the 4 block buster Avengers movies. Comics and their offspring the movies are alive and well. Not to mention DC and Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Justice League movies. With another Wonder Woman movie due out soon and then Marvel's Black Widow in May 2020.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Haines

    This book absolutely blew me away. It is one of the more interesting pieces of historical nonfiction that I’ve ever read. The history behind comics is utterly fascinating, even if you don’t read comics, because comics figured into popular culture in myriad ways. But moreover, this book succeeds because Hajdu does deft work in always situating the history of comics within the greater history of the US and the world, and the context, much of the time, is what makes the point, what makes a lot of t This book absolutely blew me away. It is one of the more interesting pieces of historical nonfiction that I’ve ever read. The history behind comics is utterly fascinating, even if you don’t read comics, because comics figured into popular culture in myriad ways. But moreover, this book succeeds because Hajdu does deft work in always situating the history of comics within the greater history of the US and the world, and the context, much of the time, is what makes the point, what makes a lot of this information a total knockout to read. Whether that context be sociopolitical or countercultural or intermedial, the angles where comic books intersect with so much other history is deeply fascinating. And the book has been perfectly tuned to bring out these layers in a stunning, complete picture; or should I say “panel”?

  30. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Ijima-washburn

    You think you know everything about the Comics Code Authority? You think Wertham was solely responsible for the disappearance of crime and horror comics in the '50s? Guess who started the meeting that led to the CCA self-regulating itself towards mediocrity. The guy who's business was hurt most by its rules! Yep. So many things I didn't know. Great snippets of interviews from people who lived through "the dark times" when towns and cities had outlawed the sale or even possession of certain comic You think you know everything about the Comics Code Authority? You think Wertham was solely responsible for the disappearance of crime and horror comics in the '50s? Guess who started the meeting that led to the CCA self-regulating itself towards mediocrity. The guy who's business was hurt most by its rules! Yep. So many things I didn't know. Great snippets of interviews from people who lived through "the dark times" when towns and cities had outlawed the sale or even possession of certain comics. Get to know the players in the horror comic game that preceded and followed EC's New Trend books. See how the hysteria grew and how many tried unsuccessfully to be the voice of reason when faced with mobs of comic-burning "do-gooders". Really great look at a time that shaped the future of comics publishing by taking out all the "weird" and allowing only kiddie and cape comics to flourish.

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