The Comic Book Panic

The 6 Most Insane Moral Panics in American History | has entertaining and often surprisingly informative humor articles.  This one includes a note on the “Seduction of the Innocent” comic book panic.

Fredic Werthem was a respected psychologist who fought to integrate the mental health care system, refused to serve in a racial-segregated army and was a pioneer in working with troubled youth. Having conquered all of the real world problems, he then decided to devote his life to bullshit.

During his time working with young offenders, Wertham noticed that many of them were fans of comics. Forgetting his education and lifetime of experience as a scientist, Wertham assumed that comics must be somehow responsible for the trouble these kids were in.

His 1954 book, Seduction Of The Innocent, outlined what he saw as the depraved effect of comics on kids. Granted, some comics in the 50s–especially the horror comics published by E.C. Comics–were pretty gruesome.

That’s a bit of an understatement.  In any case, I’d always thought that Wertham was just some weirdo busybody (having seen his book in, of all places, my high school library), until I learned something about him:

Earlier in his career, he was the chief defense witness for Albert Fish.  Don’t click on that link and read about Fish, even on Wikipedia, if you value your lunch.  Think of all the real and fictional serial killers/torturers/rapists you’ve ever heard of.  They were all wannabes; wannabe Albert Fishes.

If Wertham was Fish’s court psychologist, he stared deeply into the face of hell in a way few of us ever will.  If he found it alarming that gruesome and apparently perverse things were growing popular among America’s youth, he of all people should be cut a little slack about that fact.  He earned it.