The Ten-cent Plague
The Great Comic-book Scare and How It Changed AmericaBook - 2008
A vivid study of the lost world of comic books examines the influence of this pulpy, lavishly illustrated medium on the evolution of American popular culture in the wake of World War II and before the emergence of television as a mass medium, focusing on the battle against comic books by church groups, community elite, academics, and a right-wing Congress.
The story of the rise and fall of those comic books has never been fully told--until The Ten-Cent Plague. David Hajdu's remarkable new book vividly opens up the lost world of comic books, its creativity, irreverence, and suspicion of authority.
When we picture the 1950s, we hear the sound of early rock and roll. The Ten-Cent Plague shows how--years before music--comics brought on a clash between children and their parents, between prewar and postwar standards. Created by outsiders from the tenements, garish, shameless, and often shocking, comics spoke to young people and provided the guardians of mainstream culture with a big target. Parents, teachers, and complicit kids burned comics in public bonfires. Cities passed laws to outlaw comics. Congress took action with televised hearings that nearly destroyed the careers of hundreds of artists and writers.
The Ten-Cent Plague radically revises common notions of popular culture, the generation gap, and the divide between "high" and "low" art. As he did with the lives of Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington (in Lush Life) and Bob Dylan and his circle (in Positively 4th Street), Hajdu brings a place, a time, and a milieu unforgettably back to life.
Blackwell North Amer
This is the revelatory, until now largely untold story of a lost world of the imagination-a world that existed for a few short years in the pulpy, brightly colored, boldly illustrated pages of little books sold for a dime at newsstands and candy counters across America.
In the years between the end of World War II and the emergence of television as a mass medium in the mid-1950s, the most popular form of American entertainment was the comic book. Created by outsiders from the tenements, comic books-garish, shameless, and often shocking-at once spoke to young people and served as a canvas for their creators' expressions of American ambition, and American crime, sex, and low life as well.
Examines the influence of comic books on the evolution of American popular culture in the years between World War II and the emergence of television, focusing on the battle against comic books by church groups, community elite, and a right-wing Congress.
From the critics
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The final issues of EC's horror and suspense titles included an editorial note under the headline "In Memoriam": As a result of the hysterical, injudicious, and unfounded charges leveled at crime and horror comics, many retailers and wholesalers throughout the country have been intimidated into refusing to handle this type of magazine. Although we at EC still believe, as we have in the past, that the charges against horror and crime comics are utter nonsense, there's no point in going into a defense of this kind of literature at the present time. Economically, our situation is acute. Magazines that do not get onto the newsstand do not sell. We are forced to capitulate. We give up. WE'VE HAD IT! 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!
Comic books are definitely harmful to impressionable people, and most young people are impressionable," said the psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, author of an incendiary tract, Seduction of the Innocent, which indicted comics as a leading cause of juvenile delinquency. "I think Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic-book industry.
On the stories accepted, Murphy's censors enforced the minutiae of the Code fastidiously… For an issue of 'Love problems and Advice Illustrated’, the opening "splash page" art for one story, "Love Flirt," was published with the head of an attractive young woman floating in a full page square of solid black; the character’s entire body had been brushed over with ink. Throughout the tale to follow, black patches covered sections of panels, and word balloons had cryptic blank spaces where dialogue had been whited-out—censored like letters from prison, as if comic-book artist and writers really were convicted gangsters, mailing their stuff from Sing Sing. A young man, approaching a woman at a party in “Love Flirt,” said, “Come on” –blank space—“Let’s dance”—sizable blank space. The whited-out areas ended up suggesting unspeakable, mysteriously titillating thoughts
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