The Ten-cent Plague

The Ten-cent Plague

The Great Comic-book Scare and How It Changed America

Book - 2008
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Baker & Taylor
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.

McMillan Palgrave
In the years between World War II and the emergence of television as a mass medium, American popular culture as we know it was first created--in the pulpy, boldly illustrated pages of comic books. No sooner had this new culture emerged than it was beaten down by church groups, community bluestockings, and a McCarthyish Congress--only to resurface with a crooked smile on its face in Mad magazine.

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.

& Taylor

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.

Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780374187675
Branch Call Number: 741.50973 H127t
Characteristics: 434 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm


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Sep 05, 2010

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!

Sep 05, 2010

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.

Jun 15, 2009

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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multcolib_rossb May 23, 2016

Both a fun and funny history of the birth of the comic book industry, and a chilling account of how public hysteria and fear can censor and ultimately bring down an entire type of media. It encouraged me to track down some of the vintage comic books series that are mentioned in the book, many of which are available at the library!

Jun 08, 2009

Comic books have been criticized since their inception as being bad for young minds but the research has always been shoddy— based on fear and condescension rather than research and the pursuit of truth. Even though comics have gained acceptance since the turn of the new century and have gone completely mainstream, still they're viewed from the opposite end of the telescope.

This exhaustingly researched and meticulously thorough treatise looks at the beginning of comic books— from their birth and early childhood where the producers had no idea what their doing, to the backlash from communities, organizations and government legal bodies that nearly destroyed them. Although this book is detailed and explores the issues, it’s never dry; it’s pacing and descriptions are so good it reads like a pulp novel.

Author David Hajdu interviewed numerous men and women who were working in the comic industry from the thirties through the late fifties. He did the work that the legislators, pundits and “pseudo” Doctors who criticized comics never bothered with; Hajdu looks at those who were working in the field during comics struggling beginnings and tries to understand their motivations, inspirations and what they were trying to accomplish. This book centers around the notorious “crime comics” of the 30s through 50s but places them in context with their meaning, intent, culture and environment. This book is as much about how comic-books affected culture as much as it is about how culture affected them.

The book’s scope stretches as far back as the first comic strip in 1897 and concludes abruptly with the demise of the infamous EC Comics. Those who are well versed in comic-lore are sure to find new and enlightening information. The best part of this expose is that it stays away from the over-explored origins of the major comic-book characters. It looks at the industry, the people who condemned it and the writers and artist behind the panels. Hadju doesn’t completely glorify or vilify anyone, remains pretty objective and is frequently witty and funny.


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