Comic Books #19: Even More Pre-Code Nastiness

Dr. Wertham's 1954 book, Seduction of the Innocent, was a national bestseller - it tapped into the fears of parents from sea to shining sea and led to the a frenzy of censorship in the comic book world. 

As I mentioned in my last Pre Code post, there certainly was a lot of nastiness to be found. Thanks to the Internet, we can all now view these old comics and see that they were, in fact, pretty damn graphic.  The irony, however, is that Seduction of the Innocent was so poorly researched, that much of its content was simply made up! 

Of course, the public didn't give a baker's f**k about facts, and Seduction of the Innocent became a sensation. Check out a few of these imaginative fabrications from the book...

The book claimed that this woman had been raped and murdered.  First of all, if you read the source where this panel was copied, you'll find no evidence whatsoever thte girl was raped.  Perhaps, this was just Wertham's dark fantasy, or perhaps he just wanted to spice it up for the public.  Either way, it's not factual - not to mention this panel didn't even come from a comic book - it came from a magazine!

This one is my favorite.  Wertham claimed that there were dirty images hidden in these comic panels. Here, he shows the detail of a man's shoulder which also resemble a woman's pubic area.  Hmmmmm....

I have to admit, it does kinda look like it, but I doubt I would've picked up on it had Wertham not pointed it out.  Makes you wonder what kind of dirty mind this guy had if he's seeing naked chicks everywhere he looks.

Wertham's book said that children call these kinds of comics "headlight comics"....  Did they? I've read that was a term used in the trade, but it was far fetched to say kids called them anything of the sort. 

I know it sounds trivial calling Wertham on semantics, but with so much actual sex and sadism going on in comics, one wonders why the need to make shit up.

Last but not least, the book captions this panel with "the corpses of colored people strung up by their wrists".  I won't argue that it may be offensive, but the comic clearly shows that these captives are quite alive.... how can a corpse be frightened?


  1. I think Jeff Goldblum said it best in "Jurassic Pork"
    "...somehow, Porn found a way."

    I'm too young to have seen censorship cause these comics to dry up, but the life they gave to the publications that sprang up afterward wasn't such a bad thing. This is also what I would call "rubber band" censorship. It seemed to make the self righteous conservative prudes happy, but you can't keep an artist from his/her own expression for very long. It's like squeezing a sponge, the content just leaks out somewhere else.
    R. Crumb is God.

  2. I think Dr. Wertham was a pervert...and an asshole. ;)

  3. .... and an idiot, and a liar, and a douche...

  4. I always imagined Wertham and his pal Estes Kefauver sitting around reading 'Batman' comics and looking at each others crotch and asking "Look at this drawing of Robin. Does it do anything for ya?"

  5. I was in Nashville Tennessee recently, and, right there as I turned a corner was the Estes Kefauver federal building.

    I almost flipped!

    Nobody I told understood.

    Al Bigley

  6. Wertham sounds like Tipper Gore, who found sadomasochism in a song about throat surgery, huh? Haha.

    Gilligan, if you haven't seen it yet, you should look into a guy named Fletcher Hanks and his comics, especially Stardust the Super Wizard and Fantomah. It's unreal. (so unreal, some thought it was made NOW as a fake retro comic, but no, it's old and insane)