Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Horror! Monster Comics that Scared Congress

"Horror! Book Digs Up Lurid 'Pre-Code' Monster Comics"
Underwire, Wired (October 31, 2010)

"During the golden age of comic-book gore, ghoulish stories about zombies, werewolves, skeletons and gorgons arrived in drugstore magazine racks on a monthly basis. Honoring America's midcentury infatuation with all things macabre, new book The Horror! The Horror! surveys 'pre-Code' comic titles from the early 1950s that specialized in outlandishly violent supernatural fantasies.

"Written by Jim Trombetta (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), the 305-page soft-cover chronicles the period's rich stew of graphic insanity. Often produced by uncredited illustrators, the comic books eventually attracted congressional attention.

"In 1954, Senate hearings concluded that pulp fiction posed a threat to the mental health of youthful readers...."

And so, for whatever reason, the American Congress leaned on the comics industry, which came up with the Comics Code Authority. From what I've read, the Code was an alternative to federal censorship. Under the circumstances, it was probably the best response by the comics publishers. That was the middle of the 1950s, after all.

Over a half-century later, the feds aren't likely to come up with quite the same reasons for grabbing control of what 'the masses' read. We've got a new set of phrases to rev up emotions, like "hate speech." The idea that Congress is throwing its weight around to 'save the children' hasn't changed all that much, though.

Looking at the nine covers featured in this Wired article, I'd say that "lurid," like the headline says, is a pretty accurate description.

For what it's worth, the Lemming isn't a huge fan of that sort of comic. On the other hand, I don't think very highly of our 'betters' in Congress deciding what we are and aren't allowed to see.

As for 'protecting the children?' Okay: so maybe those comics weren't particularly wholesome for small children and adults with personality disorders. Adults with screws loose - well, that's another topic. ("Original Sin, Free Will, ADD, and There Goes the Air Conditioner," A Catholic Citizen in America (October 15, 2010))

This may sound counter-cultural: but the Lemming figures that parents might be more interested - and motivated - in keeping tabs on their kids. And, in my opinion, in a better position to decide what's acceptable and what's not.

Related posts:The Lemming, on censorship: You could click on "censorship" in the

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