Monday, June 09, 2008

Number 321

Devil's Diary

Charles Biro, who wrote this story, wanted you to make sure you understood the connection to that big red devil on the splash page from Crime Does Not Pay #49, January, 1947. So he named the main character "Denvil."

Before the horror comics of the 1950s finally pushed parents, legislators and Dr. Wertham over the edge, the main complaint about comics was with the crime comics. Lev Gleason's Crime Does Not Pay was the most popular. Wertham reserved particular antipathy to comics with the big word CRIME on the covers, seeing that word as a kid magnet. This story, "Devil's Diary," is a classic of the sort that Wertham was most bothered by, a record of a criminal career only wrapped up in the last couple of panels when the criminal is finally apprehended. To be fair to writer Biro, in this story Denvil is a stupid sociopath who doesn't learn from getting caught, and keeps making mistakes until it's too late. I guess there's a moral in there somewhere, but Wertham wasn't buying it. He thought what this type of story represented to its young readers is that crime is OK…until you get caught.

The artwork, some of the best I've seen by artist George Tuska, really serves this story. That goofy Mr. Crime--who was supposed to represent the dead end of crime--could have been excised without hurting the story at all.


Karswell said...

These Crime Does Not Pay stories are alot of fun, if not all tediously identical in plot, but the art is always great and the dialog 100% priceless... this one reminds me that I really need to buy more crime comics.

Also, I gotta make sure if I ever get into a fight I say "Meet me knuckles..." WHAMO!

Chuck Wells said...

The Alley Oop panel blew the Biro story away for me. And I like his stuff too.

What a laugh riot your tongue-in-cheek comment was.

carreaux said...

I think it must have been the other way around, Pappy; that the devil motif was suggested by the perp's name. Depressingly enough, it turns out that dopey Denvil Dotson the cop killer is not a fictional creation. The story's been jazzed up a little, naturally, but it's main points are true. Here's the text from a contemporary news story: