Monday, September 28, 2009

Number 601

"Outside the forbidden pages of deSade..."

Seduction of the Innocent by Fredric Wertham, M.D., is often mentioned in comic book circles but how many have actually read it? I read it a couple of times over 40 years ago and a lot of it is still vivid to me, especially in the illustration section with the out-of-context panels and covers. They were taken as examples from the worst comics Wertham could find.

"Veiled Avenger" is from St. John's Authentic Police Cases #2, and is a reprint from Red Band Comics #16. Both of the appearances were in the 1940s, and long off sale by the time Wertham used them in his infamous 1954 book.

The whole silly story is best known for the first panel, page two (also the panel on top of this page). Dr. Wertham said this in a caption, "Outside the forbidden pages of deSade, you find draining a girl's blood only in children's comics." Like his other choices, he never gave any context to the panels, just used them for their shock value.

Wertham was not the only anti-comics crusader. There had been organized efforts against comic books practically since their inception. By the time Seduction was published the public clamor had reached a peak, and had even provoked senate hearings. The Comics Code was an industry attempt to keep comic books on the stands, because there were boycotts going on. The illustrations in Seduction, including this crazy "deSade panel," had a lot to do with bringing major changes to an industry.


Chuck Wells said...

I love the artwork on this feature. Despite Wertham, the Veiled Lady is a keeper.

Pappy said...

I like the two Beagle Boys, too.

bzak said...


First a nit pik, "Authentic Police Cases #3".
Love the underground style lettering and balloons. Looking over the first few issues, the level of violence really picked up with this one.
For anyone interested, #16 has some cool art by Gene Colan. Matt Baker and Jack Cole are also featured in other issues.

Brian James Riedel

Charles said...

I am surprised that Wertham didn't use the panel that had the Veiled Avenger making someone shoot himself in the MOUTH! I mean, jeez, that's pretty harsh.

asotir said...

'Outside de Sade...' and maybe some popular, censor-approved movies: In the 1943 Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, Moriarty (Lionel Atwill) captures Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and Holmes himself (!) suggests that shooting is an unimaginative way to kill him, Moriarty should instead drain Holmes' blood until he is dead! Moriarty, delighted at the suggestion, proceeds to act upon it.

In suggesting this way for the Dr to kill him, Holmes dwells for several lines on the exquisite agony and pain of feeling his life drain away, drop by drop. You can imagine the effect on little kids of such lines delivered with all the authority of Rathbone's Holmes!

I guess Wertheim never went to the movies, which were of course rife with whippings, torture, and sadism in the noir postwar period.

Mark said...

The text that goes with the illustration is on page 181.

"Another morbid fantasy is the idea of drawing blood from a girl's veins in order to overpower her completely. Outside of the forbidden pages of Sade himself, you find this fully described and depicted only in children's comic books."

Pappy said...

This posting got some folks motivated to make comments. I'm always happy about that.

Wertham was disingenuous with his remarks about sadism. Sadism has always been a big part of literature. I think he was more concerned about it being shown in comics which were, to a lot of people, kid lit. That left out the servicemen and other adults who read comics, who could also be reading Mickey Spillane and getting a real dose of sadism. I think waterboarding would have been sissy stuff to Mike Hammer.

The blood draining by two thugs in cartoon burglar masks is so outrageous that no one could take it serious, any more than they could take vampire stories with more than an extra-large grain of salt.

BEMaven said...

"That's the last bullet you'll ever swallow"---????

This story needed an editor more than a censor.