Monday, September 28, 2009
"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.