Speak of the devil... here’s a typically annoying article from the May 1954 issue of Reader’s Digest, written by everyone’s favorite over-reacting, child-hating psychiatrist, Fredric Wertham, M.D. (FYI: the M.D. stands for Mega Dick.) This is actually just a condensed excerpt taken from his infamously ridiculous 1950’s comic book exposé “Seduction of the Innocent.” Enjoy?
COOL, A CONDENSED VERSION IS JUST MY SPEED ACTUALLY. I'VE BEEN CURIOUS TO CHECK OUT THE FULL SOTI BOOK BUT IT SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN REMOVED FROM MOST OF THE LIBRARIES IN MY AREA AND COPIES ON EBAY ARE VERY EXPENSIVE.
That's just too funny."One crime comic claims 6 million readers per day"sounds like he's describing cigarettes!,and did you notice that one of the crimes he mentions;the knife with the inscription,had NOTHING mentioned about it to connect it with comics?.Wertham was a huge hypocrite,my ex-fiancee's dad was an African-American studies professor,and he said that as a kid he was a patient at Bellevue,and that ALL of Wertham's patients were underpriveleged minorities who were either illiterate,or had been involved in criminal activities since childhood or before they read comics and that Wertham never mentioned kids who DIDN'T read comics in his studies,and that if his patients were working class or white,then he would chalk up problems they had to environment,parental abuse,but NEVER to comics unless they were a minority,and that Wertham's much praised civil-rights work was a ploy to "get the good patients" and that for all the kids he met at the clinic,almost none read Batman,much less kids with "sexual abnormalities"....kind of reminds me of what Baron Frankenstein did in REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN.
Interesting info re the accusations of racism but do you have a shred of hard evidence for a word of it other than the decades-old, unsubtatntiated supposed memories of a friend of a friend who was a child at the time they allegedly (and no doubt in a thorough, scientific manner) gathered their data showing that Wertham NEVER (not even one time in a thousand) attributed the violence of a white child to comic books (have you even made the slightest effort to confirm this).
What of Wertham's condemnation of the racism found in many comics - Oh, wait I know, it was just part of his clever cover story designed to hide his secret racist agenda (that's that great thing about conspiracy theories and other such hogwash, they can be used to explain away facts inconvenient to the "truth" one has already decided must be the case and they releive you from the pesky burden of doing actual research or thinking).
Sorry, but you'll need more than this flimsy "evidence" to convince me. I think there's plenty to attack in Wertham's writings without dredging up half-baked theories of racism.
I believe Horror Pariah was just stating something he heard and not really making any hard claim promises of authenticity. It's all just hearsay but still a worthy and relevant bit of interesting info to add to this post which of course asks for opinions and comments as a way to open further discussions.
The thing I found most interesting about this 6 page article wasn't even the Wertham excerpt, it was the ironically tacked-on Allene Sanburn contribution at the bottom of the last page called "An Idol Wish." If Wertham read this would he attribute a young boy's love for baseball and Joe DiMaggio with possible early leanings towards homosexuality or drag queenisms?
Not trying to accuse him of being a racist at all,or accusing him of some racist agenda-to-conquer-the-world,it's just what im saying was that he would often go after kids to use as examples where he thought he could find them(poor communities),and he never really mentions the race of all patients in the book(the kids are almost invariably Bobbies,or Suzies,but the sniper-incident IS documented)but yes,you're right i am using faulty evidence,i never really KNEW if mr.Richardson was telling the truth,(he never told me what colledge he taught at)im still friends with Tasha(my ex)so i'll ask next time i see her father.please no squabbles.
Sorry if I come on strong here but I don't take character assassination and accusations of racism lightly, especially for someone who appeared as an expert witness on the effects of segregation in Brown v the Board (or was that part of the cover story?).
I am no fan of Wertham's assault on comics (there was a truckload of nonsense in there to attack) but I also am somewhat annoyed at how he has been demonized by comic fans, the overwhelming majority of whom haven't done an ounce of research on him or even bothered reading SOTI (and it's the fact that they haven't bothered doing the research yet insist on putting forth their strong opinions as fact that irks me). It seems comic fans are taught upon emerging from the womb about the great devil Wertham and seem to consider the topic beyond the pale of thought or discussion (that Wertham was one of history's greatest monsters seems to be a fact on par with the law of non-contradiction).
Do I find large parts of Wertham's work laughably ridiculous? Yep. Do I think that he completely missed the point of many of the comics he attacked? Yep. But, do I think he was the one-dimensional (and the "one" here is being charitable) cardboad cutout demon that he is almost always made out to be? Nope. Oh, and do I think that his work was motivated by a deep-seated racist agenda? Ditto on that nope.
BTW - the "six million a day figure" refers to Crime Does Not Pay, which often did claim 5 million+ readers per issue based on their claim that any issue the average comic was read 5 or more times.
Sorry, HP, I missed your second post before I posted my follow up. Glad to hear you weren't accusing Wertham of racism, though I still am a bit put off by the suggestion that his civil rights work was less than sincere, presumably including his early work at Harlem clinics (a fact which could explain why a disproportionate number of his subjects were minorities, assuming such is the case).
I have no problem with people criticizing Wertham's work, but I'd rather confine the criticism to more well-documented issues (like the chapter on subliminal messages in comic book ads - quite entertaining, that).
I'm sure Wertham did some good somewhere with his MD profession, just as say, Nicolas Cage made some good films in his early acting career. But when it comes to comic books, Wertham was just an uninformed irritant on the subject... exactly how Nicolas Cage has become with films in his later/current career.
This article was the direct cause of the burning of my entire E.C. collection.
So THAT'S what's wrong with me!
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