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Why blame comics for societal failure?

By 1945, the Second World War had ended, bringing the world to its knees and America to a new standard. Over the next few years, positive attitudes and a solid economy kept the United States on top. The comic book industry also reached a record in sales around the same time, with everyone from children to soldiers reading scores of superhero and horror stories. However, there was something to fear with in the new postwar America, with the threat gone and the debt owed to the country. With the threat dissipated, comic book creators worried that their readers would vanish as well. The demand of superheroes had the potential to decline rapidly, which posed a huge danger to the 90 percent of the industry that featured them. Wartime heroes like Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, Green Lantern, and the Flash were on the brink of cancellation by 1949.

After a while, writers found a solution in product diversity. Many superhero titles were dropped and replaced with genres like romance comics, jungle heroines with progressively less clothing, and a lighthearted comedy focused on a teen named Archie. The most outstanding response, however, came from the crime and science fiction comic spectrum, growing increasingly graphic each month. Surprisingly, the adult themes seemed to attract younger readers, which would let the comic book industry thrive, until certain people started seeing the results.

In the reading “The Comics…Very Funny!”, Dr. Frederic Wertham bombards the reader with various crimes completely committed by adolescents, and points the blame directly at the comic book industry. He suggests that the comic books are setting the example for children’s recently unruly behavior, although similar science fiction has been around since the creation of comic books. Being a certified M.D., Wertham already holds this intellectual power over the citizens. The “evidence” he displays in the reading could only solidify what he was trying to prove. His seventeen points made the comic book writers out to be evil men themselves, although they only wrote about them, and treated the kids who read them similar to addicts that needed to be rehabilitated.

Because of the times, there were many issues besides comics that could have contributed to the children’s wild behavior. The war prompted many fathers and brothers to leave home, and mothers would go work at factories all day, often leaving Superman, Batman, Captain America, and the villains they faced as the only available role models. Unfortunately, that gave the otherworldly horror stories with more gory artistry into their mindsets as well. Radio, schoolwork, and playing outside was the only other entertainment, to a degree. Other media, along with a child’s vivid imagination, could easily take things out of hand when there is no supervision.

Nonetheless, a code for the comic book industry would surface in 1948, 1954, and even in 1989. Each of them had severe differences, from gross content to religious matters, sexual restrictions, and racism. The largest changes to the industry, however, were the emphasis on crime scenes, making them almost unrealistic and redundant. The only reason that such codes appeared and resurfaced was because of the additional influence comic books held over the younger generation. In my opinion, although they were not the purest of sources (unless they read Superman or Batman), comic books were not the source of all the trouble. The negligence of the adults, both writing explicit comics and allowing children to buy them, was a resounding factor as well. Comic books were the largest fad at the time, and therefore became the easiest thing to blame.

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