For years, I have been waiting to read Seduction of the Innocent, by Dr. Fredric Wertham. This is the book by the man who was the 1950's version of Tipper Gore, and thought that comic books were the primary thing, the straw that broke the camel's back, the tipping point, the jumping off place for all of the morals of children. Comic books were going to break society, Wertham had concluded. They weren't the only thing - oh, no. But if you could remove comics, all this other shit could probably be handled. Wertham thought that comics should be completely removed from the hands of children, and regarded them as a public health issue - inasmuch as they brought unneeded violence into the hands of innocents. (Depending on the era, there's always one of these: Jazz, Rock N' Roll, PG-13, Explicit Lyrics, GTA, take your freaking pick.) It's an interesting book, because his thesis is okay - comics at the time were pretty harsh, and maybe needed some regulation. In all honesty, picture this: All the comics are written by Garth Ennis and Warren Ellis, drawn by Frank Miller and Howard Chaykin, and have heads blowing up on every page. Then there's one funny dog comic. And your kids can reach everything. And it all costs a nickel.
As is usual with these people, the Doc took himself too seriously, and went too blasted far. Wertham is extremely against most basic civil liberties to which you've likely grown accustomed, and some of his other points of view are actually laughable. For instance, did you know that comic books retard a person's ability to read, and that most people who read a lot of comics never adequately learn to read? They become sub-literate citizens who never crack a real book ever again. Also, boys and girls exposed to role models like Batman and Wonder Woman will become enthralled with deviant homoerotic fantasies, and may turn to the evils of Homosexuality because of comic books. Indeed, Batman and Robin, with their woman-free lifestyle in their big mansion with their dressing gowns and secret cave live the "wish-dream of a homosexual." Wonder Woman is anti-feminine, because she's not demure enough to avoid emasculating men with her very actions. Additionally, all crime and anti-social behavior exhibited by children in the early 50's came from the blueprint provided by comic books. Scout's honor.
Possibly my favorite set of assertions in Dr. Fred's book though, are as follows: Comic books will not be around long, and may not last the decade. They do not teach anything valid, and the stereotypes in them have no lasting viability compared to something like fairy tales, or myth. No one will ever make a dramatic statement or movie or book expanding on the mythos of these comic book superheroes. No, comics will be cast down and forgotten, and the burgeoning new media that will save us with its reach and quality? Television. (chokes on own amusement)
Man, what I wouldn't give for a time machine.