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13

Pre-Code Comic Book Horrors And Dr Wertham’s 1954 Seduction of the Innocent

Although comic books today are a dying breed of literature (Marvel has, after 50+ years, canceled The Fantastic Four, once billed as "The World's Greatest Comic"), they were in their heyday during the 1940's and 1950's (as was the Lone Ranger), when something called the Kefauver Hearings occurred in 1954, causing the then-in-vogue horror comics to die out by 1955 due to implementation of the Comics Code Authority, without which approval comics could not be distributed and sold via normal channels. The comic cover pictured was the final straw (unbelievably, it was edited from a far gorier version) and was the beginning of the end for EC Publications, of which the sole survivor would in 1955 become MAD Magazine (magazines were not subject to the Comics Code as were "comic books).

Dr. Fredric Wertham’s 1954 book, Seduction of the Innocent, was an American bestseller – it tapped into the fears of parents from sea to shining sea - that first led to the Kefauver Hearings and then to a frenzy of censorship in the comic book world. The irony, however, is that the book was so poorly researched, that much of its content was simply made up or misrepresented (it was Wertham's opinion that Batman and Robin were in an obvious homosexual relationship). Of course, the public didn’t give a hoot about facts, and Seduction of the Innocent became a sensation due to its many lurid illustrations, examples of which, with running commentary, can be found here.

Stan Lee, who recently died, was head of Atlas Comics during this period, and he too published horror titles and others that ran afoul of the new code. Consequently, he left Atlas and went on to found Marvel Comics in the early 1960's, and the rest, as they say, is history.

If you'd like to see more of what you have most probably missed-out on, but which most probably corrupted your grandparents, you may do so by visiting here. (It should surprise no one that I own the complete EC library.)


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Wow - has this game ever passed me by. Only ONE comics distributor now!?!?! Amazing, simply amazing. With returns no longer accepted, no wonder drug and dime stores quit carrying comics. What is this country coming to? Thanks for the comics clinic.
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There is only one comic book distribution company: Diamond Comic Distributors has a monopoly on the market (the bloody reference above). They don't accept returns. If a store orders too much, then they have to find a buyer of back issues at a substantial discount. That and the whole monopoly thing drives retailers nuts. Diamond was investigated by the Justice Dept several years back for antitrust practices. Diamond won.

Back in the 80s, Marvel comics that were non-returnable had their issue number within a diamond on the cover. That's how Diamond got its name.

Steve Geppi, Diamond's founder, created Gemstone Publishing. Gemstone bought Russ Cochran Publishing. Cochran had control over much of Bill Gaines' EC Comics - Haunt of Fear, Weird Science, etc., and the reprint rights for EC's stuff went to Gemstone.
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Well, retailers used to just tear off the tops of the front covers and return them to the distributors for credit. They would then just give away the rest of the comic. I used to have quite a few of those myself; has this practice since been discontinued?

We do have comic shops in this area, and so I guess that is where one has to go to buy comic books at retail. I don't know when drug and dine stores quit selling them.

No, I have seen the retail prices of current Marvel comics although I have long since quit buying them. Heh - and I was buying comics in my youth when they were still a dime. I have bought a few 'graphic novels' (such as Batman vs. Alien) over the last 10 years and they are Not Cheap.
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It's a really long, convoluted, and (business) bloody story around the death of comics being sold at drugstores and such. Back to the 80's, you could not return unsold comics. This led to creation of the Direct Market - comic companies shipping product from the printer directly to a comics specialty store (the bloody part). Back then the Direct Market was said to have saved comics. Today it's being accused of holding back smaller independent creators. So I guess that means digital/e-reading of comics is not quite all it's cracked up to be?

It might surprise you that the standard cost of 'regular' mainstream comic is now $3.99. Some independents along with other stuff can be up to $7.00.
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