Banned: The Abominable Words Horror, Zombie, and Terror

The Golden Age of DC Comics

Interestingly, in light of the recent discussion about hyper political correctness on GMG, Wednesday an interview aired on NPR with Paul Levitz, former DC Comics president and author of the new book The Golden Age of DC Comics. He spoke about the Great Comic Book Scare, and how censorship of comic books stifled the creativity of the authors and artists for nearly 20 years. Through the 1930s-1940s comic books were often thought to be violent, weird, and scary. American psychologist and morality crusader Fredric Wertham led the charge in censoring comics with his book Seduction of the Innocent, published in 1954. One particular noteworthy claim of Wertham’s is that Wonder Woman’s strength and independence made her a lesbian.

Seduction of the innocent

Wertham blamed comics for causing maladjusted and juvenile delinquents (sound familiar to video gamers?). The movement to censor comics grew and soon schools were holding comic book burnings, distributors refused to sell comic books, and senate subcommittee hearings were held. Subsequently 75% of the comic book publishers were forced out of business. In order to appease the morality police and stay in business, the remaining comic book publishers formed the self-regulating Comics Code Authority. The use of words such as “horror,” “ zombie,” and “terror” were banned.

The Adventures of Tin Tin Volume 1

Both my kids loved from a very young age (and still do) the comic albums by Hergé, The Adventures of Tin Tin (published 1929-1976).  I worried about the salty and perpetually drunk Captain Haddock, racial stereotypes, and colonialism. On the other hand, Hergé’s drawings are exquisite, the characters utterly engaging, and around-the-world adventures well researched and exciting. We explained to our kids that The Adventures of Tin Tin were written in the spirit of the time.

Recent GMG Posts About Hyper Political Correctness:

Pickles and How The PC Police Runs Rough Shod Over America

Poll- Is Lenny Bruce Offensive?

While we’re on the Subject

6 comments

  • I had no idea. Great post Kim!

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    • Neither did I, until hearing a few snippets from the Paul Levitz interview. The book sounds fascinating and I found much more information googling the great comic book scare.

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  • So right about the spirit of the times, just watched a Brady Bunch episode, talk about the times. Wish that all these high morality people would come down to earth and be kind to everyone. The PC police is becoming the bully. It should always be respect and kindness.

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  • In my youth (the 40′s) the comic books were our fun. Our parents didn’t like them, but we neighborhood kids had a trade business going. We didn’t have a lot of money so we chose our ten cent comics wisely, kept them in pristine condition, traded with our friends and yes sneaked them into the house thinking our mothers didn’t catch on. They did and basically ignored our subterfuge. Those comics were clean fun with amazing vocabulary. Batman was always teaching Robin, Superman was preserving America, and Wonder Woman was a role model for girls teaching us to be independent and intelligent. Later and earlier in my teaching career there was agreat series of comic books for use in the classroom (Classics Comics) which were the classics done in comic mode. These were great segways into reading the actual classics for many kids and exposure to classics for all.

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  • Thank you Natalie for commenting and sharing your memories about comics–so interesting. What is your opinion re–do you think people were or are more concerned with political correctness during the 1940s, 50s or present day?

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