1954 Senate Interim Report - Comic Books and Juvenile Delinquency
This report was typed up by Jamie Coville
From: US Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary. Juvenile Deliquency.
1955-6. Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 77-90720
Comic Books and Juvenile Deliquency
Committee on the judiciary
S. Res. 89 and S. Res. 190
(83d Cong. 1st Sess.) - (83d Cong. 2d Sess.)
A Part of the Investigation of Juvenile Delinquency in the United States
Committee on the Judiciary
Harley M. Kilgore, West Virginia, Chairman
James O. Eastland, Mississippi
Estes Kefauver, Tennessee
Olin D. Johnston, South Carolina
Thomas C. Hennings, Jr., Missouri
John L McClellan, Arkansas
Price Daniel, Texas
Joseph C. O'Mahoney, Wyoming
Alexander Wiley, Wisconsin|
William Langer, North Dakota
William E. Jenner, Indiana
Authur V. Watkins, Utah
Everett KcKinley Dirksen, Illinois
Herman Welker, Idaho
John Marshall Butler, Maryland
Subcommittee To Investigate Juvenile Delinquency in the United States
Estes Kefauver, Tennessee, Chairman
James H. Bobo General Counsel
Thomas C. Hennings, Jr. Missouri
Olin D. Johnston, South Carolina
William Langer, North Dakota|
Alexabder Wiley, Wisconsin
Note- Former Senator Robert C. Hendrickson, New Jersey, served as chairman of
this subcommittee until December 13, 1954.
Senator Johnston and Senator Wiley did not participate in this report, having
been appointed to the sub-committee on February 7, 1955.
I. Introduction-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1 Scope of this interim report ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2
II. A brief history of the development of the comic-book industry ------------------------------------------------------------ 3
First comic book appeared in 1935 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3
An overview of the organization and operation of the comic-book industry ------------------------------------- 4
III. The Nature of crime and horror comic books ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 7
Specific examples of material dealt with at New York hearings ------------------------------------------------------- 7
Methods utilized in crime and horror comics to portray violence -------------------------------------------------- 10
IV. Crime and horror comics as a contributing factor in juvenile delinquency -------------------------------------------- 11
Crime and horror comics and the well-adjusted and normally law abiding child -------------------------------- 12
Crime and horror comics may appeal to and thus give support and sanction to already existing
antisocial tendencies ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 13
Techniques of crime are taught by crime and horror comics --------------------------------------------------------- 14
Criminal careers are glamorized in crime and horror comic books --------------------------------------------------- 15
Defenders of law and order frequenctly represented as all powerfull beings who kill
and commit other crimes to defend "justice" ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- 15
Excessive reading of crime and horror comics is considered symptomatic of emotional pathology ------- 16
Need exists for more specific research to fully ascertain the possible effects of this
type of reading marterial upon children ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 16
V. Other questionable aspects of comic books ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 17
Weapons and pseydomedical nostrims advertised in comic books designed for children ------------------ 17
Misuse of mailing lists compiled through comic-book advertisements ------------------------------------------- 18
The exportation of crime and horror comic books ---------------------------------------------------------------------- 20
VI. Comic books as a medium of communication --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 22
VII. Where should responsibility for policing crime and horror comics rest? --------------------------------------------- 23
Comic books and authority --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 23
Responsibility of parents, assisted by citizens' groups --------------------------------------------------------------- 24
Role of Child Study Association as an evaluator of comics --------------------------------------------------------- 25
Responsibility of the comic-book industry for self-regulation ------------------------------------------------------ 27
Newsdealers unable to assume adequate responsibility -------------------------------------------------------------- 27
Wholesalers are not most feasible parties to regulate content ------------------------------------------------------ 28
Printer cannot feasibly regulate content ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 28
Distributor holds one of the key positions in comic-book industry ----------------------------------------------- 28
Publisher has primary responsibility for subject and treatment ----------------------------------------------------- 29
Past attempts at industry self-regulation --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 30
Current efforts at industry self-regulation -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 32
VIII. Conclusions ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 32
Only one part of investigation into the mass media of communication ------------------------------------------- 33
Appendix ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 34
Senate Resolution 89 (83d Cong., 1st sess.) ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- 34
Senate Resolution 190 (83d. Cong., 2d sess.) ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- 34
Section of the United States Code requiring statement of ownership to be filed
annually with postmaster ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 35
Code of National Cartoonists Society ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 35
Code of the Association of Comics Magazines Publishers, 1948 --------------------------------------------------- 35
Code of the Comics Magazine Association of America, Inc., adopted October 26, 1954 --------------------- 36
Correspondence from the Committee on Evaluation of Comic Books, Cincinnati, Ohio ---------------------- 38
List of comic book publishers and comic book titles, spring 1954 -------------------------------------------------- 39
Chart showing the organization of the comic-book industry in the United States,
according to distributor, comic group, publisher, in the spring of 1954 ------------------------------------------- 44
COMIC BOOKS AND JUVENILE DELINQUENCY
A PART OF THE INVESTIGATION OF JUVENILE DELINQUENCY IN THE UNITED STATES
March 14 (legislative Day, March 10), 1955. - Ordered to be printed
Mr. Kefauver, from the Committee on the Judiciary, submitted the following
[Pursuant to S. Res. 89, 83d Cong., 1st sess., and S. Res. 190, 83d Cong., 2d sess.]
The Subcommittee To Investigate Juvenile Delinquency, pursuant to authorization in
Senate Resolution 89, 83d Congress, 1st session, and Senate Resolution 190
of the 2s session of said Congress, has been making a "full and complete
study of juvenile delinquency in the United States," including its "extent
and character" and "its causes and contributing factors." In addition to a
number of community hearings that have been held in major cities, the
subcommuttee has undertaken studies of various special problems affecting juvenile
Over a period of several months the subcommitee has received a vast amount
of mail from parents expressing concern regarding the possible deleterious
effect upon their children of certain of the media of mass communication.
This led to an inquiry into the possible relationship to juvenile delinquency
of these media.
Members of the subcommittee have emphatically stated at public hearings
that freedom of speech and freedom of the press are not at issue. They are
fully aware of the long, hard, bitter fight that has been waged through the
ages to achieve and maintain those freedoms. They agree that these freedoms,
as well as other freedoms in the Bill of Rights, must not be abrogated.
The subcommittee has no proposal for censorship. It moved into the mass
media phase of its investigations with no preconceived opinions in regard to
the possible need for new legislation.
Consistent with this position, it is firmly believed that the public is
entitled to be fully informed on all aspects of this matter and to know all
the facts. It was the consensus that the need existed for a thorough,
objective investigation to determine whether, as has been alleged, certian
types of mass communication media are to be reckoned with as contributing to
the country's alarming rise in juvenile delinquency. These include: "crime
and horror" comic books and other types of printed matter; the radio,
television, and motion pictures.
In its investigations of mass media, as in its investigation of other
phases of the total problem, the subcommittee has not been searching for
"one cause." Delinquency is the product of many related causal factors. But
it can scarcely be questioned that the impact of these media does constitue a
significant factor in the total problem.
Juvenile delinquency in America today must be viewed in the framework of
the total comminuty-climate in which children live. Certainly, none of the
children who get into trouble live in a social vacuum. One of the most
significant changes of the past quarter century has been the wide diffusion of
the printed word, particularly in certain periodicals, plus the phenominal
growth of radio and television audiences.
The child today in the process of growing up is constantly exposed to
sights and sounds of a kind and quality undreamed of in previous generations.
As these sights and saounds can be a powerful force for good, so too can they
be a powerful counterpoise working evil. Their very quantity makes them a
factor to be reckoned with in determining the total climate encountered by
today's children during their formative years.
SCOPE OF THIS INTERIM REPORT
The first phace of the subcommittee's investigation of the mass media of comminication dealt with so-called comic books.
This report is an interim one dealing with certain aspects of the findings to
date of the investigation in this field. While it is not presumed to be
comprehensive of the material that can be explored in this field, this
interim report is based upon the public hearings in New York City on April 21,
22, and June 4, 1954, and upon research by members of the staff of the
subcommittee. Because of the limited extent ofthe studies that exist on this
subject, due in part to the comparatively recent introduction of comic books,
there remains a considerable area which deserves careful and scientific
When looking at the question: What are "comic books?" we find that many,
including all those with which the subcommittee's investigation was conserned,
were found to be neither humorour nor books. They are thin, 32-page pamphlets
usually trimmed to 7 by 10 1/2 inches. Most of them sell for 10 cents a copy.
They are issued monthly, bimonthly, quarterly, semiannually, or as one-time
publications. They are wire-stitched in a glossy paper cover on which, in the
crime and horror type, there has been printed in gaudy colors an often grim
and lurid scene contrived to intrigue prospoective purchasers into buying
them. The inside page contain from 3 to 5 stories told in pictures with
balloon captions. The pictures are artists' line drawings printed in color,
intended to tell part of the story by showing the characters in action. In the
case of crime and horror comic books, the story and the action are often quite
Not all comic books were considered in this investigation. The
subcommittee was concerned only with those dealing with crime and horror. It
was estimated that by the spring of 1954 over 30 million copies of crime and
horror comic books were being pronted each month. 1 If only 50 perscent of
that number were sold by the retailers, the annual gross from crime and
horror comic books had reached $18 million. These constituted approximately
20 percent of the total output of comic books. The inquiry was not concerned
in this phase with the comic strips that appear daily in most of our
1. This estimate is slightly different from the estimate prepared by the
staff of the subcommitte prior to the New York hearings on April 21 and 22,
The methods utilized in investigatiing the possible effects of crime
and horror comic books included several steps. These included the sending of
samples of such books to psychiatrists and psychologists to obtain their
opinions as to the possible effects of this type of printed matter upon
children. The staff of the Library of Congress prepared a useful
summarization of articles and books pretaining to the subject. 2 The
subcommittee's staff conducted extensive research into the organization of
the comic-book industry and interviewed many individuals concerned with that
industry. This was done prior to the public hearings in New York.
2. See Hearings Before Subcommitte To Investigate Juvenile Delinquency
(Comic Books) of the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, 83d Cong., 2d
sess., pp.12-23, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1954
II. A Brief History of the Development of the Comic Book Industry
The first comic strip to appear in a newspaper was Outcault's "Yellow Kid"
which was introduced in the New York World in 1896. The concept, however, of
an entire publication devoted to comics was not developed intil 1911 when the
Chicago American offered preprints of Bud Fisher's Mutt and Jeff in pamphlet
form as a premium for clipping coupons from six daily issues.
FIRST COMIC BOOK APPEARED IN 1935
The pattern for presend-day comic books was set in 1935 when Now Fun, a
64-page collection of original material printed in four colors, was put on
the newsstands. Action Comics were put on sale in 1938, and Superman
Quarterly Managzine appeared in 1939. The number of comic book publishers
has increased and the circulation figures have risen astonishingly since
It has been estimated conservatively that in 1940 publishers of at least
150 comic-book titles had annual revenues of over 20 million. Ten years later,
in 1950 about 300 comic-book titles were being published with annual revenues
of nearly 41 million. The upswing in the next 3 years brought the number of
titles to over 650 and the gross to about 90 million.3 Average monthly
circulation jumped from close to 17 million copies in 1940 to 68 million in
3. No accurate figures are available. Many of the newer publishers of comic
books do not report to the Audit Bureau of Circulations nor to the
Controlled Circulation Audits, the twi firms that compile curvulation figures.
The subcommittee, in making the above estimate, took the most conservative estimate.
It assumed that 300,000 copies of each comic-book title were printed, even
though information fiven to the subcommitee indicated that is a minimum
print order and that some print orders are close to the million mark.
It was also assumed that one-half of the comic books printed were sold, even
though information given was to the effect that the "break-even" point for
the average publisher would more likely be closer to 65 percent.
And finally it was assumed that one-half of all the comic books were
published monthly and that the remainder were published bimonthly, even
though information furnished by the publishers themselves indicate that more
than one-half of the comic books were published monthly. See McNickle,
Roma K., Policing the Comics, Editorial Research Reports, 1205 19th street
NW., Washington E.C. , vol. I, 1952, pp. 229-330. See also N. W. Ayer & Son's
Directory of Newspapers an Periodicals for the Years 1945 through 1953.
In the years between 1945 and 1954, two stricking changes took place in the
comic-book industry. The first was the great uncrease in the number of comic
books published adn the number of firms engaged in their publication. The
second was the increase numbers of comic books dealing with crime and horror
and featureing sexually suggestive and sadistic illustrations. This increase
of materials featuring brutality and violence is being offered to any child
who has the 10-cent purchase price. That these examples of crime and horror
are aimed at children is clearky evident from the advertisements with which
each issue is replete.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE ORGANIZATION AND OPERATION OF THE COMIC-BOOK INDUSTRY
On first impression, the present comic-book industry would seem to comprise
many different publishing firms with no apparent relationship to one to
another. On closer scrutiny, howevery, it is fount that the picture is
Information obtained by the subcommitee indicates that, while there are 112
seemingly seperate and distinct corporations engaged in the publication of
comic books, these corporations, through such decices as common-stock holders
and officer and family ties are in fact owned and controlled by a relatively
small group of men and women. Thus the 676 comic-book titles are published by
111 corporations owned by only 121 persons or families in addition to 1
coporation which has many stockholders. 4
4. Listing of publishers and titles shown on Pp.39-44 of appendix to this report.
The majority of these publishers maintain editorial offices in New York City.
While the editorial content of comic books is determinded in New York City, the
actual printing, binding and distribution usually takes place at printing
establishments often located in other States far removed from the editorial
A view of the steps involved in producing and distributing a comic book
affods some insight into the problems confronting the industry in determining
an editorial content acceptable for reading by children.
While ultimate responsibility for editorial content rests with the
publishers, their training and backgroups vary widely. One, for example,
combines publication of comic books with an active law practive. Some publish
"girlie" magazines and comic books from the same editorial office. Some
publish well-known pocket-sized book editions. One man publishes both comic
books and the pseudomedical type of sex books. Several include pseudoscience
books among their publications. One fact is clearly noted: A background in
knowledge of child education and development is not a requisite to becoming a
publisher of crime and horror comic books designed for children.
Neither the editor, the script writer nor the artist is required to possess
such a background. A majority of the comic-books publishers employ one or
more editors. Some also employ writers and artist on a permanent basis,
although more frequently they utlize such persons on a free-lance arrangement.
The publisher, and his editor, establish the general theme and tone of a
particular comic book. the idea for the story is them conceived by the editor
or writer. Once the idea is firmed-up, the writer prepares a short symopsis.
This is reviewed by the editor who directs such changes as he sees fit. In
some of the smaller publishing firms, the publisher himself may sit on this
story conference. In the larger firms, the publisher does not attempt
detailed review of story content.
After the synopsis is agreed upon, the writer prepares a script which sets
forth, panel by panel, the action to be illustrated and dialogue for the
"balloons." The editor again reviews the script and indicates the revisions
to be made. The artist, following the directions in the script, then prepares
black and white drawings which are reviewed by the editor who orders such
changes as he wants. The drawings are not colored by the original artist, but
by other persons in the employ of the publisher, or by the printer under
instructions from the editor.
Three of four stories are then grouped together to form a comic book of 32
pages. Not all of these pages contain illustrated stories. Some may be used
for advertising space. Others may be used for short stories without
illustration for "fan" clubs or correspondence.
The layout for the comic books, complete with original drawings and color
scheme, is then sent to the printer according to a prearranged time schedule.
Inside pages are printed on "newsprint" and the cover is printed on a slightly
heavier, glossy paper. These two operations are sometimes accomplished at
different printing plants.
The mimimum pront order for any one issue of a comic book is apporoximately
300,000, although press runs of 750,000 for a single issue are not uncommom.
The publishers' experience has shown that this minimum is neccessary to
assure such widespread coverage as will provide the opportinuty for
sufficient sales to cover costs and, hopefully, result in profits on that
particular issue. With 95,000 to 110,000 newsdealers in the country, a press
run of 300,000 would put only 3 copoes of the comic book on the shelves of
each dealer if evenly distributed.
After an issue of a comic book is printed, the copies are not shipped to
the distributor as one might expect, but directly to the local wholesaler.
Shipments are made by mail, freight, express and truck. Such shipments are
made by the printing concern at the direction of and in accordance with the
instructions supplied by the distributor. The wholesaler then supplies the
newsdealer, who is the retailer from whom the public buys.
Virtually every community of appreciable size in the United States has at
least one independently owned wholesaler who distributes comic books for one
or a number of the independent national distributors. It is estimated the 950
independent wholesalers operate within the United States. In addition, the
American News Co. maintains its own 400 company-owned-and-operated branches,
in the capacity of wholesale concerns. Moreover, a subsidiary of the American
News Co., called the Union News Co., has branches which supply newsstands at
railway stations, subways, and some hotels.
If the printer and the wholesaler perform the physical fuction of
distributing comic books, who then is the distributor and what is his role in
the total industry picture? Thirteen national distributors handle comic books
within the continental United States. Some distributors are also publishers
and handle their own publications. Others do not publish but deal with a
number of independent publishers. The American News Co. sends meterials only
to its company-owned wholesalers. The other 12 distributors route materials
to independently owned wholesalers.
The distributor is a cross between a financier, a statistician, and a
publishers' salesman or representative. His financial function is performed
through the advance payments he makes to the publisher. He will often advance
up to 25 percent against the final accounting, which will take place (3 or 4
months later) when the total sales of a particular issue can be computed. His
statistical function consists of determining those wholesalers to whom a
given comic book can supplied to each. His function as salesman consists of
directiong "on the road" representatives who seek to maintain satisfactory
customer relations with the wholesaler. This agent urges the wholesaler to
carry and to push the sales of a larger number of the publications carried by
the distributor whom he represents.
The distributor maintains a record for each wholesaler with whom he does
business. He lists the title and the issue of each comic book delivered, the
quantity shipped, the quantity sold, and the number eventually returned
unsold. Future calculations are made on the basis of past performance. As each
new issue is prepared, the distributor gages sales possibilities. He then
orders a given number of shipping labels bearing the name and address of each
wholesaler and the number of copies tp be sent to that wholesaler. These
lables are delivered to the printer.
Thus the comic book, conceived by the editor and writer, given concrete
form by the artist, and put into mass production by the printer on order of
the publisher, reachers the business of a wholesaler in a particular area,
having been shopped there by the printer under a lable prepared by a national
distributor. It is now ready for its journey onto the shelves of the
The wholesaler also maintains records as to the sales made by newsdealers
serviced by him. On the basis of these records, the wholesaler makes up a
bundle for his newsdealers. It is a mixed bundle. It contains a number of
copies of each of the comic books he has reveived for distribution since his
last distribution day. The bundle might also contain copies of "girlie"
magazines, men's sports, popular scientific publications, motion picture and
televiision periodicals, and other types of literary, news and household
publications. In other words, the bundle prepared for delivery to the
newsdealer can and does run the gamut of many tpes of managzines, depending
on what the wholesaler distributes. The bundle is then delivered by a
truckdriver to the retailer who operates a newsstand in a small store, on the
street, or in a station, to drugstores, candy stores, and other retail
The widely diverse assortment of publications, which might be routed by
distributor to the wholesaler and in turn to the retail newsdealer, was shown
in the prepared exhibits of some of the magazines distributed by the Kable
News Co. These exhibits, which were introduced at the New York hearings,
included such titles as: Suppressed, The Facts About Modern Bootlegging,
Mysteries, Billy Bunny, Exhibit Homes, Haunted Thrills, Zip, Romance Time,
Nifty, Homecraft, Mystery Tales of Horror and Suspense, Picture Scope,
Magazine Digest, Masked Ranger, Gala, Danger, Voodoo, The Children's Hour,
Wham, Radio-Electronics, Pack O' Fun, Strange Fantasy, Exclusive, Dare,
Frolic, Child Life, Fantastic Fears, Universe, Tops, He, Hunting and Fishing,
Danger, and Tab. The covers of many of these publications carried pictures of
scantily clad females in suggestive poses. The titles of some of the article
as featured on the covers were: "The Lady Is a Man," "All-Year Vacation Home,"
"Sex Before Marriage," "I Was Forced Into Russia's Fifth Column," "I Sold
Myself in the Marriage Racket," "Athletes Are Lousy Sports," "What's New in
Transistors," "Babes in Boyland," "The Prodigal Son," "Backstage at Burlesk,"
"The Smart Drummer," "Rica Rita- Pantie Model," "Angel of the Battlefields,"
"Sexie Tessie Up North," "Joseph and His Brothers," "Tommy's Bedroom Secret,"
"Dead End Kids of Space," "Are Bosomy Beauties a Fad?" "Are Vets Freeloading
Medical Care?" "Sixty Lady-Killers on the Loose," "Evelyn West vs. Kinsey,"
"Are Our Churches Really Red?" "The Beauty Is a Witch," "Slaves to Beauty,"
"Trouble in Morocco," "Court of Immoral Women," "Backlashes? Try Educating
Your Thumb," and "Where Bad Girls Make Good."
The newsdealer is changed for the entire contents of the bundle he reveives.
Howerver, the newsdealer may return the comic books, if they remain unsold, as
in the case of other items, and reveive credit. The Wholesaler may route the
returns to other dealers. When it is finally determined that certain returns
are not salable, the wholesaler returns them to the distributor, for use in
his accounting with the publisher, returning either the comic books themselves
or their covers. There is also a practive in the indusrty of putting groups
of returned comics books into thicker books, and reissueing them under a new
title and cover for a sale price of 25 cents.
The distributer and the publisher complete their accounting on the basis of
the returns - either of the covers or the entire comic books - and payment is
made to the publisher for the copies sold. The amount retained by the
distributor is a samll percentage of the total amount of the sales.
III. The Nature of Crime and Horror Comic Books
It has been pointed out that the so-called crime and horror comic books of
concern to the subcommittee offer short courses in murder, mayhem, robbery,
rape, cannibalism, carnage, necrophilia, sex, sadism, masochism, and
virtually every other form of crime, degeneracy, bestiality, and horror.
These depraved acts are presented and explained in illustrated detail in an
array of comic books being bought and read saily by thousands of children.
These books evidence a common penchant for violent death in every form
imaginable. Many of the books dwell in detail on verious forms on insanity
and stress sadistic degeneracy. Others are devoted to cannibalism with
monsters in human form feasting on human bodies, usually the bodies of
scantuly clad women.
[Webmasters note: WHOO HOO! I wanna read some of these!]
SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF MATERIAL DEALT WITH AT NEW YORK HEARING
To point out more specifically te type of material being dealt with, a few
typical examples of story content and pictures were presented at the New York
hearings on April 21, 1954. From the few following examples, it will be
clearly seen that the major emphasis of the material then available on
America's newsstands from this segment of the comic book industry dealth with
Story No. 1
Bottoms Up (Story Comics)
This story has to do with a confirmed alcoholic who spends all his wife can
earn on alcohol. As a result their small son is severely neglected. On the day
the son is to start in the first grade in school the mother asks the father to
escort him to the school building. Instead, the father goes to his favorite
bootlegger and the son goes to school by himself. En route the child is
struck and killed by an automobile. Informed of the accident, the mother
returns home to find her husband gloating over his new supply of liquor. The
last four panels show the mother as she proceeds to kill and hack her spouuse
to pieces with an ax. The first panel shows her swinging the ax, buring the
blade in her husband's skull. Blood spurts from the open wound and the
husband is shown with an expression of agony. The next panel has a montage
effect: the husband is lying on the floor with blood rushing from his skull
as the wife is poised over him. She holds he bloody ax, raised for more blows.
The background shows an enlargement of the fear-filled eyes of the husband,
as well as an enlargement of the bloody ax. To describe this scene of horror
the text states that "And how the silence of the Hendrick's apartment is
broken only by the soft humming of Nora as she busies herself with her
'work'." She then cuts his body into smaller pieces and disposes of it by
placing the various pieces in the bottles of liquor her husband had purchased.
She then returns the liquor to the bootlegger and obtains a refund. As she
leaves the bootlegger says: "HMMN, funny! I figured that rye would be inside
Lou by now!" The story ends with the artist admonishing the child readers in a
macabre vein with the following paragraph, "But if Westlake were to examine
the remainder of the case more closely he'd see that it is Lou who is inside
the liquor! Heh, Heh! Sleep well, kiddies!" We then see three of the bottles
- one contains an eye, one an ear, and one a finger.
Story No. 2
Frisco Mary (Ace Comics)
This story concerns an attractive and glamorous young woman, Mary, who
gains control of a California underwold gang. Under her leadership the gang
embarks on a series of holdups marked for their ruthlessness and violence. One
of these escapades involves the robbery of a bank. A police officer sounds an
alarm thereby reducing the gang's "take" to a mere $25,000. One of the scenes
of violence in the story shows Mary poised over the wounded police officer, as
he lies on the pavement, pouring bullets into his back from her submachinegun.
The agonies of the stricken officer are clearly depicted on his face. Mary, who
in this particular scene looks like an average American girl wearing a sweater
and skirt and with her hair in bangs, in response to a plea from one of her
gang members to stop shooting and flee, states: "We could have got twice as
much if it wasn't for this frog-headed rat!!! I'll show him!"
Story No. 3
With Knife in Hand (Atlas Comics)
A promising young surgeon begins to operate on a wounded criminals in order
to gain the money demanded by his spendthrift wife. After he has ruined his
professional career by becoming associated with the underworld, a criminal
comes to get help for his girl friend who has been shot by the police. In the
accompanying panels the girl is placed upon the operating table; the doctor
discovers that the criminal's girl friend is none other than his own wife. The
scene then shows the doctor committing suicide by plunging a scaple into his
own abdomen. His wife, gasping for help, also dies on the operating table for
a lack of medical attention. The last scene shows her staring into space, arms
dangling over the sides of the operating table. The doctor is sprawled on the
floor, his hand still clutching the knife handle protuding from his bloody
abdomen. There is a leer on his face and he is winking at the reader
connoting satisfaction at having wrought revenge upon his unfaithful spouse.
Story No. 4
Head Room (Entertaining Comics)
The female keeper of a decrepit hotel gives special attention to one of her
male boarders. She attempts to win his affection by giving him lower rates,
privileges, etc. Since he is in his room only at night, she rents the same
room for daytime use to a gruesome-looking man, shown on the first page of
the story. There are repeated reports over the radio of a homicidal maniac at
large, the "Ripper." She comes to suspect the daytime boarder and is shown
searching his room and finding seven gruesome, bloody heads hanging in his
closet. Her privileged boarder comes into the room and she tells him of her
findings. He is then shown transformed into the gruesome daytime boarder. The
last picture shows him as he decapitates her.
Story No. 5
Orphan (Entertaining Comics)
This is the story of a small golden-haired girl named Lucy, of perpahs 8 or
10 years of age, and the story is told in her own words. Lucy hates both her
parents. Her father is an alcoholic who beats her when drunk. Her mother, who
never wanted Lucy, has a secret boy friend. The only bright spot in Lucy's
life is her Aunt Kate with whom she would like to live. Lucy's chance to
alter the situation comes when the father, entering the front gate to the
home, meets his wife who is running away with the other man, who immediately
flees. Snatching a gun from the night table, Lucy shoots and kills her father
from the window. She then runs out into the yard and presses the gun into the
hands of her mother, who has fainted and lies unconscious on the ground. Then
through Lucy's perjured testimony at the following trial, both the mother and
her boy friend are convicted of murdering the father and are electrocuted.
These pictures that show, first, "Mommie" and then "Stevie" as they sit
strapped to the electric chair as the electric shock strikes them. Other
pictues show Lucy's joyous contentment that it has all worked out as she had
planned and she is now free to live with her Aunt Kate. The last picture
shows her winking at the reader and saying "*** which is just the way I'd
hope it would work out when I shot daddy from the fron bedroom window with
the gun I knew was in the night table and went downstairs and put the gun in
mommy's hand and started the crying act."
Story No. 6
Heartless (Story Comics)
This is the story of a petty gangster, Bernie Kellog. He is in a cheap,
smalltown hotel, where he starts to have chest pains and calls a physician.
The doctor gives Bernie a drug to calm his nerves. The drug makes Bernie feel
like talking and he tells the doctor that he is in the hotel waiting for a
women to bring him $50,000 in blackmail money. He tells the doctor how the
woman begged to be "let off the hook" because her husband didn't have taht
much money. Bernie insists, however, so the women goes home and commits
suicide. As it turns out, the women, Elaine, is the doctor's wife. One of the
pictures then presented shows the doctor sitting dazedly on the edge of the
bed * * * And, stretched across the bed, we find Bernie with his heart cut
out. Bernie is shown lying dead on the bed with a gaping hole in his chest, a
rib protruding, blood flowing over the bed and onto the floor, his face fixed
in a death mask as he stares at the reader.
Story No. 7
Stick in the Mud (Story Comics)
An extremely sadistic schoolteacher gives special attention to one of her
pupils in order to curry favor with the boy's rich, widowed father. In a year
she succeeds in marrying the man, but he turns out to be a miser. She stabs
him to death with a butcher knife approximately a foot and a half in length
and 3 inches wide. The picture shows the body of the old man, limbs askew,
falling to the floor, emitting a gurgle. There is a large hole in this back
and blood is squirting in all directions. The wife is behind him clutching
the bloody butcher knife. She says: "You stupid old fool! I've stood for your
miserly, penny-pinching ways long enough! From now on it'll be my money ***
and I'll spend it my way! Die Ezra *** die!" She then covers up her crime by
throwing him into a pen with a wild bull that gores his body to pieces. She
now has the money, but also the stepson whom she hates. The boy suspects that
she killed his father and makes her chase him around the farm by calling her
names. He leads her to some quicksand and she falls in. Several pictures show
her as she begs the boy to get help. He promises to do so if she confesses to
him that she killed his father. She does so, and he then lets her sink to her
death. A closeup is shown of the terrified women, sunk into the quicksand
which is slowing into her open mouth. The boy is quite satisfied with himself
and walks about the farm humming a tune while others search for his "lost"
It is appropiate to point out that these were not the only, nor the worst,
pictures and stories gathred by the subcommittee during the investigation. In
fact, they constitue a small sampling of the total array of crime and horror
comic books available to the youth of this Nation.
METHODS UTILIZED IN CRIME AND HORROR COMICS TO PORTRAY VIOLENCE
Physical acts shown in the foregoing pictures are not the only means for
portraying violence in the crime nd horror type of comic books. Violence is
frequently demonstrated by the type of character, plot, and setting of a
story; as well as by the sequence of events and by the language used in the
"balloons." The following are a few examples of some of the decives used in
the portrayal of violence and horror:
1. Character, plot, and setting The majority of fantasy stories, which pictorially depicted relatively few
physical acts of violence, dealt with supernatural people and events. More
frequently the supernatural phenomena involved werewolves, vampires, zombies,
witches, people returning from the dead, and animal monsters. Physical
violence usually occurred in only 1 or 2 frames. The total extent of violence,
however, cannot be measured by counting isolated frames taken out of context.
Each frame contributed to the story buildup of horror and suspense.
One method of portraying horror relates supernatural phenonmena with real
people and things. In this type of story, horror was portrayed by making use
of fantastic supernatural powers and by identifying these powers with people
and animals that really exist. By association, it is suggested that real
policemen may be ghouls who prey of the citizens of a city. The next-door
neighbor may be a zombie secretly plotting with other zombies, also
neighbors, to take over the world. Ordinary house pets are acutally men's
enemies awaiting the opportunity to destroy him.
Another resource for portraying horror places supernatural beings, such as
werewolves and vampires in highly realistic settings. Therefor, horror is
identified not only with real people but also with real situations. An example
of this type was pointed out in the hearings by Richard Clendenen,
subcommittee executive director. It was the story of a small orhpan who was
adopted by two individuals ostensibly devoted to the child. After having
fattened him up, they entered his room and night, fangs bared, and it is seen
that they were vampires. The boy however is turned into a werewolf and
attacks the two and claws them. Thus, violence and horror are not restricted
in comic books to the isolated action shown in each frame. Though there are
no frames with physical violence in some instances, a while story may create
horror by its selection of characters, sequence of events and situations.
2. Language Words alone, or in conjunction with pictures, may describe violence and
horror more vividlly than the graphic techniques. In comic books, language is
utilized to contribute to horror in several ways. It may be used to (a)
stimulate the reader's anticipation of horrible things to come; (b) reinforce
a belief in supernatural nomsters; (c) describe desires impossible of being
shown graphically; and (d) describe killings.
One of the more frequent functions of language in crime comics is to
replace graphic portrayals of brutal killings. In such instances the pictures
do not show the weapons in contact with the victims, more are the victims
mangled bodies exposed to the reader. The acts of killing, however, and their
effects on the victims are imaginatively described in the texts. The
following serves as an illustration of this technique:
A man is shown lifting an ax preparatory to striking his wife on the floor.
In the next frame he lowers the ax, the wife is now show but the caption
reads: "Bertha squealed as Nornman brought the ax down. The swinging of the
steel and the thud of the razor-sharp metal against flesh cut the squeal
short." In the next frame he holds the ax poised again, the body still is not
exposed and the caption reads: "He brought the ax down again and again,
hacking, severing, dismembering."
In cases similar to the above, violence is portrayed to the reader by words
instead of pictures.
Other symbols are often used to signify violence and horror. The red
backgroup of a picture is used as symbolic of blood. This may be noted in the
The caption reads: "His (the victim's) shrieks dies to a s bubbling moan
*** then a final death rattle. *** You did not stop swinging the chair until
the thing on the floor was a mass of oozing scarlet pulp." No body is shown
but the entire frame is colored red.
3. Sequence Another method in which the impressions of horror or violence may be
conveyed is by the sequence of events. Stories may be so constructed that
each frame stimulates the imagination of the reader up to a shocking climax
in the last frame. The sequence may be carried out through the use of words
and pictures which, in themselves, are unrelated to horror. One of the more
subtle instances where violence was portrayed by neither action, words, nor
color, is the following:
The story is about a man who gets entangled in a swamp. One frame shows him
in the swamp and a huge vulture circling above the doomed man. The next frame
shows the man being carried out on a stretcher with bandages over his eyes.5
5 Acknowledge for theis section on methods of portraying violence in comic
books is due Mrs. Marilyn Graalfs of the department of sociology of the
University of Washington who prepared A Survey of Comic Books in the state of
Washington (mimeographed), Seattle, 1954. This was a report made to
Washington State Council for Children and Youth, having been prepared in
cooperation with the research and statistics section of the department of
IV. Crime and Horror Comic Books as a Contributing Factor in Juvenile Delinquency
Inquiring into the relationship of crime and horror comic books to juvenile
delinquency, the subcommittee approached this question without preconveived
convictions. It was not assumed that comic books are a major cause of
juvenile delinquencey. On the other hand, care was taken to avoid stating
categorically that these crime and horror comic books have no effect in
aggravating the problem.
However, there are many who accept the idea of the cause and effect
relationship between comic-book reading by children and antisocial behavior.
Many judges have pointed to crime and horror comic books and have cited cases
of children who have explained their delinquent acts by claiming they got the
ideas from such comic books. This kind of evidence is largely discountied by
the behavioral scientists, who point out that children can hardly be expected
to understand their own behavior, much less explain it. A child may ascribe
his behavior to a comic book he has read, but such explanations without
substantiating findings can scarcely be considered scientific evidence of
The behavioral sciences are as yet far from exact. Therefore, it is not
surprising to note some diversity of opinion even among experts in the fields
of criminology, psychology and sociology. Responsible observers of the
American social pattern are in general agreement that juvenile delinquency
has many causes, not just one.
Today there are many who consider themselves experts who persist in
explaining all delinquency soly as a product of personlity maladjustment,
while at the other extreme, there are those who find the influence of the
slum to be the source of all difficulties. Others points soley to the
influence of crime and horror comic books. These people overlook the fact
that no one personality trait or social backgroud distinguishes delinquent
children. The endless variations of circumstance, opportunity, and personal
history must be taken into account. When doing this, it is neccessary to
determine the effects in each case of all the contrubuting factors.
A study of crime and horror comic books should consider their effects upon
children in the total setting of the child's behavior pattern. It was the
concern of the subcommittee to inquire into expert opinion of the
relationship between this material and the delinquent behavior of children
who are (a) considered to be emotionallly stable and (b) those thought of as
emotionally maladjusted. The following is a brief summary of professional
opinion in which the attempt is made to reflect some of te divergencies where
CRIME AND HORROR COMICS AND THE WELL-ADJUSTED AND NORMAL LAW ABIDING CHILD
Attention has been given by some experts to the influence of crime and
horror comics on well-adjusted children who normally are not in conflict with
society. Majority opinion seems inclided to view that it is unlikely that the
reading of crime and horror comics would lead to delinquency in a
well-adjusted and noramlly law-abiding child.
A different view is held by Dr. Frederic Wertham, consulting psychiatrist,
Department of Hospitals, New York City. He mantains that it is primarliy the
"normal" child upon whom the comics have their greatest detrimental effects,
and thus it is this type of individual who is "tempted" and "seduced" into
imitating the crime portrayed in the story. Dr. Wertham has been termed the
"leading crusader against comics." Althought stating that he does not adhere
to a single factor theory of delinquency causation, he does atrribute a large
portion of juvenile offenses to the comics. 6
6. See Wertham, Frederic, Seduction of the Innocent, New York; 1954.
A critique of the position that has been held by Dr. Wertham for many years
is found in an article by Prof. Frederic M. Thrasher entitled, "The Comics
and Delinquency: Cause or Scapegoat." This article which appeared in 1949,
pointed to alledged weakness in Dr. Wertham's approach, the major one bing
that his propositions are not supported by adequate research data. 7
Professor Thrasher asserted that Dr. Wertham's claims rest upon a selected
group of extreme cases. Although Dr. Wertham has since declared that his
conclusions are based upon a study of thousands of children, he has not
offered the statistical details of his study. He says that he used control
groups, i.e. compared his groups of delinquents with a similar group on
nondelinquents, but he has not described the groups to prove that difference
in incidence of comic-book reading is other than a selective process. In
conclusion, Professor Thrasher writes:
*** it may be said that no acceptable evidence has been prodiced by Wertham
or anyone else for the conclusion that the reading comic magazines has, or
nas not, a significant relation to delinquent behavior.
A summerization of Professor Threasher's contention is that in 1949, the case
against comic books had not been proved pro or con. His presentation points
out the need for more study and research that subject which has not yet been
7 Thrasher, Frederic M., The Comics and Delinquency: Cause of Scapegoat, in
the Jurnal of Edicational Sociology, December 1949, pp. 195-905.
CRIME AND HORROR COMICS MAY APPEAL TO AND THUS GIVE SUPPORT AND SANCTION TO ALREADY EXISTING ANTISOCIAL TENDENCIES
Dr. Harris Peck, director of the bureau of mental health services for the
New York City Court of Domestic Relationships, indicated in his testimoney
that there is a possible relationship of crime and horror comic books to
juvenile delinquency through appealing to and thus giving support and
sanction to already existing antisocial tendencies. 8 While pointing out that
it is unlikely that comic books are a primary cause of juvenile delinquency,
he stated that that it should not be overlooked that certain comic book may
aid and abet, as it were, delinquent behavior which has been set in motion by
other forces already operating on the child. Dr Harris has also noted the
preoccupation with comics of many delinquets with whom he has come in contact.
This observation should be weighed with reference to the fact tat there are
many nondelinquents who are avid comic-book readers.
8 See Peck, Harris, testimony in hearings before the Subcomittee To Investige
Juvenile Delinquency of the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, 83d
Cong., 2d sess., pp. 63-69, Washington: Government Printing Office 1954.
It is appropriate that a distinction be made between the "emotionally
maladjusted" delinquent to which reference has been made and the "normally
adjusted" delinguent. It is quite possible for an individual to be both
socially and psychologically adjusted within his own group of delinquent
companions. While the group may commit acts of delinquency and be completely
out of joint with society as a whole, the individual members may have the
same normal feelings and needs as members of a law-abiding group of the same
age. Therefor, even though these delinquent youths are deemed emotionally
stable, the content of the crime comic books may coincide with the attitudes
and values of the group and give support to the group's delinquent activites.
This leads to the conclusion that in both the "emotionally abnormal" and
the "emotionally normal" delinquent, the contents of crime and horror comic
books may become a part of the youth's total experience and operate as
another of the many supports of antisocial behavior present today in our
There exists in a minority opinion that suggests a possible cathartic
effect can be achieved by reading about or looking at a violent action; that
is, a period of calm, or relaxation results. The possibility was suggested
that this effect may become desirable for certain individuals and may develop
into a mechanism by which they can relieve everyday tension which cannot
otherwise be coped with satisfactorily. However, even among authorities in the
field of child development who agree that such material does have a cathartic
effect, some believe that the same kind of effect might be achieved more
safely through other means for the vicarious expression of aggression.
TECHNIQUES OF CRIME ARE TAUGHT BY CRIME AND HORROR COMICS
Another aspect of the contribution of comic books to juvenile delinquency,
in the opinion of a number of experts, was the indication that more serious
forms of delinquency incorporate knowledge of specific techniques which many
comic books provide. This was considered to be another valid criticism of
comic books, i.e., they offer juveniles a comprehensive written and pictorial
presentation of both methods and techniques of criminal activites. Dr. Robert
H. Felix, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, attributed
this negative feature to comic books when he wrote:
They might well be instructive in the techniques of criminal activity and
the avoidance of detection. 9
9 Hearings before the Subcommittee To Investiage Juvenile Delinquency Comic
Book of the Comittee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, 83d Cong., 2d sess., p.11,
Washington: Government Printing Office 1954.
Offering an example of this practice of teaching crime techniques via crime
through comic books, Dr. Wertham testified:
*** I had no idea how one would go about stealing from a locker in Grand
Central, but I have comic books which describe that in minute detail and I
could go out and do it.
Dr. Wertham was the first psychiatrist to call attention of the American
people to crime and horror comics. It in incontrovertible that he has exerted
far-reaching influence through alerting parents' and citizens' groups to the
extent of bestiality and depravity being dispensed to children through such
Content analysis of crime comics by the subcommittee indicated that in most
instances the crimes as portrayed in these books were committed with little
finesse or imagination. Guns were the most frequent weapon for murder.
"Holdups," safeblowing and payroll seizures were among the methods employed
in robberies. However, there were stories in which utilization was made of
the following: lead pipes, kitchen knives, wet rawhide belts (tied around a
man's neck to dry in the sun, thereby shrinking and stranglin him), whips,
hot coffee thrown in a person's face, wrenches, jagged edges of bottles, and
acid (for "melting a person's face"). In a few stories more sophisticated
methods of crime were described. For example, it was explained that it is
easier to pick pockets in a cafeteria because "a man hesitates to drop a tray
of food to see if his pockets have been picked"; and it was suggested that
tires can be stolen from one junkyard and sold to another.
CRIMINAL CAREERS ARE GLAMORIZED IN CRIME AND HORROR COMIC BOOKS
A number of impressions were obtained from reading how the criminal moves
in his cultural pattern as depiected by the crime comics. For example, crime
may have brought wealth and fame even though it was sometimes temporary. Large
monetary rewards from crime were shown through scenes of cash being counted
or money being spent on luxurious living. Through committing bizarre crimes,
individuals became widely known figures and sometimes they became idols,
eulogized through the publicity accorded them in the newspapers. Many of the
stories included texts which describe the sensation experienced by a killer.
Killing was described as the means of acquiring a high degree of
self-confidence, giving the individual a feeling of strength and power. A
highly pleasing physical sensation was also described as resulting from
Some stories in comic books showed that membership in the criminal
underworld was dependent upon certain personal characteristics highly valued
by experienced criminals. These attributes were mainly physical. Criminals
were admired for their "toughness," their hatred for "cops" and a willingness
to commit any type of crime regardless of the risk involved. In their
interpersonal relationships, comic-book criminals never exhibited such human
virtues as consideration of others, charity and the like. Furthermore, to
reinforce the behavior expected of the potential criminal, names suggestive of
toughness were assigned to him.
In some of the stories, murder for revenge was justified under certain
conditions. The murderers were not apprehended and there was no suggestion
that they would be taken in custody at a future date. The end of the
criminal's career came about, if at all, through chance factors or by
superhuman beings or other ideal types. As the latter two do not exist in
reality, the obvious interpretation from these stories is that crime does pay
if one is ruthless and clever to a sufficient degree.
However, defenders and hired apologists for the crime and horror comic
books constantly point out that in the majority of crime and horror comics,
the villain came to a well-deserved end.
DEFENDERS OF LAW AND ORDER FREQUENTLY REPRESENTED AS ALL-POWERFUL BEINGS WHO
KILL AND COMMIT OTHER CRIMES TO DEFEND "JUSTICE"
There were a number of comics of the type which pictured the hero as some
sort of supernatural being always impervious to any physical harm. In these
comic books the crime was always real and the superhuman's triumph over good
was unreal. Commenting on this Dr. Wertham singled out the superman comic
books as being injurious to the ethical development of children. Dr. Wertham
believes these books arouse phantasies of sadistic joy in seeing other people
repeatedly punished while the hero remains immune. He called this the superman
complex. Another witness referred to this idea when she gave examples of
institutionalised children injuring themselves by jumping off high places in
attempts to fly like the comic-book characters.
Members of the subcommittee believe that in this respect content of the
comic books can be critized. In many crime comics, law and order are
maintained by supernatural and superhuman heroes, and officers of the law,
ineffective in apprehending criminal, must depend on aid from fantastic
characters. The law-enforcement officials who do solve cases often succeed
through "accidental events." In contrast, actual law-enforcement officials
are at a disadvantage in terms of prestige and the small part they play in
apprehending criminals. The impressions obtained from the comic books are
contrary to the methodical routine work characteristic of police
Discussing the ethical content of comic books, Dr. Wertham took to task the
oft-reiterated statement that in these books good wins over evil and that law
and order always in the end. 10 He pointed out that there are whole comic books
in which every single story ends with the triumph of evil, with a perfect
crime unpunished and actually glorified.
10 It should be pointed out that there are innumerable stories of this nature.
But in stories containing 32 picture panels, the criminal often lived
splendidly off the fruits of his crimes. It is not until the last panel that
he met his doom at the hands of a fantasy character or by some stupid mistake.
EXCESSIVE READING OF CRIME AND HORROR COMICS IS CONSIDERED SYMPTOMATIC OF
Surveying the work that has been done on the subject, it appears to be the
consensus of the experts that comic-book reading is not the cause of
emotional maladjustment on children. Although comic-book reading can be a
symptom of such maladjustment, the emotionally disturbed child becuase of
abnormal needs may show in a greater tendency to read books of this kind than
will the normal child. This theory appears as valid as the thinking that
alcoholism is a symptom of an emotional disturbance rather than its cause.
It as has also been suggested that the child with difficulties may find in
comic books representations of the kinds of problems with which he is dealing,
and that comic books will, therefore, have a value for him which they do not
have for a child who is relatively free of these troubles. Further, it is
stated that the kinds of comic books a child chooses often provides the child
psychiatrist with some clues to the kinds of problems faced by the child.
NEED EXISTS FOR MORE SPECIFIC RESEARCH TO FULLY ASCERTAIN THE POSSIBLE
EFFECTS OF THIS TYPE OF READING MATERIAL UPON CHILDREN
Although the inquiry revealed the marked differences of opinion among
experts, the need for careful, large-scale research studies was repeatdly
made apparent. Samples of crime and horror comics were sent to Carl H. Rush,
Jr., Ph.D., executive assistant of the American Psychological Association, and
to Dr. R. H. Felix, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, so
that they could study them and give their professional opinions as to the
possible effects this type of reading material might have on children. Both of
these individuals commented upon the need for scientific research in this
The few approaches already taken and the reasons for the scarcity of sound
findings on this topic have been indicated by Dr. Rush. 11 It is evident from
his brief summary of some studies in this topic area that research has been
concerned with segmental aspects of the problem. Juvenile delinquency is a
developmental problem and for that reason research should be conducted on a
longitudinal basis in which the subjects of the investigation are examined
periodically over a span of several years. Research of this type is beyond
the means of individual investigators. The financial support of a foundation
or institution is required if the scope of study is to be adequate.
11 Ruch, Carl H., letter in hearings before the Subcommittee To Investigate
Juvenile Delinquency Comic Book of the Committee of the Judiciary, U. S.
Senate, 83d Cong., 2d sess., pp. 162-164, Washington: Government Printing
There can be little question that research is much needed on these problems.
If we are to fully understand the impact of crime and horror comic books upon
the behaviour of normal and emotionally disturbed children, a broad program of
research must be undertaken and means for its support must be provided.
Furthermore, it seems desirable that such research be but one of a number of
controlled studies, each to be directed to one of the facets of the problem of
juvenile delinquency. The influence of comic books is but one aspect of a
larger program which has as its ultimate objective the determination of the
multiple causes of juvenile delinquency.
V. Other Questionable Aspects of Comic Books
Considerable concern has been expressed regarding the type of advertising
often carried in comic books. The repsonses by children to such ads sometimes
results in the development of mailing lists that are rented to other concerns
for the direct mail solicitation of such children for the purchase of
WEAPONS AND PSEUDOMEDICAL NOSTRUMS ADVERTISED IN COMIC BOOKS DESIGNED FOR
Among the more objectionable advertisements that came to the attention of
the subcommittee was a full-page advertisement, labeled "Sportsman's
Paradise," operated by a concern listing a New York address, which shows a
variety of weapons that may be purchased by mail order. Several might be a
threat to the safety of children. Although one line of the coupon reads,
"Note: Not sold to minors under 17, state age," it is needless to say that
no real proof of age was required.
The illustrations in the advertisement introduced at the New York hearings
showed at least 10 dangerous articles that would appeal to a minor, ranging
from a powerful hunting crossbow, a throwing dagger and a "fireball"
slingshot, to a .22-caliber automatic (not available to New York residents)
and an army training rifle. Their descriptions leave little for the
imagination. For example, "Oriental battle knife- designed for long-distance
throwing, it is made to split a board at 30 feet and is balanced to
stick ***"; "Commando knife-real 'Commando' weapon. An all-metal,
needle-pointed, razor-sharp 12-inch knife that may save your life ***"; the
" 'Fireball' slingshot-silent, sweet shooting. Extra powerful- you get that
'feel of accuracy' with your first shots ***"; "Throwing dagger. An exciting
sport that provide fun and thrills - indoors or outdoors. This knife is light
in weight and expertly balanced to stick. Tempered steel blade with double
bevel edges ***"; "Arrow sling fun. A new thrill in hunting. Powerful sling
fun sends 12-inch metal-tipped arrows through metal-guide barrel to 300 inch
range. Swift. Silent. Accurate. Kills all small game. Five arrows included
***"; or "Finnish hunting knife, handmade in Finland. Richly engraved blade
with deep blood grooves. Flashy horse-head handle ***."
Numerous pseudomedical advertisements in comic books and love managazines
are aimed at the teen-ager's desire to glorify his personal appearance or to
improve his physique through easy measures: a tablet to put on weight; a
tablet or chewing gum to take off weight; hair and scalp formula; skin
cleanser or treatment for pimples; an electrically operated "spot reducer";
a course in exercises to develop muscles.
An example in point is the advertisement of Kelpidine chewing gum,
supposedly useful in enabling one to reduce weight. Sales of the article are
essentially conducted by mail order. The Post Office Department advised the
subcommittee that it has been interested in this product for some time.
Examination and analysis of Kelpidine chewing gum by the Food and Drug
Administration indicated that it consists essentially of small squares of
chewing gum containing a small amout of powdered kelp (seaweed). The presence
of the kelp ingredient has no particular significance in the article, and
there was found no reason to believe it was harmful. On the other hand, there
was found no valid reason for concluding that the article has any particular
effectiveness for enabling one to reduce weight - the primary representation
on which it is offered for sale.
Action has been taken by the Federal Trade Commission against some of the
concerns making false advertising claims. In a number of instances the Food
and Drug Administration has taken exception to the labeling of a product. Nor
are the prices of these temptingly advertised goods within comforable reach
of youth in the deteriorated areas of large cities where certain types of
crime and horror comics are most often found.
MISUSE OF MAILING LISTS COMPILED THROUGH COMIC-BOOK ADVERTISEMENTS
Many business firms making sales by direct mail obtain the names and
addresses of persons from lists which are purchased from brokers who have in
turn secured these lists from still other mail-order houses. A firm wishing
to sell auto seat covers might be interested in purchaing a mailing list of
people who had made mail-order purchases of auto compasses.
Attention has been called to the fact that juveniles in this country
reveive large quantities of direct-mail advertising for salacious and
sexually stimilating materials. In some instances it has been pointed out
that such advertising was received following a youngster's response to an
advertisement appearing in a comic book.
The Post Office Department informed the subcommittee that the mails had
been used to advertise and sell a book entitles "The Illustraded Encyclodedia
of Sex," by Dr. A. Willy and others; of 297 complaints received over a period
dating from April 1951, 93 concerned mailings to minors. Although the book
was not considered obscene, the methods of advertising by the publisher
included blaring advertisements in numerous magazines, showing pictures of
scantily clad young women in sexually provocative poses.
Parents from many States complained the the subcommittee that teen-age sons,
daughters, and friends had received advertisements wich flagrantly describe
obscene material. In the New York investigation it was discovered that Samuael
Roth, who for many yers has been engaged in using the mails to advertise lewd
and lascivious printed materials, had purchased mailing lists that contained
the names of many teen-agers. Roth refused to testify before the subcommittee,
claiming his rights under the fith ademdment to the Constitution.
It was found that Roth purchased 136,567 names and addresses from Robert B.
Vallon of the Mapleton Service Co. Many of those names were obtained through
correspondence with comic-book readers. A sample circular, mailed out by Roth
to a 16-year-old high-school student, advertised such books as Wild Passion,
Wanton by Night, Waterfront Hotel, and The Shame of Oscar Wild, all of which
have been declared nonmailable under the postal obscenity law. Roth's
advertisements also carried descriptions of "seven books of pleasure and
sexual excitement calculated to keep you on blissful heights for days and
The devoplment of mailing lists and their sale is now a large-scale practice.
Members of the subcommitee expressed concern that some purveyors of salacious
literature may diliberately seek to secure mailing lists of juveniles for
direct-mail solicitation. One publisher, Alex Segal, testified that
"by mistake" one of his trays of addressograph plates bearing the names of
400 children was routed to the publisher of sex literature. Seagle himself
advertises and sells books called How to Hypnotize-A Master Key to Hypnotism.
This advertisement appeared in Quality Comics and portrayed a male looking at
a young female with the caption "What the thrill of imposing your will on
somone? Stravon Publishers will tell you how." Upon receipt of the book on
hypnotism, a child also received a list of other purchasable
material-including sex literature. Advertisements of such nature have been
received by juveniles as young as 9 years old.
This matter has been under study by the subcommittee, and we have called it
to the attention of the Attorney General, the Postmaster General, and the
Comittees on Post Office and Civil Service of the Senate and the House. If
such actions constitute violation of the laws dealing with the mails to offer
for sale obscene, lewd, lascivious, or fithly material, when consideration is
given to the fact the offer is being made to persons of immature years, then
we are at loss to being made to understand why something has not been done to
apprehend the offenders. If the existing statues are found to be inadequate
to meeet this situation, a study will be made to determine what changes will
be neccssary in existing legislation to prohibit such practices.
To summarize, although some of the adversiting in comic books is of
acceptable standards, many advertisements are directed toward the sale of
articles that are potentially harmful to children, or are fraudulent in that
the articles are unable to effect the physical changes claimed. Because of the
manner in which mailing lists are sold, some juveniles who have answered
advertisements appearing in comic book have been solicited by publishers of
obscene or salacious materials. The question has been raised regarding the
responsibility publishers of comic books should assume for protecting their
young readers, both from the wrong kind of advertising and from any misuse
of resulting mailing lists which might accrue through the acceptance of
advertising from other than reliable firms.
THE EXPORTATION OF CRIME AND HORROR COMIC BOOKS
It has been repeately affirmed that the comic book, native product of the
United States, is provoking discussion in other countries. Many Americans
have expressed indignation of the influence these books may have upon the
children and young adults in other parts of the world.
Some hold the view that there is no way in which we could give the young
people abroad a more unfavorable and distorted view of American values,
asperaitions, and culteral pattern that through crime and horror comics. The
destructive potentials of the comic book must be recognized both within our
domestic society and in consideration of our relationship to peoples abroad.
Publishers of undesireable comic books should be made aware of the negative
effects these books may exert upon the thinking and conduct of persons who
read them throughout the work and of the deplorable impression of the United
States gained through their perual.
Several consideration stem from the impact of the comic books abroad. They
1. Information gathered by United States Department of State personnel in
many countries reveals public concern over the spread of crime and horror
comic book reading. As far as can be ascertained by the subcommittee,
concern has been expressed in almost every European country over the problem
posed by the introduction of American comics, or comics of that pattern,
since World War II.
2. Crime and horror comic books introduced to foreign cultures a lowered
intellectual mileu. Detective and weird stories, American style, present a
hardend verison of killing, robbery, and sadism.
3. Comic book are distributed in many contries where the population is other
than Caucasian. Materials depicting persons of other races as criminals may
have meanings and implication for persons of another races which were
unforseen by the publisher.
4. There is evidence that comic books are being utilized by the U.S.S.R. to
undermine the morale of youth in many countries by pointing to crime and
horror as portrayed in American comics as one of the end results of the most
successful capitalist nation in the world.
In Great Britain, where importation of comic books is restricted because of
limitations on dollar exchange, comic books are published locally from United
States copy or sterotypes. An example of British thought on comic books was
expressed on July 17, 1952, in the House of Commons when American style
comics were the subject of pointed criticism. Mr. Mourice Edelman, of the
Labor Party, asserted:
It is perfectly true that they were brought to this country in the first
instance by American forces. They were widely read by American troops, but
very rapidly it was found by publishers *** that there was a considerable
market for this type of horror and sadistic literature; literature which
glorifies the brute, literature which undermines the law simple because it
suggests that the superman is the person who should take the law into his own
hands and mete out justice in his own way. The most sinister thing about these
publications is that they introduce the element of pleasure into violence.
They encourage sadism; and they encourage sadism in association with an
unhealthy sexual stimulation.
Other members of the House of Commons wher were present and participating
in the debate referred to "the crude and alien idiom to which all of us take
exception"; to the "anxiety among the parents of this country"; and to the
"emphasis upon violence as such."
Repeated recommendations have been made in various parts of the United
Kingdom either to prohibit comic books of this sort or to establish a
semiofficial advisory group to provide guidance to parents and teachers
regarding this type of printed matter.
A Communist magazine, printed in East Germany and devoted to bitter
critizism of the United States, appeared under the name. "USA im Wort und
Bild" (USA in Word and Pictures). The publication ridicules comic books and
similar American attempts to present the classics in simple form. Some of the
Shakespeare in Yankee dialect is the latest "cultural triumph" *** The
"cultural" achievement of the publishers is expressed on the jacket of the
pamphlet: "You can quote the best quotations of Shakespeare and impress your
friends, without reading the play."
One example of racial antagonism resulting from the distribution of
American-style comic books in Asia is cited by the former United States
Ambassador to India, Chester Bowles, in his recent book, Ambassador's Report.
He reports on page 297 the horrified reaction of an Indian friend whose son
had come into possession of an American comic book entitled the Mongol
Blood-Suckers. Embassador Bowles describes the comic book as depicting a-
superman character struggling against half-human colored Mongolian tribesmen
who has been recruted by the Communists to raid American hospitals in Korea
and drink the plasma in the blood banks. In every picture they were portrayed
with yellow skins, slanted eyes, hideous faces, and dripping jaws.
At the climax of the story, their leader summoned his followers to and attack
on American troops. "Follow me, blood drinkers of Mongolia," he cried.
"Tonight we dine well of red nectar." A few panels later he is shown leaping
on an American soldier with the shout, "One rip at the troat, red blood spills
over white skins. And we drink deep."
Ambassador Bowles commented:
The Communist propagandists themselves could not possibly devise a more
persuasive way to convince color sensitive Indians that American believe in
the superior civilization of people with white skins, and that we are
indoctrinateng our children with bitter racial prejudice from the time they
learn to read. 13
13 Bowles, Chester, Ambassador's Report, New York, 1954, p. 297.
Soviet propaganda cites the comic book in support of its favorite
anti-American theme- the degeneracy of American culture. However, comic books
are but one of a number of instruments used in Soviet propaganda to illustrate
this theme. The attacks are usually supported with examples drawn from the
less-desireable American motion pictures, television programs, literature,
drama, and art.
It is represented in the Soviet propaganda that the United States crime
rate, particularly the incidence of juvenile delinquency, is largely incited
by the murders, robberies, and other crimes portrayed in "trash literature."
The reason such reading matter is distributed, according to that propaganda,
is that the "imperialists" use it to condition a generation of young
automaton who will be ready to march and kill in the future wars of
agression planned by the capitalists.
VI. Comic Books as a Medium of Communucation
Crime and horror comic books constitute but a segment, althrough quite a
substantial segment, of the total comic-book industry in the United States.
There are some publishers in this field who have not produced crime and
horror comic books and do no intend to do so. The members of the subcommittee
were particularly interested in certain aspects of the industry which relate
to communication, education, and public opinion. In those areas, it appears
that there are possibilities for positive contributions.
Joseph W. Musial, educational director of the National Cartoonists Society,
testified as a witness on the use of comics in informational programs.
Appearing with Musial before the subcommittee were Walt Kelly, president of
the National Cartoonists Society, and Milton Caniff, artist. They pointed to
the widespread adaption of cartoons and comics as a medium of communication.
They spoke of contributions the artists in their society had made in the
public interest, and presented several exhibits of materials prepared for
Mr. Musial in an article described the increasing use of comic books in
communucating messages in public relations. According to him the techniques
used in the comics are especially suited to exert such mass appeal:
So packed with condensed presentation is the cartoon, that although
physically static, it may be said to be in motion a highly specialized art,
it suggests movement, envokes hordes of other images, tells a story. It tells
not of a man but of men; not of a wedding or a picnic or a fear or an
appetite, but of weddings, picnics, fears, appetites in general. Employing a
tremediously painstaking, exacting art of its own, the cartoon "hits home" to
everyone because its topic and situation are grasped at once by all who view
it. Unlike literal illustration, the cartoon employs exaggerated measurements
and actions and values, and presents not only truth but universal,
recognizable, appreciable truth. Universal truth is transformed by the
cartoon into universal appeal, and thus the success of the cartoon is
accounted for. 13
13 Musial J. W., in Public Relations Journal, November 1951
Mr. Musial, Mr. Kelly, and Mr. Caniff, presenting the view of the National
Cartoonists Society, offered a rather convincing case for the subtley and
humaneness of the deft cartoon or comic strip. They pointed out that the
comic-book artist is usually not at the top of his career, but generally a
beginner in the field. Mr. Kelly asserted that the code of the society 14
precluded from membership any artist who produces indecent or obscene matter
or in any way proves himself to be an objectionable citizen.
14 The text of the code of the National Cartoonists Society appears on p. 35
of thie appendix of this report
The consensus is that the comic art has genuine appeal for a large segment
of the American public. It is apparent that comic books have assumed major
importance in the reading diet of thousands of American youths. For that
reason, it is important that the artwork be of a high level. Although the
cartoonists are not responsible for the accompanying script, it should
measure up to some standards. Mr. Kelly pledged the Cartoonists Society to
continually improving their own material, but the society -
views as unwarranted any additional legislative action that is intended to
censor printed material.
One of the objections that has been made repeatedly to comic books is that
they contribute to limiting the reading ability and the reading experience of
a vast portion of our youthful population. This though was dealt with by
Robert Warshow in a recent article. He said:
*** We are left above all with the fact that for many thousands of children
comic books, whether bad or "good," represent virtually their only contact
with culture. There are children in the schools of our large cities who carry
knives and guns. There are children who reach the last year of high school
without ever reading a single book. Even leaving aside the increase in
juvenile crime there seems to be lager numbers of children than ever before
who, without going over the line into criminality, live almost entirely in a
juvenile undergroud largely out of touch with the demands of social
responspibility, culture, and personal refinement, and who grow up into an
unhappy isolation where they are sustained by little else but the routine of
the working day, the inceasing clamor of television and the jukeboxes, and
still, in their adult years, the comic books. This is a very fundamental
problem; to blame the comic books, as Dr. Wertham does, is simple minded. But
to say that the comics do not contrubute to the situation would be like
denying the importance of the children's classics and the great European
novels in the development of an educated man. 15
15. Warshow, Robert; Paul, The Horror Comics and Dr. Wertham in Commentary,
After hearing the presentation of Mr. Musial, Mr. Kelly, and Mr. Caniff to
the effect that government and private agencies and philanthropic
organizations have recognized the comic book as an effective medium of
communication for worthwhile objectives, it is apparent too that the comic
book can also be an effective medium of for unworthy objectives. The comic
book is recognized as a means of publicazing crime and horror. There was no
plausible reason offered as to why this medium should be less impressive when
dealing with one kind of subject matter than with another.
VII. Where Should Responsiblity For Policing Crime and Horror Comic Books Rest?
The subcommittee believes that this Nation cannot afford the calculated
risk involved in the continued mass dissenimation of crime and horror comic
books to children.
Where does the responsiblity rest for preventing the distrubution of such
With the comic book industry?
With the parents, assisted by educational campaigns of civic organizations?
With governmental censorship either at the Federal, State, or local levels?
COMIC BOOKS AND AUTHORITY
The subcomittee flatly rejects all suggestions of governemental censorship
as being totally out of keeping with our basic American concepts of a free
press operating in a free land for a free people.
Canadian experience seems to indicate the futility of such an approach.
Evidence introduced during the subcommittee's hearings indicated that in
1949 the Canadain Parliament passed a law making it an offense to print,
publish, or sell a crime comic.16 According to the Honorable E. E. Fulton,
member of the Canadian House of Commons, within a year or so following the
enactment of the Canadaian legislation, the crime comic as such almost
completely disappeared from Canadian newsstands. Into the void poured such
flood of love, sex, and girlie magazines that the Canadian Senate established
a special committee to look into the sale and distrubution of salacious
16 See Hearings Before the Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency
(Comic Books) of the Committee on the Judiciary, U. S. Senate, 83d Cong., 2d
sess., p.256, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1954.
After a bit, however, there crept into Canada the crime comic in its
orignal form. It also began to appear in an alternative form, i.e., the
horror comic. Mr Fulton ascribed many reasons for the reapperance on the
Canadian newsstands of crime and horror comics, despite the criminal statue:
inability to reach a major publisher for prosecution since they are, in the
main, in the United States; relaxation of public vigilance so that there was
no longer the constant supervision of newsstands to pick out offensive
publications and bring them to the attention of the authorities and demand
prosecution; and, inability and unwillingness of customs officials to act as
Legislation has been enacted by three States, New York, New Jersy, and
Idaho, to prohibit what is known as tie-in sales practices. There was
testimoney before the subcommittee that some newsdealers handle crime and
horror comic books because they fear they will be penalized by the wholesaler
if they refuse to do so. This penalty frequently takes the form of withholding
more popular periodicals from the newsdealer who refuses to sell crime and
horror comics or other objectional publications. Evidence heard by the
subcommittee indicated that such practices are geographically widespread but
Testimoney was also presented to the subcommittee that these restrictive
practices did not exist.
It was suggested to the subcommittee that Federal legislation prohibiting
tie-in sales on all printed matter involved in interstate commerce would be
of marked assistance. However, while the subcommittee is of the opinion that
such a Federal statue is not needed at this time, this matter has been
brought to the attention of the Attorney General to determine if the charges
of tie-in sales, if substantiated, constitute violations of the antitrust
laws as presently enacted.
RESPONSIBILITY OF PARENTS, ASSISTED BY CITIZEN GROUPS
There is no doubt that much can and has been accomplished toward
elimitating crime and horror comic books from newsstands through vigorous
citizen action in local communities. Children can be guided away from the
purchases of crime and horror stories. Complaints directed to the vendor and
wholesaler, if repeated, will requently result in the removal of particluar
publications from the newsstands.
Effective steps of this nature have been taken in several parts of the
United States. For example, the citizens of Hartford, Conn., spurred on by
the Hartford Courant, have been successful in cleaning up the newsstands of
their city. Another example of effective citizen action was the formation
several years ago in Cincinnati, Ohio, of a committee on evaluation of comic
books. 17 Its purpose is to make a study of comics in the spring of each year,
and to pass on findings to parents. The Cincinnati committee points out that
more than 80 prominet citizens are members of the committee. It publishes an
annual list of comic books, together with a rating of each comic.
17 See evaluations of comic books by that committee in Hearings Before the
Subcommittee To Investage Juvenile Delinquency (Comic Books) of the Committee
on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 83d Cong., 2d sess., pp.36-53,
Washington: Government Printing Office, 1954
William M. Gaines, publisher of Entertaining Comics Group, ridiculed the
efforts of parents' groups to restrain their children from reading crime and
horror comics. Gaines who publishes some of the most sadistic crime and
horror comic books with monstrosities that nature has been incapable of,
issued a page which was reprinted with the testimoney from the Hew York
hearings. 18 Under the heading "Are you a Red Dupe?" Gaines prints the story
of Melvin Blizunken-Skovitchsky, who lived in Soviet Russia and printed comic
books, but some people did not believe that other persons possessed
sufficient intelligence to decided what the wanted to read. Consequently, the
secret police came, smashed poor Melvin's four-color press and left Melvin
hanging from a tree. Gains' message at the end reads:
So the next time some joker gets up at a PTA meeting, or starts jabbering
about "the naughty comic books" at your local candy store, give him the
once-over. We are not saying is his a Communist. He may be a dupe. He may not
even read the Daily Worker. It is just that he's swallowed the Red bait- hook,
line and sinker.
18 Hearings Before the Subcommittee To Investage Juvenile Delinquency
(Comic Books) of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 83d
Cong., 2d sess., pp.36-53, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1954
The subcommittee does not ridicule such efforts. It believes that parents
have a full measure of responsibility for the reading material reaching their
children and that civic organizations can do a worthy job by calling the
attention of parents to those materials offered for children's reading that
fall beflow the American standard of decency by glorfying crime, horror, and
The tempter of children cannot excuse his attempts to gain personal wealth
through disregard of cultural values by crying that the parents should have
been more vigilant. The simple fact remains that all this constant vigilance
on the part of parents and civic organizations would not have been neccessary
if the persons responsible for producing and distributing comic books had
exercised that measure of self-restraint and common decency which the
American people have a right to expect from an industry aiming its product so
largely at the young and impressionable minds of our children.
ROLE OF CHILD STUDY ASSOCIATION AS AN EVALUATOR OF COMICS
The Child Study Association of America includes among its functions the
provision of guidance to parents and teachers on reading materials for
children. In its review of such reading material, the association has, quite
commendebly, concerned itself with comic books.
In 1943 and again in 1948 surveys of comic books were made by the
association. These surveys were carried out by members of the association's
book committee. Miss Josette Frank of the association's staff served as
editorial adviser. Some attention to comic books has been given in various
other materials produced by the association and members of its staff.
Although some objections are voiced to certain aspects of comic book
publications- exploitation of horror and sex, poor drawings, illegible
lettering and bad taste - these statements fall far short, in opinion of the
subcommittee, of presenting a realistic picture either of the percenctage of
comic books devoted to crime and horror or the volume of compentent opinion
which is concerned with their effects upon children.
These statements were given particularly close scrutiny during the
subcommittee's hearing since the Child Study Association has recieved
financial donations from a major comic book publisher, National Comics, and
Miss Josette Frank is also a salaried consultant to the same firm. This means
that in reviewing and commenting upon comic book reading materials for
children, the association was infact passing judgement upon a product from
which it and a member of its staff were receiving financial benefits.
Moreover, the character of the comic-book industry's output has undergone
change since 1943 and 1948. The persentage of comic books decoted to crime
and horror had increased materially by the spring of 1954.
In a book issued in the spring on 1954 on chilren's reading materials, Miss
Josette Frank, its author, devotes one chapter to the comics. This material,
although current, devotes but 2 of its 12 pages to a review of objections to
comic books as reading materials for children. The opinions of psychiatrists
and psycholocgists cited are selected from those secured in connection with
the 1948 survey of comic books conducted by the Child Sutdy Association of
It is probably theoretically possible for an organization to be objective
in evaluating the products of a company which contributes to its support and
retains one of its staff members. The subcommittee believes, however, that in
fairness to the parents who look to the association for guidance, the
association should make known in any evaluation of comic books, its
affiliations with the comic-book industry.
In drawing conclusions relative to this "conflict of interest," the
subcommittee wishes to be entirely fair and clearly understood. After
careful review of all available date the subcommittee specifically finds:
(1) That the Child Study Association is to be commended in including comic
books within its evaluation activities.
(2) That there is no reason to criticize a publisher for employing
(3) That the association's statements on comic books and those of its staff
member conserned do not adequately reflect either the character of the total
present-day product of the industry or the substance of qualifies consultants.
(4) That, although the Child Study Association maintains that the
contributions it received from the publishers did not color its judgement, a
reasonable doubt as to the association's objectivity in this matter is raised
by the fact that, in the face of a rising tide of crime and horror comic
books, the association continued to distribute evaluations which inadequately
and unrealistically reflected the current situation.
(5) That the Child Study Association in confronted with a serious ethical
question in relation to these practices and that it cannot fairly represent
itself as an objective, impartial reporter on reading materials for children
so long as they continue.
RESPONSIBILITY OF THE COMIC-BOOK INDUSTRY FOR SELF-REGULATION
The subcommittee believes that the American people have a right to expect
that the comic-book industry should shoulder the major responsibility for
seeing to it that the comic books placed so temptingly before our Nation's
children at every corner newsstand are clean, decent, and fit to be read by
children. This grave responsibility rests squarely on every segment of the
comic-book industry. No one engaged in any phase of this cast operation -
from the artists and the authors to the newsstand dealers, from the publisher
to printer to distributor to the wholesaler - can escape some measure of
responsibility. A few persons engaged in this business have it within their
power to do more than others to insure that this reading matter is suited to
children. But many of those in the comic-book industry who had the opportunity
to act to prevent abuses harmful to children have failed to do so.
In short, neither the comic-book industry nor any other sector of the media
of mass communications can absolve itself from responsibility for the effects
of its product. Attempts to shift all responsibility to parents are
unjustified. Claims of the absolute right of an industry to produce what it
pleases unless it is proven "beyond a reasonable doubt" that such a product is
damaging to children, are unjustified. Parents have a right to expect that
the producers of materials that may influence their children's thinking will
exercise a high degree of caution. They have a right to expect the hightest
degree of care. And the American people have a right to demand that this
degree of care be exercised at all times, in all ways, and with respect to
all mass media.
What kind of responsibility for content can and should be assumed by each
segment of the comic-book industry?
NEWSDEALERS UNABLE TO ASSUME ADEQUATE RESPONSIBILITY
In larger cities such as New York or Chicago, the newsdealer offers for
sale as many as 600 to 1,000 titles. Time does not permit him to sort and
inspect these magazines at the moment of delivery. He is restricted as to
space. So far as he is aware of the contents of a particular publication, he
if he wishes, may "keep that magazine from moving," either by placing it
below the counter of by hanging it in an obscure spot. But frequently, he is
unaware of the contents, he may also be hampered in his efforts to prevent
certain publications form moving by pressures exerted by the wholesaler or
his representative. Such pressures may take the form of delays in the refunds
he receives for his unsold magazines or delays in the delivery of bundles or
routing of his bundles to the wrong address. Evidence presented to the
subcommittee also indicatedd that in some instances he may be subjected to
the addictional presures of tie-in sales, that is, if he refuses to handle
crime and or horror comics his supply of the best selling and most profitable
periodicals is withheld or drastically reduced. The newsdealer is usually
operating on small capital and is often a disabled veteran. He has not been
in a position to select the periodicals on his shelves, and therefore he is
not in a position to assume effective responsibility for eliminating crime
and horror comics from the channels of distribution.
These facts do not mean that the newsdealer should not make every effort to
discontinue handling publications which he knows to be objectionable; or that
he should not make known his objections to such publications through such
channels that exist for him, perhaps through a local organization of
WHOLESALERS ARE NOT MOST FEASIBLE PARTIES TO REGULATE CONTENT
The wholesaler receives cartons containing thousands of copies of the
publications he is to distribute. The carton has an outside label which
designates to the contents. It would be possible for the wholesaler to refuse
to handle certain titles. He could return a carton to the national distributor
or to the publisher unopened. However, there are in the United States
approximately 950 independent wholesalers and some 400 branches of the
American News Co. The suggestion that these 1,350 firms be utilized as
censors to cut of the supply of crime and horror comic books to the newsstands
would appear to be highly impractical and wasteful.
It is not presumed to say that the wholesaler should be absolved of all
responsibility for the printed matter offered for sale. Both as individuals
and as members of 1 of the 8 organizations of wholesalers in this country,
the wholesaler can and should make his influence felt in efforts to curtail
distribution of objectionable reading materials for children.
The subcommittee notes with approval that the parent body of these
organizations, the Bureau of Independent Publishers and Distributiors, has
given some attention to offensive reading materials on newsstands. It is
hoped that further attention will be given the matter and that concerted
action will be taken.
PRINTER CANNOT FEASIBLY REGULATE CONTENT
The printer of crime and horror comics may be responsible for doing only a
portion of the printing job. One printer may do the covers and another the
inside pages. A single publisher may use several different printers for his
work. For these reasons, it would seem impractical to suggest that the
printer be thrust into a screening role. Once again, however, it does not
seem unreasonable to expect a reputable printer to refuse to print material,
the reading of which in his estimation may influence children negatively.
DISTRIBUTOR HOLDS ONE OF THE KEY POSITIONS IN COMIC-BOOK INDUSTRY
There are only 13 national distributors of comic books. 19 Although the
distributor does not have an opportunity for review of individual issues
prior to publication, it is not unrealistic to assume that he should be able
to maintain familarity with the general nature of the publications he
handles month after month. Indeed, through a system of advances, the national
distributor is frequently in the position of being the financial backer, in
part, of the publication he distributes.
19 Listings of comic book distributors by groups and publishers appears in
the appendix of this report, pp.44-50.
It is the opinion of the subcommittee that because of his key position in
the industry, a major responsibility falls upon the national distributor for
the content of the printed matter he distributes. The subcommittee is glad to
note a majority of the distributors have expressed agreement with this point
of view. Some of the 13 distributes have never handled crime and horror comic
titles. In certain instances they have worked with publishers to end the
changing the character of the contents of comic books. The subcommittee notes
these developments with approval. It will be even more resassured when those
distributors who have been carrying large numbers of crime and horror titles
discontinue such publications.
The responsibility of the national distributor to guard against
distributing reading materials to children which are detrimental to their
welfare, cannot be dischanged, however, by discontinuing a few titles when
he public furor arises. As responsible members of the community, and as
persons engaged in an industry which plays a large part in molding the
impressionable minds of the youth, they should maintain constant, continuing
supervision over the publications they distribute.
PUBLISHER HAS PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY FOR SUBJECT AND TREATMENT
Within the industry, primary responsibility for the contents of each comic
book rests squarely upon the shoulders of its publisher. The publisher can be
discriminating. He is the creator of the comic book and he shapes his own
editoral policy. The writers and artists who work on the contents are
employed by him and are under his direction. The attitude of the owners is
reflected in the tenor of the work of the writers and artists.
Vast differences exist between the types of comics produced by publishers
in this field. The largest single publisher of comic books does not list
crime or horror comics among its nearly 100 comic-book titles, and never has.
At the other extreme is the publisher who at the time of the New York hearings
specialized in crime and horror and whose only standard regarding content was
in terms of "what sells."
It has already been indicated that a large number of undesirable comic-book
titles have heen discontinued or revamped. Initiative for this change has
come from the individual publisher as well as from the distributor. Several
publishers have written to the subcommittee regarding their desire to be
absolved of the critizism of in any way contributing to juvenile delinquency
through their publications. One publisher has notified his readers that he is
discontinuing his crime and horror line in favor of other and less
Again the subcommittee feels that this is progress in the right direction.
As in the case of the distributors, however, the subcommittee also feels that
the publishers of children's comic books cannot discharge their responsibility
to the Nation's youth by merely discontinuing the publication of a few
individual titles. It can be fully discharged only as they seek and support
ways and means if insuring that the industry's product permanently measures
up to its standards of morality and decency which American parents have the
right to expect.
PAST ATTEMPTS AT INDUSTRY SELF-REGULATION
In 1948, public indignation at the flood of crime, sex, and horror comic
books made itself heard in ever louder tones. It was in that year that the
National Association of Prosecuting Attorneys added its voice to that many
other organizations and agencies by passing a resolution strongly
recommending "that legislation be adopted designed to prohibit the sale of
objectionable crime, sex, and horror comis to juveniles." Ordinances designed
to curb the sale of crime and horror comics to juveniles were in fact passed
by some communities. This was at a time when there were only 34 publishers of
comic books whose montly sales of about 270 titles amounted to approximately
50 million copies. And at that time, too, the number of titles dealing with
crime and horror were relatively few compared to the increasing numbers that
have appeared on the newsstands in succeeding years.
On July 1, 1948, the comic-book industry- or at least a part of it- reacted
to this mounting criticism. An Association of Comics Magazine Publishers
(ACMP) was formed in New York City and it adopted a six-point code of
editorial practices. 19 At the time, the New York Times reported:
The self-policing, in an industry that has been meeting a growing criticism
from educators' and parents' groups, marks only the first step in a plan for
raising the moral tone of comic magazines ***.
19 See the code of the Association of Comic Magazine Publishers, p. 35 in the
appendix of this report.
Even from the beginning, the association was plagued by lack of unity of
purpose and objectivess within the industry itself. Only 12 major publishers
joined the association and they were responsible for publishing only one-third
of the comic books issued. Two other publishers agreed to abide by the code.
Many of the publishers who did not join the association or adhere to the code
were sincerely motivated. They believed that since the materials they
published did not deal with crime or horror there was no need for them to
participate in the organization.
Mrs. Helen Meyer, vice president of Dell Publications, testified:
With regard to Dell's refusal to belong to the Comic Book Association, Dell
had no other alternative. When the association was first introduced, we, after
thorough examination, saw that Dell would be used as an umbrella for the crime
comic publishers. Dell, along with these publishers, would display the same
seal. How could the newsdealer afford the time to examine the contents of each
comic he handled? The parents and children, too, would suffer from
misrepresentation. Dell didn't need a code set down by an association, with
regard to its practices of good taste. We weren't interested in trying to go
up the marginal line in our comic-book operation, as we knew we were
appealing, in the main, to children.
Undaunted by not having all the publishers as members, the association went
ahead with its original concept. An advisory committee that included
educators, the superintendent of schools of New York City, and the New York
State librarian met with publishers with a view to raising the language
levels and improving the story content of comic magazines. A seal signifying
conformity with the six-point code of editorial practives was adopted and
issued to members. However, this effort at self-regulation of the industry
was doomed to failure for a variety of reasons. Not only were not all the
publishers memebers from the very beginning, but many of those who originally
were members resigned from the association. They resigned for various reasons.
Mr. Henry Edward Schultz, attoney for the association, stated two of the
reasons for the defections:
Some of them felt that they should not be associated with some of the
elements in the industry that they felt were publishing products inferior to
theirs and there is also, in passing, a great deal of internecine warfare in
this industry, a lot of old difficulties which mitigated a strong, well-knit
attempt to organize. In addition, other publishers such as William Gaines
resigned from the association rather than meet the standards of the code.
Finally, in 1950, to quote Mr. Schultz:
the defections became so bad we could not afford to continue *** (the)
precensorship arrangement and that has been discarded. Today we do no
self-regulation at all except as it may exist in the minds of the editors and
they proceed in their daily work ***. The association, I would say, is out of
business and so is the code.
Meanwhile, however, those publishers who continued as members also
continued to imprint on the covers of their comic books the seal of approval
which bore the words: "Athorized ACMP. Conforms to the Comics Code." This
practice was continued even though the association was for all intents and
purposes defunct and even though none of the comics were reviewed at any
point by of for the association. As a matter of fact, some highly
objectionable comic books dealing with crime and horror were introduced at
the subcommittee hearings bearing such imprint. The subcommittee believes
that this practice was highly questionable and most assuredely calculated to
mislead the parents of the children buying such comic books.
Why did this attempt at self-regulation in the industry fail? There were
many reasons and they offer some lessons in judging future attempts at
It is the subcommittee's opinion that, if self-regulation by an industry to
succeed, there are certain attributes and certian mechanisms which it must
have. This earlier attempt of the comic-book industry at self-regulation
lacked many of these.
In the first place, the code itself must be clear and explicit.
In the second place, there must be a wide publication education of the code
and the meaning it has for the public when making purchases.
In the third place, the public must be sold this idea of restricting
purchases of comics to those carrying the seal of approval. This, of course,
becomes difficult if nummerous publishers do not subscribe to the code and
particularly, if some of the nonsubscribers are majoor publishers of good,
clean comic books. Such a course of action permits the unscrupulous publisher,
who is unwilling to meet the standards of the code, to hide behind the skirts,
so the speak, of the reputable publisher who does not display the seal for
other reasons. If those who are not adherents to the code are numerous enough,
then adherence or nonadherence is meaningless in the public eye and
enforcement machinery breaks down.
Finally, there must be established enforcement machinery to make certain
that the code's standards are adhered to. This machinery should have
sufficient, well-trained staff imbued with the spirit that theirs is a task
which, if well performed, can help the children of our Nation. If it is not
well performed, it can affect them adversely. In addition, this enforcement
machinery should be so established and operated that it is independence of
thought and action should be maintained at all times lest the entire endeavor
become beclouded with suspicion.
CURRENT EFFORTS AT SELF-REGULATION
Following the hearings of the subcommittee on the effects of crime and
horror comic books and intensified community action throughout the country in
protesting to objectionable comic books, establishment of the Comics Magazine
Association of America was announced. A code was adopted on October 26, 1954.
21 Charles F. Murphy, formerly a city magistrate in New York, was named code
administrator. Jonh Goldwater, president of the Comics Magazine Association of
America, said that a staff of professional reviewers will be selected to
assist the code administrator in inspecting all comic books before they are
printed. The code provides for a ban on all horror and terror comic books but
not on crime comic books. A seal of approval will be printed on all comic
books approved by the code administrator.
21 See the code of the Comics Magazine Association of America, pp. 36-38 in
the appendix of this report.
It is the consensus of the subcommittee that the establisment of this new
association, the adoption of a code, and the appointment of a code
administartor are steps in the right direction. This effort at
self-regulation on the part of the comic boook industry is in accordance with
suggestions made by the subcommittee. Whether the fact that not all
publishers of comic books are members of the association will impair the
effectiveness of this latest attempt at self-regulation, as it did in the
previous attempt, remains to be seen. However, since the association and the
code authority have so recently been organized, it is still too early to form
a judgement as to either the sincerity of the effectiveness of this latest
attempt at self-regulation by the comic book industry. The subcommittee
intends to watch with great interest the activities of this association and
will report at a later date on this effort by the comic book industry to
eliminate objectionable comic books. At any rate, the subcommittee is
convinced that if this latest effort at industry self-regulation does not
succeed, then other ways and means must- and will- be found to prevent our
Nation's young from being harmed by crime and horror comic books.
While not attempting to review the several findings included in this report,
the subcommittee wishes to reiterate its belief that this country cannot
affored the calculated risk involved in feeding its children, through comic
books, a concentrated diet of crime, horror, and violence. There was
substantial, although not unanimous, agreement among the experts that there
may be detrimental and delinquency-producing effects upon both the
emotionally disturbed child and the emotionally normal delinquent. Children of
either type may gain suggestion, support, and sanction from reading crime and
There are many who believe that the boys and girls who are the most avid
and extensive consumers of such comics are those who are least able to
tolerate this type of reading material. The excessive reading of this
material is viewed by some observers as sometimes being symptomatic of some
emotional maladjustment, that is, comic book reading may be a workable
"diagnostic indicator" or an underlying pathologcal condition of a child.
It is during childhood that the individual's concepts of right and wrong
and his reactions to society's standards are largely developed. Those
responsible for the operation of every form of the mass media of
communication, including comic books, which cater to the education or
entertainment of children have, therefore, a responsibility to grear their
products to these special considerations.
Standards for such products, wheather in the form of a code of by the
policies of individual producers, should not be aimed to eliminate only that
which can be proved beyond doubt to demoralize youth. Rather the aim should
be to eliminate all materials that potentially exert detrimental effects.
To achieve this end, it will require continuing vigilance on the part of
parents, publishers and citizens' groups. The work that has been done by
citizens' and parents' groups in calling attention to the problem of crime
and horror comics has been far-reaching in its impact.
The subcommittee notes with some surprise that little attention has been
paid by educational and welfare agencies to the potential dangers, as well as
benefits, to children presented by the growth of the comic book industry. As
spokesmen in behalf of children, their responsibility requires that they be
concerned for the child and the whole world in which he lives. The campaign
against juvenile delinquency cannot be won by anything less than an all-out
attack upon all conditions contributing to the problem.
The interest of our young citizens would not be served by postponing all
precautionary measures until the exact kind and degree of influence exerted
by comic books upon children's behavior is fully determined through carefull
research. Sole responsibility for stimulating, formulating and carrying out
such research cannot be assumed by parents' or citizens' groups. Rather is
must also be assumed by the educational and social welfare agencies and
In the meantime, the welfare of this Nation's young makes it mandatory that
all concerned unite in supporting sincere efforts of the industry to raise
the standards of its products and in demanding adequate standards of decency
and good taste. Nor should these united efforts be relaxed in the face of
monentary gains. Continuing vigilance is essential in sustaining this effort.
ONLY ONE PART OF INVESTIGATION INTO THE MASS MEDIA OF COMMUNICATION
The subcommittee wishes to call particular attention to the fact that its
exploration of crime and horror comic books as a contributing factor to
juvenile delinquency is only one part of its investigation into the mass
A future report of the subcommittee will contain certain additional
recommendations which will deal with the several media and, as such, will
have further bearing upon the problem of crime and horror comics.
Senate Resolution 89
(83d Cong., 1st sess.)
Resolved, that the Committee on the Judiciary, or any duly authorized
subcommittee thereof, is authorized and directed to conduct a full and
complete study ofjuvenile delinquency in the United States. In the conduct of
such investigation special attention shall be given to (1) determining the
extent and character of juvenile delinquency in the United States and its
causes and contributing factors, (2) the adequacy of exiisting provisions of
law, including chapters 402 and 403 of title 18 of the United States Code, in
dealing with youthful offenders of Federal laws, (3) sentences imposed on, or
other correctional action taken with respect to, youthful offenders by
Federal courts, and (4) the extent to which juveniles are violating Federal
laws relating to the sale or use of narcotics.
SEC. 2. The committee, or any duly authorized subcommittee thereof, is
authorized to sit and act at such places and times during the sessions,
recesses, and adjourned periods of the Senate, to hold such hearings, to
require by subpenas or otherwise the attendance of such witnesses and the
production of such books, papers, and documents, to administer such oaths, to
take such testimony, to procure such printing and binding, and, within the
amound appropiated therefor, to make such expendutures as it deems advisable.
The cost of stenographic services to report hearings of the committee or
subcommittee shall not be in excess of 40 cents per hundred words. Subpenas
shall be issued by the chairman of the committee or the subcommittee, any may
be served by any person designated by such chairman.
A majority of the members of the committee, or duly authorized subcommittee
thereof, shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business, except
that a lesser number to be fixed by the committee, or by such subcommittee,
shall comstitute a quorum for the purpose of administering oaths and taking
SEC. 3. The committee shall report its findings, together with its
recommendations for such legislation as it deems adviseable, to the Senate at
the earliest date practicable but not later than January 31, 1954.
SEC. 4. For the purposes of this resolution, the committee, or any duly
authorized subcommittee thereof, is authorized to employ upon a temporary
basis such techincal, clerical, and other assistants as it deems adviseable.
The expenses of the committee under this resolution, which shall not exceed
$44,000, shall be paid from the contingent fund of the Senate upon vouchers
approved by the chairman of the committee.
Senate Resolution 190
(83d Cong., 2d sess.)
Resolved, That section 3 of S. Res. 89, Eighty-third Congress, agreed to June
1, 1954 (authorizing the Committee on the Judiciary to make a study of juvenile
delinquency in the United States), is amended to read as follows:
"SEC. 3. The committee shall make a preliminary report of its findings,
together with its recommendations for such legislation as it deems advisable,
to the Senate not later than February 28, 1954, and shall make a final report
of such findings and recommendations to the Senate at the earliest date
practicable but not later than January 31, 1955."
SEC. 2. The limitation of expenditures under S. Res. 89 is increased by
$175,000, and such sum together with any unexpended balance of the sum
previoulsy authorized to be expended under such resolution shall be paid from
the contingent fund of the Senate upon vouchers approved by the chairman of
Title 39 - U.S. Code
SEC. 233. SWORN STATEMENTS RELATING TO NEWSPAPERS AND OTHER PUBLICATIONS.
It shall be the duty of the editor, publisher, business manager, or owner of
every newspaper, magazine, periodical, or other publication to file with the
Postmaster General and the postmaster at the office at which said publication
is entered, not later than the 1st day of October each year, on blanks
furnished by the Post Office Department, a sworn statement setting forth the
names and post-office addresses of the editor and managing editor, publisher,
business managers, and owners andd in addition the stockholders, if the
publication be owned by a corporation; and also, in the case of daily and
weekly, semiweekly, triweekly newspapers, there shall be included in such
statement the average of the numbr of copies of each issue of such
publication sold or distributed to paid subscribers during the preceding
twelve months: Provided, That the provisions of this paragraph shall
not apply to religious, fraternal, temperance, and scientific, or other
similar publications: Provided further, That it shall not be necessary
to include in such statement the names of persons owning less than 1 per
centum of the total amount of stock, bonds, mortgages, or other securties.
A copy of such sworn statement shall be published in the second issue of such
newspaper, magazine, or other publication shall be denied the privileges of
the mail if it shall fail to comply with the provisions of this paragraph
within ten days after notice by registered letter of such failure. (August 24,
1912, ch. 3389, sec. 2, 37 Stat. 553; March 3, 1933, ch. 207, 47 Stat. 1486,
ch. 533, 60 Stat. 416.)
1946- Act July 2, 1946, amended section by inserting "and weekly, semiweekly,
triweekly" between "daily" and "newspapers" in first sentence.
Code of the National Cartoonists Society
We, the members of the National Cartoonists Society, believe:
1. That we should preserve our present high standards of artistic
achievement and good taste in our relationship with the public and with those
agencies that distrubute cartoons for professional use.
2. That our work should comply with the established standards of morality
and decency; and we should condemn any violations of such standards.
3. That promising talent should be encouraged and guided to the fulllest
4. That cartoonists, as creators of characters, symbols, and ideas, which
become tangible financial properties are entitled to the protection and just
rewards those properties deserve.
5. On the freedoms guaranteed by our Government and pledge ourselves to
resist any attempts to interfere with these freedoms.
Code of the Association of Comics Magazine Publishers, 1948
1. Crime should not be presented in such a way as to throw sympathy against
law and justice or to inspire others with the desire for imitation. No comics
shall show the details and methods of a crime committed by a youth.
Police-men, judges, Government officials, and respected institutions should
not be portrayed as stupid or ineffective, or represented in such a way as to
weaken respect for established authority.
2. No scenes of sadistic torture should be shown.
3. Sexy, wanton comics, should not be published. No drawing should show a
female indecently or unduly exposed and in no event more nude than in a
bathing suit commonly worn in the United States.
4. Vulgar and obscene language should never be used. Slang should be kept to
a minimum and used only when essential to the story.
5. Divorce should not be treated humorously nor represented as glamorous or
6. Ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group is never permissible.
Code of the Comics Magazines Association of America, Inc.
Adopted October 26, 1954
The comic-book medium, having come of age on the American cultural scene, must measure up to its responsibilities.
Constantly improving techniques and higher standards go hand in hand with these responsibilities.
To make a positive contribution to contemporary life, the industry must seek new areas for developing sound, wholesome entertainment. The people responsible for writing, drawing, printing, publishing, and selling comic books have done a commendable job in the past, and have been striving toward this goal.
Their record of progress and continuing improvement compares favorably with other media in the communications industry. An outstanding example is the development of comic books as a unique and effective tool for instruction and education. Comic books have also made their contribution in the field of letters and criticism of contemporary life.
In keeping with the American tradition, the members of this industry will and must continue to work together in the future.
In the same tradition, members of the industry must see to it that gains made in this medium are not lost and that violations of standards of good taste, which might tend toward corruption of the comic book as an instructive and wholesome form of entertainment, will be eliminated.
Therefore, the Comics Magazine Association of America, Inc. has adopted this code, and placed strong powers of enforcement in the hands of an independent code authority.
Further, members of the association have endorsed the purpose and spirit of this code as a vital instrument to the growth of the industry.
To this end, they have pledged themselves to conscientiously adhere to its principles and to abide by all decisions based on the code made by the administrator.
They are confident that this positive and forthright statement will provide an effective bulwark for the protection and enhancement of the American reading public, and that it will become a landmark in the history of self-regulation for the entire communications industry.
CODE FOR EDITORIAL MATTER
General Standards - Part A
- Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.
- No comics shall explicitly present the unique details and methods of a crime.
- Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.
- If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.
- Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates the desire for emulation.
- In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
- Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gun play, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.
- No unique or unusual methods of concealing weapons shall be shown.
- Instances of law enforcement officers dying as a result of a criminal's activities should be discouraged.
- The crime of kidnapping shall never be portrayed in any detail, nor shall any profit accrue to the abductor or kidnapper. The criminal or the kidnapper must be punished in every case.
- The letter of the word "crime" on a comics magazine shall never be appreciably greater than the other words contained in the title. The word "crime" shall never appear alone on a cover.
- Restraint in the use of the word "crime" in titles or subtitles shall be exercised.
General Standards - Part B
- No comic magazine shall use the word "horror" or "terror" in its title.
- All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.
- All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.
- Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.
- Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.
General Standards - Part C All elements or techniques not specifically mentioned herein, but which are contrary to the spirit and intent of the Code, and are considered violations of good taste or decency, shall be prohibited.
- Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
- Special precautions to avoid references to physical afflictions or deformities shall be taken.
- Although slang and colloquialisms are acceptable, excessive use should be discouraged and wherever possible good grammar shall be employed.
- Ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group is never permissible.
- Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.
- Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.
- All characters shall be depicted in dress reasonably acceptable to society.
- Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.
NOTE. - It should be recognized that all prohibitions dealing with costume, dialogue, or artwork applies as specifically to the cover of a comic magazine as they do to the contents.
Marriage and Sex
CODE FOR ADVERTISING MATTER
- Divorce shall not be treated humorously nor shall be represented as desirable.
- Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at or portrayed. Violent love scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.
- Respect for parents, the moral code, and for honorable behavior shall be fostered. A sympathetic understanding of the problems of love is not a license for moral distortion.
- The treatment of love-romance stories shall emphasize the value of the home and the sanctity of marriage.
- Passion or romantic interest shall never be treated in such a way as to stimulate the lower and baser emotions.
- Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.
- Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.
- Liquor and tobacco advertizing is not acceptable.
- Advertisement of sex or sex instructions books are unacceptable.
- The sale of picture postcards, "pin-ups," "art studies," or any other reproduction of nude or semi-nude figures is prohibited.
- Advertising for the sale of knives, concealable weapons, or realistic gun facsimiles is prohibited.
- Advertising for the sale of fireworks is prohibited.
- Advertising dealing with the sale of gambling equipment or printed matter dealing with gambling shall not be accepted.
- Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures shall not be permitted in the advertising of any product; clothed figures shall never be presented in such a way as to be offensive or contrary to good taste or morals.
- To the best of his ability, each publisher shall ascertain that all statements made in advertisements conform to the fact and avoid misinterpretation.
- Advertisement of medical, health, or toiletry products of questionable nature are to be rejected. Advertisements for medical, health or toiletry products endorsed by the American Medical Association, or the American Dental Association, shall be deemed acceptable if they conform with all other conditions of the advertising code.
CORRESPONDENCE FROM THE COMMITTEE ON EVALUATION OF COMIC BOOKS, CINCINNATI, OHIO
The work of the committee on evaluation of comic books at Cincinnati, Ohio,
in an example of what can be accomplished by citizen action in dealing with
the problem of comic books. The Cincinnati committee has been a nonprofit
group and is not subsidized by the comic-book industry. It is composed of
public-spirited citizens who have sought to be objective. The committee's
evaluations, prepared by a staff of 84 trained reviewers, have been widely
reprinted and circulated. The Reverend Jesse L. Murrell is chairman of the
excutive committee of the committee on evaluation of comic books.
On page 41 of the comic book hearings before the Subcommittee To
Investigate Juvenile Delinquency, the July 1953 list of the Cincinnati
committeee's evaluation of comic books was accurately reprinted. Since that
time Ham Fisher, cartoonist, who draws "Joe Palooka Adventures" comic books,
submitted the folllowing correspondence from the committee on evaluation of
comic books with the request that it be printed:
Committee On Evaluation of Comic Books,
Cincinnati, Ohio, November 4, 1954.
Mr. Ham Fisher, New York, N.Y.
Dear Mr. Fisher: In answer to your telephone inquiry of Wednesday, November
3, I have looked up our files on Joe Palooka Adventures, and find that the
issue which our reviewers reas was March 1954. It is No. 82. This issue is
pretty well devoted to prize fighting, and the criticism seems to fall with
the second story, where on the seventh page, I believe it is, Joe is being so
pommeled by his opponent that he sees his vision, or semiconscioussness, the
terrible ordeal of somebody, perhaps himself, hung up by his wrists and being
lashed by a whip. This situation occurs in at least four frames, and our
reviewers feel that this, together with the very rough pommeling that is
going on in the whole story, would give to a small child a horrible feeling
of cruelty to man. It would therefore fall into the area of morbid
emotionality, and as you will notice in the enclosed list of evaluated comic
books, where, at the end, we have our criteria it shows that Joe Palooka is
objectionable because of No. 29. You will see that that is, "Stories and
pictures that tend to anything having a sadistic imlication or suggesting use
of black magic."
I do not read the comic-book magazines for pleasure, and therefore do not
know what you have in Joe Palooka from time to time, but I would suggest that
you attempt to avoid such situations as described here, even though they are
the imagination of someone who is suffering, for the reson that, to a child
it is all in the picture.
I have looked over copies of the eight evaluations we have made of comic
books since the summer of 1948, and find that we have rated Joe Palooka each
time except July 1952. In the July 1951 review, Joe Palooka rated "No
objection." In the year 1948, the spring of 1949, December 1949, August 1950,
and July 1953, it rated "Some objection" which in our category does not
militate against a comic book's use by children or young people, but has some
minor characteristic which the reviewers would like to see improved. This
usually has to do with physical setup. In the April 1954 review this comic
book was rated "Objectionable" for the reason of its sadistic implications in
the second story.
It is fair to say that our committee considers Joe Palooka to be a very
good comic book.
Jesse L. Murrell.
Committee on Evaulation of Comic Books.
Mr. Fisher: I sent the telegram to Newsweek according to your request and here is the copy:
Cincinnati, Ohio, November 8, 1954.
New York City:
"Having heard that the March issue of Joe Palooka Adventures comic book
which the committee on evaluation of comic books in Cincinnati had rated
objectionale has caused quite a stir. I desire to advise you that we have
reviewing copies of this magazine since 1948 and that this is the first issue
that has received the objectional rating. We consider this comic one of the
very good ones but it so happened that this particular issue carried four
frames that our reviewers thought would be frightening to small children.
"Jesse L. Murrell, Chairman,"
I trust this will help to put you and your product in the proper light and I
am very sorry thtat you have been distrubed.
We appreciate your zeal for our common cause of better comic books and your
efforts in behalf of clean young manhood.
Jesse L. Murrell
Comic Book Publishers and Comic Book Titles, Spring 1954
A.A. Wyn, Inc. 23 West 47th Street, New York, N.Y. (Ace): Glamorous Romances, Hand of Fate, Love Experience, Real Love, Web of Mystery
Ace Magazines, Inc., 23 West 47th Street, New York, N.Y. (Ace):
Complete Love, Ten Story Love
Allen Hardy Associates, 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. (Allen Hardy):
Danger, Death Valley, Dynamite, House of Horror, Love and Kisses, Weird
Animirth Comics Inc., 270 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y. (Atlas):
Adventures Into Weird Worlds, Homer Hooper, Marines in Battle, 3D Action,
Archie Comic Publications, Inc., 241 Church Street, New York, N.Y.:
Archie Comics (7 titles), Pep Comics, Wilbur Comics
Aragon Magazines, Inc., 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. (Stanley P. Morse):
Arnold Publications, Inc., 347 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. (Quality):
Buster Bear, Marmaduke Mouse
Atlas News Co., Inc., 270 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y. (Atlas):
Buck Duck, Lovers, Police Action
Avon Periodicals, Inc., 575 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. (Avon):
All True Detective Cases, Eerie, Funny Tunes, Jesse James, Merry Mouse, Peter Rabit,
Peter Rabbit Jumbo Book, Realistic Romance, Romantic Love, Sensational Police Cases,
Space Comics, Space Mouse, Space Thrillers, Spotty The Pup, Super Pup, Wild Bill Hickok
Bard Publishing Corp., 270 PArk Avenue, New York, N.Y. (Atlas):
Best Syndicated Features, Inc., 45 West 45th Street, New York, N.Y. (ACG):
Adventures Into The Unknown, The Kilroys, Romantic Adventures
Better Publications, Inc., 10 East 40th Street, New York, N.Y. (Standard):
Exciting War, Popular Romances
Beverly Publishing Co., 480 Lexington Avenue, New York, N.Y.:
Broadcast Features Publications, Inc., 270 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y. (Atlas):
Girls' Life, My Friend Irma
Canam Publishers Sales Corp., 270 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y. (Atlas):
Arrow Head, Black Rider, Journey Into Mystery, 3D Tales of the West.
Chipiden Publications Corp., 270 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y. (Atlas):
Human Torch, Strange Tales
Classic Syndicate, Inc., 270 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y. (Atlas):
Close-Up, Inc., 241 Church Street, New York, N.Y. (Archie):
Archie's Girls Betty & Veronica, Ginger Comics, Katy Keane Comics, Laugh Comics, Super
Duck Comics, Suzie Comics
Comic Combine Corp, 270 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y. (Atlas):
Men's Adventures, Sub Mariner, The Outlaw Kid
Comic Favorites, Inc., 347 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. (Quality):
Comic Magazines, 347 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. (Quality):
Blackhawk, Brides Romances, Candy, G.I. Combat, G.I. Sweethearts, Heart Throbs, Love
Confessions, Love Letters, Love Secrets, Plastic Man, T-Man, True War Romances, Web
of Evil, Wedding Bells
Cornell Publishing Corp., 270 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y. (Atlas):
Crime Fighters, Spaceman
Crestwood Publishing Co., Inc., 1790 Broadway, New York, N.Y. (Prize):
Black Magic, Young Love
Current Detective Stories, Inc., 270 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y. (Atlas):
Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 261 Fifth Avenue, New York N.Y. (Dell):
Monthlies: Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan, Gene Audry Comics, Loony Toons and Merrie
Melodies Comics, Marge's Little Lulu, Roy Rogers Comics, The Lone Ranger, Tom and
Jerry Comics, Walter Lantz New Funnies
Bimonthlies: Bugs Bunny, Carl Anderson's Henry, Cisco Kid, Howdy Doody, Little Iodine,
MGM's Lassie, Porky Pig, Walter Lantz Andy Panda, Walter Lantz Woody Woodpecker
Quarterlies: Ben Bowie & His Mountain Men, Flying A's, Range Rider, Henry Aldrich, Hi-Yo
Silver, I Love Lucy, Indain Chief, Jace Pearson-Texas Rangers, King of the Royal Mounted,
Marge's Tubby, Popeye, Queen of the West-Dale Evans, Rex Allen, Rin Tin Tin, Rootie
Kazootie, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, Tom Corbett-Space Cadet, Tonto, Trigger, Tweety
& Sylvester, Walt Kelly's Pogo Possum, Western Roundup, Wild Bill Elliott, Zane Grey's
Semi-annuals: Andy Hardy, Beany & Cecil, Bozo the Clown, Buck Jones, Francis The Talking
Mule, Gerald McBoing Boing, Johnny Mack Brown, Krazy Kat, Little Scouts, Max Brand's
Silvertipp, Oswald The Rabbit, Zorro
Annuals: Beetle Bailey, Bugs Bunny (Album, Christmas Funnies, Halloween Parade, Vacation
Funnies, Charlie McCarthy, Daffy, Double Trouble With Goober, Elmer Fudd, Ernest Haycox's
Western Marshal, Flash Gordon, Frosty The Snowman, Gypsy Cult, Jungle Jim, Knights of the
Round Table, Little Beaver, Marge's Little Lulu - Tubby Annual, Milton Caniff's Steve
Canyon, Napoleon, Prince Valiant, Rageddy Ann & Andy, Rhubarb The Millionaire Cat,
Rivets, Rusty Riley, Santa Claus Funnies, Son of Black Beauty, Spike N'Tyke, Super Curcus,
Susie Q. Smith, The Brownies, The Green Hornet, The Little King, The Lone Ranger's
Western Treasury, Tom & Jerry (Summer Fun, Winter Carnival), 3D Flukey Kazootie, 3D
Rootie Kazootie, Uncle Wiggly, Walt Kelly's Pogo Parade, Walter Lantz Woody Woodpecker
Back to School
Educational Comics, Inc., 225 Lafayette Street, New York, N.Y. (EC):
Excellent Publications, Inc., 30 East 60th Street, New York, N.Y. (Farrell):
Billy Bunny, Swift Arrow
Fables Publishing Co., Inc., 225 Lafayette Street, New York, N.Y. (EC):
Haunt of Fear, Two-Fisted Tales, Weird Science-Fantasy