My reading list this summer consisted all of Bill Willingham's Fables
and Jack of Fables
collections from the library, as well as Gore Vidal's memoir Point-to-Point Navigation
and novel Williwaw
. I'm finishing up with David Hajdu's The Ten-Cent Plague
and wondering why I'm plowing through my fourth history of comics tome in one year -- after Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book
, From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books
, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
. What does it mean, apart from I have a good library and like comic books? I guess it's all part of a life-long study of outsider culture. Do they have fellowships for that?
This Comics Journal review of Plague
is worth your time if you ever ponder our nation's occasional witch-hunts, the history of freedom of expression and the place of EC Comics in U.S. culture.
Defending the Indefensible - Written by R. Fiore - Nov., 2008 - The Comics Journal (Excerpt from TCJ #294)
The Ten Cent Plague leapt to the covers of the nation's book-review sections faster and more prolifically than any book about comics since, well, I imagine, Seduction of the Innocent, an outcome I doubt anyone involved could have guessed. Speaking from the perspective of Nerdistan I looked in vain for something to object to in it. It represents the opposite end of the spectrum from the typical journalistic treatment of comics. Instead of superficiality under cover of either glib cynicism or obeisance to the hot subject of the day, you find a reporter's zeal for separating fact from legend and getting to the primary source. ... It's the medium's good fortune that the one book about comic books the general reader is most likely to read is not only an exhaustive history of the immediate subject but a well-informed and conscientiously researched history of the medium from its beginnings. ...
Hajdu's point that the suppression of horror comics was based more on mainstream taste than any legitimate proof that they did harm is true but beside the point. Horror comics were genuine outlaw art, and when you're producing genuine outlaw art you shouldn't be surprised if the cops come after you. Wertham's pseudoscience was ultimately beside the point, because the content of horror comics was so far into the red zone that nobody had to look at the instruments. You imagine an average person of the time having his opinion solicited ...
"Sir, I wonder if you'd take a look at this comic book and tell me ..."
"OH MY GOD, THAT'S THE MOST DISGUSTING THING I'VE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE!"
"But the question I really wanted to ask was ..."
"WHAT KIND OF SICK, DISEASED MIND COULD HAVE CONCEIVED OF SUCH FILTH ..."
"No, this is one of the better ones, this is Haunt of Fear ..."
"THAT MAN HAS AN AXE STICKING OUT OF HIS HEAD!"
"Leaving aside questions of taste, do you believe children reading this would ..."
"CHILDREN! THEY SELL THIS TO CHILDREN? WHO THE HELL IS BEHIND THIS, THE MAFIA?"