1950s Comic Books Censorship Essay



  • June, 1954 (cover date)- Commentary magazine publishes Robert Warshow's essay on EC comics and Wertham, which also references Gaines' Senate testimony. "The Study of Man: Paul, the Horror Comics, and Doctor Wertham".
  • August, 1954 (cover date)- EC publishes its famous "Are You a Red Dupe?" editorial.
  • September 14, 1954- EC Comics ceases publication of its three horror comics and two SuspenStories comics.
  • October 26, 1954- The Comic Magazine Association of America adopts the original Comics Code. Read it!.
  • November, 1954 (cover date)- Reader's Digest publishes "The Face of Violence," an anti-comics article.
  • March 14, 1955- The Senate Subcommittee issues its report, "Comic Books and Juvenile Delinquency," indicating that it finds the Comics Code to be a step in the right direction.
  • 1955- Geoffrey Wagner's Parade of Pleasure published.
  • Jan-Feb, 1956 (cover date)- EC publishes its last comic book, Incredible Science-Fiction #33.
  • April 9, 1955- Fredric Wertham "It's Still Murder" is published in The Saturday Review of Literature, one of the forgotten anti-comics articles by Wertham Read it!
  • A few books take a very broad look at the history of comics and animation and especially examine how work from artists in one country carries over and influences artists in other countries. Kunzle 1973 and Kunzle 1990 are two of the early and ambitious chronicles of broadsheets from all across Europe, arguing persuasively that the genesis of modern comics can be found in these early satirical prints. Most broadly comparative studies of comics, such as Couperie 1968, Gifford 1990, and Kurtzman and Barrier 1991, focus primarily on Europe and the United States. Sabin 2003 focuses on British comics and American comics, but the later Sabin 2008 also briefly mentions Japan, while Petersen 2011 goes further to include China, India, and Indonesia. Crafton 1993 looks at the relationship between early comics and film animation in both Europe and the United States.

  • Couperie, Pierre. A History of the Comic Strip: Created in Conjunction with the Exhibition of Comic-Strip Art at Museé des Arts Décoratifs, Palais du Louvre. Translated by Eileen B. Hennessy. New York: Crown, 1968.

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    A broad overview of comic history from the French perspective, with later chapters exploring both cultural and formal aspects of comic art; it concludes with a survey of contemporary artists who are inspired by comic art in their work. Originally published as Bande dessinée et figuration narrative (Paris: S.E.R.G., 1967).

  • Crafton, Donald. Before Mickey: The Animated Film, 1898–1928. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

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    An excellent history of early animation that looks at how the first efforts of trick photography established the early working methods. Crafton discusses the role of comics in defining a visual style that was also sympathetic to the needs of animation.

  • Gifford, Dennis. The International Book of Comics. Rev. ed. London: Hamlyn, 1990.

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    Organized into over ninety very brief sections, the book surveys the history of British and American comics by genre. Typical of books that mostly interest collectors, there are many illustrations of comic book covers and extensive lists of names of artists and publishers. Originally published 1984.

  • Kunzle, David. The History of the Comic Strip. Vol. 1, The Early Comic Strip: Narrative Strips and Picture Stories in the European Broadsheet from c. 1450 to 1825. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973.

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    A pioneering study of broadsheets in Europe that examines their cultural development and impact. While there are wide-ranging observations on the representation of political and cultural issues, the primary focus is on the gradual progress toward causally linked sequential narratives.

  • Kunzle, David. The History of the Comic Strip. Vol. 2, The Nineteenth Century. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

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    The second volume focuses on the vast range of new sequential graphic narratives that emerged following Rodolphe Töpffer’s picture stories. Especially valuable is the lengthy discussion of Wilhelm Busch and his contribution to the development of comic art.

  • Kurtzman, Harvey, and J. Michael Barrier. From Aargh! to Zap!: Harvey Kurtzman’s Visual History of the Comics. New York: Prentice Hall, 1991.

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    Heavily illustrated large-format book with brief but insightful comments from one of the longtime influential comic artists and editors, Harvey Kurtzman. While the main thrust of the book is oriented toward collectors of comics, Kurtzman also offers his firsthand experience in the industry from the 1950s to the 1990s.

  • Petersen, Robert S. Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels: A History of Graphic Narratives. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2011.

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    An international survey that examines the gradual development of graphic narrative history following the expansion of literacy, the invention of caricature, and the use of linked sequential actions to create original stories told through pictures. The book also examines the relationship between popular narrative art and experiments by fine artists, and the final chapter looks at recent developments in digital comics.

  • Sabin, Roger. Adult Comics: An Introduction. London: Routledge, 2003.

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    An excellent look at the major developments that defined independent and underground comics in Britain and the United States.

  • Sabin, Roger. Comics, Comix and Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art. London: Phaidon, 2008.

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    An engaging history of comic books in a large art-book format that covers primarily English-language comics, with some comments in the last chapter on current French and Japanese comics. While the text is not as substantive as Sabin 2003 book Adult Comics, the numerous illustrations make it a valuable visual guide to the history of comic art. First published 1996.

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