RAP SHEET - Comic Books And The Law
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Because they were perceived as entertainment for children, comic books have been subject to particular scrutiny by lawmakers and others charged with regulating the nation's morals.

 

Many are familiar with the Senate Subcommittee hearings on Juvenile Delinquency that led to the establishment of the Comics Code. But there are many other examples of the medium's run-ins with the law.

 

While many know about the uproar over horror comics, crime comics caused an earlier, perhaps even greater uproar. Many cities passed laws regulating or forbidding the sale of crime comic books. Some have stated that these ordinances were some of the harshest restrictions on freedom of the press our country has ever seen. Interestingly, none of the ordinances withstood legal challenges.

 

The history of the art form's legal troubles has some fascinating memorabilia. I've seen bits and pieces on various threads on the board, but thought they deserved their own thread. Use this thread to post legal documents, articles, and other collectibles related to comic books and the law.

 

FIRST UP - WHERE WERTHAM GOT HIS IDEAS...

 

 

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1951 REPORT OF THE NEW YORK STATE JOINT LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE TO STUDY THE PUBLICATION OF COMIC BOOKS

 

This fascinating book contains a study of the comic book industry up to 1951 by a committee of lawmakers and advisors in New York State. It contains a written report with topics that include:

  • Origin Of Comics
  • Comic Book Industry
  • Comic Books and Juvenile Delinquency
  • Objectionable Comic Books

It features three appendices with sample illustrations from what the Committee deemed were objectionable comic books. A few of the illustrations are shown below.

 

Some of these may look familiar to readers of Seduction of the Innocent by Frederic Wertham, the best-selling bombshell about crime and horror comic books. They feature some of the same comic book pages, even highlighting some of the same panels.

 

Since this was report published in 1951, and Seduction of the Innocent was published in 1954, it's clear that Wertham drew a lot of material for his book from this Committee Report.

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More pics from...

1951 REPORT OF THE NEW YORK STATE JOINT LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE TO STUDY THE PUBLICATION OF COMIC BOOKS

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More illos from...

1951 REPORT OF THE NEW YORK STATE JOINT LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE TO STUDY THE PUBLICATION OF COMIC BOOKS

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More pics from...

1951 REPORT OF THE NEW YORK STATE JOINT LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE TO STUDY THE PUBLICATION OF COMIC BOOKS

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1951 REPORT OF THE NEW YORK STATE JOINT LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE TO STUDY THE PUBLICATION OF COMIC BOOKS

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A few last pics from...

1951 REPORT OF THE NEW YORK STATE JOINT LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE TO STUDY THE PUBLICATION OF COMIC BOOKS

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1954 REPORT OF THE NEW YORK STATE JOINT LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE TO STUDY THE PUBLICATION OF COMIC BOOKS

100172.jpg.96ebe80661ec2cef873a8d59dad1e93c.jpg

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1950 REPORT TO SENATE COMMITTEE ON JUVENILE DELINQUENCY

 

"A compilation of information and suggestions submitted to the special Senate committee in interstate commerce relative to the incidence of juvenile delinquency in the United States and the possible influence thereon of so-called crime comic books during the 5-year period 1945 to 1950

 

Printed for the use of the Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce"

 

Whopping 254-page report. This cover is scanned from a xerox copy of an original.

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1955 SENATE INTERIM REPORT - COMIC BOOKS AND JUVENILE DELINQUENCY

This is scanned from a xerox copy of an original.

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1955 SENATE INTERIM REPORT - COMIC BOOKS AND JUVENILE DELINQUENCY

 

Note this is a different version - a Committee Print - which presumably was distributed only to actual members of the Committee.

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Great thread! :thumbsup:

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I have the both the 1954 Senate Subcommittee Transcripts and

1955 Senate Interim Report on Juvenile Delinquency online at

http://www.TheComicBooks.com

 

I'd *love* to get the New York versions to put online too.

 

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A few last pics from...

1951 REPORT OF THE NEW YORK STATE JOINT LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE TO STUDY THE PUBLICATION OF COMIC BOOKS

 

 

Interesting stuff here. Thanks for posting.

 

A few years back I had posted some scans of a 1953 Confidential magazine article on the NY report as it pertained to Lil Abner. It should be here (if my link works):

 

http://boards.collectors-society.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=2503344&fpart=5

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This little gem arrived in the mail today. :cloud9: Thanks Archiefan (thumbs u

 

SenateTractKefauver.jpg

 

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It looks great!! My pleasure Stephen.

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This little gem arrived in the mail today. :cloud9: Thanks Archiefan (thumbs u

 

SenateTractKefauver.jpg

 

very very cool!!

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1951 REPORT OF THE NEW YORK STATE JOINT LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE TO STUDY THE PUBLICATION OF COMIC BOOKS

 

This fascinating book contains a study of the comic book industry up to 1951 by a committee of lawmakers and advisors in New York State. ...

Since this was report published in 1951, and Seduction of the Innocent was published in 1954, it's clear that Wertham drew a lot of material for his book from this Committee Report.

 

Great thread!!!

 

I believe the Committee actually got a lot of its material from Wertham, who has been criticizing comics publicly since 1948.

 

Something struck me funny about that photo of a newsstand that was included in the NY Legislature document. Why are there multiple issues of the same series displayed? I thought under the old distribution system, an old issue would be removed when a new one came in. Anybody have any suggestions as to how the distribution system would have allowed multiple issues from the same series at one time? Did they simply remove outdated ones based on a sale date that was, say X months past?

 

Then all fo this got me wondering if this photo were doctored. So I decided to see what I could learn by identifying the books in the photo. Here's what I came up with...

 

 

 

Almost all of the books seem to be from late 1948. There's nothing in this photo to indicate to me that it was staged, with the possible exception of an issue of "True Comics" that seems to be hidden behind another more "objectionable" comic.

 

Any of you comic book detectives out there want to take a stab at identifying the other comics, or critique my ability to identify them?

 

Column #1

Human Torch (probably #32, September 1948)

Crime Does Not Pay

Guns Against Gangsters #1 (Sept-Oct, 1948)

Guns Against Gangsters #1 (Sept-Oct, 1948)

Target Comics v9#7 (September, 1948)

Crime Does Not Pay

True Crime v1#2 (no date in its indicia. I'm guessing it's May-June-ish 1948 and that 1947 estimates for this book are a bit early. This comic was included in Dr. Wertham's May, 1948 anti-comics article in the Saturday Review of Literature. The same article had an illustration from Jo-Jo #15, also dated May, 1948)

Desperado #1 (June-July, 1948)

Column #2:

Criminals On the Run v4#2 (September, 1948)

Witness #1 (Sept, 1948)

Wanted #15 (Sept, 1948)

Lawbreakers Always Lose #4 (October, 1948)

Criminals on the Run

Desperado #2 (August, 1948)

Famous Crimes

Pay-off #1 (July-August, 1948)

Hmmm... It looks like there's another book behind Pay-off that's a bit larger. Another issue of True Comics perhaps?

Column #3:

Crime & Punishment

Crime & Punishment

Target Comics v9#8 (October, 1948)

Complete Mystery #1 (August, 1948)

Human Torch (Probably #33, November, 1948)

All-True Crime Cases #29 (Sept., 1948) or #30 (Oct., 1948)

What is that behind this comic? It looks to me a little larger than the other books, and its logo ends in a block "E". It looks to me like True Comics #79, October, 1949)

True Crime v1#3 (July-August, 1948)

Murder, Incorporated #2 (March, 1948... this is odd, since May, July, and September issues should probably have been out already)

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