By Zachary Bampton ’20
Previously on this blog we covered the educational and political aspirations of comic books in American popular culture. Keen interest in comics as teaching tools–or as propaganda–reflected a public awareness of the power of the medium. However, Americans did not always receive comics well. In the 1950s, creative expression came into the crosshairs of public officials wishing to tamp down on juvenile delinquency. Library book banning and film censorship occurred throughout the country. With regard to comics, many felt concerned by the disturbing and deviant subject matter, particularly in “horror” or “crime” comics. With materials selected from the American Civil Liberties Union Records (MC001), we will chronicle the move towards self-censorship by the Comics Magazine Association of America (CMAA) and the creation of the Comics Code Authority (CCA).
Into the 1950s, community and national organizations voiced concerns over subversive content found in comic books. In the words of Reverend Thomas J. Fitzgerald of Chicago, depictions of “crime, disrespect for law, rape, infidelity, perversion, etc.” troubled adults who thought of the impact on children (American Civil Liberties Union Records (MC001), Box 773, Folder 25). While comics across the board received criticism, a certain genre stood out from the rest, aptly referred to as “crime comics” or horror comics.