Jason’s Ranting & Raving

Those who don’t read have no advantage over those who can’t.

Book Review: The Ten Cent Plague by David Hajdu

Posted by jaystile on November 19, 2008

‘The Ten Cent Plague – The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America’ by David Hajdu is an excellent history of comic books. It covers the advent of the comics with the first color printing for newspapers and ends in the early 1950s after everyone has officially lost their collective minds.

I found this book to be entertaining and disturbing. My early adolescence was filled with comics like Batman, Green Lantern, Spawn, and my personal favorite Wolverine. I still have my collections boxed up waiting for me to return to read them. My enjoyment of this book came out of the history of comics and how they were initially created for illiterate immigrants. It is one art form that is truly American.

The craziness in the book revolves around activists and pseudo-scientists saying that comic books were a cause of juvenile delinquency. This issue really took off in the minds of a conservative nation. However, real studies had shown no causality between crime and comics (big surprise there). The key expert psychiatrist Fredric Wertham made his own conclusions as to the causality instead of applying the scientific method. Also, his articles and opinions made their way to magazines like ‘Good Housekeeping’ instead of peer reviewed journals.

Long story short, people go crazy when there is an easy target for why good kids go bad. It is just as relevant today. Let’s take a little walk from 1950 and the other societal evils. ROCK N’ ROLL! Elvis was damming the children. TV, Ernie and Bert are homosexuals! They are damming the children. VIDEO GAMES, Grand Theft Auto made my kid rob someone! (no, sorry, your kid is a sociopath). I like to refer back to Freakonomics, your kid’s destiny is almost predetermined before conception. Most everything depends on who you are. Maybe if you set some limits on video game playing and not allowed overly violent games in your house ( you can’t stop them from playing at someone else’s. ) your child would learn that those behaviors are unacceptable. Now, if you happen to slap them when they spill the milk, they will learn from that too.

If you can find a link e-mail it to me because I want to include it in this blog. It is of a Calvin & Hobbes comic talking about causality. The philosophical conversation goes a bit like “Does violence on TV desensitize us to violence?” “Yes” “Does violence on TV cause violence?”

Now, go out there and read something!

Oh, I forgot, Dungeons & Dragons is damming the children! Roll a will save, DC 20, to prevent being overrun by the establishment.


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