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Monday, April 20, 2020 

Sioux Falls resisted the anti-comics sentiment in the 1950s

The Argus Leader has some history of the Wertham era leading to book burnings in the 50s before the Comics Code Authority came about, and says that while Sioux Falls did have a problem with the negative sentiment, they seemed to be less inclined to join. It also says:
For over a century, parents have been trying to stave off the corruption of their children by outside forces. Many different forms of entertainment and pastimes have been caught in this scrutiny over the decades; from jazz to rock and roll, Dungeons & Dragons to video games, there’s usually something concerned parties can latch onto as the reason Johnny and Susie have gone bad. In the late 1930s through the mid 1950s, this was comic books.
Recalling a time when I discovered an employee for Wizards of the Coast encouraged her co-workers to take a look at a racist blog, I'm wondering if any screwballs still think D&D encourages racism, sexism and other horrors, or if they were all just a bunch of Orwellian parroters who wanted to virtue-signal and force Gary Gygax's hard work to degenerate into a mess of identity politics that don't belong in a pastime entertainment product. Come to think of it, did parents really care what the D&D board game was like earlier, or were they a whole bunch of hypocrites lacking appreciation for anything to boot?

Now here's where the article gets around to focusing upon something stupefyingly offensive Wertham uttered that belittles real life issues:
As more controversial content started to make its way into the collections of children, German-American psychiatrist Fredric Wertham was inspired to write “Seduction of the Innocent”. The book, published in 1954, detailed the myriad ways in which comics were corrupting the nation’s youth. In televised hearings, he told senators “It is my opinion without any reasonable doubt and without any reservation, that comic books are an important contributing factor in many cases of juvenile delinquency.” He claimed that normal children would be more influenced by the unsavory comic book stories than morbid children because “normal children” are wrapped up in their own fantasies. He believed that the vile publications gave children an affinity for violence and made them racist, saying “Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic book industry,” before going on to explain that Batman comics were homoerotic and Wonder Woman modeled lesbian behavior in a positive light.
Fictional violence can be repellent enough. But to imply it's infinitely worse in every way, shape and form than real life violence minimizes the horrors of WW2, and insults the plight of millions of victims of National Socialism, along with the allied soldiers who fought to stop the atrocities. And since when were most comics of the times coming from Jewish-owned sources encouraging racism, as Wertham claimed? It's said he either didn't read most of the material he lambasted, or he made up his mind where he stood early on, and this only compounds the suspicions. Did he also think Lenin, Stalin and Mao were beginners? Based on the sickening line he belched out, that alone is why his conduct was truly shameful, all the more reason why it's deplorable today's entertainment industry could ironically agree with him.
The national reaction to this was a furor often led by church organizations, the Boy Scouts, librarians and the PTA. Many comic book burnings were conducted across the country. The organizers would offer a “clean comic” in exchange for 10 bad ones. Some of these bonfires happened unfettered, others were stopped by concerned citizens and the ACLU who claimed they amounted to censorship and modeled un-American ideals.
Today, even if book burning doesn't occur per se, there's an alarming amount of censorship led by Wertham's fellow leftists going on, and the ACLU doesn't seem interested in defending comicdom anymore. Rather, they seem awfully interested in defending the wrong ideologies.

But here's the amazing part about how the township of Sioux Falls approached the whole issue of comicdom in the 50s:
In Sioux Falls, unlike other places in the country, citizens kept their heads about them in light of the perceived threat of comic books. Perhaps this was because enough adults read the little magazines and knew what the reality was. Maybe because the most objectionable titles didn’t reach a city of this population — around 50,000 in the mid 1950s. Whatever the case, citizens can take pride in the fact that, aside from Dunning Drug, there was no censorship of comics in the days when they were most vilified.
No kidding. So Sioux Falls, though they may not have been immune to the bad reception, still didn't take part in the atrocity and embarrassment Wertham had to stir up. That's lucky. Something to consider is that, while not without questionable moments, most superhero comics produced in the Golden Age were far from graphically gory, bloodletting was minimal, and so too was profanity and overt sexuality. So Wertham clearly overreacted at the time, and blurred the differences between superhero and horror comics considerably. It's today the whole medium's devolved into a mess, with the irony being that violence is considered acceptable in entertainment, whereas sexuality's been undermined. That's how far it's all fallen.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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