“The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America”
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“The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America”

In his new book, David Hajdu chronicles the very serious attack on funny books that was a bottled-up version of McCarthyism.

A comic book presented at a U.S. Senate hearing in the 1950s. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Catholic Archbishop John Francis Noll founded the National Organization for Decent Literature. Here a cartoon stand-in sweeps the newsstands clean of “racy” magazines and comic books. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
In staged documentary-style footage from the 1950s, a group of boys is shown torturing a child in the woods -- purportedly due to comic-book reading.

The most memorable crusades against comics took place in the 1940s and 1950s as part of a response to surging “juvenile delinquency,” a term author Hajdu smartly deconstructs.

In his view, it’s an umbrella label, “a way to define a range of phenomena involving young people that, to the prevailing adult authorities, seemed to represent a falling short, a delinquency, in youthful behavior. It defined by negation: Like most criticism of the comics, the words ‘juvenile delinquency’ characterized their subject by its failure to meet expectations — not by what it was, but by what a disappointment it was.” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
A comic-book bonfire in 1949 at St. Patrick’s Academy in Binghamton, N.Y. (St. Patrick’s Academy yearbook, Vincent Hawley Collection/ Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
“The Laughling Sadist,” from cartoonist Herman Duker, who wrote the comic book “Crime Does Not Pay.” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Bill Gaines rips up one of his comic books for the camera circa 1950s and announces the end of his comic book company EC’s New Trend line. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Munich-born psychiatrist Frederic Wertham, author of the screed “Seduction of the Innocent,” testifies at the 1954 Senate subcommittee hearings on comic books and juvenile delinquency in the federal courthouse in Manhattan. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Gaines’ Mad magazine lampoons life in the 1950s in this full-page drawing by Will Elder. This issue was Mad’s first in a magazine format. (Courtesy Will Elder/Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The Comics Code Authority enacts a makeover under former New York City magistrate Charles F. Murphy. (Cartoon Research Library, Ohio State University / Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
A boy in the early 1950s keeps his fascination with comic-book fright under covers. (Ron Mann collection, courtesy Sphinx Productions Inc./Farrar, Straus and Giroux)