Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Here's (above) Fredrick Wertham, author of Seduction of the Innocent, the book that provoked censorship of the comics and ended what a lot of fans consider a golden age of newsstand comics. I love those comics myself but I have to admit that Wertham had a point.

If you're a parent you don't want your kids to read comics with stories like this (above).  

   There used to be lots of crime comics and the most popular of all was Lev Gleason's Crime Does Not Pay. I like to think the edge that title had was its two artist/writer/editors, Bob Wood and Charles Biro. They favored a more cartoony style than the other crime comics, and Wood really did seem to understand the criminal mind.

I thought you might like to see samples of the work of some of the CDNP artists. We'll start with Rudy Palais (above and below) who drew the most gruesome stories. 

Here (above) Palais shows a woman kissing a man to death.

And here (above) he has a man kill a baby. 'Pretty gruesome stuff!

This one's (above) by Dick Briefer who also did the Frankenstein comics. I can't believe a story like this ever appeared in mass market comics.

Hmmm...I've seen this artist's work (above) before but I don't know his name. I'm guessing that the editors had had a hand in the continuity here and Bob Wood's knack for injecting humor into horror is evident.  

Now you can understand why Wertham thought crime comics had gone too far. They really had. Censorship was inevitable.  

Here's (above) one of my favorite CDNP artists, Bob Q. Siege. His anatomy is either very bad or very good, I can't figure out which. For a year he shared an apartment with Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder. I think I can see the influence. 

Last but not least is Charles Biro (that's his work, above) who was an artist as well as an editor.  He drew a lot of the covers. He wasn't an exceptional draughtsman but he knew what to draw and sometimes that can be almost as useful as knowing how to draw...well, sort of. Can you count the perspective cheats in this picture?

Bob Wood and Charles Biro were friends as well as co-workers. They shared hobbies: drinking and gambling. . . hobbies that were to prove fatal for Wood. 

Wood had a good feel for crime...maybe too good a feel. He psyched himself into the criminal mentality so effectively that he actually murdered somebody in real life.

That's all I have to say about that comic but I'll take the opportunity to speculate about the excessive censorship that followed the excessive media that brought it about. My guess...and it's only a guess, with no facts to back it up...is that the mob had a hand in magazine distribution and paniced at the spotlight Wertham was throwing on that trade. 

 According to this guess the mob helped to push through unnecessarily stringent censorship, the heavy-handed kind that was inflicted on Barks later stories for Western Publishing. That kind of thing crippled magazine creativity for decades to come. Once again, that's pure speculation and I could be wrong. 


Unknown said...

Wow. This stuff was really edgy, especially for the time. I'm glad there wasn't as much of that Hays Code esque censorship in these. Also some of this stuff would be great for studies.

I'm not too thrilled with my new Wacom stylus. Feels like I have to press much harder than my old one to get any results. Do you know of any better ones out there that have s more natural feeling to them? I'm using the Intuos pro.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Roberto: I've only tried one of the Wacom styluses so I'm not the person to ask. I thought the pressure sensitivity on that one was fine.

There's speculation on the Mac Rumors site that Apple's come up with a new stylus for their coming large format ipad Pro.

mike fontanelli said...

No, it wasn't the mob that pushed through censorship and the Comics Code. That wouldn't make any sense from a business POV. It was church groups and overzealous politicians, same bunch who ended Burlesque shows.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Mike: I'm not firmly convinced about that hypothesis, but I wouldn't reject it out of hand, as you seem to. In this scenario the mob's interests would have temporarily coincided with that of the people you talked about.

That kind of thing has happened in the past. The mob's interests coincided with the FBI when the feds tried to shut down the Ku Klux Klan. Why? because the Klan believed in prohibition and was an obstacle to the mob's liquor distribution. Business sometimes makes for strange bedfellows.

J S said...

Hhm, the mob, interesting theory.

This past year there has been a similar hysteria happening in the videogame industry about supposed misogyny in games.

I wonder if there is any ulterior motive going on there.

Joel Brinkerhoff said...

Here's a nice link you may appreciate: http://www.crimemagazine.com/downfall-delinquent-short-unhappy-life-bob-wood

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

J. S.: Yikes! It never occurred to me that crime might have a hand in game distribution. I doubt it, but what do I know?

Joel: Thanks! Nice article. Dennis Kitchen wrote something good on the subject, too.