Monday, January 11, 2010

A comic book? Run!

Let me take ten minutes to talk about the book I'm reading now. I've almost finished David Hajdu's "The Ten Cent Plague," a non-fiction tome about the rise and fall of the American comic book. It talks about the origins of the comics and how they gained in popularity until they became a multi-million dollar industry . . . and how public backlash and various controversies brought them down to near extinction.

The book both fascinates and repulses me in even measures, and I've had to put it down a couple of times to keep from screaming. It's interesting, but mostly infuriating, that religion and politics joined forces to censor/destroy comics at a time when people were so easily manipulated that literally millions of (now priceless) comics were tossed out or held in public burnings.This especially shocked me, almost to the point of tears, when I think of how much joy comic books brought me through my formative years (and indeed, still bring me today), and, to be fair, the cash value of those books thrown on so many fires or trash heaps.

It's absolutely shameful, and no coincidence that the book also talks about Joe McCarthy's Communist witch hunts from around the same time, which took advantage of a scared and gullible populace to ruin peoples' lives. It should be funny, the terror America (and England too, apparently) had of juvenile delinquency, and the blame that fell on something that is now seen as so innocuous, if still unfairly maligned.

Having been censored before or had my own words used against me out of context, and growing up in a house where my father referred to "funny books" as illiterate trash, made this all very personal to me. I could get into a very angry rant here, as I audibly cursed more times while reading this book than any . . . except maybe the Kevin Smith autobiography I read aloud.

But I won't. Instead, I'll just finish up this book and start on another one. That's what Jeff would do.

Rish J.D. Outfield

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