Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Silly and Comic Seduction of the Innocent Fiasco of 1954: Our Senate in Action

I would like to address something I have never mentioned to or discussed with anyone. From a very young age all the way through high school I had out of body experiences. This is an area under study by science and there have been people of note who experienced and even attempted to induce such events, such as Thomas Edison and Salvatore Dali. Some researchers have estimated as many as 35% of people have experience this at least once, although the more acceptable figure is 1 in 10. I do not see these as being in any way supernatural. There are several perfectly rational and natural theories explaining the phenomena. Unfortunately there are as many therapists and theories about the cause of out of body experiences as Dr. Carter’s proverbial pills. A couple of things of note concerning myself might include studies in the 1980s that concluded people who had OBEs had fantasy prone personalities. Keep in mind I was a professional horror writer and you'll soon find out about some fantasies concerning pirates that I became prone to. Another curiosity related to me is as far as I recall these OBEs began while I attended West Whiteland Elementary School, the institution I can remember nothing about. Whether there is any connection between the two I don’t know. The experience did continue, though, all the way through high school. These experiences happened to me quite frequently is all I know.
I would be sitting at my desk and have this very strange feeling come over me. My body would feel very relaxed and I felt it bending forward toward my knees. Then I would have the sensation of floating upward. Soon I was looking down at myself from somewhere in the air. I could see I was still sitting at my desk looking very still, but perfectly awake, yet I knew I wasn’t really there in my body. I saw everything in the classroom, heard the teacher and others if they spoke all while floating overhead. After a time I would feel a tugging, like the pull of the tide in the ocean, and I would float gently down and everything was normal again.
These little excursions came over me all during my school years. Usually it occurred in a classroom, but sometimes it would happen to me at home. There were times I was able to induce it. It never frightened me. It was enjoyable, pleasant and peaceful. There were even times when I regretted rejoining my body. 

In the 1950s the human body was considered a bit too risqué for human beings to consider. It was not, putting the introduction of the Bikini aside, so openly displayed. There were cracks in the coverings enforced on sexual matters and bodily displays beginning to appear. A magazine called “Playboy” had appeared in December 1953, for instance.
Meanwhile, McCarthyism had begun its decline in April 1954 during the McCarthy-Army Hearings. As the focus of the political spotlight on Communist Sympathizers was beginning to fade, the politicians didn’t take long in finding a new target, Juvenile Delinquency and its cause.
In the spring of 1954 the U. S. Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency: Comic Books, “Soda-pop”, and Societal Harm chaired by Senator Robert Hendrickson was called in session by Hendrickson saying this is “not a subcommittee of blue-nosed censors”.
Thus began an all-out assault on comic books.
The highest visible member of the committee was Senator  Estes Kefauver (pictured right), so much so the press and public often referred to it as the Kefauver Committee. Kefauver was the most known man on that committee having gained fame in the early 1950s for his investigation into organized crime. He had campaigned to be the Democratic presidential candidate on the strength of that fame, but lost the nomination to Adlai Stevenson. Kefauver believed the attack on comic books would revitalize his fame and gain him the 1956 nomination.

The Committee claimed it was investigating the rising problem of juvenile delinquency after World War II. Being politicians they did what Congressmen always do, look for an easy answer to a complex problem so they can garner publicity and give the appearance of doing  something while actually doing nothing. First they surveyed a large number of people with backgrounds in the area, including comic book publishers and cartoonists, juvenile court judges, probation officers, psychiatrists, and social workers. The overwhelming conclusion of this survey was comic books and juvenile delinquency had no relationship with an even higher percentage agreeing banning comic books would have no effect.

When the experts concluded this in disagreement with the Committee’s premise, the Senators simply ignored their opinion, kept the results quiet and continued their worthless quest. Failing here to get the answers they sought, they turned to the Postal Service and ordered an investigation into how many comic books had been found breaking the Postal regulation on suitable mailing material. The Post Office failed to find any such violations and the Postal investigation was dropped.

The Senators carried on anyway. They had targeted comic books as the cause of juvenile delinquency and nothing such as the truth would dissuade them, any more than it would their future political replacements, who blamed societies ills on Rock ‘n’ Roll, music, movies, violence and sex on TV, right up to video games, the Internet, sugary soft drinks and Global Warming. This is typical of our so-called leaders; give easy answers with little substance and maybe a new nuisance tax.
Eventually the committee made William M. Gaines (pictured right with some old friends) the biggest villain of their attacks and many of his EC comic line ended. The only real result of all the fuss was a voluntary adoption of the Comic Book Code in September 1954 by the major comic book Publishers, Dell, DC et al, and on the positive side the introduction of Mad Magazine.

Somehow juvenile delinquency continued to exist unabated.

I followed some of this bladder at the time because of my love for comic books. Much of it was downright silly. Dr. Fredric Wertham (pictured left), a psychiatrist and long time campaigner against comic books, received kid gloves treatment from the committee. While the Senators made Wertham the hero, they portrayed Gaines as the villain. Wertham presented what he called the “Superman Complex” as a leading cause of juvenile delinquency, despite the contradiction that  its effects were not  upon the street hoods, but on “primarily the normal child”. Superman supposedly “aroused in children phantasies (sic) of sadistic joy in seeing other people punished over and over again while you yourself remain immune.” He also stated in his testimony the most “morbid” children were unaffected by comic books “because they are wrapped up in their own phantasies [sic].”***
He went on to claim that Superman epitomized the Nazis.
“Actually, Superman (with the big S on his uniform — we should, I
suppose, be thankful that it is not an S.S.) needs an endless stream of ever new submen, criminals and “foreign- looking” people not only to justify his existence but even to make it possible. It is this feature that engenders in children either one or the other of two attitudes: either they fantasy themselves as supermen, with the attendant prejudices
against the submen, or it makes them submissive and receptive to the blandishments of strong men who will solve all their social problems for them — by force.” – Fredric Wertham, M.D., Seduction of the Innocent, Rinehart & Company, 1954

Wertham supplied what he called “seductive images” placed in comic books. These were more a reflection of his imagination and own dirty mind than reality. In this sample (above) he claims it depicts explicit female anatomy. Since I
had no idea what a woman looked like in this area this did not work for me. However here is the full panel (left) that he cherry picked from.

This is similar to the technique I used to illustrate the mind’s ability to assume something that isn’t there with my book cover to, Knowing My Essay from My Elbow (1969) a collection of my essays). First of all the title is a pun off an old cliché used to imply someone was stupid. The picture was designed to then play off the original expression with the title running from an “ass” to my wife’s elbow. In reality the perceived rear end was just another elbow on a woman in a Best Buy newspaper ad. Or maybe Best Buy was employing subliminal placements of “explicit female anatomy”.

There were also claims from Wertham and these Senators concerning Batman and Robin. The psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, he of the “Superman Complex”, wrote a book called  Seduction of the Innocent in which he claimed the comic books portrayed Batman and Robin “as lovers”. It was said the comic book’s “homosexual overtones” promoted homosexuality in young boys.  They portrayed the comic book story line that Dick Grayson was the ward of wealthy Bruce Wayne as perverted and that actually Batman had an illicit relationship with The Boy Wonder. They said here was this young boy living alone in the mansion of a rich older man not his father. 
These ridiculous allegations were easier for politicians and Senators to embrace than the more  logical explanations of the comic’s creators. The publisher gave two reasons for the debut of Robin in the April 1940 issue of Detective Comics. One was it gave the young readership a character they could identify with. The other came from Bob Kane’s collaborator who said he created Robin to be a Dr. Watson to Batman, because Batman needed
someone he could talk to. The sales of Batman comics doubled after the introduction of Robin and spawned several other young superhero sidekicks, including Green Arrow and Speedy, Captain America and Bucky, and The Human Torch and Toro. Apparently to the Senators and Psychiatrist Wertham this was part of a wide plot to turn the youth of America into Homosexuals. What utter balderdash!

Comic books had no more influence on my indiscretions during childhood than comic books were the cause of Ronald Tipton’s homosexuality. In my own case, Wertham was correct when he stated, “they are wrapped up in their own phantasies [sic].” My behavior resulted from a repressive society that did not prepare children for their sexual maturation and the denigrating abused both at home and at school. The absent of information and care led to me becoming wrapped up in my own fantasies.

***In case anyone wonders about Dr. Wertham constantly spelling “Fantasies” as
“Phantasies” here is a possible explanation. Dr. Wertham was a psychiatrist and the words Fantasies and Phantasies have a slightly different psychological meaning.
Fantasies in our common layperson usage is akin to daydreaming, an imaginary but unreal world or event that anyone can create in their mind. We can fantasy about the life we wished we lived or use fantasy to look at what we think our future might be. It is a conscious endeavor.
Phantasies has a deeper, more ingrained and unconscious quality associated with it. As usual with psychiatrists and psychologists there is no one clear definition for this. For Melanie Klein (left), who did a lot of study of children, phantasy was the child’s mind state in the early stages of their being, therefore more symbolic. She believed they greatly influenced the intellect and emotion of the child early on, but then become stored in the mind and thereafter exerted themselves on all intellectual aspects of the adult. Sigmund Freud, on the other hand, did not view Phantasies as quite the mental movers that Klein did, but considered them “as imagined fulfilments of frustrated wishes.”

Anyway, Wertman was not a poor speller; he just used a word most of us wouldn’t encounter in our daily lives.

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