The papers of the infamous psychiatrist at the center of the anti-comics crusades of the 1940s and 1950s are now available to the public.
In 1987, the Library of Congress acquired the papers of Dr. Fredric Wertham, author of Seduction of the Innocent, from the estate of his wife Florence Hesketh Wertham. Now all 222 containers are open for research; previously, access was granted only those people approved by the estate.
Wertham, who died 1981 at age 86, served as head of the Court of General Sessions psychiatric clinic, which examined every convicted felon in New York City. In 1935 he testified at the trial of serial killer Albert Fish, declaring him insane. The following year Wertham was named director of Bellevue’s Mental Hygiene Clinic in New York and later became director of psychiatric services at Queens Hospital Center.
However, it was his concerns with violence and protecting children, and the 1954 publication of Seduction of the Innocent, that propelled Wertham to the national stage and forever changed the comics industry. The book paid particular attention to the gore and violence in EC Comics’ crime and horror titles, “homoerotic overtones” of some science fiction and jungle comics, and the “psychologically homosexual” nature of the Batman stories and, now quite famously, the Batman-Robin relationship.
Wertham went on to testify on the harmfulness of comics before the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, which led the comics industry to adopt the self-regulatory Comics Code Authority.
The Library’s collection includes a selection of comics Wertham deemed offensive, along with his notations. “His copy of Kid Colt, Outlaw (1967) includes a note that of the 111 pictures, 69 were scenes of violence,” Matt Raymond writes on the Library of Congress blog. “An issue of Justice League of America (1966) includes markings calling attention to the sounds of violence like ‘thudd,’ ‘whapp’ and ‘poww’.”
(via Ars Technica)
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