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When Stan Lee Protested Fredric Wertham's Anti-Comics Viewpoint

I will continue to celebrate Stan Lee's legacy in comic books (and more) with this series, The Life and Times of Stan Lee.

Throughout his life, Stan Lee was a vocal proponent of the Freedom of Speech and as it turned out, he had a very prominent opponent on that topic during the late 1940s and early 1950s in the person of Fredric Wertham, the infamous psychiatrist behind The Seduction of the Innocent. Rather than taking Wertham's attacks on comics quietly, Lee did a number of awesome protests in the pages of Marvel Comics (then called either Timely Comics or Atlas Comics) from editorials to comic book spoofs of Wertham.

RELATED: How Stan Lee Became Synonymous With The 'Marvel Method'

In case you are lucky enough to not be familiar with the work of Fredric Wertham, he was a New York City psychiatrist who worked with juvenile delinquents and soon became an expert in the field. The problem with his work is that as the years went by, he became convinced that a significant cause of juvenile delinquency was, well, comic books. You see, most juvenile delinquents read comic books and thus, said delinquency must have a connection, right? If you're above the age of eight, you likely understand how non-existent that logic is, but hey, for whatever reason, this stuff got him a lot of notice beginning in the late 1940s, when he began to get mainstream attention. An article on Wertham's anti-comic book views appeared in the well-respected Collier's magazine. Then Wertham himself wrote a scathing anti-comics article in the Saturday Review of Literature. You might not think that that would be a big deal, but here's the problem, Wertham's Saturday Review of Literature article was then reprinted and abridged in Reader's Digest! Reader's Digest is obviously still around today and it is still a popular digest magazine, but its influence pales compared to how big of a deal it was back in the mid-20th Century. So now Wertham's views were VERY public.

Over the course of late 1948 and throughout 1949, Stan Lee responded to the increasing popularity of Wertham's views about comic books in a series of editorials in every comic released by Marvel Comics (whatever the company was being called back then) at the time.

What is fascinating about these editorials is that you can flat out see Lee's exasperation as the topic that he initially is pretty dismissive of keeps getting more and more attention and thus Lee has to soften his position a bit, until he is basically saying, "Okay, there might be some bad comics out there, but WE'RE good comics!"

Things seemed to cool down a bit as the main type of comics that Wertham had turned the public on, crime comics, had fallen a bit by the wayside as the 1950s began, with horror comics and westerns becoming more popular.

Of course, things were about to heat up for the anti-comics movement and Stan Lee was ready to respond with a pair of comic book stories that go right at Wertham and Wertham's message.

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