The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America

The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America

by David Hajdu
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Overview

The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America by David Hajdu

The story of the rise and fall of those comic books has never been fully told — until The Ten-Cent Plague. David Hajdu's remarkable new book vividly opens up the lost world of comic books, its creativity, irreverence, and suspicion of authority.

In the years between World War II and the emergence of television as a mass medium, American popular culture as we know it was first created—in the pulpy, boldly illustrated pages of comic books. No sooner had this new culture emerged than it was beaten down by church groups, community bluestockings, and a McCarthyish Congress—only to resurface with a crooked smile on its face in Mad magazine.

When we picture the 1950s, we hear the sound of early rock and roll. The Ten-Cent Plague shows how — years before music — comics brought on a clash between children and their parents, between prewar and postwar standards. Created by outsiders from the tenements, garish, shameless, and often shocking, comics spoke to young people and provided the guardians of mainstream culture with a big target. Parents, teachers, and complicit kids burned comics in public bonfires. Cities passed laws to outlaw comics. Congress took action with televised hearings that nearly destroyed the careers of hundreds of artists and writers.

The Ten-Cent Plague radically revises common notions of popular culture, the generation gap, and the divide between "high" and "low" art. As he did with the lives of Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington (in Lush Life) and Bob Dylan and his circle (in Positively 4th Street), Hajdu brings a place, a time, and a milieu unforgettably back to life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312428235
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 02/03/2009
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 581,466
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

David Hajdu is the author of Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn and Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña and Richard Fariña.

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The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
More like the ten dollar plague
Guest More than 1 year ago
David Hajdu's book 'The Ten-Cent Plague' is an instant classic of research into the world of comics and a classic study of the social hysterias that seem to erupt occasionally in America and elsewhere. Hajdu explores the outcry against EC Comics and their cartoon brethren in the late forties and in the fifties. A strange wedding of religious conservatives and 'a few' mental health professionals, the crusade against comics is a forgotten piece of American social history. With scholarship and perception, Hajdu delineates the ambivalent relationship America already had with the comic form in the early 20th century and goes on to chart the rise and fall of the madness that was the crusade against comic books. In this time, comics were considered to be major sources of moral and psychological corruption, leading the nation's youth to become like characters in Irv Shulman's 'Amboy Dukes' or worse! So loud were the mouths against comics in America, the crusade actually spread to Canada and even 'of all places' Great Britain. Lives and careers were ruined and a whole industry was scared right down to its toenails. Ever wonder why DC Comics stuff was so tame and juvenile in the 1950s? The answer is that they, like everyone else in the industry, were scared. A mental health professional came forth with the idea that comics were corrupting the nation's youth and an unholy alliance between reactionary clergy and psychiatry was born'never mind that the psychiatrist in question was rarely supported by his professional peers'. This idea of the corruption of the youth seems to have resonated repeatedly in 20th century America. Remember in the late 1980s that religious conservatives made allegations that some parents were initiating their children into sexually abusive Satanic cults? Never mind the whole idea of 'oppressed memories' is objectively questionable and never mind that some psychiatrists and psychologists strongly questioned the idea. Nevertheless, some mental health professionals joined with the religious conservatives and the burgeoning anti-cult movement to start a 'Satanic' panic. Earlier in the eighties, there had also been a scare about supposed Satanic messages hidden in the grooves of vinyl records. Most mental health professionals dismissed it, but a few quacks went along with the idea. Once again, we see the theme of the Seduction of the Innocent. I tell you, real Satanists'usually ironic and intelligent people for the most part' and real pedophiles must have been laughing their guts out. I wonder what the great Hawthorne would have thought had he lived to see the 'Crusade against Comics'or the Satanic parents scare or the 'hidden Satanic messages' nonsense. He would undoubedly have perceived that it had deep roots in America's Puritan history and no doubt would have got a few novels/romances out of such twaddle. David Hajdu's book is a great study of social madness. He charts the rise and fall of this mind-boggling social phenomenon and scrupulously notes every single life ruined by it all. This is a sad and long overdue book on this topic. The scholarship in this book is, to my eye, beyond reproach. Hajdu keeps solid track of the facts while never losing sight of the people acting out their fates on one side of the issue or the other. This book is of interest to all comic fans - a must, in fact. And the book should be of interest to sociologists and mental health professionals. Mental health professionals might indeed wonder why so many of their kind-no matter how nominal-went along with so many 'seduction of our youth' panics. One doesn't need to be a Laingian to suggest that the perceived integrative function of psychology/psychiatry has an inherently conservative nature that makes for a however superficially surprising natural alliance with religious conservatives. Notice how Hajdu details implicitly the anti-democratic features of the religious conservative movement - thou shalt not critic
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It kinda seems good im 50/50
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am seriously disappointed in this history of comic books as a part of popular culture. It is very boring and not worth reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Golden Age of Comics is generally thought to have ended in the late 1940s. The Silver Age of Comics started with 1956 with the reintroduction of the Flash in Showcase #4 (DC Comics). So what happened in between? The answer lies in David Hajdu's Ten Cent Plague, a book that sheds light on an oft-forgotten piece of American history.Hajdu, using interviews of many prominent figures from the era, traces comics through the 1940s and early 1950s, when public outcry over the content of the books at the local newsstand led to censorship, mass burnings and even Senate hearings. Laws were enacted banning the sale of comics in cities across the United States and school children were encouraged to collect comics to throw on a bonfire at their local school. This was McCarthyism before McCarthy (though, interestingly enough, the final Senate hearing occured on the same day as the first hearing led by McCarthy). Through it all, Hajdu outlines the attitudes and struggles by many in the comics industry to keep their livelihoods afloat.This is a book that is a must for any comics fan. Covering the era between the Golden Age and Silver Age, Hajdu fills in the gaps in current comics history. His accounts of the burnings and outrage are chilling. That a country which was founded (in part) on freedom of speech and the press could allow book burnings is, to put it mildly, frightening. This books serves as both a history and a cautionary tale for anyone afraid of public hysteria gone too far.
TEST NOOKUSER More than 1 year ago
A great way to learn the roots of the comic book industry. A wonderful and entertaining read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fred Ermanovics More than 1 year ago
Don't forget Tipper Gore in the list - In the eyes of many comic fans, Wertham was Senator Joseph McCarthy, your high school guidance counselor, and your churchgoing parents all rolled into one. Remember the PMRC? Duh!
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