“A vivid and engaging book.” Louis Menand, The New Yorker
“David Hajdu, who perfectly detailed the Dylan-era Greenwhich Village scene in Positively 4th Street, does the same for the birth and near death (McCarthyism!) of comic books in The Ten-Cent Plague.” GQ
“Who knew? The right was focused on the Red Menace and the left on the Red Scare. But, if you want to understand what was really going on in the mad, mad, mad world of the 1950's you should read David Hajdu's hilarious and harrowing account of The Great Comic Book Scare. Hajdu's tale is lurid, absurd, existential, weird, and scary, and contains real-life superheros and supervillains, and there is nothing funny about it.” Victor Navasky, author of Naming Names
“THE TEN-CENT PLAGUE is about the best account yet of comics in America, an instant classic of cultural history.” Geoffrey O'Brien, author of Sonata for Jukebox
“Every once in a while, moral panic, innuendo, and fear bubble up from the depths of our culture to create waves of destructive indignation and accusation. David Hajdu's fascinating new book tracks one of the stranger and most significant of these episodes, now forgotten, with exactness, clarity, and serious wit, which is the best kind. He illuminates the lives of his protagonists from pompous, on-the-make censors to cracked comic book geniuses with his own graphic powers, as well as his intense intellectual curiosity. The book is a rarity, vividly depicting a noirish 1950's America but without a trace of irony or nostalgia.” Sean Wilentz, Professor of History, Princeton University
“Marvelous . . . a staggeringly well-reported account of the men and women who created the comic book, and the backlash of the 1950s that nearly destroyed it....Hajdu's important book dramatizes an early, long-forgotten skirmish in the culture wars that, half a century later, continues to roil.” Jennifer Reese, Entertainment Weekly (Grade: A-)
“Incisive and entertaining . . . This book tells an amazing story, with thrills and chills more extreme than the workings of a comic book's imagination.” Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“A well-written, detailed book . . . Hajdu's research is impressive.” Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today
“Crammed with interviews and original research, Hajdu's book is a sprawling cultural history of comic books.” Matthew Price, Newsday
“To those who think rock 'n' roll created the postwar generation gap, David Hajdu says: Think again. Every page of The Ten-Cent Plague evinces [Hajdu's] zest for the 'aesthetic lawlessness' of comic books and his sympathetic respect for the people who made them. Comic books have grown up, but Hajdu's affectionate portrait of their rowdy adolescence will make readers hope they never lose their impudent edge.” Wendy Smith, Chicago Tribune
“Sharp . . . lively . . . entertaining and erudite . . . David Hajdu offers captivating insights into America's early bluestocking-versus-blue-collar culture wars, and the later tensions between wary parents and the first generation of kids with buying power to mold mass entertainment.” R. C. Baker, The Village Voice
“Hajdu doggedly documents a long national saga of comic creators testing the limits of content while facing down an ever-changing bonfire brigade. That brigade was made up, at varying times, of politicians, lawmen, preachers, medical minds, and academics. Sometimes, their regulatory bids recalled the Hays Code; at others, it was a bottled-up version of McCarthyism. Most of all, the hysteria over comics foreshadowed the looming rock 'n' roll era.” Geoff Boucher, Los Angeles Times
“A compelling story of the pride, prejudice, and paranoia that marred the reception of mass entertainment in the first half of the century.” Michael Saler, The Times Literary Supplement (London)"
The meticulously researched evidence of how easily America can be gulled into trashing its defining ideals in the name of Americanismas if we needed any remindersare among the highlights of Hajdu's book…The Ten-Cent Plague is a worthy addition to the canon of comic-book literature: a super effort, if not a superduper one.
The New York Times Book Review
Horror and other raffish comics, and the campaign to stamp them out, are the subject of David Hajdu's smart new book, The Ten-Cent Plague (one thin dime being the price of the average comic in those days). Hajdu has consulted surviving artists and writers from the period, many of whom were unable to work again in the comics business after the crackdown. The result is a stylish, informed account that shows how easy it is to think fuzzily about other people's pleasures…Hajdu evokes the era colorfully and wittily.
The Washington Post
The Ten-Cent Plague is the third book by David Hajdu to take a subject suitable for fans' hagiography and turn it into something of much wider interest…this book tells an amazing story, with thrills and chills more extreme than the workings of a comic book's imagination.
The New York Times
This meticulous exploration into comics and the censorship campaigns of the late 1940s and 1950s proves interesting and accessible to even neophytes of comics. Hajdu reveals a complicated and controversial history interlacing public opinion and "research" on the effects of comics by cultural critics such as Sterling North and Frederic Wertham with interviews of artists, publishers and consumers of comics at the time. Stefan Rudnicki's deep gravely voice with its smooth release and pace compliments the sometimes exhaustive Hajdu. However, Rudnicki's quoting voice can be both tiresome and questionable as he instills accents that are not necessarily suggestive from the text, and often they are indistinguishable from other similarly accented voices. Surprisingly, though the topic is highly visual in nature, listeners won't necessarily feel they are missing out on the illustrations and photos in the book. Simultaneous release with the FSG hardcover (Reviews, Dec. 10). (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Tarnish still lingers on the graphic narrative from anticomics crusades peaking in the 1950s. Remembering the past will hopefully prevent a replay, and this detailed history by Hajdu (Positively Fourth Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña, and Richard Fariña) fills the bill admirably as a prompt. Several trends powered the crusades: a bright and talented but ignored out-class working in comics, a rising youth culture before television and rock music, a national Cold War witch-hunt mentality, and the prewar intelligentsia's desire to retain their cultural hegemony over all ages and ethnicities. Comics took serious critical heat as early as 1906, but it was the escalation of crime and horror comics in the 1940s and 1950s that became linked to "juvenile delinquency" (especially by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham) and led to legislation, book burnings, the Comics Code Authority, and the evisceration of the industry, with hundreds of people put out of work. Hajdu documents this painful, fascinating story and includes over 80 pages of notes and sources. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries. See also Pulp Demons: International Dimensions of the Postwar Anti-Comics Campaign, edited by John Lent, for reverberations around the world, and Bart Beaty's Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture. [See Prepub Alert, LJ11/15/07.]