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The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book…

The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America (edition 2008)

by David Hajdu

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6692421,383 (3.65)18
Title:The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America
Authors:David Hajdu
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2008), Hardcover, 448 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:nonfiction, 2008, pop culture

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


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» See also 18 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
Abandoned, sadly. There's clearly a fascinating story here, but it's laid out in a dense, haphazard, and tiring manner. Everything is given the same flat treatment, from the story of the first Superman comic to a warehouse owner's coat. Dull quotes sprinkled throughout for no discernible reason. ( )
  mrgan | Oct 30, 2017 |
During the 1950s, many creative institutions came under societal and governmental scrutiny: movies, books, and especially comics. [author:David Hajdu] recounts this troubled time in The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America.

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, these 10-cent illustrated pulp magazines – intended primarily for children – featured stories of superheroes, teen angst, crime, romance, and horror. Many individual issues sold in the millions of copies. To the ire of many "right-thinking" adults, these tales often contained such unsavory elements as sexual innuendo, detailed crime depictions, and excessive violence. Parent groups routinely blamed comic books for "juvenile delinquency." The hysteria reached a fever pitch with the publication of [author=Fredric Wertham]'s controversial vilification of comic books, [book:Seduction of the Innocent] (1954). The ensuing televised congressional hearings almost destroyed the industry, forcing hundreds of publishers out of business and nearly 1,000 people out of work.

Hajdu deftly chronicles these events through interviews with the era's comicdom creators as well as newspaper accounts of the various incidents. The heartfelt and insightful discussions offer a unique glance into a previously well-documented series of events. As the events unfold, Hajdu sites evidence from both sides of the comic-book debate, presenting a cautionary tale of creativity vs. control. By the end of Hajdu's account, the industry is in ruins, nearly destroyed, and therein lies the flaw in an otherwise compelling book.

Comic books as an art form obviously survived, eventually evolving into a respected medium. Hajdu makes a feeble attempt in his epilogue to explain comics' resilience by interviewing [author=Robert Crumb] as a savior of the industry. While Crumb's contribution to comic books certainly ushered in the modern era of graphic novels, his work was far from the only impetus for the industry rebirth. A more thorough examination of how comics survived would have provided an upbeat ending to an otherwise bleak story and further enhanced the fascinating narrative of The Ten-Cent Plague.

This review originally appeared in The Austin Chronicle, March 21, 2008. ( )
  rickklaw | Oct 13, 2017 |
I loved reading comic books when I was a kid (mid to late 70s), but the ones I read were actually "comic" - stuff like Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, the Beagle Boys, and Bugs Bunny. Still, I remember my mom making comments that comics were looked down upon - although she had no problem with what I read - so I knew something had happened, which is why I thought this might be interesting. This is mostly about "crime" comics, which sound pretty bad even by the standards of the people who were making them. Superhero comics are covered a bit, too, (I still have a few of those, but they weren't my favorites), "romance" comics, and MAD Magazine (I read it at the grocery store but rarely bought it - it was just a little too crass), but I just didn't find the book very interesting and ended up skimming much of the last half. ( )
  J.Green | Nov 22, 2016 |
In The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America, David Hajdu argues, "Though they were not traitors, the makers of crime, romance, and horror comics were propagandists of a sort, cultural insurgents. They expressed in their lurid panels, thereby helping to instill in their readers, a disregard for the niceties of proper society, a passion for wild ideas and fast action, a cynicism toward authority of all sorts, and a tolerance, if not an appetite, for images of prurience and violence. In short, the generation of comic-book creators whose work died with the Comics Code helped give birth to the popular culture of the postwar era" (pg. 330). Hajdu traces the moral panic from the medium's origin prior to World War II, through early objections during the war, and into the widespread condemnation that culminated in Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent and the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. His sources include the comics themselves; interviews with comics writers, artists, and publishers; articles objecting to them in newspapers, magazines, and church bulletins; and the transcripts of the Senate committees that condemned them. While others have written similar histories, notably Amy Kiste Nyberg in Seal of Approval: The History of the Comics Code, Hajdu writes an all-encompassing cultural history that examines the Great Comic-Book Scare from nearly all angles while still remaining readable to a lay audience. ( )
  DarthDeverell | Oct 30, 2016 |
Before reading this, I was completely unaware of the hysteria that surrounded comic books in the 40s and 50s. From pulpits, the Senate floor, and statehouses around the country, serious efforts were made to control what people could write, draw, and read - and often met with success.
Book burnings were a regular occurrence where schoolchildren were "encouraged" to participate.
These nannies have been with us since someone first scrawled a drawing on a cave wall.
Whether it's opposition to "vulgarity" or politically correct speech codes on campuses, we clearly need to be vigilant and push back---- hard!
The one downside to this book was that it was somewhat repetitive. I felt that points were sometimes made and then hammered on for a bit too long. ( )
  Scarchin | Apr 13, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
“The Ten-Cent Plague” is a worthy addition to the canon of comic-book literature: a super effort, if not a superduper one.
added by lquilter | editNew York Times, Ron Powers (pay site) (Mar 23, 2008)

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Hajduprimary authorall editionscalculated
Burns, CharlesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mitchell, SusanCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Comic books, not rock-and-roll, created the generation gap. They also spawned juvenile delinquency, crime, sexual deviance, and things of unspeakable depravity. Long before Elvis appeared on Ed Sullivan from the waist up, long before Jerry Lee Lewis married his cousin, long before James Dean yelled, “You’re tearing me apart,” teachers, politicians, priests, and parents were lining up across from comic-book publishers, writers, artists, and children at bonfires and Senate hearings decrying the evil that was the ten-cent plague.
David Hajdu’s The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America comprises the last book in an informal trilogy about American popular culture at mid-century, and radically revises common notions of popular culture, the generation gap, and the divide between “high” and “low” art.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374187673, Hardcover)

Amazon Significant Seven, March 2008: I may be alone here, but when I read Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, a whole strata of American artists came to life for me. Ever since then I've been waiting for a book like David Hajdu's The Ten-Cent Plague to come along and show me the contours of this world. Anyone who remembers Positively 4th Street will recognize in this new book Hajdu's peerless ability to weave first-person recollections with an acute perspective of America at a pivotal moment in its cultural timeline. The rise of comics as a mode of expression, an outlet for entertainment, and, rather tragi-comically, as a target for censorship, couldn't be more compelling in anyone else's hands. In deft narrative strokes Hajdu creates a colorful, character-driven story of our first real--and lasting--counterculture (if the burgeoning popularity of graphic novels is any indication) and shows why we embrace it still.--Anne Bartholomew

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:08 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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.-- From publisher description.… (more)

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