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Thu, Oct. 29th, 2009, 12:26 am
Comment on-- The 10-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare And How It Changed America


In other news, I read a book titled The Ten-Cent Plague. It's essentially about the rise of the American comic medium (starting with newspaper comics, naturally) and ends with the great purge in the fifties. That's right, the purge. It's one of the most depressing works of non-fiction I've read, and I read a lot of those. It may be particularly soul-crushing because the artists, industry, and what it could have developed into is close to me, my interest and my heart.

American comics had several genres before It happened. There was the crime stories, which to my understanding, sounded a lot like a more graphic Law And Order without the court scenes and a little shallower. There was the superheroes, yeah, but they weren't really that popular. There was the horror/suspense genre, which was basically the crime stories with occasional supernatural stuff. Surprisingly, romance was another big seller. As each year went by, another genre developed, right up until the city, state, and congressional laws buried any sort of freedom in the medium. It was a battle in the culture war that the good guys lost, and our culture suffered for it.

If the comics medium remained unmolested, it would be a different America, and I think a different world. Every kid read these things, the numbers that Hajdu (the author) provides are shocking. The audience for every single title produced -- and there was a lot of those, too! -- was measurable in the millions, plus all the passing-around each book got, just like modern trade paperback graphic novels. (I think my stack of The Invisibles was read by, like, eight people.) As that audience aged, they would keep reading, and join the industry, which was already a noticed phenomenon in the fifties: they read comics when they were young in the forties or late thirties. It was growing. More genres, more complexity, more variety, and different tastes.

What would have happened is that America would have her own manga, that looks a lot like what the Japanese developed, and everyone would read it. It wouldn't be for kids, because it grew with them, and the battery of laws and censorship would stop it from being locked in this weird fifties oppressive morality and codes and... you see the problem, right?

We would be living the world that Scott McCloud and friends dream of, what people like me fight for.

God damn it.

Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 11:29 pm (UTC)

K-Krinn! *0_0*

Part of the problem in discussing the consequences of the Great Comic Scare of the fifties is, well, the consequences of the Great Comic Scare of the fifties: people look at what comics were whittled into, by both laws and the self-imposed censoring of the Comic Code Authority, and they don't see much loss or potential for the medium. By lopping off all the biting edges of comics, and by deliberately stigmatizing them, they became kid's stuff, which is what independent and big-name artists have been fighting ever sense. When I think about how I could have an instant loyal audience of about fifty million Americans (and that's just Canadians and U.S. folks) our of some 300 million initially, as well as the development of technologies to better improve distribution... It doesn't compare to what web-comics can do. I see flashes of stolen lives and great works of fiction that were just smothered, their authors instead toiling in obscurity, working crappy ends-meet jobs, or as graphic artists for some firm that sees them as disposable, or going into the walking zombie husk of the comic industry in the seventies and eighties. All the people that wanted to work in comics, including all the tons of people now, would be working in comics, well, most of us, anyway.

And WHAT we would write and draw, wow! Serials about sports, science fiction, graphic novel epics, and genres I can't even imagine would have been born! And think about what would happen in the eighties, when the American audience (which would be nearly everyone, including people that wouldn't read much of anything in our world) would start looking at what the Japanese have been doing openly, and the same would be true there. Think of all the ideas that slipped between our cosmic fingers like crushed oyster shells. Instead we are left with silence, empty moments in which we just dream like a sparrow with a crushed wing looking at the fair-weather cloud-splashed sky.

The most terrible things make me talkative. You know what I miss about this family-computer dial-up compete-with-everyone configuration? I miss spending time looking at what other people are doing artistically. I forgot how inspiring it all is. I miss cruising around FA and random professional's online galleries. Seeing the works of others jazzes me up.