The corruption of youth in the 1950s
Reading the review in the NY Times today about Frederick Wertham's 1950s crusade against violence in comic books---supposedly corrupting the youth of America---brought on a Proustian stream of memories of my youth in Marin County. I remember in particular that one of the places where I bought comic books, a drugstore in downtown Corte Madera, took Wertham's concerns to heart. One day the proprietor, the genial Bernie Kaplan, had a stack of comics with the covers torn off ready to send back to the distributor in response to the scandal. That seemed like a terrible waste to me. Kaplan was probably more concerned about the disapproval of people like my parents, who were more important customers than kids buying comic books.
On the other side of Corte Madera plaza, Leo Enright seemed less concerned about corrupting us, and he always had a dizzying supply of comics on a large rack at the back of his soda fountain/grocery store. But I never liked the Tales From the Crypt-type comics. They just seemed creepy, and I still don't like today's zombie/vampire movies and TV shows. Creepy.
No, my favorites were Combat Kelly and Kid Colt---a proto-Clint Eastwood-type character. Both comics had a very high body count. Kid Colt dispatched the bad guys with his two pistols, but Kelly used a variety of means, including machine guns and the butt of his rifle.
But I was apparently incorruptible and have still never fired a gun or ever had any interest in doing so. And I've never killed anyone---not yet, anyhow. In any event, I soon moved from reading comic books to the sports page---the SF Chronicle, of course---and the ouvre of John R. Tunis.
I then graduated to Mad Magazine, which is when the real "corruption" began, as I discovered the joys of cultural/political subversion. More importantly, I learned that everything that grownups believed was likely bullshit.
|My 12-year-old friends and I thought |
this Mad cover was real clever
Surprising to learn that a smart guy like C.Wright Mills bought into Wertham's hysteria.