Did comics cause juvenile delinquency 37 years ago? Yes, according to Seduction of the Innocent, a 1954 book that outraged parents and led to a major shake-up in the comic-book industry. Now you can judge for yourself when Seduction is reprinted this spring by a comics publisher. ”We’re doing the book straightforward, but some readers will definitely see it as camp,” says publisher Denis Kitchen of Wisconsin-based Kitchen Sink Press. Among the book’s concerns: the nature of the relationship between the adult Batman and his teenage ward, Robin.
Written by the late Dr. Fredric Wertham, a psychiatrist known for his work with troubled children, Seduction focused on the sexuality and violence found in 1950s comic books. Senate hearings on juvenile delinquency trounced the magazines, and publishers were forced to clean up their acts. Dark-edged heroes in gritty stories — not to mention corpses oozing slime — gave way to squeaky-clean good guys.
According to Kitchen, some illustrations in the reprint were considered so graphic at the time that they were nixed for inclusion in the original edition. ”This is the unexpurgated version,” he says. Kitchen Sink also plans to publish Seduction of the Innocent trading cards, which will allow comic-book cultists to collect and swap their favorite censored images from those golden days gone by.