These are the 1954 Senate Subcommittee Hearings into Juvenile Delinquency, with the special focus on Comic Books.
So what is this and why is it important?
These were televised hearings, consisting of a number of US Senators calling up and questioning various people in the comic book industry. Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Dell, EC Comics and others all had representatives here. Some of them were thoroughly grilled and William Gaines in particular had a bad showing and was forced out traditional comic book industry as a result. There were also Politicians from Canada, New York and New Jersey, various doctors and educators, Comic Strip artists and Fredric Wertham himself testified. Some National Distributors, regional Wholesalers and Newsstand venders also appeared to be questioned on how comic books were distributed.
You will notice that a few child experts are called up to testify. The anti-comic ones are allowed to have their say and are not scrutinized. The few pro-comics experts called up were ones that are easily discredited as being "paid apologists." There were child experts that did not think comics had an effect on juvenile delinquency, but they were not invited to testify.
These hearings resulted in the formation of Comics Magazines Association of America, Inc. and the CCA Stamp. This organization toned down comic books and made them all very kid friendly for several decades. As a result, many people today see comic books as kids stuff despite the industry expanding to mature readers content.
The Hearings were only supposed to be for two days, but a third day came about because of the issue of tie in sales. Newsstand dealers insisted that it was a regular occurrence and it was why the crime and horror comics were being sold. They said they wouldn't be selling them, but the distribution companies wouldn't give them the better selling magazines like TV Guide unless they took and sold the crime and horror comics. This was called tie tn sales. Distributors from top to bottom all insisted there was no such thing as tie in sales and the comics can be returned. The two sides went back and forth on this issue. While examining this issue they continue on intimidating the comic book publishers by bringing in politicians that either have or tried to ban crime and horror comics and they treat them with the highest amount of respect possible. It's no surprise that the hearings worked in getting the comic book industry to adopt a self censoring code.
I got these transcripts in June of 1999. It's taken me 5 years to get this online. I owe a special thank you to Jeff Trexler for photocopying them and mailing to me for free. He did this so I could put them online with my webpage, I told him I would and well, better late then never!
This is a 300+ page document and I used an OCR program to get it on my computer. Since then I've gone through it four times with a fine tooth comb to try and weed out all the mistakes the OCR program made. That said, there are many mistakes in here - made by the original 1954 transcriber. Some of it is just different ways of spelling stuff. Sometimes Fantasy is spelled Phantasy. Marijuana is often spelled with an H in the middle. Some of them are actual spelling mistakes, I kept them in there to keep the documents as authentic as possible. Besides, it was an eye opening experience for me to see 1950's US Government Transcribers were bad at spelling too. That said, it's not impossible the mistake is mine, I just ask that you don't automatically assume so.
Below are links I made to all the testimony, going in order as they appeared. The table of contents lists the people testifying alphabetically by their name. Many times during these televised hearings they showed or described comic book covers or specific story panels, I managed to find the pictures in question in some of these instances and put them up within the testimony.
Wednesday April 21st, 1954.
The Front Page of the report, with listing of the committee members and the table of contents.
Mr. Richard Cledenen - Executive Director, US Senate Subcommittee To Investigate Juvenile Delinquency.
Intro to the Hearings, Descriptions of Crime and Horror Comic Book stories. Articles & columns that are both pro
and against comic books, Comic Book Ratings, Are you a Red Dupe? - Funny one page comic book commentary by
William Gaines that the Senators didn't think was very funny.
Dr. Harris Peck - Director of the Bureau of Mental Health Services, Children's Court, New York, N. Y.
A psychiatrist that deals with Juvenile Delinquents that is "in the middle of the road."
Henry Edward Schultz - General Counsel, Association of Comic Magazine Publishers, Inc., New York, N. Y.
Explains why the first Comic Book Code didn't stick. He gives them the 1948 Comic Book Code from the A.C.M.P.
Dr. Fredric Wertham - Author of Seduction of the Innocent.
He talks about the horrible comic books. Superman, Tarzan, Crime and Horror books, etc..
Included is a link to the famous grotesque zombie baseball page.
Mr. William Gaines - Publisher of EC Comics.
Is this cover in good taste? What about this one? Watch Gaines get grilled over his comics.
Testimony of Walt Kelly, Milton Caniff and Joseph Musial - The National Cartoonist Society.
Walt Kelly was a Disney Animator who create Pogo for comic books, it would soon become a very popular
newspaper strip. He was also president of the National Cartoonist Society, a group of popular comic strip creators.
Milton Caniff was a very influential artist. Many, if not most artists of the day wanted to be just like him. He first did
Terry and the Pirates, then Steve Canyon.
Joseph Musial worked for both King Features Syndicate and the National Cartoonist Society.
They also bash EC artist Johnny Craig quite badly. He would leave comics but have huge success in advertising.
Despite having a lot of fans, Johnny was embarrassed by his horror work and was very reluctant to return to it.
Thursday April 22nd, 1954.
Gunner Dybwad - Executive Director of the Child Study Association of America.
Senator Kefauver tears this poor guy to shreds because some people working for this organization are also consultants for DC and Fawcett.
Dybwad shows us the DC Comics internal Comic Code they used during this period.
Senators reveal, without going into too much detail, that there is a relationship between DC Owners and owners of a
"bad" comic book publisher.
Mr. William Friedman - Small comic book publisher with some horror books.
Short and sweet testimony.
Dr. Laura Bender - Psychiatrist working for DC Comics
She defends her own reputation and DC Comics.
Mr. Monroe Froehlich Jr. - Business Manager of Magazine Management Co. (Marvel Comics).
This starts with some letters from a couple of organizations that did not testify but were asked for their opinions.
He also gets the Gaines treatment with Marvel horror covers.
Mr. William Richter - News Dealers Association of Greater New York.
He hates Horror/Crime Comics, Bill Gaines and the comic Panic in particular. He calls them trash and wants a law to
Mr. Alex Segal - President, Stravon Publications.
He uses the hearings to advertise his "good" books at first. Then the senators bring up his mail order business.
He advertises in comic books and somehow kids that bought stuff from him got mail advertising sex books of a sort.
Samuel Roth - Publisher.
Very short. This guy is already in prison for publishing and mailing obscene stuff.
He invokes the 5th Amendment and asks for immunity.
Testimony of Mrs. Helen Meyer and Mr. Matthew Murphy - Vice President and Editor of Dell Publications.
Not all comics are bad! Watch Dell create a new slogan for themselves. Dell Comics are Good Comics.
They also give some absolutely stunning numbers on how well their comics sell and bash Wertham in the process.
Friday June 4th, 1954.
Hon. James A. Fitzpatrick, Chairman, New York State Joint Legislative Committee To Study The Publication Of Comics.
An introduction is given at first by the chairman who talks about the purposes of the hearings.
He gives a very negative almost panel by panel review of Panic #1. I've included the pictures too!
Mr. Benjamin Freedman - Chairman of the Board, Newsdealers Association of Greater New York and America.
He says there ARE tie in sales. He also gives some ideas on how to censor comic books.
Mr. Harold Chamberlain - Circulation Director of Independent News Co.
Independent News is owned the same people that own DC Comics. There is much talk about the relationship
between DC Comics, American Comics Group, Prize Comics and more.
You will see how certain crime and horror titles got cancelled via the distributor due to these hearings.
They ask about the editorial board but don't get very far.
They also talk about comics being distributed internationally and any censorship involved.
And there are NO tie in sales.
Mr. Charles Appel - Owner, Angus Drug Store.
Guess what? There ARE tie in sales.
Mr. George B. Davis - President Kable News Co.
He distributes a number of horror comic books and some get displayed for him to explain.
Oh, and there are NO tie in sales.
Hon. E. D. Fulton - Member of the House of Commons in Canada.
He passed a law banning Crime Comics in Canada, but it didn't work. This is his story.
You'll notice that Fulton's contribution to the hearings is labeled as a Statement and not a Testimony.
This group of politicians really respect Fulton.
Mr. Samuel Black - Vice President Atlantic Coast Independent Distributors Association.
He doesn't like the Crime and Horror Comics, but he also doesn't want a law banning them.
Mr. William A. Eichhorn - Vice President of American News Co.
Want to see a man blatantly lie to the United State Senate?
American News is one of, if not the biggest National Distributor of comic books at this time.
Mr. J. Jerome Kaplon - Chairman Juvenile Delinquency Committee, Union County Bar Association.
This man is trying to ban Crime and Horror Comics in New Jersey. He really hates anything "indecent."
At the end is a slew of newspaper articles by Irving M. Kravsow, they show you how the media responded to Crime
and Horror Comic books. William Gaines is interviewed quite a bit for them. The articles also cover the hearings.
Senator Kefauver would write the Senate Interim Report in 1955 that summarizes the hearings and offers some conclusions. By then the C.C.M.A. was already established and toned down comics were coming out with the CCA stamp on them.