No More “Dirty Rotten Coppers” in Comics or american comic book chronicles, 1960-64 Review

My research into comics history has lately been engrossed in the 40’s and 50’s to see what really spurred the industry to create the Comics Code of 1955, with all of it’s prohibitions against violence and gore in comics.  Those who study comics have all heard the name of Fredic Wertham and his contributions to the anticomics movement.  Even though he’s not one-handedly responsible for the code, and in fact stated that a code was NOT enough, he did play a key role in the adoption of the code by most publishers.

But this post is intended to step back from that particular era, and look at the publication of a new series of books that deal with the history of comics.  The series is entitled American Comic Book Chronicles.  The two books that have thus far been published are The 1960s: 1960-1964 and The 1980s: 1980-1989.  This post will look specifically at the 1960-1964 book, or the first decade after the establishment of the Comics Code.

BookFirst, let’s discuss the overall appearance of the book, which, quite frankly, is about all I’ve had time to look at thus far.  I think the cover could be quite deceiving for many.  It is basically 8 1/2 x 11 and looks like it could be extremely text heavy.  We all know that when it comes to books, the first two things that grab our attention are 1) The title and 2) the cover.  The book is hardbound and the cover is glossy, two things that gives the reader hope that the inside will be more than just another text based history with a few black and white images in the middle (like so many books on the history of comics are).

So, as the say, the proof is in the pudding, and opening this book canphoto leave you with your mouth dropped open and your eyes glued to the page–any page. There is not one single page in this book that does not have full blow color images of either covers, panel/s, art work, or ads. The pages are glossy and therefore portray the images better than the original comics could.  I was thrilled to see original pieces of art in the book, as seen here from page 81.  It is rare that we get to see such stunning pieces of the process, and the book appears to spare no expense in recreating these full page examples.

Another feature that is both eye catching and useful is a timeline positioned at the beginning of each chapter, or year.  This timeline uses “a comic book’s release date to position it appropriately among other significant historical, cultural and political events of that year” (4).  Below is an example of a timeline, found on page 10.

photo (1)

These timelines help the reader understand some of the most culturally significant comics that came out that year and how they relate to national and world events occurring at the time.

photo (2)What you won’t find in these pages are images of blood, gore, and extreme violence.  That’s not to say there are NO hints of violence as seen in this image from page 101.  It is obvious that political correctness had not entered into the picture, but there is certainly a high degree of promised violence in this image.  However, as per code, that violence would have been directed at “strange creatures” such as “aliens, invisible Indians, or dinosaurs”, not at living, breathing humans (100).  Whether or not Wertham had any faith in the Comics Code (and he did not, he basically hated all comics, including the funny animal ones), it is apparent just from flipping through this history that it was having a major impact on the industry.

On a final note, the writing, thus far, has been an enjoyable read. It is truly amazing how much one learns not only about comics, but about what was going on in America at the time. I have always enjoyed history, and history combined with comics . . . well, it just doesn’t get any better than that, does it.

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