after my applauding Bart Beaty's intelligent assessment of Frederick Wertham yesterday, he now weighs in himself on Hajdu's The Ten-Cent Plague (The great comic book scare and how it changed America):
For me, the most surprising thing about The Ten-Cent Plague was that it was missing the entire second day of testimony in the April 1954 Senate hearings. Given that the entire book builds to these hearings as the culmination of the drama, this seemed an extremely curious absence. I initially thought, "Well, he wanted to end with Gaines to put all the emphasis on the Gaines/Wertham relationship."This particular showdown has become one of the great myths of the comic book (I'm using myth correctly to mean 'sacred story' rather than 'falsehood,' the usual debased meaning given to the word these days). I saw the same thing in Eisner/Miller (Dark Horse 2005)
(Frank) MILLER: Didn't they also just happen to write the Code sentence by sentence to shut down Bill Gaines?At this point Miller should have delved into the matter of the 'Carlino proposal', but he wanted to retell those old stories around the fireside. I'm sure many young readers hoping to learn something from all this pointless blather neglected to work out the dates and note that Miller was born three years after the events he's arguing about so vehemently. If it was me, I'd have tried to learn something from the older man instead of forcing my dumbassed opinion on him.
(Will) EISNER: No.
MILLER: But they even prohibited the names of his books! Nothing with "crime" or "horror" in the title.
EISNER: I don't know. I wasn't present at the writing of this thing.
MILLER: It seems to me it was a pretty shitty job, putting the best publisher out of business.
EISNER: Well, I don't know if he was the best publisher at the time. You call him the best publisher? I don't know if historians will agree with you.
MILLER: He had the best line out there at the time.
EISNER: I don't know why you'd call him the best publisher. Is that because he was publishing some of the best stuff?
MILLER: Because EC represented as high a quality standard as I've seen in commercial comics.
EISNER: Well, he had good people.
MILLER: Well, what else makes a good publisher?
EISNER: All right, I don't know.
MILLER: He published really good work.
EISNER: Oh, no, no. I just challenged why you selected him as the best publisher. Also, I don't know where you get your evidence for--
MILLER: I read the Code.
EISNER: But I don't think they sat down and designed it to put him out of business.
MILLER: It listed the titles of his books and said, "You can't use these titles, you can't use these genres!" Everything he did is listed there as being forbidden, and that's about all that's forbidden.
EISNER: They listed his books in the Code?
MILLER: They don't say, "No Crime SuspenseStories." They say, "There will be no comics with the word 'crime' in their title, or 'terror,' or 'horror.' There will be no living dead. There will be no stories that disrespect authority." It's pretty much a laundry list -- that is, without outright saying, "There will be no EC Comics," that's pretty much what it says.
EISNER: To me that's different. It's Charlie Biro (editor at Lev Gleason Pubs) who was using the word "crime," so it was aimed at him too, wasn't it? I challenge why you conclude that it was designed to put EC out of business; I'm not saying I know differently, I'm just challenging your assumption. I don't know whether it's true or ot. I don't think it was written to put Gaines out of business.
MILLER: That's my understanding at least.
EISNER: I think it's written to defend publishers against what they expected would be an avalanche of litigation that would put the comic book business out of business. The Carlino proposal, legislation in New York that I was debating against, was a law that governor Dewey vetoed; it would have forbidden the sale of comic books on newsstands.
Like Miller, Hajdu also makes up his own story about what was what in the comic book business of the early 1950s (as noted again by Beaty):
Indeed, Hajdu marginalizes Dell in the most curious fashion. On page 190, for example, he writes that Stan Lee had "helped make Timely the most successful publisher in comics by 1952, with sales half again as great as that of its closest competitor, Dell, and twice that of National/DC." This is worth unpacking. First, Timely ceased publishing comics in 1951 and was replaced by Atlas (which later became Marvel). Second, while Timely's sales declined after the public lost interest in the initial wave of superhero comics during World War 2 they were by no means in bad shape. Monroe Froehlich told the Senate committee that the 35 titles that they published in 1954 averaged a total cumulative sale of 10 million copies (285,000 copies per title). Helen Meyer of Dell, on the other hand, testified a few hours later that they sold 25 million copies per month, or 32% of the total industry. So it is difficult to know what Hajdu means when he claims that Timely was the most successful publisher in comics at that point in history.God save us from some of these half-arsed historians (one has to wonder about Eisner's faith in them in his fourth line above). At least Beaty wouldn't have missed asking about the Carlino proposal.