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The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America

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The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America Cover

ISBN13: 9780312428235
ISBN10: 0312428235
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In the years between the end of World War II and the mid-1950s, the popular culture of today was invented in the pulpy, boldly illustrated pages of comic books. But no sooner had comics emerged than they were beaten down by mass bonfires, congressional hearings, and a McCarthyish panic over their unmonitored and uncensored content. Esteemed critic David Hajdu vividly evokes the rise, fall, and rise again of comics in this engrossing history.

David Hajdu is the author of Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn and Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña and Richard Fariña. He is the music critic for The New Republic, and he teaches at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

An Eisner Award Nominee

A New York Times Book Review Notable Book

A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year

A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the Year

A St. Louis Post-Dispatch Best Book of the Year

A Los Angeles Times Favorite Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year

In The Ten-Cent Plague, David Hajdu looks at the rise and fall of comic books, the art defined by creativity, irreverence, and suspicion of authority.

 
In the years between World War II and the emergence of television as a mass medium, American popular culture as we know it was first createdin the pulpy, boldly illustrated pages of comic books. No sooner had this new culture emerged than it was beaten down by church groups, community bluestockings, and a McCarthyish Congressonly to resurface with a crooked smile on its face in Mad magazine.

The Ten-Cent Plague shows howyears before the rock and roll music of the 1950scomics brought on a clash between children and their parents, between prewar and postwar standards. Created by outsiders from the tenements, garish, shameless, and often shocking, comics spoke to young people and provided the guardians of mainstream culture with a big target. Parents, teachers, and complicit kids burned comics in public bonfires. Cities passed laws to outlaw comics. Congress took action with televised hearings that nearly destroyed the careers of hundreds of artists and writers.  Hajdu aims to revise common notions of popular culture, the generation gap, and the divide between “high” and “low” art.

"Horror and other raffish comics, and the campaign to stamp them out, are the subject of David Hajdu's smart new book, The Ten-Cent Plague . . . Hajdu has consulted surviving artists and writers from the period, many of whom were unable to work again in the comics business after the crackdown. The result is a stylish, informed account that shows how easy it is to think fuzzily about other people's pleasures . . . Hajdu evokes the era colorfully and wittily."Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post Book World

"The Ten-Cent Plague is the third book by David Hajdu to take a subject suitable for fans' hagiography and turn it into something of much wider interest . . . this book tells an amazing story, with thrills and chills more extreme than the workings of a comic book's imagination."Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"The meticulously researched evidence of how easily America can be gulled into trashing its defining ideals in the name of Americanismas if we needed any remindersare among the highlights of Hajdu's book . . . The Ten-Cent Plague is a worthy addition to the canon of comic-book literature."Ron Powers, The New York Times Book Review

"A lively read, The Ten-Cent Plague digs deeply into the social context surrounding the 'comic-book panic' of the first half of the 20th century . . . The greatest strength of The Ten-Cent Plague is the breadth of the author's primary research, particularly his interviews with 'more than 150 comic-book artists, writers, editors, publishers, readers, and others.' The stories these men and women tell are by turns hilarious, heroic, horrific, and heartbreaking. I've read dozens of versions of the 1954 tale, but more than any other writer, Hajdu allows us to understand what it was like for the people who worked at producing these not-so-funny books . . . Hajdu's book expands our understanding of the personal consequences of 'the great comic-book scare.'"Gene Kannenberg, Jr., The Chronicle of Higher Education 

"Horror and other raffish comics, and the campaign to stamp them out, are the subject of David Hajdu's smart new book, The Ten-Cent Plague (one thin dime being the price of the average comic in those days). Hajdu has consulted surviving artists and writers from the period, many of whom were unable to work again in the comics business after the crackdown. The result is a stylish, informed account that shows how easy it is to think fuzzily about other people's pleasures . . . Hajdu evokes the era colorfully and wittily."Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post Book World

"The Ten-Cent Plague is David Hajdu's affectionate yet outraged account of this important but little-remembered segment of cultural history . . . The Ten-Cent Plague is an admirable account. Hajdu writes well and has performed the enormous service of interviewing more than 150 comic-book publishers and creators, which coupled with his archival research enabled him to produce a lively and nuanced portrait of a fascinating aspect of American culture . . . By and large free of meditation and moralizing, The Ten-Cent Plague keeps the focus on the remarkable men and women who produced the comics, the purveyors of junk science and Puritanism who hounded them, and the elected leaders who adopted egregiously unconstitutional legislation to drive the comic-book publishers out of business."Daniel Akst, The Boston Globe 

"As David Hajdu reports in his vivid and engaging book The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America, more than twenty publishers were putting out close to six hundred and fifty titles a month. Eighty to a hundred million comic books were sold every week; according to contemporary reports, the average issue was passed along to six or more readers . . . It seems plausible to say, as Hajdu does, that in the early nineteen-fifties comic books reached more people than magazines, radio, or television did. Most of those people were children."Louis Menand, The New Yorker 

"As David Hajdu's new book, The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America, shows, there was a time when comics were universally regarded as the boogeyman of literature, an epidemic-like scourge that was believed to be the major cause of juvenile delinquency, illiteracy, bad grades, mass idiocy, and what was understood to be the general moral decay of society. Comic books were not only blamed for warping the fragile young minds of children, they were all but accused of ruining their eyesight and stunting their growth. There are obvious parallels to the Red Scare of the same period, as Mr. Hajdu shows. Yet there were also different forces at work: Mr. Hajdu convincingly makes a case that comic books, long before pop music, were the first form of American culture created exclusively for children. When the

Review:

"After writing about the folk scene of the early 1960s in Positively 4th Street, Hajdu goes back a decade to examine the censorship debate over comic books, casting the controversy as a prelude to the cultural battle over rock music. Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent, the centerpiece of the movement, has been reduced in public memory to a joke — particularly the attack on Batman for its homoeroticism — but Hajdu brings a more nuanced telling of Wertham's background and shows how his arguments were preceded by others. Yet he comes down hard on the unsound research techniques and sweeping generalizations that led Wertham to conclude that nearly all comic books would inspire antisocial behavior in young readers. There are no real heroes here, only villains and victims; Hajdu turns to the writers and artists whose careers were ruined when censorship and other legal restrictions gutted the comics industry, and young kids who were coerced into participating in book burnings by overzealous parents and teachers. With such a meticulous setup, the history builds slowly but the main attraction — EC Comics publisher Bill Gaines's attempt to explain in a Senate committee hearing how an illustration of a man holding a severed head could be in 'good taste' — holds all the dramatic power it has acquired as it's been told among fans over the past half-century." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Hajdu writes well and has performed the enormous service of interviewing more than 150 comic-book publishers and creators, which coupled with his archival research enabled him to produce a lively and nuanced portrait of a fascinating aspect of American culture." Boston Globe

Review:

"[Hajdu] insightfully shows that opposition to crime and horror comics did not come exclusively from know-nothing bigots and small-town smut hounds." Dallas Morning News

Review:

"[B]oth cultural history and cautionary tale....[A] well-written, detailed look at how comic books became a phenomenon in the early 1950s and how authorities cracked down on the most popular form of entertainment in America." USA Today

Synopsis:

In the 1940s and 1950s, American popular culture was first created in the pulpy, boldly illustrated pages of comic books, only to be beaten down by a McCarthyish panic over their unmonitored and uncensored content. Esteemed critic Hajdu vividly evokes the rise, fall, and rise again of comics.

Synopsis:

In the years between the end of World War II and the mid-1950s, the popular culture of today was invented in the pulpy, boldly illustrated pages of comic books. But no sooner had comics emerged than they were beaten down by mass bonfires, congressional hearings, and a McCarthyish panic over their unmonitored and uncensored content. Esteemed critic David Hajdu vividly evokes the rise, fall, and rise again of comics in this engrossing history.

About the Author

David Hajdu is the author of Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn and Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña and Richard Fariña.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Chris Horne, March 24, 2009 (view all comments by Chris Horne)
With THE TEN-CENT PLAGUE, David Hajdu does for comic books what his previous books did so brilliantly for music. Hajdu's research is exhaustive without being exhausting to read; THE TEN-CENT PLAGUE has the readability and vivid characters of a great novel as Hajdu tells his entertaining, thought-provoking account of the censorship debate over comic books in the 1950s, and how it trickled down into other aspects of pop culture and generation-gap clashes between youths and their parents. Instead of simply rehashing what comic fans already know, Hajdu digs deep into other areas, talking in-depth to the first-hand witnesses to these events, like the early comic creators who lost their jobs once people like Fredric Wertham and Estes Kefauver denounced comics as a corruptor of America's children -- you know, before heavy metal and video games and Fill In Your Favorite Bad Influence Here came along. :-) Hajdu brings the era and its struggles to life in a page-turner brimming with insight and affection. THE TEN-CENT PLAGUE is a must-read not only for fans of comics and pop culture, but for anyone intrigued with how censorship and power struggles shape society.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780312428235
Author:
Hajdu, David
Publisher:
Picador USA
Subject:
United States - 20th Century (1945 to 2000)
Subject:
History & Criticism *
Subject:
Form - Comic Strips & Cartoons
Subject:
Popular Culture
Subject:
CGN005000
Subject:
Comics & Graphic Novels
Subject:
United States - 20th Century
Subject:
US History - 20th Century
Subject:
Nonfiction
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20090231
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
A-) <BR><BR></P><DIV><P>"Incisive and entertaining
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Includes one 8-page bandw photo section
Pages:
464
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.50 in

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Humor » Cartoons » Comics
Fiction and Poetry » Graphic Novels » Featured Titles
Fiction and Poetry » Graphic Novels » History and Criticism
Fiction and Poetry » Graphic Novels » Toon History
History and Social Science » US History » 20th Century » General
Humanities » Literary Criticism » Comics and Graphic Novels

The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America Used Trade Paper
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$7.50 In Stock
Product details 464 pages Picador USA - English 9780312428235 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "After writing about the folk scene of the early 1960s in Positively 4th Street, Hajdu goes back a decade to examine the censorship debate over comic books, casting the controversy as a prelude to the cultural battle over rock music. Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent, the centerpiece of the movement, has been reduced in public memory to a joke — particularly the attack on Batman for its homoeroticism — but Hajdu brings a more nuanced telling of Wertham's background and shows how his arguments were preceded by others. Yet he comes down hard on the unsound research techniques and sweeping generalizations that led Wertham to conclude that nearly all comic books would inspire antisocial behavior in young readers. There are no real heroes here, only villains and victims; Hajdu turns to the writers and artists whose careers were ruined when censorship and other legal restrictions gutted the comics industry, and young kids who were coerced into participating in book burnings by overzealous parents and teachers. With such a meticulous setup, the history builds slowly but the main attraction — EC Comics publisher Bill Gaines's attempt to explain in a Senate committee hearing how an illustration of a man holding a severed head could be in 'good taste' — holds all the dramatic power it has acquired as it's been told among fans over the past half-century." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Hajdu writes well and has performed the enormous service of interviewing more than 150 comic-book publishers and creators, which coupled with his archival research enabled him to produce a lively and nuanced portrait of a fascinating aspect of American culture."
"Review" by , "[Hajdu] insightfully shows that opposition to crime and horror comics did not come exclusively from know-nothing bigots and small-town smut hounds."
"Review" by , "[B]oth cultural history and cautionary tale....[A] well-written, detailed look at how comic books became a phenomenon in the early 1950s and how authorities cracked down on the most popular form of entertainment in America."
"Synopsis" by , In the 1940s and 1950s, American popular culture was first created in the pulpy, boldly illustrated pages of comic books, only to be beaten down by a McCarthyish panic over their unmonitored and uncensored content. Esteemed critic Hajdu vividly evokes the rise, fall, and rise again of comics.
"Synopsis" by ,

In the years between the end of World War II and the mid-1950s, the popular culture of today was invented in the pulpy, boldly illustrated pages of comic books. But no sooner had comics emerged than they were beaten down by mass bonfires, congressional hearings, and a McCarthyish panic over their unmonitored and uncensored content. Esteemed critic David Hajdu vividly evokes the rise, fall, and rise again of comics in this engrossing history.

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