Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Comic Book World in 1955

Do you own a copy of Dr. Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent? It's been in my collection for about twenty years and I'm hoping to find time to read it one of these decades. Moments that I have for non-periodical reading is scarce! (You'll think it comical but just yesterday evening I polished off a book that I began reading in 2003. Fabulous Small Jews has elevated Joseph Epstein to the rarefied distinction of Superb Short Story Writer already occupied in my mind by Damon Runyon and Harlan Ellison. (If you click on the link above you can read a few sample Epstein pages.) )

Well, today I have some good news for you and for me. Blogger extraordinaire Mark Evanier has unearthed a 25-minute video from 1955 that covers the same territory as Seduction of the Innocent. (I invite you to read Mark like I do at .) His archival link does not point directly to this article (a byproduct of his posting more than one article every single day) so rather than send you there I will reprint his excellent introduction to the video. Mark wrote the following:

Here's an interesting curio — a 1955 TV exposé on the evils of comic books. The host is Paul Coates, who was an L.A. Times reporter who doubled as a TV host, usually covering pretty salacious or controversial topics. One might suggest his broadcasts exploited these subjects, putting some pretty racy stuff on the airwaves under the cover of condemning it. He was an occasional partner with L.A. TV newsman George Putnam, who did a lot of films and telecasts with a tone of outraged public scolding of "sins" that are now, for good or ill, commonplace.

The most interesting part of this 25-minute show is the conversation with Senator Estes Kefauver, who had headed up the inquiry into comic books in Washington the year before...and according to some, expected to ride that crusade right into the White House. You can judge for yourself how sincere or accurate he was...and probably guess what I think.

Coates interviews kids who read comics, as well as one comic book artist who apparently regrets the work he did. He's Ellis Eringer and his main credits were on the kinds of comics not addressed in this program. He was primarily an inker for Disney and Disney-type comics in the sixties, mainly for Western Publishing but occasionally directly for Disney Studios where comic book material was often produced for overseas publishers. He also occasionally inked Disney newspaper strips, particularly Donald Duck. He did do some romance and horror comics early in his career and the romance work he's talking about was probably when he drew a few stories for Harvey's love comics (like Hi-School Romances) between 1949 and 1951. Those were pretty tame books that did not quite match his lurid descriptions.

The other interesting thing about the show is who the director was: Irvin Kershner, then a staff TV director at KTTV...and the Associate Producer was Andrew Fenady. Just three years after this, Roger Corman would hire Fenady and Kershner to make Stakeout on Dope Street, a pretty lurid (for its day) and cheap movie about drug trafficking. Fenady and Kershner co-wrote the script, Kershner directed and Fenady produced and played a role. It was a much more respectable job than making shows like this one...

And here is the video.


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