Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Book Review: The Ten Cent Plague

If you were a fan of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay the Pulitzer prize winning novel by Michael Chabon then you will want to pick up David Hajdu's The Ten Cent Plague.

In this book Hajdu explores the years leading up to the establishment of the comic book code authority which basically neutered the comic book industry. Before the establishment of the code comics sold close to 1 millon copies per month for the best sellers and over 400,000 for the top titles. Nowadays the best selling comic book barely tops 100,000 copies.

Back in the 1950's comics were available in a wide variety of genres. Not only could you find your super hero books but you'd see books on crime, horror, romance and sci-fi.

However, during the 1950's the public was concerned about the growing rates of juvenile delinquency. Commissions were formed to look into this problem and in my opinion and easy scape goat was found in the comic book industry.

As a result of these hearings, the establishment of the comic book code and a book called Seduction of the Innocent by Dr. Frederic Wertham the diversity in the comic book industry was devastated. Gone were the horror, crime and romance comics. Only the super hero ones were left and they were in a watered down form. See the 60's Batman TV show to get an idea of the tone of comic books at the time.

The book does a great job of relating to you the story of the nascent origins of the comic book up to the great comic book hysteria and I'd rate it a buy for any comic book fan. If you are not a fan of comics I'd give it a borrow rating.

1 comment:

Ryan S. said...

I really enjoyed this book, not just for the relevancy to comic culture and a brief explanation of why things are the way they are in the medium, but the examination of how politicians, those fearing something they couldn't be bothered to understand, and a culture of paranoia created hysteria and hamstrung a medium for decades. There's certainly a moral fable to the story that Hajdu manages to string together with a decent amount of subtlety.