The revelatory untold story of the battle over comic books
In the comic book universe, one evildoer hovers above all others. No, not Lex Luthor or the Joker, but the real-life German immigrant psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, a midcentury scold who almost single-handedly altered the history of this popular art form. In the eyes of many comic fans, Wertham was Senator Joseph McCarthy, your high school guidance counselor, and your churchgoing parents all rolled into one. And he managed to shut down much of a thriving industry with the help of crazed housewives, self-righteous politicians, and plenty of well-intentioned do-gooders who considered comic books an incentive to violence and sexual misconduct, as well as a threat to God, country, and family. David Hajdu, whose previous books concern two other all-American art forms -- jazz and rock 'n' roll, here chronicles this strange episode in domestic hysteria with a journalist's attention to detail and a critic's eye for the best the form has to offer.