Here’s a lino block print I did of Dr. Fredric Wertham. He was the psychiatricist who wrote “Seduction of the Innocent” and basically got the comics code started (and EC Comics put out of business) based on his theory that comic books were corroding the morals of this country’s youth.
I just finished reading a book he wrote called “Dark Legend” that tells the story of Gino, a 17 year old boy he was evaluating who had killed his mother. It was kind of written in that old ’50′s sci-fi movie narration style that seems both naive and overly dramatic… but it also contained 60 pages or so of Gino’s own words as recorded by Dr. Wertham that told of his life situation leading up to the murder that was impossible to put down. That section reminded me of a book called “Death On the Installment Plan” that I also found an addictive read.
I’ve heard much of Dr. Wertham over the years as the true life comic book villain (as I mentioned he ushered in the demise of all those sweet EC horror comics of the 1950′s and even inspired a public comics book burning in New York), so I wanted to check out one of his books. Dark Legend was the book he published just before Seduction and I was expecting him to come across as much more of a douchebag than he did.
I was looking for a mention of Gino being influenced by comic books to commit the murder which was nowhere to be found, although there was a brief mention on page 200 about Gino seeing a violent movie on the night of the murder where Wertham says, “I asked myself whether fiction of that sort can influence people this way. Similar instances are not rare…. It seemed to me just as inexact to say fiction has no influence at all on people’s action as to blame crime on such fiction. Apparently anti-social impulses do not originate this way. But when they once exist, added impetus may be given them by way of identification with a fictional scene.”
So I’m still not sure exactly how Wertham got on the “comics are evil” kick and I have to admit I did really enjoy reading his book.
Oh, by the way… the print above was done in a collection of 10 before the lino block was destroyed. I have 4 or 5 left which can be purchased for $10 unframed via paypal (my address is firstname.lastname@example.org).