Original “comics are bad for you” research declared shoddy. Thank your librarian.

Behavioral problems among teenagers and preteens can be blamed on the violence, sex and gore portrayed in the media marketed to them – that was the topic of televised public hearings held by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency in 1954 to address the scourge of comic books. The hearings, which resulted in the decimation of what was an enormous comic book industry, had been inspired in large part by the book “Seduction of the Innocent,” by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, based on his own case studies.

Wertham’s personal archives, however, show that the doctor revised children’s ages, distorted their quotes, omitted other causal factors and in general “played fast and loose with the data he gathered on comics,” according to an article by Carol Tilley, published in a recent issue of Information and Culture: A Journal of History.

Here’s a nice interview with Carol Tilley, an assistant professor at the iSchool of Illinois who also presented a talk at the recent ALA Midwinter conference. Her article Seducing the Innocent: Fredric Wertham and the Falsifications that Helped Condemn Comics is available to people with access to that sort of thing. More about Wertham from the Library of Congress and some more information from the library’s in-house newsletter. Here’s the text of the book, online but with different images (some images still NSFW).

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