“The Ten-Cent Plague” by David Hajdu

After reading, and being transported by, Michael Chabon’s Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, I added David Hajdu’s Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America, to my reading list. Even though it was the last of my K & C related reading (and thus a likely candidate to be pushed off the TBR list), I not only read it, but enjoyed it immensely.

Churches and community groups raged and organized campaigns against comic books. Young people acted out mock trials of comics characters. Schools held public burnings of comics, and students threw thousands of the books into the bonfires; at more than one conflagration, children marched around the flames reciting incantations denouncing comics. Headlines in newspapers and magazines around the country warned readers: “Depravity for Children–Ten Cents a Copy!”…The offices of one of the most adventurous and scandalous publishers, EC Comics, were raided by the New York City police. More than a hundred acts of legislation were introduced on the state and municipal levels to ban or limit the sale of comic books…Soon, Congress took action with a set of sensational, televised hearings that nearly destroyed the comic-book business…

Page-one news as it occurred, the story of the comics controversy is a largely forgotten chapter in the history of the culture wars (7)

Hajdu’s coverage of comic-book fear and censorship to the 1940 and 1950’s is well-researched, filled with compelling personal accounts and anecdotes, and eminently readable. For readers who want to explore the history embedded in Chabon’s Pulitzer-Prize winning book, for pop-culture history buffs, for those interested in youth culture and censorship, or just anyone who likes a well-written account of a little-known phenomenon, I highly recommend this book.

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