“Judgment Day” was the comic that effectively ended EC’s days as anthology comics company. In this last story, an astronaut from Earth arrives on a planet populated by orange robots and blue robots. An orange robot guides him, showing him how prosperous the orange robots are, all the while oppressing and enslaving the blue robots. The astronaut sees this and decides that Earth will not colonize the planet. At the end, we see that the astronaut is black.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the movies and radio shows based on comic books. Let’s take a look.
The Adventures of Superman was a radio show originating from WOR 710-AM (the station still operates today as a talk radio station). Each episode was 15 minutes, but eventually changed to a half-hour format. 2088 episodes were recorded, starring Bud Collyer as Superman and Clark Kent (he was replaced by Michael Fitzmaurice in the final season). The show contributed to the Superman mythos by introducing Jimmy Olsen, ( a cub reporter who was friends with Clark Kent) editor-in-chief Perry White, and the Daily Planet (in the original comic book, Clark Kent worked for the Daily Star. It would later become the Daily Planet.)
Superman also starred in cartoons and movies. The cartoons influenced comic book artist Alex Ross, one of my favorite artists. Two serials were produced by Columbia Pictures, each running for 15 chapters and starring Kirk Alyn as Superman.
Batman also featured in two Columbia serials. “The Batman” starred Lewis Wilson as Batman Douglas Croft as Robin. The serial also introduced the Batcave to the mythos.
Batman’s second serial was “Batman and Robin” . This serial actually got things right, having Batman as a crime fighter, not a secret agent as in the previous serial. Batman and Robin were played by Robert Lowery and Johnny Duncan, respectively.
Continue reading “The History of Comic Books Part V: On the Air and On the Big Screen”
This time around, I’ll be discussing the Comics Code.
The history of the code begins in 1947, when Dr. Frederick Wertham began publishing articles that said comic books were leading to juvenile delinquency. He believed the graphic violence in EC Comics was encouraging violence. He felt that the feminist ideology of Wonder Woman was dangerous for young girls. (Her constantly being put in bondage probably didn’t help.) Probably the most ridiculous statement was that Batman and Robin were in an incestuous relationship. Parents became concerned, and laws against the sales were implemented. Comic book publishers formed the ACMP (Association of Comics Magazine Publishers), and wrote up a code with the following guidelines:
1. Sexy, wanton comics should not be published. No drawing should show a female indecently or unduly exposed,and in no event more nude than in a bathing suit commonly worn in the USA.
2. Crime should not be presented in such a way as to throw sympathy against the law and justice or to inspire others with the desire for imitation. No comics shall show the details and methods of a crime committed by a youth. Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions should not be portrayed as stupid, ineffective, or represented in such a way to weaken respect for established authority.
3. No scenes of sadistic torture should be shown.
4. Vulgar and obscene language should never be used. Slang should be kept to a minimum and used only when essential to a story.
5. Divorce should not be treated humorously or represented as glamorous or alluring.
6. Ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group is never permissible.
The code was not a success. Dell Comics already had Disney’s own guidelines for their characters, and did not participate. Other companies, such as EC, ended their participation. Those who continued often did not even bring their comics to the committee for review (EC still used their code’s symbol, regardless of ending their participation.)
Wertham published “Seduction of the Innocent” , a collection of all the evidence and research he’d collected. Things got so bad that comic books were even being burned! With the ACMP dissolved, a new organization was formed: The Comics Magazine Association of America.
I’d like to say that I’m not a racist person. I don’t wear a Klan hood and robe, and I don’t use slurs. But in reality, I’ve been guilty of some racist tendencies.
Growing up on Grand Isle, Louisiana, I don’t remember knowing anyone who wasn’t Caucasian. But I knew other ethnicities existed. I was taught at an early age that America is a “melting pot” , an amalgamation of ethnicities and nationalities from all over the world. It’s a good buzzword, but we Americans don’t live it. I remember that although I never personally used any slurs, I do remember laughing awkwardly at racist humor. I would do this just because everyone else was. But that makes me just as guilty as them.
Max Gaines left Eastern Color Printing to found his own company, which he dubbed Educational Comics. At the start, they did comics about the Bible and more stuff you might expect from a company with that name. Then in 1947, he died in a boating accident, and his son William Gaines took over. The company was over $100,000 in the red. He scrapped the educational titles and hired a lot of new artists and writers, many of whom would also become famous elsewhere: Johnny Craig, Joe Kubert, Basil Wolverton, Otto Binder, and Joe Orlando, among others. Gaines would actually allow artists to sign their artwork, which was unusual at the time. The company decided instead of following the trend of superheroes that had been started by DC and Timely.
The company became most infamous for its crime, sci-fi, and horror comics. The sci-fi comics even managed to get Ray Bradbury to write for them. This happened when they seemingly plagiarized one of his stories. Rather than fight them, Bradbury allowed them to adapt some of his stories, including “Mars Is Heaven” and “There Came Soft Rains” from his Martian Chronicles.