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Headshots of three women.
From left: Panelists Margaret Galvan, Carol Tilley, and Qiana Whitted.

Censorship, the Comic Book, and Seduction of the Innocent at 70: A Roundtable Discussion

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The following blog post by Josh Levy was originally published in Unfolding History: Manuscripts at the Library of Congress.

In 1954, psychiatrist Fredric Wertham published Seduction of the Innocent: The Influence of Comic Books on Today’s Youth, a book that cemented his role as America’s most prominent critic of comic books. At the time, comic books were near the peak of their popularity, with titles like Batman, Superman, and Captain Marvel selling as many as 1.5 million copies per month. The content of those comics was also entirely unregulated. Writing amid a moral panic that Wertham himself helped create, Seduction of the Innocent almost immediately helped spur the formation of the Comics Code Authority, which dramatically reshaped the nation’s comic book industry.

Join staff of the Manuscript and Serial & Government Publications divisions for a roundtable discussion with three comic studies scholars who will make brief presentations on current research, and discuss Wertham’s anti-comics legacy and its afterlives in more recent clashes over representations of race and sexuality in comics and graphic novels.

Wonder Woman comic book, showing Wonder Woman at political rally.
H.G. Peters, artist. Wonder Woman for President–Wonder Woman 1000 years in the future! 1943. Library of Congress Serial & Government Publications Division.

Panelists will include:

  • Margaret Galvan, Assistant Professor of visual rhetoric, Department of English, University of Florida
  • Carol Tilley, Associate Professor, School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Qiana J. Whitted, Professor of English and African American Studies, University of South Carolina

The panel will be moderated by Josh Levy of the Library’s Manuscript Division and Megan Halsband of the Serial and Government Publications Division, who will briefly highlight the Fredric Wertham Papers and the Library’s vast collections of comic books and zines. Join us to reflect on race, gender and representation, visual culture and archives, and Wertham’s anti-comics crusade seven decades on.

The event will take place online only on Thursday, June 6, 2024, 12 pm-1 pm EST, but will be available later as a recording on the Library of Congress website. Register for the program here.

Please request ADA accommodations at least five business days in advance by contacting (202) 707-6362 or [email protected].

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