Prof. Carol Tilley, who previously revealed that anti-comics crusaderDr. Fredric Wertham’s research wasn’t all that is at it again. While rummaging through the archives at the Billy Ireland Library she found an unknown comic by an unnamed artist that satirized Wertham’s anti comics crusade. It was called “The Uncanny Adventures of (I Hate) Dr. Wertham.”
Watching these events unfurl from the sidelines was a cartoonist with a style that’s reminiscent of an unholy lovechild spawned from Basil Wolverton and Robert Crumb. He channeled his observations into a satirical, trenchant, and silly 27-page comic book, The Uncanny Adventures of (I Hate) Dr. Wertham. This pen-and-ink comic is drawn on standard office paper and bound with cotton string, its pages slightly ragged from age and dotted with bits of yellowing tape. The author bills himself as Sterling South, a play on the writer and critic Sterling North, who helped inaugurate mid-century comics hysteria with a widely circulated and emulated 1940 editorial in the Chicago Daily News. Tucked into a folder with a few bulletins published between the years 1946 and 1948 from the National Cartoonists Society, the comic has languished, seemingly forgotten—it was noted on the finding aid, but one has to be looking for it—in the storage of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum until I stumbled on it last October during a research visit.
Wertham, of course, led an attack on comics that ended with the formation of the Comics Code in 1954; but the controversy had started long befroe that, as this find reveals.
Since Tilley found the original, it’s like very few people saw this trailblazing mini-comic—in fact she not only finds out who made the comics but how it got to the Billy Ireland in the link. So go there for a highly satisfying look into a secret moment of comics history.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.