While the finding of the check for $130 which National presented to Siegel and Shuster might have been a high point of this year’s comic history, here’s a strong contender for another: the actual audio of the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency hearings on comic books.WNYC has released the first day of the hearings, April 21, 1954. The morning session features Richard Clendenon, Dr. Harris Pack, Henry Edward Schultz and Senator Estes Kefauver, whose witch hunt against comics, aided by Dr. Fredric Wertham’s sensational book, Seduction of the Innocent, set the medium back 50 years.
The afternoon session is the one that you’ll all want to listen to, with Wertham claiming comic books cause juvenile delinquency, and EC publisher William Gaines‘ disastrous testimony, which includes this classic exchange with Kefauver:
Kefauver: Here is your May 22 issue. This seems to be a man with a bloody ax holding a woman’s head up which has been severed from her body. Do you think that is in good taste?
Gaines: Yes, sir; I do, for the cover of a horror comic. A cover in bad taste, for example, might be defined as holding the head a little higher so that the neck could be seen dripping blood from it and moving the body over a little further so that the neck of the body could be seen to be bloody.
Kefauver: You have blood coming out of her mouth.
Gaines: A little.
The 1954 hearings (written about in David Hajdu’s The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America) led to the complete bowdlerization of the American comics industry, as publishers voluntarily adapted the Comic Code—perhaps the most restrictive written censorship system ever instituted in any American artform—and careers were destroyed overnight.
Thanks to Jamie Coville for the link.