DANGER LURKS IN THESE PAGES WHAT THE BATTLE OVER COMIC BOOKS SAYS ABOUT OUR SOCIETY.Byline: Nancy Dillon
Comic books have long played nemesis to our country's cultural police.
They've pushed conservative boundaries with their sexual subtext sub·text
1. The implicit meaning or theme of a literary text.
2. The underlying personality of a dramatic character as implied or indicated by a script or text and interpreted by an actor in performance. , glamorized crime and graphic violence. They even prompted Senate subcommittee hearings on their link to juvenile delinquency in the mid-1950s.
But they're also a great American art form -- one that makes readers laugh, ask questions and fall in love with complex characters.
A new exhibit mapping the evolution of the comic book opens Monday at California State University Enrollment
Northridge's Oviatt Library.
"Today's comic books didn't just materialize out of thin air. They started with the earliest comic strips. They survived the Senate hearings. They faced censorship by the Comics Code Authority. They have a very interesting history, and I'm trying to tell that history using our collection from the 1930s to the 1990s," said the show's curator, Tony Gardner, a university archivist ARCHIVIST. One to whose care the archives have been confided. .
Gardner's exhibit pays special attention to industry arch-enemy and U.S. Sen. Estes Kefauver, the anti-crime crusader who led the public hearings on comic books in 1954.
The code and the comics
Kefauver's subcommittee sought testimony from concerned parents and expert witnesses and eventually asked comic book publishers to tone down their content voluntarily. Sensing a losing battle, the publishers developed the now infamous Comics Code Authority to censor their own content.
The Code, as the CSUN CSUN California State University Northridge exhibit explains, banned violent and suggestive images in comic books, dictated that good should always triumph over evil, and outlawed specific words and concepts such as "horror" and "zombies Zombies
Companies that continue to operate even though they are insolvent. Also known as living dead.
It's advisable to avoid investing in zombies at all costs their life expectancies are highly unpredictable. ."
"If you look at a comic book issued after 1954, you will see a little white label, the insignia of the Comics Code Authority," Gardner said.
One highlight of the exhibit is a rare copy of Dr. Fredric Wertham's 1954 book "Seduction of the Innocent," the scholarly text that many people credit with instigating the Senate inquiry and the subsequent Comics Code.
" 'Seduction of the Innocent' was probably the single strongest influence that has kept American comics from becoming an all-ages medium. It did a lot to hamper comics as an adult art form," said Caleb Monroe, 27, an employee at Meltdown Comics in Hollywood. "It's a sad piece of history, but it's history. I'd love to see it."
Gardner said the chilling effect of "Seduction" and the Comics Code helped fuel the popularity of squeaky-clean superhero su·per·he·ro
n. pl. su·per·he·roes
A figure, especially in a comic strip or cartoon, endowed with superhuman powers and usually portrayed as fighting evil or crime. comics in the late 1950s and sparked a side industry that specialized in evasive tactics.
One comic that sidestepped censorship was "Vampirella." On display in the exhibit, Vampirella got around the whitewashing rules by publishing in a magazine format, Gardner said.
Not so lucky was EC Comics, the legendary publisher known for its horror and crime comics. "The negative publicity surrounding the hearings pretty much led to the end of EC Comics, which couldn't meet the (new) standards," Gardner said.
The Comics Code finally received revisions in 1971 and 1989, loosening up restrictions, he said.
Of course, the CSUN exhibition also focuses on the lighter side of comics, featuring the personal correspondence of Donald Duck illustrator Carl Barks and some early strips from the Sunday funny pages.
From pencil to page
Those interested in comic book production can learn how their favorite comics came to life in the era before the computer. The elaborate and highly collaborative process involved a writer, a penciler, an inker, a colorist col·or·ist
1. A painter skilled in achieving special effects with color.
2. A hairdresser who specializes in dyeing hair.
col and an editor, the show's organizers say.
Gardner says his favorite item in the exhibit is a 1928 handwritten hand·write
tr.v. hand·wrote , hand·writ·ten , hand·writ·ing, hand·writes
To write by hand.
[Back-formation from handwritten.]
Adj. 1. letter that Popeye creator Elzie Crisler Segar sent to Chase Craig at Western Litho.
The letter includes an early drawing of Whiffle whif·fle
v. whif·fled, whif·fling, whif·fles
1. To move or think erratically; vacillate.
2. Bird, a magical creature that Segar introduced in his newspaper strip "Thimble thimble,
n See coping.
thimble, ionization chamber,
n See chamber, ionization, thimble. Theatre."
"He even signed it with the little cigar next to his name," Gardner said.
Nancy Dillon, (818) 713-3760
CELEBRATING COMIC BOOKS: AN AMERICAN TRADITION
Where: C.K. and Teresa Tseng Gallery, the Oviatt Library, CSUN, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge.
When: Monday through Aug. 3. Open during regular library hours, including 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays.
Admission: Free. Parking $4.
(1 -- 2) Violence and its aftermath have always been part of the comic-book world, as shown above in this "Batgirl bat·girl
A girl who is employed by a baseball team to look after its equipment, especially the bats. " page, part of "Celebrating Comic Books," an exhibit at California State University, Northridge CSUN offers a variety of programs leading to bachelor's degrees in 61 fields and master's degrees in 42 fields. The university has over 150,000 alumni. It's also home to a summer musical theater/theater program known as TADW (TeenAge Drama Workshop) that leads teenagers through an . Below, a vintage "Buck Rogers" cover. The display opens Monday at the university's Oviatt Library.