In this illuminating history of comic books, David Hajdu examines the cultural forces that led to a mid-century witch-hunt and the near death of an American art-form. Vilified as a source of juvenile delinquency by police and the press, burned in pyres by the church and youth groups, and attacked in congressional hearings and though state and local legislation, comic books and their creators finally fell victim to their publisher’s own attempts to self-regulate content. Not until years later were comics to regain their former range of subject matter, stature, influence, and expression.
Though Hajdu stops short of judging the censors or drawing conclusions about societal effects of the comic-book scare, "The Ten-Cent Plague’s" sympathetic treatment of comic book writers, artists, and editors places the issues of censorship and persecution squarely in the cultural milieu of the 1950s. Hajdu humanizes the faces behind the comics, bringing life to a nearly forgotten chapter of American history that might aptly be titled “Tales from the Crypt.” In doing so, Hajdu allows readers to draw their own conclusions and leaves them hungry for more - and that's not a bad thing.
This review originally appeared in the April, 2009 issue of The Sacramento Book Review.