Lot 1 of 350:
Dr. Wertham's SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT * 1st Printing in Jacket * No Biblio  

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Lot closed - Sold For (Includes Buyers Premium):$500
$300 - $500


Wertham, Fredric

New York

Rinehart & Co.



397 + [16] black & white illustrated pp. Lacks bibliography, which was removed from most copies before distribution at the insistence of the comics publishers named therein. 8vo. Cloth-backed boards, jacket. First Edition, with "circle R" colophon on copyright page. Near fine in VG jacket. Jacket has edge nicks, chipping to spine ends, faded spine lettering but front panel bright, 1/2" tear, price not clipped on front flap; book has slightly cocked spine, light toning to top edges of boards, bright lettering, corners sharp, hinges not cracked, no internal markings or dogears — a superior copy overall, possibly unread.

"Psychiatrist Fredric Wertham's disastrous but maddeningly well-intentioned attack on horror and crime comics which, he asserted, were ruining American youth. This notorious tome became the fulcrum of a widespread assault on the comics industry, leading to the creation of the Comics Code Authority and almost destroying an art form." — EC, MAD and Pre-Code HORROR Comics of the 1950s. Green Apple Books: 1997, p. 37.

Wertham is the ultimate supervillain to many funnybook fans, but it's worthwhile to consider his deeper influence on 20th century American affairs before judging him too harshly. Wertham championed the psychological health of New York's overlooked and underserved African-American community, opening the Lafargue Clinic, Harlem's first low-cost mental health clinic. His findings on the psychological effects of segregation were cited in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case. Wertham, a German-Jewish emigre, fought fascist ideology, campaigning against lenient treatment for Nazi sympathizer Ezra Pound after his 1945 arrest for treason. His anti-comics campaign is considered by his defenders to be an outgrowth of his concern for the economically, socially and politically disenfranchised (for more on Wertham's social views, see Bart Beaty's Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture, University of Mississippi Press: 2005). Yet despite Wertham's good intentions, his research methodology was tainted by laxity and bias, demonstrating an "end justifies the means" approach that aligns uncomfortably with the strongman ideology he claimed to oppose.

When Wertham's papers were unsealed by the Library of Congress in 2010, Carol Tilley, an information science professor, investigated his research and deemed his findings rubbish: "Wertham manipulated, overstated, compromised and fabricated evidence — especially that evidence he attributed to personal clinical research with young people — for rhetorical gain" (see "Seducing the Innocent: Fredric Wertham and the Falsifications That Helped Condemn Comics," Information & Culture Vol. 47, No. 4, University of Texas Press, 2012).

Despite Wertham's tarnished legacy, the fact remains that he was one of the first public intellectuals to take comics seriously as a social influence. In later life he attempted to make peace with comics fans, writing The World of Fanzines (1974), in which he gamely celebrates the rise of fandom while managing to sound more out of touch than ever. He even praises underground man Robert Crumb in a tentative sort of way: "Zap Comics [sic] ...represent a reaction — or rather an overreaction — to the above-ground comic books and to our mass media in general. Such overreaction is all too understandable in a society like the one in which we live at present."

Are Dr. Wertham's concerns about the effects of media saturation on impressionable minds still relevant in the 21st century? His methodology has been largely discredited, his motives have been questioned, and his alarm over colorful children's pamphlets seems quaint in the Internet era. One of the central questions of Seduction of the Innocent, however, remains a provocative mystery, especially as green-screen superheroes, latter-day avatars of hooded justice, continue to dominate our collective dream life: "What is the social meaning of these supermen, superwomen, superlovers, superboys, supergirls, super-ducks, super-mice, super-magicians, super-safecrackers? How did Nietzsche get into the nursery?"


Consignments welcome for PBA's Fall 2022 Comic Book sale. Pre-Code Horror, Golden Age and Silver Age comics, original art, vintage comic-related photos and ephemera sought. Send inquiries to [email protected].

A limited edition of 100 softcover and 6 hardcover catalogues are available. 140 pages, fully illustrated. Fun reference, great keepsake. Softcovers $40, dust-jacketed hardcover with limitation plate $200. To order, contact [email protected].

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