How a psychiatrist campaigned against ‘comics’


HISTORY OF MEDICINE – In the book Seduction of the Innocent published in 1954, Fredric Wertham believed that comics “can affect even children who do not exhibit deviant behavior by corrupting them with […] graphic stories that teach them how to become criminals”.

“Hitler was a relative newbie to the comics industry.” On this April 21, 1954, before the American Senate, Fredric Wertham is not going easy. His crusade against comic books will lead to a long censorship of these American comic books born in the 1930s.

Wertham’s aggressiveness is nothing new. Born in Munich, influenced by Sigmund Freud and Emil Kraepelin (a German doctor considered to be the founder of modern psychiatry), he is convinced that the environment and social factors have a determining influence on the psychological development of children. Forensic expert at the head of the psychiatric services of several hospitals in New York, he founded the Lafargue clinic in Harlem in 1946, among the first to offer psychiatric care to underprivileged populations. And begins to look into comics.

These magazines that put superheroes in the spotlight for a few cents are acclaimed by American kids. Several hundred…

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