Bill Duncan points out that despite the current freedom we have to create comics (and any other form of speech) comics have been singled out unfairly before. Stuff like this Congressional report is why we have a Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and why Free Comic Book Day is important.
Read on for some of the “excerpts” from comics that got Congress’ blood boiling:
Story No. 1
Bottoms Up (Story Comics)
This story has to do with a confirmed alcoholic who spends all his wife can earn on alcohol. As a result their small son is severely neglected. On the day the son is to start in the first grade in school the mother asks the father to escort him to the school building. Instead, the father goes to his favorite bootlegger and the son goes to school by himself. En route the child is struck and killed by an automobile. Informed of the accident, the mother returns home to find her husband gloating over his new supply of liquor. The last four panels show the mother as she proceeds to kill and hack her spouuse to pieces with an ax. The first panel shows her swinging the ax, buring the blade in her husband’s skull. Blood spurts from the open wound and the husband is shown with an expression of agony. The next panel has a montage effect: the husband is lying on the floor with blood rushing from his skull as the wife is poised over him. She holds he bloody ax, raised for more blows. The background shows an enlargement of the fear-filled eyes of the husband, as well as an enlargement of the bloody ax. To describe this scene of horror the text states that “And how the silence of the Hendrick’s apartment is broken only by the soft humming of Nora as she busies herself with her ‘work’.” She then cuts his body into smaller pieces and disposes of it by placing the various pieces in the bottles of liquor her husband had purchased. She then returns the liquor to the bootlegger and obtains a refund. As she leaves the bootlegger says: “HMMN, funny! I figured that rye would be inside Lou by now!” The story ends with the artist admonishing the child readers in a macabre vein with the following paragraph, “But if Westlake were to examine the remainder of the case more closely he’d see that it is Lou who is inside the liquor! Heh, Heh! Sleep well, kiddies!” We then see three of the bottles – one contains an eye, one an ear, and one a finger.
Story No. 2
Frisco Mary (Ace Comics)
This story concerns an attractive and glamorous young woman, Mary, who gains control of a California underwold gang. Under her leadership the gang embarks on a series of holdups marked for their ruthlessness and violence. One of these escapades involves the robbery of a bank. A police officer sounds an alarm thereby reducing the gang’s “take” to a mere $25,000. One of the scenes of violence in the story shows Mary poised over the wounded police officer, as he lies on the pavement, pouring bullets into his back from her submachinegun. The agonies of the stricken officer are clearly depicted on his face. Mary, who in this particular scene looks like an average American girl wearing a sweater and skirt and with her hair in bangs, in response to a plea from one of her gang members to stop shooting and flee, states: “We could have got twice as much if it wasn’t for this frog-headed rat!!! I’ll show him!”
Story No. 3
With Knife in Hand (Atlas Comics)
A promising young surgeon begins to operate on a wounded criminals in order to gain the money demanded by his spendthrift wife. After he has ruined his professional career by becoming associated with the underworld, a criminal comes to get help for his girl friend who has been shot by the police. In the accompanying panels the girl is placed upon the operating table; the doctor discovers that the criminal’s girl friend is none other than his own wife. The scene then shows the doctor committing suicide by plunging a scaple into his own abdomen. His wife, gasping for help, also dies on the operating table for a lack of medical attention. The last scene shows her staring into space, arms dangling over the sides of the operating table. The doctor is sprawled on the floor, his hand still clutching the knife handle protuding from his bloody abdomen. There is a leer on his face and he is winking at the reader connoting satisfaction at having wrought revenge upon his unfaithful spouse.
Story No. 4
Head Room (Entertaining Comics)
The female keeper of a decrepit hotel gives special attention to one of her male boarders. She attempts to win his affection by giving him lower rates, privileges, etc. Since he is in his room only at night, she rents the same room for daytime use to a gruesome-looking man, shown on the first page of the story. There are repeated reports over the radio of a homicidal maniac at large, the “Ripper.” She comes to suspect the daytime boarder and is shown searching his room and finding seven gruesome, bloody heads hanging in his closet. Her privileged boarder comes into the room and she tells him of her findings. He is then shown transformed into the gruesome daytime boarder. The last picture shows him as he decapitates her.
Story No. 5
Orphan (Entertaining Comics)
This is the story of a small golden-haired girl named Lucy, of perpahs 8 or 10 years of age, and the story is told in her own words. Lucy hates both her parents. Her father is an alcoholic who beats her when drunk. Her mother, who never wanted Lucy, has a secret boy friend. The only bright spot in Lucy’s life is her Aunt Kate with whom she would like to live. Lucy’s chance to alter the situation comes when the father, entering the front gate to the home, meets his wife who is running away with the other man, who immediately flees. Snatching a gun from the night table, Lucy shoots and kills her father from the window. She then runs out into the yard and presses the gun into the hands of her mother, who has fainted and lies unconscious on the ground. Then through Lucy’s perjured testimony at the following trial, both the mother and her boy friend are convicted of murdering the father and are electrocuted. These pictures that show, first, “Mommie” and then “Stevie” as they sit strapped to the electric chair as the electric shock strikes them. Other pictues show Lucy’s joyous contentment that it has all worked out as she had planned and she is now free to live with her Aunt Kate. The last picture shows her winking at the reader and saying “*** which is just the way I’d hope it would work out when I shot daddy from the fron bedroom window with the gun I knew was in the night table and went downstairs and put the gun in mommy’s hand and started the crying act.”
Story No. 6
Heartless (Story Comics)
This is the story of a petty gangster, Bernie Kellog. He is in a cheap, smalltown hotel, where he starts to have chest pains and calls a physician. The doctor gives Bernie a drug to calm his nerves. The drug makes Bernie feel like talking and he tells the doctor that he is in the hotel waiting for a women to bring him $50,000 in blackmail money. He tells the doctor how the woman begged to be “let off the hook” because her husband didn’t have taht much money. Bernie insists, however, so the women goes home and commits suicide. As it turns out, the women, Elaine, is the doctor’s wife. One of the pictures then presented shows the doctor sitting dazedly on the edge of the bed * * * And, stretched across the bed, we find Bernie with his heart cut out. Bernie is shown lying dead on the bed with a gaping hole in his chest, a rib protruding, blood flowing over the bed and onto the floor, his face fixed in a death mask as he stares at the reader.
Story No. 7
Stick in the Mud (Story Comics)
An extremely sadistic schoolteacher gives special attention to one of her pupils in order to curry favor with the boy’s rich, widowed father. In a year she succeeds in marrying the man, but he turns out to be a miser. She stabs him to death with a butcher knife approximately a foot and a half in length and 3 inches wide. The picture shows the body of the old man, limbs askew, falling to the floor, emitting a gurgle. There is a large hole in this back and blood is squirting in all directions. The wife is behind him clutching the bloody butcher knife. She says: “You stupid old fool! I’ve stood for your miserly, penny-pinching ways long enough! From now on it’ll be my money *** and I’ll spend it my way! Die Ezra *** die!” She then covers up her crime by throwing him into a pen with a wild bull that gores his body to pieces. She now has the money, but also the stepson whom she hates. The boy suspects that she killed his father and makes her chase him around the farm by calling her names. He leads her to some quicksand and she falls in. Several pictures show her as she begs the boy to get help. He promises to do so if she confesses to him that she killed his father. She does so, and he then lets her sink to her death. A closeup is shown of the terrified women, sunk into the quicksand which is slowing into her open mouth. The boy is quite satisfied with himself and walks about the farm humming a tune while others search for his “lost” stepmother.
Is it so wrong to want a comic that entertains without offending? Comics these days have to be full of death and bad language and naked women to attract any popularity.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting a comic like that at all, and to be quite honest I think there are some absolutely fabulous comics out there that do precisely that. Check out Craig Thompson’s Goodbye Chunky Rice for instance.
The point of bringing this article to your attention is that the legitimacy of our art-form and the freedom we have to express ourselves are not things that we should take lightly. They have been hard fought for, and they are worth remembering.
So go out and ask someone for a Free Comic Book this Saturday (if you’d prefer something with less blood, sex and violence may I suggest Peanut Butter & Jeremy).
Bill’s absolutely right. My tabloid instincts took over in writing the headline…
Gotta love reading those congressional records from the mid-50s.
I thought I recognized those instincts from somewhere.
Where did you get them? Enquiring minds want to know 😉
Oddly… I thought I was reading a CURRENT report about comics. 😛 *Thought… ugh… underground indies that will never really see the light of day anyway. ;)* Although… Transmetropoliton is quite gruesome/disturbing and I don’t even read it, just happened to pick it up after my husband left it laying around and wince at the last page in the back of one of them.
Personally though,… I don’t see a need for excess in those areas.
I was the one that found this in a law library many years ago and typed it up for the web.
I also have the subcommittee hearings, which came up before this interim report (which summerize the hearings and has some exceprts from it). It’s been typed up, but still needs to go through a 2nd proof read and format fixing so headings and footnotes are all the same size. Then it needs to be HTML’d. So don’t expect it up soon, but it is on it’s way.
– Jamie Coville
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