After reading and reviewing the last quarter of Chapter 5 of Seduction Of The Innocent I wanted to bring in an expert in the field of comic literacy. Dr. Wertham’s biggest problem, the source of the other problems with this book thus far, is that he doesn’t understand comics so he immediately writes them off as bad for kids. And granted some are: no medium is exclusive to one age group any more that they are one genre or one particular audience. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
The big problem in this portion is that Wertham goes into the reasons he thinks comics are harmful to literacy, and he brings up the subject of libraries and sound effects. The only thing he got right is that comics hadn’t evolved a proper way of leading the reader’s eye, although you can see the building blocks of comics at the time, and his complaint that comics had poorer printing quality and paper than a brochure for a trip. Although in the publishers’ defense (a very mild one mind you), they were selling to a casual audience and try doing that now when books are $3-4 a comic. They needed to make them as cheap as possible. Comics were still new and even newer was the idea of original stories instead of reprints of comic strips from the newspaper, which is how comics began. Printing techniques that allowed comics to be printed better, lettered better, and put on better paper would follow, so Wertham was just being impatient. On the rest of it though….
Enter BW Virtual Mentor Jerzy Drozd. I’ve mentioned him on this site many times in the past. He is a cartoonist, instructor in the art of making comics, and host/co-host of numerous podcasts over the years about making comics. Additionally he has worked to convince librarians and teachers about the value of using comics to promote reading and education, working on projects like Captain Srsly, an upcoming science comic about going to outer space, and part of the art team on an adaptation of The Warren Commission Report that looked into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. (Remember when wanting a President dead was considered a bad thing?) Since we’re also friends I asked him if he would comment on Wertham’s remarks in that chapter, especially the section I reviewed on Thursday since it crossed right into Jerzy’s wheelhouse. What I got was a roughly 30 minute commentary that is worth giving a listen to. So give it a listen.
Here is the article Jerzy mentioned about Dan Mishkin and Ernie Colon’s work on Amethyst: Princess Of Gemworld. It is also his website, as is jdrozd.com, and here is the home of Lean Into Art, the teaching site he co-created with Rob Stenzinger, and the Lean Into Artcast site. And since this is being posted to my Patreon, here is Jerzy’s Patreon. My thanks to him for taking the time out to record this for the BW readers. And Monday we head into chapter six. What new spores of madness will we uncover this time and can I get the article count down so I can talk about something else? We’ll all learn together.