When World Domination is not Enough: The Lack of Cultural Legitimization of Comic Books

By Zachary Sporn


The Flash; Arrow; Constantine; Gotham; Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; these are the currently-airing television shows heavily based off of comic books – and only the ones I can name off the top of my head. There are 20—yes, 20—movies based on Marvel and D.C. comic books currently scheduled for release between now and the end of 2018. One might be tempted to think of the current prevalence of comic books as unprecedented, when in fact comic books were one of if not the most wide-reaching form of media in 1940’s America. According to one comic book scholar: “A Yank Weekly article, published in November of 1945, cited the estimates of the Market Research Company of America, which found that about 70 million Americans, roughly half of the U.S. population, read comic books,” (Kelley, 1).

Yet in spite of the staggering commercial success of the comic book industry, comics still struggle to receive the recognition as a legitimate art form that is given to older visual arts and to literature. Comics remain one of the most blatant examples of a medium that is popular, a medium that is enduring, one that has felt a great deal of scrutiny, and yet continues to be denied the title of “art” by literary critics. Debasement of comics by critics has existed nearly as long as the comics themselves. In an 1846 sonnet titled “Illustrated Books and Newspapers”, William Wordsworth put his own spin on comic book mockery: “Now prose and verse sunk into disrepute / Must lacquey a dumb Art that best can suit / The taste of this once-intellectual Land. / A backward movement surely have we here, / From manhood,—back to childhood; for the age—/ Avaunt this vile abuse of pictured page!” (Heer and Kent, vii). This begs two questions of literary scholars: for what reasons have critics refused to comics as a legitimate art form, and why has the widespread popularity and longevity of comics in America not translated into a form of artistic recognition?

I believe the answer begins in what is commonly referred to as the “Golden Age” of comics. This time period spans roughly from 1938, with the first publication of Superman in Action Comics #1, to the early 1950’s and the establishment of the first comics censorship bureau, the Comics Code Authority (CCA) (“Useful Notes: The Golden Age of Comic Books”). The Golden Age marked the first major surge of comic book popularity in the United States, and was the birthplace of such recognizable characters as Superman, Captain America, Batman, Wonder Woman, and more. It also gave birth to the superhero story archetype and cemented said archetype as the face of comic books in America (“Useful Notes: The Golden Age of Comic Books”). I believe that much of the criticism leveled at comic books in their infancy has not disappeared, but rather had to adapt to accommodate the influence and longevity of comics. The time has come to journey through the major criticisms of comics in the 40’s and early 50’s, to examine why those criticisms still seem to hold in spite of the popularity and longevity of comics, and to appeal to a few unique critics from the 40’s for why comics might now, at last, come to be regarded with the same prestige as literature and visual art.

Certainly one of the loudest criticisms of comics, if not necessarily the most valid, was the critique that through their depiction of crime, violence, horror, gore, and other such atrocities comics corrupted the minds of the youth in the late 40’s and early 50’s. Indeed, there were both a large spike in juvenile delinquency in the post-war years as well as a shift in comic book tone and content: “Fed by the same streams as pulp fiction and film noir, many of the titles most prominent in the late forties and early fifties told lurid stories of crime, vice, lust , and horror, rather than…costumed heroes and heroines,” (Hadju, 6). While an argument about the corrupting influence of comics might seem flimsy today, it was seen as a very serious charge in the 1950’s. A series of congressional hearings meant to investigate the influence of comics on the youth of America was set off partially in response of one psychologist’s crusade against comic books. Dr. Frederich Wertham, in his book Seduction of the Innocent, alleged that the images and themes presented in the comic books of America were the cause behind the rise in juvenile delinquency. Wertham relied on his own analysis of the worst comic book images he could find as well as his own interviews conducted with youth patients in mental facilities throughout New York City to make his case before congress (Mishler). Unlike television, the radio, and other forms of mass media of the 1950’s, there existed no content-screening organization for comics, no FCC-counterpart. The moral panic against comics ultimately lead to the comics industry to create its own self-imposed censorship committee, the Comics Code Authority. While the veracity of this criticism may very well be in dispute, there can be no denying its influence over the comic books industry, and it is useful as background context to discussing similar—though less zealous—critiques of Golden Age comics.

Noted film critic and author, respectively, Robert Warshow and Gershon Legman echoed Wertham’s concerns in more nuanced manners. Warshow makes a distinction between good and bad comics while ultimately arguing that they all suffer a particular malady: “If The Lone Ranger and Superman are bad, they are bad in a different way….They are crude, unimaginative, banal, vulgar, ultimately corrupting…but always within certain limits. [They] Meet the juvenile imagination on its crudest level and offer it an immediate and stereotyped satisfaction,” (Warshow, 97). Where Wertham argues that the obscene in comic books corrupts the youth, Warshow argues that comics offer the youth a crude, stereotyped satisfaction that is lesser than that of true “art”. Warshow also points out of the more “horrific” comics:

It is even possible that these outrageous productions may be in one sense “better” than The Lone Ranger…for in their absolute lack of restraint they tend to be somewhat livelier and more imaginative; certainly they are often less boring. But that does not make them any less objectionable as reading matter for children. (Warshow, 93)

Warshow makes it clear that though he has concerns about the psychological impact on children of particularly obscene comics, his concern is also with the quality of the reading that children—especially his son Paul—are exposed to. Warshow agrees that some means of regulating the content of comics is needed, especially because of the role comic books are now taking as the major form of cultural contact children are making in Warshow’s time. He writes: “…material which is at best subversive of the same children’s literacy, sensitivity , and general cultivation. Superman and The Three Muskateers may serve the same psychological needs, but it still matters whether a child reads one or the other,” (Warshow, 101). For many of these literary and film critics, the issue is that comics on the whole do not serve to cultivate children or introduce them to the higher points of culture. Rather, comics provide “stereotyped satisfaction”; they only satisfy children on a base level and replace works of literature that might otherwise serve to better cultivate children.

Gershon Legman echoes a similar concern over comics filling a role in children’s lives that was once filled by “educational” literature. In particular, Legman objects to the ways that “classics” have be rewritten in comic book form, to the ultimate detriment of children:

Alfred Nobel is made educational in eight pages of dynamite explosions, Florence Nightingale in ate pages of Crimean war horror. Teddy Roosevelt, eight pages of buffalo-killing and boxing gloves…It is hard to believe…Child-psychologists and educators who accept fees for signing their names to the mast-heads of ‘classic’ and ‘educational’ comics are really so naïve as to not realize that the products they are fronting for are immeasurably more harmful than the crime comics they intend to replace (Heer and Worcester, 116).

Legman’s primary concern is that even as educators try to keep the most obscene among comics from children, those educators inevitably replace them and replace otherwise educational material with violent, ultimately subversive, comic book versions of “classics”. Legman sees the educational system of the 40’s and 50’s as feeding children the scholarly equivalent of junk food instead of much needed vegetables. Even comics such as Superman, according to Legman, contribute to the glorification of violence that children so absorb: “In the hands of the Supermen, private justice takes over…No trial is necessary, no stupid policemen hog all the fun. Fists crashing into faces become the court of highest appeal. Giant the Jack-killer…Superman, and his even more violent Imitators, invest violence with righteousness and prestige,” (Heer and Worcester, 117). For Legman, even the supposedly good, less-gruesome comics instill the same glorification of violence into the youth. Despite the fact that critiques of art forms as obscene or subversive tend to be taken less seriously today, the fact that Golden Age comic books came under such intense scrutiny as to necessitate the creation of a new censorship board is incredibly significant in looking at the treatment of comics versus other art forms. While charges of obscenity have lead individual works of art in to become banned in the United States relatively few, if any, have tried to generalize obscenity to, say, all books or all paintings. Catcher in the Rye and Huckleberry Finn may have each been banned for a time, but there was no serious push in 1940’s America to moderate the content of all books. While some early comic book critics were willing to admit to a range of quality in comic books, many still went so far as to make claims about the entire medium as opposed to individual comics. I believe that the extent to which comics were generalized as subversive by many critics compared to other art reveals an important facet of the struggle for comic books to attain recognition as a legitimate art form.

Moving past the argument that comics are subversive and appeal to an individual’s baser cravings, literary critic Thierry Groensteen summarizes four other main points for why comics have not received artistic legitimization. Groensteen argues that comics have four “handicaps” hampering their ascension:

It is a hybrid, the result of crossbreeding between text and image; Its story-telling ambitions seem to remain on the level of a sub-literature; It has connections to a common and inferior branch of visual art, that of caricature; Even though they are now frequently intended for adults, comics propose nothing other than a return to childhood (Magnussen and Christiansen, 35).

I think these four criticisms do a good job of summarizing the charges leveled against comic books in regards to why they should not be considered art. These critiques, though they may also speak to the quality of the comic book, do not take that as their primary concern. Instead they assess comics as not worthy of being taken as “art” at all. I believe that we have already seen evidence of the first two critiques in the above passages. Warshow’s criticism of comics as not attempting to cultivate children, but merely appealing to a baser literary urge reflects the idea that comics cannot elevate themselves to a higher literary standard. Legman’s critique of comic book versions of “classics” also reflects, I believe, a broader critique of hybridism.

There is a sense in which a literary classic, when combined to such an extent with pictures, cannot convey the same literary weight or worth as when it were merely text. Delmore Schwartz cements this critique in his specific examinations of comic “classics”. Schwartz draws on the ways in which these comics distort the original texts to show how they can mislead the literary youth of America. In reviewing the illustrated “edition” of A Midsummer Night’s Dream Schwartz points to the inclusion of expository text boxes as well as the presentation of blank verse as prose as major “distortions” of the text (Heer and Worcester, 54-55).

The cover of "Illustrated Classics" adaption of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
The cover of “Illustrated Classics” adaption of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Schwartz argues that unlike dramatic or cinematic versions of literary works, comics do not give their reader: “a new view and a new interest in the work.” Schwartz alleges that by getting used to comics a reader is: “…likely to feel deprived when there are no illustrations and you have to do all the work yourself…Moreover, the five of having your visualizing done for you is all too likely to make you unused if not unwilling to read books which have no pictures,” (Heer and Worcester, 56). For Schwartz, the combination of text with the image somehow inherently degrades the value of the work, and decreases the likelihood the reader will express interest or the capacity to read an original literary text. Schwartz gives almost no thought to the merits of putting image and text together, other than:

…might be that some juvenile readers who are…biased by the way in which Shakespeare is for the most part taught in high schools…will now come upon Shakespeare…and see that he is really a great deal of fun, he is not a painful assignment in homework and a difficult…ancient author…But there must be other and less misleading ways of demonstrating the pleasures of poetry to juvenile readers (Heer and Worcester, 56).

Schwartz only sees the only value in comic adaptation of a great work as a way of tricking students into wanting to read the original text, rather than seeing any value inherent in the comic itself. He extols middle school teachers to find “less misleading ways” of demonstrating the pleasure of the original. Schwartz and Legman’s critiques neglect to search for true indications of merit in comic book adaptations, but rather exemplify the sort of anti-hybridism that views the addition of images as inherently worsening the value of the text.

The other two sins Groensteen levels against comics-their ancestral link to caricature and comedy and their link to childhood-are more difficult to explicitly place within criticism. Each of those critiques tend to come off implicitly as some of the biases of the author. We turn once again to Robert Warshow, who deigned to review George Herriman’s 1913-1944 comic strip: Krazy Kat, one of the few comic strips enjoyed enough by critics to merit multiple mainstream reviews. In the strip, Krazy, a creature of indeterminate gender, loves Ingatz Mouse. Ingatz, according to Warshow: “despises Krazy—for his inoffensiveness, for his impenetrable silliness, and for his unshakable affection,” and as a result devotes his time to attempting to hit Krazy in the head with bricks (Warshow, 51). Unlike more positive reviews of Krazy Kat, Warshow instead focuses on how:

The gap between mass culture and respectable culture manifests itself not in an open rejection of society, but, more indirectly, in a complete disregard of the standards of respectable art…Where no art is important, ‘Krazy Kat’ is as real and important a work of art as any other—it is only supposed to divert its reader for two minutes at a time…Thus Herriman’s fantasy can be free and relaxed…His language is built up of scraps of sound and meaning…This absolute fantasy sometimes becomes mechanical, but it is never heavy and it frequently achieves the fresh quality of pure play, freed from the necessity to be dignified or ‘significant’ (Warshow, 50-51).

Here, though Warshow praises Krazy Kat for its “fresh quality of pure play”, it is clear that this quality that Warshow enjoys is also what removes Krazy Kat from consideration as “respectable art”. As a two-minute comic strip, Warshow enjoys the fact that Herriman is free to indulge himself and create little diversions, but finds this same freedom a deviation from adhering to the standards of what Warshow calls “respectable art”. While other reviewers that shall be examined in this essay praise Krazy Kat for being a thought-out, fanciful piece of work, Warshow sees its comedy and whimsy as lower forms of art, if art at all.

Dat fake jinja
Just your ordinary Krazy Kat comic strip

Groensteen’s final critique against comics, that they inherently draw a link to childhood, is perhaps the most difficult criticism to engage because, while it can be a criticism, it can also be a beautiful quality of comics. Groensteen himself points out that:

Comics still have a privileged relationship with childhood because it is in childhood that each of us discovered them…Many adults, in particular those who occupy a dominant position in the world of culture, take themselves very seriously…many adults have forgotten or rejected childhood pleasures in favor of more sophisticated, supposedly more noble, pleasures. (Magnussen and Christiansen, 40).

Groensteen whimsically points to the tendency of adults to take themselves “very seriously” as the reasoning for which adults disparage of comics. I, for one, am willing to let this criticism stand. Nowadays, as Groensteen remarked in the earlier provided passage, there are comics marketed specifically for adults. I would argue that whether or not a piece of art is “for” any age group is an arbitrary distinction. Furthermore, I am torn between the desire to hold up examples ranging from Watchman, to the darker issues of Batman, to the manga (Japanese comics) that are now rising rapidly in popularity in the United States in order to dispute Groensteen’s claim and my desire to welcome comic book’s connection to childhood wholeheartedly. Amongst the many criticisms of Golden Age comics that may still ring true till today, I am willing to accept the charge that they inherently resonate with one’s childhood.

But now we must turn to wondering why Groensteen, Wertham, Warshow, and company’s criticisms may still hold today in spite of the success and longevity of comics. The answer, I believe, lies in the very reason why comics have endured and remained popular for so long. Comics are unique in that they have managed to be the right medium, for the right audience, at the right time, since their rise to mass popularity: “The fact that the Golden Age of comic books occurred alongside the Great Depression and World War Two is no coincidence. The comic book creations of the thirties and forties filled a cultural need, one that was constantly evolving but was ultimately based on the desire for a cheap form of entertainment,” (Kelley, 2). As much as Golden Age comics influenced the culture of the 1940’s they were also inherently a product of the 40’s, when a form of entertainment as cheap as ten cents was absolutely necessary. Comic books also provided the kind of fantastical diversion needed to escape the desolation of the depression and post-depression years. The form of the comic book itself was also perfectly suited for the time period: “In a time before mass recorded media, the comic book was the one form of entertainment that you could enjoy at any time and as many times as you wanted. A ten cent comic book could easily be traded among friends, thereby increasing its actual value,” (Kelly, 3). Comics were unique as an entertainment medium that catered to the means, needs, and desires of the masses better than any of the other depression-era mediums. Furthermore, comics projected a message that the people wanted to hear: the arrival of heroes for the people, echoing the call for a New Deal. Characters like Superman took the fight to thieves, corrupt businessmen, and anyone else who threatened to prey upon the working man. Lastly, the arrival of the superhero also marked a change in the kind of environment in which heroes operated:

Historian Bradford Wright distinguishes between this new cultural hero and the folk heroes of America’s past: “Whereas heroes of the previous centuries, like Daniel Boone…could conquer and tame the savage American frontier, twentieth century America demanded a superhero who could resolve the tensions of individuals in an increasingly urban, consumer driven, and anonymous mass society,” (Kelley, 5)

The arrival of Superman, in particular, as a creation of Jerry Siegel and John Shuster in 1948 lead to an explosion in popularity of these superheroes that are perhaps one of the greatest examples of an art form catering to the needs of the populace.

Author and historian Larry Tye chronicled an extensive history of Superman in his book Superman, The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero. In the book, Tye argues that the reasons for Superman’s enduring success are his appeal to a audiences of every shape and size, his stature as the epitome of all human potential, and his ability to adapt to the times. Tye shows that Superman’s accessibility ranges across ethnicity, religion, gender, and more: “The sole survivor of a doomed planet, is a super-foundling. The love triangle connecting Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Superman has a side for everyone…for the religious, he can reinforce whatever faith they profess; for nonbelievers, he is a secular messiah,” (Tye, xiii). Superman’s tale combines everything from the story of an immigrant child arriving in a distant land, a savior showing the pinnacle of man, and a bumbling average Joe who is unable to get the girl of his dreams. But Superman also epitomizes what is enduring about comic book characters and story lines as a whole: their ability to adapt to suit a changing cultural climate. Unlike novels and films which must, to an extent, take a style and generic shift with the times, major comic book publishers were able to shift their story style while keeping the same characters intact for decades. Tye catalogs the shifts in every facet of Superman’s personality, from his personality to his voting habits: “…during the Gread Depression he was a New Dealer hell-bent on truth and justice, and during the Reagan Revolution he was a patriot trumpeting the American way. His sex life underwent an even more drastic about-face: from celibate to satisfied husband,” (Tye, x). Tye also lists the changes in enemies Superman has gone through as America’s enemies evolved:

In the 1930s he was just the crime fighter we needed to take on Al Capone and the robber barons. In the 1940s he defended the home front…Early in the Cold War he stood taller than ever for his adopted country…For each era he zeroed in on the threats that scared us the most…Each change offered a Rorsach test of that time and its dreams…It is…knowing that he is not merely the oldest of our superheroes but the most transcendent that…makes the Man of Tomorrow timeless as well as ageless, (Tye, xiv).

What Tye gives us is not only a remarkable account of perhaps the most recognizable hero in America, but a chronicle of how a character and industry have managed to maintain their popularity till the present day. The comic book industry was unprecedented in its capacity to tap into the entertainment needs of the individuals of the Golden Age, and has survived in part because of the industry’s continuing ability to adapt with a changing culture.

Sometimes real life gives you the super villains
Sometimes real life gives you the super villains

Unfortunately for those seeking to enshrine comic books as a legitimate art form, the historical explanation of why comic books are so popular and why particular characters, writers and publishers have endured for so long does not address the earlier criticisms of Golden Age critics, including Groensteen’s four “sins”. How, then, might we address them? To start, I think we can see that much of Wertham’s obscenity arguments have become obsolete. This is evidenced by the fact that today, when one turns on a television or computer screen to look up please for censorship they are applied, for the most part, to television and video games. The most vocal censorship advocates today are politicians and religious figures, rather than literary scholars.

As for the criticism towards hybridism, Groensteen gives his own response, arguing: “…in China and japan, where the stroke of the brush unites writing and drawing: calligraphic signs and representative lines are executed by the same hand with the same instrument. The painters of the Far East often insert whole poems in their images,” (Magnussen and Christiansen, 37). Groensteen places the disdain for hybrid forms in a particular cultural setting, namely, the West. He argues that Western cultures have emphasized “specificity”, preaching that music, literature, and painting all turn inwards within their own field. Groensteen goes so far as to suggest that as comics are a hybrid art form, they necessarily need a new field of criticism and criteria for evaluation: “It is difficult to refute the aesthetic argument without showing that the criteria for appreciation of drawing in comics are not quite the same as those used for art drawings. They are, unlike other drawings, narrative and not illustrative, executed on a very small surface and destined to be reproduced,” (Magnussen and Christiansen, 37).

This very idea of a new sort of criteria being necessary to truly judge comics can also be applied to another of the criticisms leveled at comics: their lack of true literary merit. One comic that paved the way for comics to be taken as serious literary works was Art Spiegelman’s 1980’s creation: Maus. Maus was a graphic novel (as well as one of the first pieces of literature to adopt said distinction) depicting two narratives: Art’s life as a second generation Jewish immigrant interviewing his father about his father’s experience during the holocaust, and his father’s stories brought to life in the same comic book. Perhaps the most distinctive trait of Maus is that it replaces all human characters with animals—most notably all Jews are portrayed as mice and Nazi’s as cats. Maus proved so hard to define as a genre, yet so deserving of literary merit, that it won a special citation Pulitzer Price in 1992 (Adams). Spiegelman even had to contact the New York Times directly to have Maus moved from the fiction to the nonfiction section of their bestseller list. Indeed, Maus seems to involve elements of fiction, (auto)biography and historical narrative. In a critical essay from the Ohio State Unviersity Press, one scholar argues that few scholars have properly approached Maus as a “visual narrative”. The scholar, Jeanne Ewert, argues that:

Its graphic arrangement of narrative layers and frames, its pictorial treatment of narrative time, and its efforts towards formal unity, exemplified by uses of visual metaphor and metonymy…are most clearly seen in the visual register of the narrative, and that literary critics, trained to read for textual devices, must retrain themselves to see these textual devices in Spiegelman’s work (Ewert, 1)

Cover of Art Spiegelman's "Maus"
Cover of Art Spiegelman’s “Maus”

The key points from this passage are that comics have, now, finally begun to receive the literary recognition as an art form and that the literary criteria applied to examining comics may need to change. Literary critics “must retrain themselves” to see how textual devices function within a realm of “layers and frames”. Just as the images in comics need to be approached differently, as “narrative” rather than “illustrative”, the literature of comics must also be seen from the visual register of narrative. Maus reveals how the literary merit of comics has risen to the pedestal of art and is an example of the need to move past the anti-hybridism of older comic book critics.

This view is supported by a review of Krazy Kat by Gilbert Seldes that, unlike Robert Warshow, praises Krazy Kat for its intelligent construction, its theme, and its whimsy. Seldes notes: “Krazy Kat is a combination of Parsifal and Don Quixote, the perfect fool and the perfect knight. Ignatz is Sancho Panza and, I should say, Lucifer. He loathes the sentimental excursions, the philosophic ramblings of Krazy; he interrupts with a well-directed brick the romantic excesses of his companion,” (Heer and Worcester, 24). Seldes is able to view Krazy Kat in a positive light because he recognizes both the careful construction of Krazy’s “sentimental diversions” and “philosophical ramblings” and relative depth of the characters and their relationships. And, once Seldes is done ruminating on the depths of Krazy and Ignatz, he moves to review Herriman’s illustrative techniques. Seldes compliments:

For whether he be a primitive or an expressionist, Herriman is an artist; his works are built up; there is a definite relation between his theme and his structure, and between his lines, masses, and his page…The little figure of Krazy built around the navel, is amazingly adaptable, and Herriman economically makes him express all the emotions with a turn of the hand, a bending of that extraordinary starched bow he wears around his neck, or with a twist of the tail (Heer and Worcester, 28).

Here one can see the ability of a critic to apply a nuanced means of criticizing comics. Not only does Seldes explore how Herriman’s formal construction of the panels and illustrations within his comic compliments the comic’s theme, he also notes how the design of Krazy facilitates Herriman’s storytelling. Seldes appreciates the ability of Herriman to express Krazy’s emotion with only minute changes in the character’s illustration. Through a broadening of approaches taken to literary works, critics are able to better assess comics as an art form than as sub-art.

The philosophical side of Krazy Kat exposed
The philosophical side of Krazy Kat exposed

Now, while the final two “sins” against comic books that Groentseen should not be neglected, they are the two that in my mind are now the easiest to answer. The critique that comics are derived from “comedy” or “caricature” may be true, but only if one now goes back decades upon decades. Titles such as Maus, Watchmen, and others show both the enormous variety in tone, subject matter, and genre that comics have taken over recent decades. And, as discussed earlier, I question the extent to which comics will ever be able to escape the association they have with children, and if that should even be considered a criticism. I fail to see how instilling nostalgia should in any way discredit an art form. One does not think of sculpture as “less-than-art”, simply because they had many a fond experience with Play-Doh as a child.

In spite of the incredible longevity and popularity of comic books, critics have leveled reasons barring comic books from serious recognition as art since comic’s first, monumental surge of popularity in the 1940’s. It wasn’t until decades after the Golden Age of comic books that they began to receive mainstream recognition as a new art form. It would seem that the best answer to the criticisms of the early critics of comics is that the established standards which are applied to paintings or to works of literature cannot fully assess comic books. Instead a new, emerging branch of criticism—comic book criticism—must be adopted for approaching the novel art form. It is understandable that in the early years of comics, when there simply wasn’t a register with which to address them, that critics did not recognize comic books as art. That time has passed. Today we must look upon comics with new eyes and, perhaps, old hearts that beat with the nostalgic eyes of decades-old children. We must examine how ten cents can buy an object that instills in us a sense of limitless, heroic possibility.


Works Cited:

Adams, James. “From Maus to Mainstream.” Globe & Mail (Toronto, Canada): L4. 2013.


Ewert, Jeanne C. “Reading Visual Narrative: Art Spiegelman’s “Maus”.” Narrative 8.1 (2000): 87-103.


Hajdu, David. The Ten-cent Plague: The Great Comic-book Scare and How It Changed America. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008. Print.


Heer, Jeet, and Kent Worcester. Arguing Comics: Literary Masters on a Popular Medium. Jackson: U of Mississippi, 2004. Print.


Kelley, Mark. “The Golden Age of Comic Books: Representations of American Culture from the Great Depression to the Cold War.” Dittman Award Student Papers (2009): 1.


Magnussen, Anne, and Hans-Christian Christiansen. Comics & Culture: Analytical and Theoretical Approaches to Comics. Copenhagen, Denmark: Museum Tusculanum, U of Copenhagen, 2000. Print.


Mishler, Anita L. Wertham, Frederic: “Seduction of the Innocent” (Book Review). 19 Vol. , 1955.


Petty, John. “A Brief History of Comic Books.” Heritage Auction Galleries (n.d.): n. pag. Web.


Tye, Larry. Superman: The High-flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero. New York: Random House, 2012. Print.


“Useful Notes: The Golden Age of Comic Books.” Tvtropes.org. TV Tropes, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.


Warshow, Robert. The Immediate Experience: Movies, Comics, Theatre & Other Aspects of Popular Culture. New York: Atheneum, 1970. Print.



Image Sources (In order of appearance):

Justice League Team:



Illustrated Classic: A Midsummer Night’s Dream



Krazy Kat 1:



Superman and Al Capone:



Krazy Kat 2:




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