Endeavour's Legacy - Off-Ramp for October 12, 2012

Book burning anyone? A look at LA's comic book ban of 1948

Just your typical comic book burning in Binghamton, NY (1948)

Today, 'crime' video games are violent enough to scare away plenty of parents, but back in the '40s, it was crime comic books that filled the violent media role. Comics of the era were getting more and more violent too, and, in September 1948, L.A. County passed a ban on comic books. 

Benjamin Dickow lectures on comics history at Otis College. He says the penalties for putting comics in the hands of minors were harsh. "Basically the ordinance said it was punishable up to a $500 fine and six months in jail if an adult gave or sold a comic to kids," Dickow says. 

According to Dickow, some of these banned comics were never really meant for kids in the first place. "In WWII, GIs were reading comic books and when they got back they were still reading comic books. A lot of the comic book writers had been in the war," he says. "These were never totally meant for kids." 

But, available at the grocery stores and five and dimes of the day, theses increasingly sensational comics provoked plenty of parents, and led to huge comic book burnings on the East Coast. Dickow says he can't help but see the comic book burnings of the '40s as a little paradoxical, as they happened just a few years after we defeated the book-burning Nazis. 

Benjamin Dickow is part of a group called Captured Aural Phantasy Theater that brings comics and other culture to life monthly at El Cid. Captured Aural is celebrating their fifth anniversary of programming this year -- their next show is November 3. More info here

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