Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Comic Book World in 1955

Do you own a copy of Dr. Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent? It's been in my collection for about twenty years and I'm hoping to find time to read it one of these decades. Moments that I have for non-periodical reading is scarce! (You'll think it comical but just yesterday evening I polished off a book that I began reading in 2003. Fabulous Small Jews has elevated Joseph Epstein to the rarefied distinction of Superb Short Story Writer already occupied in my mind by Damon Runyon and Harlan Ellison. (If you click on the link above you can read a few sample Epstein pages.) )

Well, today I have some good news for you and for me. Blogger extraordinaire Mark Evanier has unearthed a 25-minute video from 1955 that covers the same territory as Seduction of the Innocent. (I invite you to read Mark like I do at .) His archival link does not point directly to this article (a byproduct of his posting more than one article every single day) so rather than send you there I will reprint his excellent introduction to the video. Mark wrote the following:

Here's an interesting curio — a 1955 TV exposé on the evils of comic books. The host is Paul Coates, who was an L.A. Times reporter who doubled as a TV host, usually covering pretty salacious or controversial topics. One might suggest his broadcasts exploited these subjects, putting some pretty racy stuff on the airwaves under the cover of condemning it. He was an occasional partner with L.A. TV newsman George Putnam, who did a lot of films and telecasts with a tone of outraged public scolding of "sins" that are now, for good or ill, commonplace.

The most interesting part of this 25-minute show is the conversation with Senator Estes Kefauver, who had headed up the inquiry into comic books in Washington the year before...and according to some, expected to ride that crusade right into the White House. You can judge for yourself how sincere or accurate he was...and probably guess what I think.

Coates interviews kids who read comics, as well as one comic book artist who apparently regrets the work he did. He's Ellis Eringer and his main credits were on the kinds of comics not addressed in this program. He was primarily an inker for Disney and Disney-type comics in the sixties, mainly for Western Publishing but occasionally directly for Disney Studios where comic book material was often produced for overseas publishers. He also occasionally inked Disney newspaper strips, particularly Donald Duck. He did do some romance and horror comics early in his career and the romance work he's talking about was probably when he drew a few stories for Harvey's love comics (like Hi-School Romances) between 1949 and 1951. Those were pretty tame books that did not quite match his lurid descriptions.

The other interesting thing about the show is who the director was: Irvin Kershner, then a staff TV director at KTTV...and the Associate Producer was Andrew Fenady. Just three years after this, Roger Corman would hire Fenady and Kershner to make Stakeout on Dope Street, a pretty lurid (for its day) and cheap movie about drug trafficking. Fenady and Kershner co-wrote the script, Kershner directed and Fenady produced and played a role. It was a much more respectable job than making shows like this one...

And here is the video.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Comic Book Coverage at Vanity Fair

An article in the May, 2011 issue of Vanity Fair is entitled Superhero Movies: Turn Off the Projector and you can read it here. (The author of the article, James Wolcott, deservedly brags that he had a letter to the editor published in a 1967 issue of The Fantastic Four.)

Vanity Fair also has some articles in its archives that are noteworthy. Here is an interesting 2002 examination of Superman through the ages, and here is a 1986 appreciation of Frank Miller's interpretation of Batman in The Dark Knight.

Maybe you'd even like to view a slideshow presentation of the 2009 softball game between Vanity Fair and DC Comics?

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Hayfamzone Doppleganger

Yes, I'm all about the comic books. But I'm also all about the math class!

Since August of 1997 it has been my honor to teach the very talented students at Fasman Yeshiva High School in Skokie, Illinois. I'll also tell you that every springtime the students produce a Purim Shpiel, a play in which they lampoon their daily life (including their teachers!).

It was a treat for me that "Mr. Hayes" was the narrator of the 2000 Shpiel, whose storyline was based on The Wizard of Oz. I present to you Mr. Boruch Taub playing the role of "Mr. Hayes" and I'm told that his portrayal is (gulp) quite accurate. I hope you enjoy it as much as me when you look here to see the prologue and here to see the epilogue of the play.