They Didn’t Want Their Comics Taken Away…

The Ten-Cent Plague by David Hajdu

It happens every generation: the kids pick up a new piece of pop culture and frightened parents get riled up.

Video games are the most recent target of adult ire. After several attempts to make laws banning violent games, the Supreme Court announced this month that it will take up whether states may ban  the sale of explicit games to minors. The groups that back bans argue that violent games encourage youth delinquency, increase aggression, and yes, train future killers. The other side–gamers and civil-liberties wonks, mainly–say banning games violates freedom of speech. Besides, they contend, an industry-run parental ratings system gives parents control over the games their kids play.

Interestingly, this fight has played out before. When today’s angry parents were children, they had to defend their own controversial hobby: comic books.

I recently read a great book on the subject, The Ten-Cent Plague by David Hajdu.  The author chronicles the panic that ensued in churches, local communities and the Congress… and the parallels abound. Like games, comics were blamed for acts of violence when it turned out the bully owned a few illustrated stories about criminals. The comic book industry even tried protecting itself from government intervention by establishing a “comics code.”

It seems that history is repeating itself. One can only wonder what today’s gamers won’t want their kids doing.