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.THE VISIONARY - PART 5 of 10
The BIG CHILL!


IRA SCHNAPP was an Austrian immigrant who came to America with a talent for stone carving, and found a home working for DC Comics. But in the mid-fifties, Schnapp's career, along with the entire comic book industry, were threatened by...

DR. FREDRIC WERTHAM, a German psychiatrist who wrote Seduction of the Innocent (1954, cover pictured right), a book that "exposed" comics books as a prime corrupter of American youth and morality.

How are these two men connected? Let's find out! Starting with some quotes from Wertham's book, Seduction of the Innocent, illustrated... Robby-style!

Quotes from "SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT"
WONDER WOMAN IS MOST HARMFUL!
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Oh, doctor! That is just SO ridiculous! A crime comic? Since when is WW a crime comic? And besides, just LOOK at how wholesome the three Wonder Woman covers pictured below are. There's not a bit of sexual innuendo in them at all!
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WONDER WOMAN #12 WONDER WOMAN #22 WONDER WOMAN #68


SUPERMAN IS IMPOSSIBLE!
"Superman not only defies the laws of gravity, which his great strength makes conceivable; in addition he gives children a completely wrong idea of other basic physical laws. Not even Superman, for example, should be able to lift up a building while not standing on the ground, or to stop an airplane in mid air while flying himself."

--Fredrick Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent

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COMICS ARE FOR KIDS -- ONLY!

"I have known many adults who have treasured throughout their lives some of the books they read as children. I have never come across any adult or adolescent who had outgrown comic-book reading who would ever dream of keeping any of these 'books' for any sentimental or other reason."

--Fredrick Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent

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BATMAN AND ROBIN ARE GAY!
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Now that is just plain nonsense. Bruce and Dick... gay?!?!? Come on! That is absurd. There is absolutely no evidence of that whatsoever. Batman comics are just good clean fun. There's no real sexuality in them! Look, see for yourself...
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U.S. SENATE HEARINGS ON COMIC BOOKS!
Wertham's book led to a U.S. Congressional inquiry into the comic book industry in 1954. The Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, led by anti-crime crusader Estes Kefauver, publicly interview a number of comic book creators, as well as Wertham himself. In his testimony before the committee, Wertham restated arguments from his book and claimed that comic books were a major cause of juvenile crime.

But it was another witness, Bill Gaines -- son of comic book inventor M.C. Gaines, who was now publishing shock-ending horror comics under the EC banner -- who grabbed the headlines. Gaines was asked, “Is there any limit you can think of that you would not put in a magazine because you thought a child should not see or read about it?”

“My only limits,” Gaines told the committee, “are the bounds of good taste. What I consider good taste.”

At this point, Senator Kefauver held up a copy of Crime SuspenStories #22, featuring the cover shown below, by Johnny Craig...
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“This,” Senator Kefauver noted, “seems to be a man with a bloody ax holding a woman’s head up which has been severed from her body. Do you think that is in good taste?”

Cornered, Gaines answered, “Yes, sir, I do -- for the cover of a horror comic. A cover in bad taste, for example, might be defined as holding the head a little higher, so that blood could be seen dripping from it, and moving the body over a little further so that the neck of the body could be seen to be bloody.”

This poorly thought-out response shocked the audience. Following Gaines' testimony, The New York Times ran a front-page story about it under the headline: “No Harm in Horror, Comics Issuer Says." And when the Senate committee issued its final report, it was highly critical of comic books, and recommended that the industry tone down its lurid content voluntarily.
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THE COMICS CODE AUTHORITY
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The uproar surrounding the Senate committee's investigation into the comic industry resulted in the creation, in 1955, of the Comics Code Authority, an industry-run group charged with self-censoring inappropriate material. Pictured right is the Comics Code seal, designed by -- who else -- Ira Schnapp! Drawing on his expertise as a former stamp designer, Schnapp came up with a stamp-inspired, official looking seal of code approval. And what a code it was! Some highlights from the new code rules:

"Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals; The word "crime" shall never appear alone on a cover; No comics magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title; All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated; Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden; Nudity in any form is prohibited; Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities."

These rules, and the climate which produced them, spelled doom for Bill Gaines' entire line of EC titles, and cast a BIG CHILL over the entire industry. As Captain America co-creator Joe Simon put it, “The comic business was shaky because of the heat over the Senate Committee investigations. There just wasn't a lot of work, or a lot of money there."

DC's books had long adhered to an in-house code, so their fortunes weren't hugely affected, as many other publishers were. DC took great pains to promote the Comics Code, and its Schnapp-designed seal, as a way to avoid further public condemnation. Here's an Ira Schnapp-designed and lettered ad, touting the code:
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SCHNAPP-LETTERED PUBLIC SERVICE ADS!
Another effect of the Big Chill was the inclusion of public service ads in all DC comics. These ads, which promoted virtues ranging from tolerance of others to visiting your local library, were meant to add to DC's image as a family-friendly, non-threatening comic company dedicated to the social welfare and advancement of American youth. The three PSA's below, all lettered by Ira Schnapp, show that this master designer's word-balloon lettering was actually surprisingly pedestrian. Check it out...
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Another effect of the big chill: With horror and crime comics outlawed, DC had little choice but to try new genres of comic books, featuring firemen, time travelers, fighter pilots... and something called "super heroes." Take a look at the ads for these genre books below -- each one a polished gem, hand-lettered by Ira Schnapp...

FIRE FIGHTERS!
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RIP HUNTER... TIME MASTER!
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BLACKHAWK!
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THE FLASH!
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The Flash! The Fastest Man Alive! In a new, modernized version! And, of course, this was just the beginning. The debut of the Flash marks the beginning of what is known as The Silver Age of comic books. And who was destined define the entire style of this "Silver Age"? WHO ELSE! Our man, Ira Schnapp!


CLICK HERE TO READ "THE VISIONARY" PART SIX

THE SUPERHERO POPULATION EXPLODES, AND
EACH CHARACTER DEMANDS THEIR OWN LOGO!
FIND OUT HOW IRA SCHNAPP MADE IT HAPPEN!


You'll never forget...

"THE LOGOMAKER!"