Thursday, April 19, 2012

Does Crime Pay?

In 1942 a new comic called Crime Does Not Pay book hit the stands. It was created Charles Biro and Bob Wood. Crime Does Not Pay was the first 'true crime comic book published. By the end of the Second World War this book would boast monthly sales of 800,000 copies. Just as this book was peaking the popularity of the Superhero in Post War America was on the wane. This opened up an opportunity for a new genre to vie for domination of comic book sales for the next decade. Crime Comics.

With sales of Crime Does Not Pay increasing other publishers sought to gain a piece of the market and soon they were launching their own titles. This competition led to an increase in violence and gore, as they each tried to grab the public's attention.

Crime Based comics of the time (1942-1954) in the pre Comics Code days were often graphically violent and, even though the criminals eventually were caught, glorified crime. The books were also meant to titillate the young male audience that read them through the generous use of Good Girl Art (also referred to as GGA or “headlights”).

Eventually, these titles became the target groups that claimed comic books contributed to the rise of juvenile delinquency and illiteracy. After the publication of Dr. Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent and investigations by the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, the industry adopted a strict code administered by the Comics Code Authority.
Among other things a Comics Code approved book could not use words like “Crime” , “Horror” or “terror”. In addition Good Girl Art was strongly toned down, vampires, ghouls , werewolves etc. Could not be used and violence was sanitized across the board. In short Crime Comics were effectively “castrated”.

EC Comics, publisher of (among other titles) Crime SuspenStories was particularly hard hit by the new governing body and after a brief foray into less controversial genres went belly up.

Crime comics from this period remain highly collectible items and often fetch high prices in upper grades.
Today Crime Comics have made something of a comeback with titles such as “100 Bullets”, Brubaker’s “Criminal”, “Road To Perdition” and even “Gotham Central”. Proving that while crime may NOT pay, it is certainly profitable in the comic book business!

That’s 30!


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