by Amy Kiste Nyberg
Since their debut in the late 1930s, comic books have come under fire from a variety of sources. Criticism originated from three distinct groups, each with its own agenda. First, teachers and librarians objected to comic books, arguing that the simplistic storytelling, colloquial language, and reliance on illustrations hampered children’s ability to appreciate fine literature. The second group was composed of religious and civic organizations, whose objections to comics were an outgrowth of the nineteenth-century decency crusades. Their concerns centered on the moral corruption of young readers. They objected to depictions of sex and violence, the use of blasphemous or obscene language, and any content that demonstrated disrespect for authority. Finally, child study experts and psychiatrists shifted the focus from education and morality to media effects on children’s behavior. This criticism resonated with a public alarmed by a perceived rise in juvenile delinquency in postwar America. The attacks on comics from these three groups resulted in efforts to regulate reading, sales, and content of comic books.