Friday, December 13, 2013


It's been a long, at times difficult, but always enlightening journey, and I am happy to say that we are in the homestretch. We are in the final stages of editing, assembling b-roll, music, sound-mixing, and perhaps most exciting... finalizing the animated sequences.

Here are all the starring characters (never seen before except for Wertham!):

My previous documentary took 18 months to make. The one before that, three years. With De Luxe, my last film, I wrote the narrative structure through voice-over. As you may or may not know, that makes creating and controlling the production of a documentary far easier, than say, a cinema verité documentary or one completely constructed through interviews. The latter is how Diagram for Delinquents is built. This is not often done for historical films, so it's been challenging.

It's a film that spans decades and involved traveling the country gathering the key players and experts on the story. It was a story that was developing as we made it. And, as you amass interviews and build a narrative, one inevitably finds holes that must be filled. If I were writing narration, problem solved... Give me ten minutes and I can write and record the missing piece. With the way this film is made it means you have to go back out and find the expert who can fill that hole. And that takes time and money. I appreciate your patience in allowing me to make as complete a picture (that the length of a film can allow) I can for this unique period of American history.

For this update I present to you the first completed part of the film I have released publicly. All clips in the past were simply put together as promotional pieces in an effort to share some of the interviews and materials I had gathered. This segment comes right from the completed film.

This clip is our first formal introduction of Dr. Fredric Wertham.

Prior to the introduction of Dr. Wertham in this sequence, audiences will have seen these previous topics covered: The First Comics, Early Comics Criticism, Comics of the 40's and 50's, Comics Readership, Youth Culture, Crime, EC, and Horror Comics, Juvenile Delinquency in America, Rise in Comics Criticism, Media and Society, Comics Proponents, Comics Censorship, Association of Comics Magazine Publishers, Comic Book Burnings, and the New York Joint Legislative Committee.

I hope you enjoy this excerpt. As for me I am jumping headlong back into editing to finish this up. Fortunately the semester is ending and I can dedicate all my time to completing the film.

Here is our man, Dr. Fredric Wertham:

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Diagram for Delinquents Update #30: It Was a Mean Time

Hello Comics History Fans:

I am writing to you from Bangkok, Thailand where I am currently a Peace Fellow at Chulalongkorn University. While here I've been studying violence, conflict resolution, and peace for my research interests in the intersection of these topics and documentary film. As you know, our documentary, Diagram for Delinquents, is a study of violence in the media and its impact on society, specifically the youth in 1940's and 1950's America. I am learning much here and I am also editing Diagram's interviews in my free time.

Here is a little something I slung together to bring you to my side of the world:

As I am on this side of the world, Jason Clarke is on the other side working on the film's animated courtroom sequences.

A few days before I left for Thailand I met Jason at the New York Public Library to discuss the animated sequences in more depth. Visions of Ghostbusters danced in our heads as we discussed the film in hushed tones at a large oak table on the second floor. I am quite pleased with Jason's vision of making the scenes less static and more visual. I am positive you will be impressed and excited by what he is creating!

Below is a clip I pulled of Warren Bernard discussing Wertham, juvenile delinquency, and the zeitgeist of the late 40's/early50's America. As I've written previously, Warren is the Executive Director of the Small Press Expo. He is also a comics expert and historian and has written the article "Bloody Massacre: How Fredric Wertham Public Backlash and the 1954 Senate Delinquency Hearings Threw Comics on the Bonfire" for The Comics Journal.

Indeed, as Warren explains, Wertham wasn't the only and certainly not the first critic of comic books. The popular children's book author Sterling North was an early critic. On May 8, 1940 in the Chicago Daily News, North penned the scathing essay on comics he titled: “A National Disgrace." I think that sums up his sentiments quite succinctly.

In the article, North writes, "[Comic books are] badly drawn, badly written and badly printed—a strain on young eyes and young nervous systems… Their crude blacks and reds spoil the child’s natural sense of color; their hypodermic injection of sex and murder make the child impatient with better, though quieter, stories."

Warren also mentions the great American journalist David Halberstam. Mr. Halberstam has had a noted career as a journalist and historian and has received the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 1964. As you may have guessed Halberstam's interestingly structured book The Fifties has been a source for our film.

Now... let's here form Warren:


Bangkok, 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

De Luxe: The Tale of the Blue Comet - Excerpts Now Available Online

Just in time for summer and the ubiquitous travel to the Jersey shore, now, for the first time, you can watch excerpts from my documentary feature De Luxe: The Tale of the Blue Comet on my YouTube channel. I hope you enjoy these selected segments.

The Blue Comet was a named passenger train operated by the Central Railroad of New Jersey from 1929 to 1941 between Jersey City and Atlantic City. Designed by Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ) president R.B. White and his team in 1928, the train took passengers from Communipaw Terminal in Jersey City (via a ferry from New York City) to Atlantic City, making the total trip from Manhattan to Atlantic City in three hours. The locomotive and its consist, including a dining and observation car, were painted in dinstict blues and cream which gave the train its unique and memorable appearance. The documentary De Luxe: The Tale of the Blue Comet traces the train's rapid creation to the fateful crash that ultimately led to its sad demise. The story of the Blue Comet is set against the backdrop of Depression Era America and the development of the highway system and transportation in New Jersey. It is a dinstinct tale of American and New Jersey culture and history.

Friday, June 14, 2013


On my walk home from the market I saw four young musicians rehearsing in the Chula Cultural Center. The Center is undergoing remodeling so there is building equipment and materials everywhere. I quietly made my way up and hid within the debris and behind the columns of the temple to secretly film the intimate session.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the Cinema

I had an incredible experience at the movies last night. As I was sitting through the 25 minutes of pre-film commercials... yes... 25 minutes... I started to doze off. As my head was dipping into sleep a pleasant song starting to play over the speakers and the entire audience of about 250 people stood up quickly. I didn't know what was happening but I jumped up as well and focused on the screen. It was showing a tribute to Rama IX, the King of Thailand. I peered around as the audience watched with respect. I enjoyed the moment. It seemed, at least to me, like a sincere moment of pride and honor by the audience for their King. The moment felt free of cynicism. It's often hard to show national pride these days (for many reasons of course), but I think it can still be quite a sincere and positive expression. Again, this is how it felt. I couldn't tell you what was going on in the minds of the audience or what the larger feelings of Bangkok's youth today is like, but the vibe of the experience was very positive for me.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Diagram for Delinquents Update #29: I want you to suffer more and more and more and more.

Hello supporters and interested parties. It's been two months since I've posted an update, but let me assure you, there isn't a week that goes by that I'm not working on the film in some way.

While being a documentary filmmaker, I am also a professor and assistant dean at a university, and a father. I wish I could dedicate all my time to the film, but that's not possible. My last film took two years to complete, the one before that took three. Diagram for Delinquents has been an incredible experience. It has taken me to California, New York, Montana, Maryland, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, South Carolina... I've been able to interview an oustanding set of subjects including:

Stephen O'Day (http://seductionoftheinnocent.org)

Al Feldstein (EC Comics, Editor, Artist, Writer)

Bart Beaty (Author of Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture)

Steven J. Kirsh (Children, Adolescents, and Media Violence: A Critical Look at the Research)

Jim Trombetta (Author of The Horror The Horror)

Mark Evanier (Comics writer and Author of Wertham was Right!)

James Gilbert (Author of Cycle of Outrage)

Roy Thomas (Former Editor in Chief Marvel Comics)

Paul Levitz (Former Editor in Chief DC Comics)

Bradford Wright (Author of Comic Book Nation)

Matt Fraction (Comic book author)

Brian Azzarello (Comic book author)

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

I apologize if you feel things are moving slowly, but I must say, I will not release a film that I feel is not complete. This story has taken many turns and new revelations are happening almost daily. Just in the last two months new findings have caused more controversy, solidified theories, and have given rise to new questions. This story is still evolving! This is exciting!

With that being said, I think the finish line of principal photography is in sight. What should be the final interviews will be taking place this March.

I am very pleased to announce that we will be interviewing Warren Bernard this Sunday. Many of you will know Mr. Bernard as the Executive Director of the Small Press Expo. Warren is also a comics scholars and historian and has very recently written an expertly researched article that explores how the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency came to fruition ("Bloody Massacre: How Fredric Wertham Public Backlash and the 1954 Senate Delinquency Hearings Threw Comics on the Bonfire"). It was published in the latest Comics Journal. The journal's website has posted all of the article's citations : Warren Bernard’s Citations and Fredric Wertham Documents.

Mr. Bernard's interview will be followed a week later by Amy K. Nyberg, author of The Seal of Approval: A History of the Comics Code. This interview has been a long time in coming. We always knew the film was incomplete without Dr. Nyberg's input and we have finally been able to schedule it. Her book was one of the first to look at this period of comics history.

And finally, we will be interviewing Carol Tilley two weeks later. Dr. Tilley's newest research was published in Information & Culture: A Journal of History. Her article, "Seducing the Innocent: Fredric Wertham and the Falsifications that Helped Condemn Comics" has received much attention in the last two weeks as she has found evidence that Wertham manipulated, changed, and fabricated data for the publication of Seduction of the Innocent. As I mentioned early, with the opening of Wertham's archives, new information is presenting itself.

Lastly, as I have mentioned in the past, Diagram for Delinquents will incorporate animated sequences that use the actual court audio from the Senate Subcommitee Hearings on Juvenile Delinquency and Comic Books. Animation is a difficult, tedious, and time-consuming process. Luckily we are working with an animator whose talents are worth the wait! Hailing from Brooklyn, NY, Jason Clarke brings an aesthetic that really moves the animated sequences into the realm of comics. Jason is a designer, animator, illustrator, everythingator and this really brings a cohesiveness to his work. Please see more of Jason's work at his website: THIS IS JASON.

Just this week we received a rough version (there are missing elements and movements that will be in  the final version of this clip, as well as the remainder of the sequence) of one of the film's sequences.

In this clip we can hear and see Wertham testifying about the gruesome horrors in the comic book Mysterious Adventures #20. [I once again have the endless resource of all things Seduction of the Innocent Stephen O'Day of http://seductionoftheinnocent.org to thank for citing this. If you haven't visited his site, you MUST! Thank you again, Steve. You're a genius.] The story in this issue that Wertham is referring to is "Chef's Delight." Wertham isn't overstating here... It's quite grisly! Have a look. Here is the issue's cover and the final page which is what Wertham is drawing from (Click on image to enlarge):

It's followed by an interesting exchange with Kefauver.

Here is a court room photo of Wertham at the witness table giving testimony to the presiding Senators and other court officials.

Wertham describes the scene:

Now, this is a heroine. This is a woman who kills a man. You see, he has blood coming all over the man's face and she says, "I want you to suffer more and more and more and more."
Then the final triumph, she takes this man's organs and serves them up as dishes like a housewife and you see her "famous fried brains, famous baked kidneys, famous stuffed heart."

Next to that is the remainder of this man.
All I say is that quite apart from the disgust that it arouses in us - and I am a doctor, I can't permit myself the luxury of being disgusted ─ I think this kind of thing that children see over and over again causes this ethical confusion.

That seems to be the end of that comic book story.

Yes. I should add that it says here, "The End." "The End" is this glorious meal, cannibalism.

So it did not have a very happy ending.

Well, the comic book publishers seem to think it did. They made a lot of money.

And here is our interpretation:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Diagram for Delinquents Update #28: The Not So Garden (of Eden) State


I am a New Jersey guy.

Ever since I began making documentaries I have investigated the obscure, forgotten, unexplored, but intriguing histories of the Garden State.

With my last two feature length films I profiled a Mexican aviator who crashed and died in the Jersey Pines in 1928 and a locomotive that fought its way through the Depression until its sad demise in 1941 when roads expanded and the automobile became the dominant mode of transportation. Before that I produced documentary shorts about two recurring phenomena in New Jersey: yard sales and eminent domain. In my web series MINICONCEPTDOCS I produced over a dozen doc shorts that profiled some aspect of New Jersey.

I had become the "New Jersey documentary guy" and I was proud of the designation. Still am.

With Diagram for Delinquents it might appear that I've left behind the New Jersey motif for now. But fear not my fellow lovers of all things Jersey. There are some very important and unique New Jersey aspects to our documentary.

Foremost, again, is connected to the 1954 Senate Subcommittee Hearings on Juvenile Delinquency and Comic Books. The chairman of the committee was Republican Senator Robert C. Hendrickson of New Jersey. Senator Hendrickson was born close to me, in Woodbury, on August 12, 1898. The Senator was an accomplished veteran of both World Wars as well as the Korean War. He rose through the ranks of state politics, eventually earning his U.S. Senate seat in 1948, always keeping a residence in Gloucester County's Woodbury.

Senator Hendrickson became well known for his interest and work on the matter of comics and juvenile delinquency. One reaction to his work resulted in an interesting letter from the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.

Low on far right
As a way to reach out to and educate current and potential Girl Scouts, the organization created a comic book about its founder, Juliette Gordon "Daisy" Low. The Girl Scouts believed in the positive qualities of what they had created and an issue was sent to Senator Hendrickson for review.

Two years after the hearings, Hendrickson, along with coauthor and journalist Fred J. Cook, wrote the Harcourt and Brace publication, Youth in Danger, reporting on the conditions of juvenile delinquency during the 1940's and 1950's as well as his experiences as a member of the Senate Subcommittee investigating comics.

During the early 1950's a number of organizations in New Jersey protested the sale of comics books in the state.

In 1953, The New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs, a group founded in 1894, called for legislators to enact laws to control the sale of comic books (or as they describe them: "filthy literature") to youths. It's interesting to note that while the NJSFWC wanted action, they did not condone censorship as a course of action. The New York Times reported on the resolution. Read more about it by clicking on the article to the right.

Another group, The New Jersey Congress of Parents and Teachers, took a more extreme approach when they petitioned the State Legislature to ban the publication and distribution of comic books as well as other objectionable media that presented indecent and obscene material. On October 22, 1954, the New York Times reported on the resolution. Read more by clicking the article to the left.

Also, before the hearings even opened there was the small issue of the aborted comic book burning event that happened in Rumson, New Jersey in 1949.

The idea came about during the brief trend of comic book burnings which fortunately flamed out as quickly as cheap pulped incinerates.

However, before the trend died out, leaders in town had decided to exercise their right to burn. The Cub Scouts planned to conduct a drive to collect comic books which depicted murderers and criminals and were set to be burned in Rumson's Victory Park. Fortunately reason prevailed and the burning was canceled. As the brief article in the New York Times wrote, there was a disturbing twist to the event:

"A procession of Scouts to Rumson Borough Hall will follow and awards will be made to Scout dens which collected the most books."

The change of plans to not burn the comic books was written-up in the nearby local newspaper, the Red Bank Register. Read more about it by clicking the article to the left.

The calls for bans, burnings, restrictions, and laws on comics can seem quite alarmist now. But imagine what it must have been like for parents, educators, and concerned parties who were becoming increasingly terrified by a youth which appeared in jeopardy and out of control and a medium which seemed to be contributing to the issue.... Finding it hard to imagine?

Perhaps this will help: