Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Diagram for Delinquents Update #1

Hello All!

1. Diagram for Delinquents News
Let me begin with huge thanks to our first pledges who have put us at just about 25% of our goal all within the first 24 hours of our launch!

I cannot express in this post alone the high level of excitement, joy, and encouragement this gives the filmmakers.

I am going to use this space over the next three months to tell you about the pre-production progress of the film and to share some of the exciting discoveries we have made so far and will continue to make.

Let me begin with some of the participants that will appear in the picture. To tell this story we will be capturing artists, writers, historians, editors, and many others inside and outside the world of comics. So far we are set to interview three individuals that have made huge contributions to comic book studies:

Bart Beaty, author of Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture.
Amy Kiste Nyberg, author of  Seal of Approval: The History of the Comics Code.
Douglas Wolk, author of Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean.

We are so pleased to be working with them as they will bring so much experience and original thought to the discussion and narrative.

2. It Came From the Archives!!!

 I am going to use this biweekly section to release some of the more interesting documents we have uncovered in our journey through the Fredric Wertham Papers.

Today I'd like to share a curios letter sent to Senator Estes Kefauver from Dr. Frederic Wertham on September 21, 1954.

Some background: Senator Kefauver (left) was elected to the Senate in 1948 after putting in significant time as a state Representation from the 3rd District of Tennessee. While in the Senate, Kefauver sat on significant committees dealing with monopolies and organized crime.

However, it his time spent on the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency that is the focus of our story, Diagram For Delinquents. The Subcommittee was established and originally chaired in 1953 by NJ Senator
Robert Hendrickson (My home state!). The original formation of the bipartisan Subcommittee included Hendrickson, Kefauver, Thomas C. Hennings, Jr. of Missouri, and William Langer of North Dakota. Others and various lead counsel came later.

The Subcommittee heard testimonies, in several parts, from experts testifying on the possible causes of juvenile delinquency from television to comic books as well as defenders of targeted culture and media (more on that in later posts!).

One of the experts in the comic book hearings (held on April 21st, 22nd, and June 4th of 1954) was New York psychiatrist Dr. Fredric Wertham.Wertham, who had recently published his indictment of comics, Seduction of the Innocent (which was read with enthusiasm by Kefauver) was an expert witness on the impact that comics made in creating deliquent behavior in children.

(Wertham had spent much time and energy investigating the causes of juvenile delinquency and child gangs well before the hearings that day. This was quite evident as we poured through the hundreds of clipped news articles on gangs, poverty, and delinquency that Wertham had amassed... But that's for a future post!)

The drama of Wertham's and other's testimonies before the Subcommitte and the exchanges with Kefauver will make much of the drama of our film. Again... to be reveled in the future...

So back to today's It Came From the Archives!!!

I present to you a letter written to Kefauver from Wertham about five months after his testimony. The letter expresses his unhappiness at the direction of some of comic book publishers and who they may or may not have in their "back pockets as well as Kefauver's colleagues regarding the comic book code. Of note are Wertham's description of the situation, the money that is involved in the comic industry, and Wertham's urgency to push Kefauver to complete his intended goal of straightening out this whole comics business.

And so...

(Click on this and above images to enlarge)

3. Be a Part of Getting Diagram for Delinquents Made

Getting a film produced is difficult and requires the aid of many. Fortunately, using new and creative fund-raising ventures, the internet has made the process all the more achievable.

If you've found the glimpse above intriguing, than help us bring you the rest of the story by visiting our Kickstarter site (See Kickstarter widget and the promotional video below). There, you can pledge a donation to the film and pre-order your own copy today! There are many exciting incentives to donate at various levels. Looking forward to hearing from you!




  1. Good luck on the documentary!

    Interesting letter from the archives.

    One thing that caught my eye is that he seems to continually use the term crime comics industry. Do you know why that is? It makes me think that he primarily objected to comics' use of the crime genre, but then he links in Superman and other superhero comics. So maybe he's just using the term to try to subliminally associate comics with crime.

  2. Fascinating. I had some of the same questions as Corey, and then when I saw your promo video I saw the "Crime" comic. Was is this particular comic that Wertham objected to? Clearly this is territory I'm not familiar with.

    In any case, the whole story is utterly compelling. It's already something I can easily see people getting excited about. I think this is going to be major for you.

  3. Corey, Blake -

    Thank you for your kind words!

    I think you both have really hit something with your observations and I believe it's wrapped up in much of the examples he presented and their impact on juvenile behavior.

    Indeed, while he did show leads as to the impact of some of the superhero comics on child behaviors, typically sexuality, I think the Doctor was concerned with the violent behavior that he saw and dealt with in his patients. Both juvenile and adult.

    Pouring through his papers was enlightening in many ways. Some of the evidence in his case files was quite grizzly and I barely had the nerve to look at the photos.

    I think this really troubled Wertham and he earnestly wanted to help stop cycles of violence. Though, as we can see, his means to an end was highly problematic regarding comics.