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Tandra Page 1535, Burn The Books

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I’m sitting on my back porch looking out over the yard as the rising sun brightens the Eastern sky.

File this one under “In a Democracy is a conversation, not a unilateral decision!” Also file under sub-set “Repeal of the First Amendment”.

I have before mentioned that I am purchasing the hardcover series of books from “The Library Of American Comics”, a division of IDW Publishing, collecting “The Complete Little Orphan Annie” from the first release, dated August 5, 1924, and continuing, as I type this, through March 12, 1950, in volume fourteen and with more to come. I’ve not kept exact track of the release schedule but I believe there are some two Complete Annie volumes published per year.

Annie is not generally recognized as an “adventure” newspaper strip in the tradition of “Terry And The Pirates” or “Dick Tracy”. Annie leans more toward soap opera, but there is enough high adventure, crime and murder to grab the attention of the most devout adventure comics fan. The case can be made that Annie introduced the first comics super heroes. “Daddy” Warbucks is no Superman, but he can certainly hold his own with “Doc Savage” ,a popular pulp magazine character who was a direct inspiration for the Man of Steel, and with Marvel’s “Iron Man”. When creator Harold Gray came under criticism that Warbucks was above the law with his vigilante retribution for the bad guys, Gray brought in Punjab and the Asp who took a direct hand in punishing the villains and left Warbucks to maintain the moral high ground.

Harold Gray did not steer clear of controversy. Early on Annie went on strike when her employer treated her unfairly, then Gray reversed course and had Annie bust up a union strike. This was in the Twenties and Thirties when it was still legal for children to work and to earn their own way. Gray took a few jabs at the popular President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but fell in line to support FDR as World War II heated up. The truce was short lived. Soon Gray was back on the attack and his editors cut short a sequence in which Gray took dead aim at the abuses of the FDR Administration.

But the slap down from syndicate editors taught Harold Gray nothing. As the Fifties approached, and as covered in the most recent Annie volume, one Doctor Fredric Wertham, a self identified expert on children, was creating considerable publicity for himself in blaming comic books for all the nation’s ills. Particularly Wertham targeted the EC line of comics, though the Superman folks did not escape his attention. Wertham made claim Batman and Robin were a homosexual wish fantasy in four colour display. Today that would, without doubt, constitute a positive role model for children, but not in 1950.

Harold Gray tackled the issue head on in “Little Orphan Annie” when he had a minor and repulsive character by name of Prissy Putsch organize a comic book burning. This sequence was not invented whole cloth. There had actually been a much publicized burning of comic books in the town of Spencer, West Virginia. Gray made comparison of Prissy Putsch and her comic book burning mob to Hitler and the Nazis and their infamous book bonfires.

Gray received considerable criticism for his defense of the First Amendment and of comic books. Numerous critics of Harold Gray and of his First Amendment stand insisted comics (including those in the daily newspapers, which included Annie) were the primary cause of juvenile crime and, if comics were banned, children would, of consequence, be fundamentally transformed into little angels. Any measures, including the trashing of the First Amendment, were justified in the holy cause of saving the children from evil influence.

Here we are in the final quarter of 2017 and the wet dreams of the comics haters have essentially come to be. Comic books still exist for sale, isolated to a few specialty shops in the undesirable parts of town, and newspapers still publish a few “gag-a-day” comic strips reproduced of such size a magnifying glass is required to read them. For all practical purposes comics of all sorts have been censored from the public square.

And, of consequence, all of America’s children have evolved into perfect little angels.


“Rule by the unaccountable is tyranny!”


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