Judy has been reading The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay- which has its fictional characters get embroiled with the Wertham episode- and we've been talking about it. She assumed that- as an Englishman of a certain age- I wouldn't have heard of Wertham, but actually- and oddly- an encounter with Wertham's thesis was one of the formative incidents of my childhood. I didn't read comic books- they were hard to come by over here- but we did get the Reader's Digest- and of all the things I must have read in that useful, informative, bourgeois publication the one I particularly remember is an article in support of Wertham.This was probably the first time I was ever exposed to a current affairs story that shocked me. According to the Digest, suburban children my age were running amok and murdering people- and all because they were reading something other than Enid Blyton. The hook was a lurid story about how some child had fired an air-rifle (purchased by mail from a comic book advert) out of his bedroom window at random and managed to kill a spectator in a local sports stadium. I was horrified. And haunted. What must it feel like to be only eight and have blood on your hands? I also remember the picture that went with the article. It showed a young boy lying on his stomach with a comic book in front of him and a look on his face that suggested he was dreaming up evil mischief. It's entirely possible he was also toying with a switchblade.
My early exposure to Wertham had two consequences. One- short term- was I never developed a taste for comics. The second- long term- is I've learned to treat folk panics about youth culture with scepticism and contempt. So computer games are rotting the minds of our children? Yeah, sure; that's exactly what stupid people were saying about comic books back in the 50s.