Comically Bad

If your local TV station is working extra hard lately, that’s because it’s February sweeps. When I toiled in the business of marketing TV news, I used to love sweeps and all its sensational over the top stories. It made my job fun. And though it meant more work, it was work that came easy to me.

I’ve seen it all, some of it good journalism and some of it tawdry and awful — and some of it very, very flimsy — like WNYT’s story on the dangers of comic books.

Sex? Violence? Corrupting the minds of children? The points raised in this piece are precisely the same as those brought up when a US Senate subcommittee grilled comic book publishers at hearings in 1954. The hysteria they drummed up worked; the publishing industry created the Comics Code Authority to enforce a set of self-imposed standards of decency. Purists believe it ruined the business.

That the story completely ingnored the history of comics and how they were censored in the past really tells me something. It tells me someone did zero research — but can you really expect context from a story that doesn’t offer one shred of fact to support its premise?

And is it true that Comic Book Content Causes Concern for Some? Yes, in the story there’s a psychologist who’s concerned, and some comic-loving parents who understand the definition of age appropriateness — but I’d say they are only mildly concerned.

The takeaway? Monitor what your kids are doing so you can protect them from inapproprate material. OK, I guess the story did do one thing really well: it did a great job of overstating the obvious. There’s some news you can use.

By the way, if you’re interested in comics and how they were censored in the 50s, get a copy of The Ten Cent Plague. This is a must read for comic fans — and an eye opening look at what happens when you let social conservatives start running things.

11 Responses to Comically Bad

  1. I was laughing about the fact that they were alerting us about a comic book that came out 6 months ago (Catwoman #1). Timely!
    WNYT in particular is always way behind when it comes to pop culture stories. Just skip it and find something else to fill time with.
    Also, I didn’t think kids even read comics anymore. Isn’t that adult only territory at this point?

    • I like to think kids still read comics — but for the sort of books that are more violent or racy they’d would have to get to a comic store, wouldn’t they?

      This whole thing is just stupid. The worst that will happen is it will spawn a new generation of comic book geeks. Is that so bad?

      WNYT should be ashamed of themselves for pawning off a story that’s do superficial and insulting to our intelligence. It really is one of the worst things they’ve ever done, and I say that after having my hands on everything they did during sweeps for 20 years.

  2. I love that the comic book store guy looks and sounds exactly like “The Comic Book Guy” from The Simpsons. The reporter managed to stumble across some truth, after all.

  3. Context? Facts? Research? I don’t know what you’re smoking, brother, but I’d love to get my hands on some.

    I have, as you know, taught aspiring broadcast journalists, and if one of them turned this story in as a project I’d send them back to do it again. It’s poorly sourced and superficial, but I would give them points for the clever use of graphics, which is the only good thing about the story.

    In defense of local reporters, they don’t get much time to turn these stories and are given few, if any, resources. This isn’t some big market where they have a producer assigned to help get the thing done.

    Now, since you’re the promo guy, let’s talk about this: WNYT started plugging this story LAST WEEK! On Thursday night I saw the promo during 30 Rock and was puzzled that local news would bother with a topic like this. Judging by the story they shouldn’t have. If you’re going to advertise a story for four days, it better have a big payoff. Keep letting your viewer down and sooner or later it will begin to hurt your credibility. Peace out.

  4. If I remember correctly, the Comics Code Authority was established specifically as a result of some egghead’s claims that Wonder Woman was a a lesbian who consorted with other lesbians, and that this impeded the growth and development of a “normal” little girl — to say nothing about the sexual dreams of little boys.

    • This is all covered in great detail in The Ten Cent Plague. While Wonder Woman was cited as a lesbian by the quack who spearheaded the attack on comics, it was just one example that brought about the Code. William Gaines and EC Comics are generally considered the primary focus of the Senate investigation and subsequent regulations.

      Said quack:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fredric_Wertham

  5. And coming up after the break: communists! Are they infiltrating Hollywood? Which screenwriters have Soviet connections? We have the scoop!

    • I could write the promo in my sleep.

      “Left wing radicals are corrupting your kids with secret messages, and you won’t believe where they’re hiding them — IN MOVIES! NewsChannel 13′s Mark… etc”

  6. What a hack job. I would have expected better from Mulholland.

  7. For the longest time, at least until the early 1970′s, comic books couldn’t have characters from the occult – or zombies – or vampires – or werewolves. In fact, for a while there was a Marvel staffer and writer who had to lobby the Comics Code Authority so that he could put his surname on the comic books that he wrote. His name? Marv Wolfman.

  8. That’s quite a load of crap — and another thing: when will these newsrooms find another child psychologist? This Dr. randy Cale character turns up in every story about kids and parenting.

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