The Ten-Cent Plague by David Hajdu
The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed Amer

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Synopsis

In the years between World War II and the emergence of television as a mass medium, American popular culture as we know it was first created--in the pulpy, boldly illustrated pages of comic books. No sooner had this new culture emerged than it was beaten down by church groups, community bluestockings, and a McCarthyish Congress--only to resurface with a crooked smile on its face in Mad magazine.

The story of the rise and fall of those comic books has never been fully told--until The Ten-Cent Plague. David Hajdu's remarkable new book vividly opens up the lost world of comic books, its creativity, irreverence, and suspicion of authority.

When we picture the 1950s, we hear the sound of early rock and roll. The Ten-Cent Plague shows how--years before music--comics brought on a clash between children and their parents, between prewar and postwar standards. Created by outsiders from the tenements, garish, shameless, and often shocking, comics spoke to young people and provided the guardians of mainstream culture with a big target. Parents, teachers, and complicit kids burned comics in public bonfires. Cities passed laws to outlaw comics. Congress took action with televised hearings that nearly destroyed the careers of hundreds of artists and writers.

The Ten-Cent Plague radically revises common notions of popular culture, the generation gap, and the divide between "high" and "low" art. As he did with the lives of Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington (in Lush Life) and Bob Dylan and his circle (in Positively 4th Street), Hajdu brings a place, a time, and a milieu unforgettably back to life.

 

About David Hajdu

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David Hajdu is the music critic for The New Republic and the author of The Ten-Cent Plague, Positively 4th Street, and Lush Life. He is a professor at the Columbia University School of Journalism, and he lives in New York City.
 
Published February 15, 1999 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 468 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Comics & Graphic Novels, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Ten-Cent Plague

Kirkus Reviews

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What happened when Americans discovered what their children were reading between luridly colored covers.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Grea...

Publishers Weekly

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After writing about the folk scene of the early 1960s in Positively 4th Street , Hajdu goes back a decade to examine the censorship debate over comic books, casti

Dec 10 2007 | Read Full Review of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Grea...

The New York Times

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“In the mid-1940s, when Janice Valleau was thriving as an artist for Quality Comics, the comic book was the most popular form of entertainment in America.”

Mar 23 2008 | Read Full Review of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Grea...

The New York Times

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“The Ten-Cent Plague” is the third book by David Hajdu to take a subject suitable for fans’ hagiography and turn it into something of much wider interest.

Mar 10 2008 | Read Full Review of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Grea...

The New York Times

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A history of America’s midcentury war against the comics industry.

Mar 23 2008 | Read Full Review of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Grea...

BC Books

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Real people, not just political stances, help focus an examination of the cultural battle over comic books.

Feb 12 2009 | Read Full Review of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Grea...

AV Club

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For a few glorious years, comic books were an anything-goes artistic playground. Then politicians needed a scapegoat.

Apr 23 2008 | Read Full Review of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Grea...

Austin Chronicle

By the end of Hajdu's account, the industry is in ruins, nearly destroyed, and therein lies the flaw in an otherwise compelling book.

Mar 21 2008 | Read Full Review of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Grea...

Sophisticated Dorkiness

Although it’s a long book — 639 pages — I’d recommend The Amazing Adventures to anyone who has become interested in comic books or anyone who enjoys a book with a solid and entertaining plot and characters.

Dec 31 2008 | Read Full Review of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Grea...

Reason Magazine

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Jan 02 2009 | Read Full Review of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Grea...

Campus Circle

Wertham’s campaign to discredit comics, freak out parents and make a name for himself is counterpoised in David Hajdu’s excellent book, The Ten-Cent Plague, with the voices, lives and careers of comics’ lifeblood, artists and writers for whom “low expectations” granted great personal fr...

Mar 10 2008 | Read Full Review of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Grea...

Reader Rating for The Ten-Cent Plague
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