Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent

Fredric Wertham

Fredric Wertham was born on March 20, 1895 and died on November 18, 1981 in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. He was a German-American psychiatrist and author who challenged the apparent negative effects of the media-more specifically the content found in comic books and how it influences bad behavior in adolescents. His book, The Seduction of Innocence (1954) led to the creation of the Comic Codes. These codes regulated the comic book industry as to what material they could and could not publish. They banned images that depicted violence and banned threatening words. However, Wertham thought these codes didn’t help and that they were inefficient. Most people today can relate these codes to a “parental advisory” which is found on the front of many music artists’ CDs.


The book was published in 1954. During this time period the effects of mass media were not well known. For many it was not a concern, but for Fredric Wertham there was a great concern that there could be a correlation between comic books (a medium of mass communication) and behavioral problems in adolescents. During this time period the comic book industry was self-censored.


The United States of America


Wertham believed that mass media has an effect on those who are on the receiving end. In particular he thought that graphic images in comic books cause children to become juvenile delinquents. He wanted the comic book industry to censor these pictures so that impressionable kids don't see violent acts and in turn commit one themselves. He also claimed that Batman and Robin were gay, Wonder Women was a dominatrix lesbian, and that Superman was an un-American Fascist.


Fredric Wertham appeared before the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency and stated his case that he presents in Seduction of the Innocent. He suggests that a national legislation be put into place prohibiting the distribution of comic books to anyone under the age of 15. The committee agreed that comics were not directly to blame for any crimes committed but the industry should tone down some of its graphic and violent images. This led to the creation of the Comics Code Authority, a way for the publishers to censor their own content.
Importance to the history of media effects: The comic book industry was thriving during the time of WWII and the Great Depression. The country was in a severe ecomic depression and on the brink of defeat a few times. Comic book provided relief to citizens. It gave them something to do when times were at the toughest. The popularity of comic books took the country by strorm and children immediately became hooked. When Fredric Wertham decided that comic books were harming the minds of adolesents he made a false accussation. He wanted people top turn against comic books. This dispute was so controversial because people were outraged by his remarks. In one of his famous remarks he took a shot at Batman:
Batman and Robin, Wertham charged, inhabited ‘a wish dream of two homosexuals living together.’ They lived in ’sumptuous quarters,’ unencumbered by wives and girlfriends, with only an aged butler for company. They care for each other’s injuries, frequently shared quarters, and lounged together in dressing gowns. Worse still, both exhibited damning psychological characteristics: proclivities for costumes, dressing up, and fantasy play; secretive behavior and double-lives; little interest in women; and most damning of all, neurotic compulsions resulting in their violent vigilantism. Indeed, Wertham argued, depictions of Batman and Robin were frequently homoerotic, visually emphasizing Batman’s rippling physique and Robin’s splayed, bare thighs (

Interesting Facts Regarding Fredric Wertham

  • Fredric Wertham accomplished many great feats. Unfortunately he is going to be remembered for trying to destroy Comic Books during the Silver Age of Comics.
  • Wertham plain and simply thought that Comic Books as a medium for children was a terrible idea.
  • After much debate over the comic’s issue, a code for comics was set in June of 1948.
  • The association of Comics Magazines Publishers began and they were forced to review all content before any of it could be published.
  • Some of the malicious content included depictions of divorce, details of a crime, disrespect to authority, or scenes of torture.
  • The reviewing process became a pushover and Wertham pushed hard for more structure so children couldn’t purchase these.
  • Seduction of the Innocent was published in 1954.
  • One chapter called, I want to be a Sex Maniac discussed how children are more driven to take part in masturbation due to comic books.

  • According to Wertham-
1. Superman was a Communist


2. Wonder Woman was a Feminist

Wonder Woman

3. Batman and Robin were Homosexuals

Batman & Robin

  • In 1954 a juvenile delinquency hearing took place in Washington D.C. to discuss the effects of mass media on children.
  • In the 1960’s Wertham began following a new medium, television.
  • Wertham died in 1981 and will always be remembered for the way he despised Comics.
  • The one exception to him liking comics were the “Fanzines” that were sent directly to his house from fans.

Bors. M, (2004). Phi Kappa Phi Forum. 83 (3).Retrieved from the Academic Search Premier February 15, 2010.

Decker, D. (1997). Frederic Wertham- Anti-Comics Crusader Who Turned Advocate. Retrieved from:

Sparks, G. (2nd Edition). The evils of comic books. Thompson and Wadsworth.

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