How The Dark Knight Almost Didn't See the Light of Day


No Funny Business
In 1954 Fredric Wertham wrote a book that changed an industry almost overnight. Seduction of the Innocent was a scathing attack on comic books and the potential danger their horrific images and storylines posed to young children.

The firestorm of controversy that flared after the book's publication resulted in the creation of the Comic Code Authority (CCA), a trade-sponsored internal censorship review board established to restore confidence in the industry.

Had this last ditch effort to save the business not been successful, Spider-Man, Superman, Batman and the entire Justice League for that matter, might never have survived past the Eisenhower administration.

In the spirit of Halloween, here are some of the kinds of ghoulish comic books that sent Wertham into a tizzy...

adventures into weird
Come on, seriously. Who hasn't had this experience?
You stumble out of bed after a particularly rough night and schlep into the bathroom. You turn on the light, look in the mirror and see something grotesque staring back at you wearing your pajamas.

James Lileks and his Institute of Official Cheer has taught us all about comic book cover perspective. We imagine he would be the first to point out that the horrified woman couldn't possibly see the image in the mirror from where she's standing but she's horrified nonetheless.

black cat
No this isn't an anti-smoking ad but it certainly could be.
We're not sure why this poor guy is so surprised that it wasn't such a good idea to jam a radioactive tube in his mouth. Certainly whoever handed him this stick of radium was either suffering the same effects or protected by a lead-lined haz-mat suit. Either one would be a tip-off.

And what about whoever carefully stenciled the word radium on this side of the tube? He can't be looking too good about now either.

crime detective
Real Police Cases?! Really?
Yeah, we're sure this was ripped from today's headlines. The guy in the brown zoot suit is so shocked by the gorilla that the force of his hair standing on end has ejected his fedora from his head.

His fellow gunsel -- with the stogie flying out of his mouth -- is just ticked that he was given bad intel. After all, no one told him it was this kind of gorilla. Whatever this kind is.

And why for Pete's sake would a gorilla have a safe full of greenbacks? Wouldn't you guess it would be full of bananas?

Yes, we know this cover isn't especially ghoulish but we couldn't pass up the idea of a gorilla smart enough to have an apartment yet too dumb to arm the burglar alarm when he stepped out for the evening.

fight against crime
Overstating the Obvious
We don't think anyone would argue with the gun moll that a volley of tommy-gun bullets wouldn't be faster-acting than drowning the cop in what looks to be green sludge.

And certainly anyone who would first consider green sludge instead of a tommy gun as the best way to do away with this cop is most likely crazy.

And as for the joining your partner comment, that pretty much looks like a done-deal at this point.

haunt of fear
The Haunt of Fear! Now there's a cool title.
We don't know what it means but it certainly sounds scary. We're not exactly sure why bow-tie guy is so upset by his UPS package. Judging by the lion's head mounted on the wall, disembodied craniums aren't a big problem for him.

What really strikes us about this cover is the list of cameos featured in the issue. You get the lovable Old Witch, for one. But in addition you get the Vault-Keeper and as an added bonus you get the Crypt-Keeper, who pretty much looks like the Vault-Keeper without the green doily on his head.