Tentatively scheduled for an early 2012 release, Diagram for Delinquents: Fredric Wertham and the Evolution of Comic Books (directed by Robert A. Emmons Jr.) will study Fredric Wertham’s crusade to link comics with juvenile delinquency, which helped spur burnings of comics in the United States, Congressional hearings into the role of comics and juvenile delinquency, and the creation of the Comics Code Authority as a censoring body. The film will explore these events in light of comics’ subsequent evolution into more sophisticated material that is no longer primarily children’s fare. To illustrate this story, the film will use recreations and Wertham’s own files, almost none of which has ever been seen before.
To make this film a reality and tell this important story, we’re asking for your help. We’ve set up a page on Kickstarter where you can pledge donations through 24 April 2011. In return for your generous help, we’re offering various rewards, from the movie poster and Wertham DVD to various Sequart products — and even an array of credits in the film. (Also, pledging through Kickstarter is currently the only way you can order our other upcoming documentary, Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts, and our upcoming book on Planetary, Keeping the World Strange.) We’re looking for $6,000 in pledges, and even a dollar donation helps! Any money over our goal will be used to support Sequart’s overall book and film production.
Beginning in the late 1940s, Wertham began publishing articles linking comics to juvenile delinquency. This work culminated in his now-infamous 1954 book, Seduction of the Innocent. Burnings of comics were reported across the US, and Congress held hearings into the matter, which helped spur the creation of the self-censoring body the Comics Code Authority (only just recently dropped by DC and Archie Comics).
Wertham was himself a contradiction. Although forever linked with artistic repression, he was a social crusader whose writings on the damaging effects of segregation were used as evidence in the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling. Although forever linked to the Comics Code, he claimed to be against censorship. Wertham developed his theories about comics while caring for juvenile delinquents, which biased his analysis by ignoring healthy juveniles who read comics — a fact that has caused his case to be often used as a negative example in statistical analysis. But his theories about comics, highlighting Wonder Woman’s themes of lesbianism and bondage, claims of Batman and Robin’s homosexuality, and the excesses of the era’s crime comics, had a lasting impact on the medium.
Wertham’s last book, in 1974, defended the culture of comics fanzines, almost as a belated and lackluster apology for his involvement in the by-then infamous Congressional hearings. This led to him being invited to speak at the New York Comic Art Convention, where the audience heckled him. He died in 1981.
Featuring interviews from comics scholars and professionals, this documentary will not defend Wertham. Instead, it seeks to place the wider story of Wertham and his effects on comics into a historical context.
The film’s title comes from Wertham’s own notes, in which he claimed comics provide a “detailed diagram for delinquents.” ABOUT THE FILM’S CREATORS:
Diagram for Delinquency is written and directed by Robert A. Emmons Jr. It is produced by Robert A. Emmons Jr., Peter J. Gambino, Julian Darius, and Mike Phillips; with first assistant director Justin J. Emmons; first assistant camera Stephen P. McMaster; and production assistant Andrew Tan Mai. The film is produced in association with Gambino Boys Studios and Scifidelity Pictures.
Sequart is a non-profit organization devoted to promoting comic books as a legitimate artform. To this end, it publishes books, produces documentary films, and maintains online resources that encourage comics scholarship.
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