The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America

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9780312428235: The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America

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.

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.

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.

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Review:

Amazon Significant Seven, March 2008: I may be alone here, but when I read Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, a whole strata of American artists came to life for me. Ever since then I've been waiting for a book like David Hajdu's The Ten-Cent Plague to come along and show me the contours of this world. Anyone who remembers Positively 4th Street will recognize in this new book Hajdu's peerless ability to weave first-person recollections with an acute perspective of America at a pivotal moment in its cultural timeline. The rise of comics as a mode of expression, an outlet for entertainment, and, rather tragi-comically, as a target for censorship, couldn't be more compelling in anyone else's hands. In deft narrative strokes Hajdu creates a colorful, character-driven story of our first real--and lasting--counterculture (if the burgeoning popularity of graphic novels is any indication) and shows why we embrace it still.--Anne Bartholomew

About the Author:

David Hajdu is the author of Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn and Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña and Richard Fariña.

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