TESTIMONY OF WALT KELLY, ARTIST, CREATOR OF POGO, AND PRESIDENT, NATIONAL CARTOONISTS SOCIETY, NEW YORK, N. Y.; MILTON CANIFF,
ARTIST, CREATOR OF STEVE CANYON, NEW YORK, N. Y.; AND JOSEPH
MUSIAL, EDUCATIONAL DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CARTOONISTS SOCIETY,
NEW YORK, N. Y.
Mr. HANNOCH. Will you give your name, sir?
Mr. KELLY. Walt Kelly, 2 Fifth Avenue, artist, drawer of Pogo, New York City.
Mr. BEASER. Have you a title, Mr. Kelly, in the association?
Mr. KELLY. I am the president of the National Cartoonists Society. I forgot about that. I just took office last night.
Mr. CANIFF. Milton Caniff, New York City, N. Y. I draw Steve Canyon for Chicago Sun-Times Syndicate, and King Features, Syndicate.
Mr. MUSIAL. Joseph Musial. I am educational director for the King Features Syndicate. I am director for King Features Syndicate and educational director for the Cartoonist Society.
I live in Manhasset, Long Island, N. Y.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, gentlemen, you may be seated.
Mr. BEASER. You have a set method that you want to proceed in?
Mr. KELLY. We thought we would do a little commercial work here and show you some of the ways we proceed in our business.
However, before we get into that, I just want to take a moment to acquaint you in some degree at least with my own experience and I think it might be of use or value if the other gentleman would give you somewhat of their background
The CHAIRMAN. I am sure it would be very helpful.
Mr. KELLY. I have been in the newspaper business and animated cartoons and cartooning generally since about 13 years of age. I regret to say that constitutes about 28 years now.
I got into the comic-book business at one time back in 1940 or 1941 and had some experience with its early days as before the 1947 debacle of so many crime magazines and so on.
In those days there was even then a taste on the part of children for things which are a little more rugged than what I drew. So that I was faced with the problem of putting into book form, into comic form, comic-book form, things which I desired to make popular, such as an American fairy story or American folklore type of stories.
I found after a while that this was not particularly acceptable.
The CHAIRMAN. Would you raise your voice just a little.
Mr. KELLY. I decided I would help clean up the comic-book business at one time, by introducing new features, such as folklore stories and thinks having to do with little boys and little animals in red and blue pants and that sort of thing.
So when my comic book folded, the one I started doing that with, I realized there was more to it than met the eye.
Perhaps this was the wrong medium for my particular efforts. Since then I have been in the strip business, the comic-strip business which is distinguished from the comic books.
We have found in our business that our techniques are very effective for bringing about certain moral lessons and giving information and making education more widespread.
Despite the testimony given before, I would say right offhand that cartoonists are not forced by editors or publishers to draw any certain way. If they don't want to draw the way the publisher or editor wants them to, they can get out of that business.
We have about 300 members of our society, each one of whom is very proud of the traditions and I think small nobility of our craft. We would hesitate, any one of us, to draw anything we would not bring into our home.
Not only hesitate, I don't think any one of us would do it. That is about all I have to say in that regard.
I would like very much to give one statement. May I do that now?
The CHAIRMAN. You may.
Mr. KELLY. This group here endorses a particular statement by the National Cartoonists Society. That statement is this:
The National Cartoonists Society views as unwarranted any additional legislative action that is intended to censor printed material. The society believes in local option. We believe that offensive material of any nature can be weeded from the mass of worthwhile publications by the exercise of existing city, State, and Federal laws.
Further, we believe that the National Cartoonists Society Constitutes a leadership in the cartoon field which has previously established popular trends. We therefore will restrict any action we take to continually improving our own material and thus influencing the coattail riders who follow any successful idea..
We believe good material outsells bad. We believe people, even juveniles, are fundamentally decent. We believe, as parents and as onetime children ourselves that most young people are instinctively attracted to that which is wholesome.
Our belief in this sound commercial theory is only in addition to our belief in free expression and the noble traditions of our profession. Our history abounds in stalwarts of pen and pencil who have fought for freedom for others. For ourselves as artists and free Americans we too cherish freedom and the resultant growth of ideas. We cannot submit to the curb, the fence, or the intimidating word. The United States of America must remain a land where the Government follow the man.
Mr. BEASER. You are not saying that it is not possible to put into comics, crime comics and horror comics, what we have been talking about, things that might have some harmful effect?
Mr. KELLY. I think it is even entirely possible, sir. I think it is the duty of the creator of the material to see that that sort of thing does not get in there.
The creator, apart from the producer or the publisher, is personally responsible for his work.
I somewhat question the good doctor's statement before when he said in response to your question, sir, that perhaps the originators of this material might be under scrutiny, should be, as to their psychiatric situation.
We in the cartoon business sort of cherish the idea that we are all sort of screwball. We resent the implication that any man putting out that kind of stuff is not a screwball. That is another thing we fight for.
Senator HENNINGS. I would like to say to Mr. Kelly that I think your statement is admirable. I am a frustrated cartoonist myself. I wanted to be one when I was a boy and I got off the track. I have noticed the chairman of our committee doing a good deal of sketching during some of the hearings, he is really a very fine artist.
Without asking you to be invidious or to pass upon any thing ad hominem here with respect to any other publication, is it your opinion that there are being circulated and calculated to appeal to children in their formative years, their immature years, and from your understanding of the profession ─ and I call it one because it is; your strip is clean and enlightening as is Mr. Caniff's; the very best in the business do you not deplore, do you gentlemen not deplore some of these things that you see purveyed to the children and in a sense pandering to the taste, or do you think those things will right themselves? Do you think sooner or later that the harm, if such exists, is outweighed by a good many other things?
Mr. KELLY. I think basically that is our position; yes, sir.
Senator HENNINGS. You realize, of course, the great danger of censorship?
Mr. KELLY. I realize, too, sir, the great danger of the magazines in question.
Senator HENNINGS. So it is a rough problem; is it not?
Mr. KELLY. We are put in a rather unpleasant position
We don't like to be put in a position to defend what we will defend to the last breath.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Caniff do you feel the same way?
Mr. CANIFF. Yes, sir; but if I may, I would like to point out here because it has not been done, we first of all represent the newspaper strip as contrasted with the comic book. It is a fact, of course, as you all well know, that the newspaper strip is not only censored by each editor who buys it, precensors it, which is his right, but by the syndicates own editors, who are many, and highly critical, and then this censorship includes the readers themselves, who are in a position to take the editor to task for printing your material and they are quick to respond.
So we are never in doubt as to our status. There will never be any question after the fact. You almost know by the time it hits the street whether or not your material is acceptable to the reader.
So we are in this white-hot fight of public judgment, which is as it should be.
For instance, Walt's strip runs in 400 newspapers. Mine in 350. Blondie in 1,300 out of the 1,500 dailies. That means we have a daily circulation of 55 or 75 million. So that we are in front of the pack all the time and highly vulnerable, as a result.
I bring this in here because I think it is germane on this principle alone, that we also have comic books publishing our material so that we are in this field as well.
It is pointed toward perhaps a little audience in the simple sense that we hope to sell to the daily audience that reads the 10-cent book.
But we are in effect as responsible as well. Insofar as deploring individual books, that is a matter of individual taste. Some books I like which you wouldn't like. I can't say blanketly, for instance, that I dislike all crime comics or I think they are bad. I think they are only good or bad as they affect you, the individual, and by the same token the individual reader of any age group affected relatively rather than as a group and cannot be condemned I believe, as a group.
The CHAIRMAN. That is a very fine statement.
Mr. CANIFF. Thank you very much.
Would you like to add anything, Mr. Musial?
Mr. MUSIAL. I am supposed to be educational director. I can see I have to give my job over to Mr. Caniff. He presented my thoughts better than I could.
I would like to say, I think cartoons are of a sort and instead of making a speech at this particular time I brought in an editorial drawing which I made, which I think germane to the situation. I would like to place this on the board, With your permission.
The CHAIRMAN. Would you please do that.
Mr. KELLY. Mr. Chairman, we would appreciate very much showing you a few of the things that we have been doing, one of which is a series of talks that I personally have been giving before journalism students, newspaper groups, luncheon clubs, and other respectable bodies and people in search of some sort of education, trying to point out what is the basis of the philosophical workings of the comic strip.
I think I can use my own strip as an example, and you can see what thought goes into what we do and how we do it.
[Demonstrating.] In the first place, in every one of our strips we have a central character around whom we base most of our plotting and action.
In my case it happens to be a character who is supposed to look like a possum, in effect; he is a possum by trade, but he doesn't really work at it because actually he happens to be related to most of the people that read comic strips.
Now, he looks a little bit like a monster. This little character actually looks a little bit like a monster.
On the other hand, he is supposed to be a possum and he has this turned-up, dirty nose and a rather innocent expression on his face which is indicative of a little boys because we usually have more readers that are little boys than are Possums.
With this innocent, sweet character are a number of rather disreputable characters. The reason I bring up most of these is that each one represents a certain facet of one man's personality, unfortunately mine.
Here is an alligator who at one time worked as a political expert for Pogo. Pogo ran for the Presidency of the United States, and, of course, didn't make it. Now, he, we thought, would make an excellent political type because he has a sort of thick alligator skin and some say a head to match, and so on. He is the sort of character that stands around street corners and smokes cigars.
Along with that character are several other unfortunate people who got into the swamp. One is a dog who is very proud of being a dog. Of course, those of you who have been dogs in your time understand his position in that.
Senator KEFAUVER. You are not talking about a doghouse now?
Mr. KELLY. No, I am staying away from that. This particular dog is the kind of dog who feels that he knows all the answers and has a great deal of respect for his own judgment and we all know people like that.
One other character who is probably pertinent to the kind of work I try to do is a little character known as the porcupine. Now, this character is a very grumpy sort of character. He looks like most of us do when we get up in the morning. He has generally a sort of sour-faced kind of philosophy it is a long time after lunch and I am drawing these from the side, so they may have a sort of lean to them.
He is very sour about everything but he says, "You never should take life very seriously because it ain't permanent" These are the sources of things that go into comic strips.
When I talk before journalism people I try to tell them these are various facets of one man's personality, mine, yours, that everyone has in him the ability to be all of the cruel, unkind, unpleasant, wonderful and pitiful people that exist in the world.
That is my message to young journalism students, because they are search of the truth. They sometimes fight it and sometimes are able to report on it.
For myself, I have never received any intimidation nor have I been dropped by editor or publisher for anything I wanted to say.
All I have ever been dropped for is because I was lousy.
This character here, for example, is known as the deacon. He is one of those busybodies who assumes that everything he has to say is of such importance that I have to letter his script in a gothic type, which is sometimes readable and sometimes not. I assure you when you can't read it it is not because I am hiding anything; it is because I can't letter very well.
That man is willing to prescribe for everyone and whatever he believes in very firmly, having borrowed it from someone else. He is out to do you good whether it kills you or not. That is not his concern.
Then every cartoonist being somewhat dishonest ─ cartoonists are very much like people ─ we sometimes introduce into our strips things which we hope will be cute and will get the ladies to write in and say "Ah." This is a little puppy dog who shows up every once in a while, and the ladies do write in and think he is very cute.
I won't continue with this because we will run out of paper. Milt won't have any room.
But I would like to just say that in delivering a serious lecture, one which involves trying to make these young people feel that it is possible in our newspapers as they exist today to express themselves, that we still have a great heritage of freedom in our press, one which we want to keep, one which if you are good enough you can make daily use of.
Young people are somewhat intimidated before they become actual journalists so that they are a little frightened. They think that publishers and editors are going to bring great pressure to bear on them; they are not going to be able to say what they would like to say, so a word coming from a silly cartoonist on the outside, a man who has grown at least to the point where he can buy his own cigars, they are refreshed by this sort of experience.
We find as cartoonists that using our simple techniques of making drawings and making statements that the two somehow become entwined, the people are willing to listen because we are making pictures largely, but willing to listen also because we do have, I believe, a great tradition of trying to express the truth in a decent and sometimes, we hope, humorous way.
We believe that this is the way of America. We think it will continue.
I am sure you gentlemen are as much concerned with it as I. I know that is why we are here.
The CHAIRMAN. Speaking as one member of the committee, Mr. Kelly, I can say that you cartoonists do make a great contribution to this country.
Mr. KELLY. Thank you, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. I am sure my colleagues will agree with that statement.
Mr. KELLY. I would like to add one thing to probably clear up what I was doing here. It probably escaped a lot of us. It escaped me.
I was trying to show here the different facets of personality. It is my belief that each one of us contains all these horrible things which we sometimes see in crime books, not in any enlarged form, but way back in there are things. That is why I try to bring out and Milt tries to bring out and 300 other cartoonists in our society try to bring out other things which are much better than that. We believe as people read comic strips they will get to realize that all other people are very much like ourselves and that they will be rather patient and understanding in trying to judge their fellow men.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Kelly. That is a fine presentation.
Mr. CANIFF. Mr. Chairman, I would like to follow with this: As you can see, we are attempting not to debate with Dr. Wertham, whose opinion we value very highly, but rather to make this point, that the newspaper comic strip does two things, and we think this is extremely important.
First, it is to entertain, as you saw in the case of Walt's presentation, just the presentation is entertaining, aside from his message.
Second, the public servant aspect of this thing which we want to put on the record, because the horrible stuff is much more fascinating than the good stuff, but I think you agree with us that the good stuff should be on the record, too.
Many of these are simply incidents in or daily lives, because we spend almost as much time doing the public service kind of thing as our regular strips; in fact, it becomes an enormous problem.
In this instance you will see, for instance, Mr. Musial here with Governor Dewey during a New York State Department of Health mental hygiene campaign to which he gave a great amount of time, and other artists involved in the society as well.
This is Dagwood Splits the Atom, which was prepared with the scientific views of Leslie Grove, General Dunning, and so forth.
This has to do with the bond sale during the war, the use of the comic strips.
This is a bulletin, rather a booklet, which was prepared for boys who are sent to Warwick School, to the New York State Reformatory.
This is to tell them not how to get in the reformatory, but how to get out of it on the assumption they have read comic books.
This is to show if they conduct themselves properly they will get paroled back to their parents.
This obviously is to get kids to brush their teeth, using Dennis the Menace; of course he is not a menace; the title is apocryphal. These are simply incidents of the same thing.
All the people know the Disney comics. The widest selling comic book in the whole country and in Canada is Donald Duck. It outsells every magazine on the stand; that includes Life, the Saturday Evening Post.
As a matter of fact, the Dell comic books constitute 30 percent of the comic books published. They think it is too much that they even dropped Dick Tracy because it was a crime comic.
These pictures with General Dunning, General Eisenhower, President Truman had to do with the bond campaigns in which we participated. This is in this case Steve Canyon's Air Power. It so happens, speaking of people condoning comic books or endorsing them, this is endorsed by General Doolittle.
The CHAIRMAN. I might add it is endorsed by the junior Senator from New Jersey, too.
Mr. CANIFF. Thank you, Senator. I hope just for the simple business of letting you know how the other half live, shall we say, that we do some good with the very medium which is fighting for its life, if you will, and we think very highly of the industry as such, because of its enormous potential.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Caniff.
Are there any questions, Senator Kefauver?
Senator KEFAUVER. I wondered, Mr. Kelly and Mr. Caniff, how do you feel you can get at this sort of thing? I know you don't think this is a good influence, some of these horror comics that you see and none of us like. How do you get at a situation like this?
Mr. KELLY. I don't know. I have no idea, sir. My personal philosophy on such a thing would be that we must educate people to not like that sort of thing or to at least not produce it.
How we can do that, I don't know. It does seems to me that this is a manifestation of a particularly bad world situation at this time, that these are not in themselves the originators of juvenile delinquency so much as juvenile delinquency is there and sometimes these are the juvenile delinquents' handbooks.
I would be frightened at doing anything about it, sir.
Senator KEFAUVER. Who are the men drawing these cartoons? Are they members of your society?
Mr. KELLY. If they are, and doing it under assumed names, and in very bad style ─ they are not very good drawings actually ─ when a man is admitted to our society we don't just assume he can draw.
Senator KEFAUVER. As a member of your society, is there a code that he is not supposed to draw obscene and horror stuff of this kind?
Mr. KELLY. Yes, sir; our statement of things that we believe in encompasses anything that a decent man would be proud to sign his name to.
The CHAIRMAN. You have an established code, Mr. Kelly?
Mr. KELLY. We have, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. I wonder if we could have a copy of that.
Mr. KELLY. I will be delighted to send it to you.
The CHAIRMAN. That will be filed with the subcommittee's permanent file. Let it be exhibit No. 13.
(The document referred to was marked "Exhibit No. 13," and is on file with the subcommittee.)
Senator KEFAUVER. In substance what is your code?
Mr. KELLY. In substance our code is that if any man chooses to take advantage of his position, a unique position, where he has learned to draw and so influence other people, if he wants to take advantage of that to spread indecency or obscenity or in any way prove himself to be an objectionable citizen we don't have room for him in the society.
Senator KEFAUVER. Now, this picture here of the woman with her head cut off seems to be by Johnny Craig. Do you know him?
Mr. KELLY. I don't know him, sir.
Senator KEFAUVER. Do you think these may be assumed names?
Mr. KELLY. I would doubt it. There are so many markets for our work that it takes a man who is interested in that sort of thing to pick up the job, I would say. None of our members need the work.
Senator KEFAUVER. None of your members do things of this kind?
Mr. KELLY. I haven't examined all their work, and I can't truthfully swear they don't, but I will be surprised and we will take action if they do.
Senator KEFAUVER. What would you do if you found they did?
Mr. KELLY. They would violate our code.
Senator KEFAUVER. What would you do about it?
Mr. KELLY. I don't know. Maybe invite them outside.
Senator KEFAUVER. This one seems to be by Geans.
Mr. KELLY. There was an astronomer - not, it couldn't be him.
Senator KEFAUVER. Here is another one by Jack Davis.
Mr. KELLY. We don't know them, really.
Senator KEFAUVER. I think we all commend you gentlemen on having an organization of this kind in which you do promote ethical procedure and try to get your members to only paint wholesome pictures and ideas.
Mr. KELLY. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Musial had something he wanted to add.
Mr. MUSIAL. I wanted to present all the Senators with a copy of that drawing which interprets my feeling about what can be done. When the Senator asked about what we can do, I think the important thing that can be done and must be done and the only thing that can be done, is that once the American public is aware of the things that this committee is aware of, if we can get that over to the American people, then under our kind of democracy I think action will follow
in a certain direction which will guarantee results.
I hate to say this, but I suggest that the committee solicit our services.
The CHAIRMAN. We do that.
Mr. MUSIAL. Here is a story in the New York Times of last Saturday. We have already contributed a book. I would like that included in the record, if I may.
The CHAIRMAN. It will be included. Let it be exhibit No. 14.
(The information referred to was marked "Exhibit No. 14," and reads as follows:)
EXHIBIT No. 14
[From the New York Times, April 17, 1954]
COMIC BOOKS HELP CURB DELINQUENCY
STATE SCHOOL ADOPTS IDEA TO ALLAY INMATES' FEARS ─ JUDGE BACKS USE
(By Murray Illson)
Comic books, often accused of causing juvenile delinquency, also can be used to help cure it, in the opinion of A. Alfred Cohen, Superintendent of the State Training School for Boys at Warwick, N. Y.
Mr. Cohen was in the city yesterday with a batch of comic books that had been printed by youths committed to the institution. The books have been endorsed by John Warren Hill, presiding justice of the domestic relations court. He called them "a very helpful and constructive step."
Justice Hill has been concerned with the increase of juvenile delinquency over the years, and has made many speeches trying to get people aroused enough to do something about it.
STORY OF THE SCHOOL
The comic books that Mr. Cohen had were all alike. He presented one for inspection. It was drawn by Charles Biro, chairman of the child welfare committee of the National Cartoonists Society, which has taken a special interest in the Warwick State Training School. The book's 8 pages, printed in color, told the story of the school.
Mr. Cohen explained that the purpose of the book was to allay the fears of boys who were being committed to the school, which is in Orange County, 55 miles from New York. Probation officers in the city's children's courts, which are part of the domestic relations' court, give the books to boys who are being sent to Warwick for rehabilitation.
Warwick, Mr. Cohen noted, is 1 of the States 2 institutions for delinquent boys. Consisting of 40 buildings and 800 acres, it now has 476 boys between the ages of 12 and 16. Ninety-nine percent of them are from New York. Sixty youngsters are in the city's detention center at Youth House, awaiting placement at Warwick.
"We get the boys who are judged by the courts to be seriously delinquent," Mr. Cohen explained. "We maintain a clinic serviced by a psychiatrist, a psychologist and Caseworkers who decide when a boy is ready to be sent home. The superintendent, however, has the final decision. The average stay for younger boys is about 14 months; for the older boys it's about 11 months."
Mr. Cohen said that when he went to Warwick 9 years ago the school was getting "the gang-type youngster" who was characterized by loyalty to a gang but who was, for the most part, "normal" In that he did not have serious emotional disturbances.
TODAY'S TYPE DESCRIBED
The type now going to Warwick was described by Mr. Cohen as the "lone wolf, who is very disturbed, very suspicious, can't form relationships with people, feels the world is against him, has never known the meaning of love, and has only experienced failure." He went on to say:
"Many of these kids literally have never had a hot meal before they came to Warwick, never had a full night's sleep and have known only real conflict in the home. The amazing thing is that they behave as well as they do.
"I have never met a youngster among the 8,000 who have passed through Warwick in the time I have been there who hadn't been beaten physically by experts ─ drunken parents, psychotic parents, or sadistic relatives. We know from first hand that the woodshed doesn't work."
Warwick, Mr. Cohen said, is "an open institution" that does not believe in confinement. It offers boys an academic education, vocational training in farming, and various recreational activities.
Comparatively recently, five boys at the institution were admitted to the local high school, Mr. Cohen said. All completed their courses. One went on to take a premedical course, and another won a college scholarship.
Mr. MUSIAL. I got a big kick out of it, the New York Times printing comics.
If any of the press want this it is available.
Again, like the Chinese who say 1 picture is worth 10,000 words, I would like to add this to it, 1 comic artist supplies more cheer than 10,000 doctors.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Musial.
Does counsel have any further witnesses?
Mr. BEASER. No further witnesses.
The CHAIRMAN. The subcommittee will stand in recess until 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.
(Thereupon, at 4: 30 p. m., a recess was taken, to reconvene at 10 a. m., Thursday, April 22, 1954.)