The CHAIRMAN. The hearing will be in order.
Counsel, will you call, the first witness for the afternoon's session?
Mr. BEASER. Mr. Chairman, before proceeding to call the next witness I would like to introduce in the record, a letter received from the American Psychological Association at our request, commenting upon crime, horror comic books, signed by Carl H. Rush, Jr., executive assistant.
The CHAIRMAN. Counsel has examined the communication carefully?
Mr. BEASER. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. It relates directly to the problem before us?
Mr. BEASER. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Without objection the letter will be included made incorporated in the record at this point. Let that be exhibit No. 22.
(The letter referred to was marked "Exhibit No. 22," and reads as follows:)
EXHIBIT No. 22
AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION,
Washington, D C., April 20, 1954.
Mr. RICHARD CLENDENEN,
Subcommittee To Investigate Juvenile Delinquency,
United States Senate, Washington, D. C.
DEAR Mr. CLENDENEN: In response to your letter of March 23, I should like to address myself to the general problem under consideration by the subcommittee which you represent. I have examined the comic books you sent and, although my initial reaction was one of surprise and disgust, I shall attempt to give you my considered opinion of their potential impact upon the behavior of children with special reference to juvenile delinquency. At the outset I should point out that I have had no direct experience with research on this, topic and have arrived at the opinions contained herein only after careful examination of published research on the topic and a logical analysis of the problem. I should also add that my comments represent the personal opinions of an individual psychologist and not the consensus or official statement of the 12,000 members of the American Psychological Association.
At first glance it seems utterly impossible that these so-called comic books could serve any useful or functional purpose. They are lurid, splashy, sensational, and fantastic. Lessons to be learned, if any, are obscured by the noise and violence of action. The language is ungrammatical and crude, which, parenthetically, is true of a much broader class of such publications. In short, it is difficult to see why anyone would read such trash. Yet, there is abundant evidence to the contrary, people do read these books or at least we infer that they do from the circulation figure. There appears to be a strange sort of fascination about such materials; violence or threat of violence seems to pique the curiosity of humans. Furthermore, it is conceivable that this is a very general type of phenomenon that is observed in many different situations. People attending wild-west rodeos, racing events, daredevil shows, carnival exhibitions of freaks, and other such spectacles may be looking for a shock experience from which they derive a particular kind of transitory satisfaction. It is almost as if the human organism has a need for periodic vitalization through the vicarious experience of a potentially traumatic and indeed tragic event. But it is also possible that in all these things there are no lasting effects, no learning of any consequence; these are merely self-indulgences which excite for the moment and then are gone.
The fantasy life of an individual is probably facilitated by exposure to materials such as the horror comics. They provide a mechanism by means of which the person can escape from the pressures of reality which impinge upon him. But in this sense the comic books are in the same class with liquor, popular fiction, movies, fairy tales, newspapers, and other mass media. All of these things are used as escape mechanism, and it is only in the extreme that such practices are potentially dangerous. As for the gruesome and horror, we cannot condemn the comics in this respect without question the contents of children’s, stories and fairy tales of all sorts. A number of authors have pointed out the amount of terror and violence contained in the tales of Hans Christian Anderson, Grimm or even Walt Disney. There is a difference, however, in that these fairy stories are clearly fables and not reality, while the stories in the comic books are often placed in contemporary settings with real people. As one author has put it, the comic books differ in presenting their story in a very familiar world.
To return more directly to the issue at hand, I should like to present several general statements of opinion together with a brief discussion of each. A partial list of references is appended.
1. Although comic books have been the subject of many published articles in popular journals, there has been no incisive research on the topic. A few investigators have studied the relationships between comic book reading habits of children and other factors such as I. Q. school achievement, delinquency, etc. But these studies have been limited in scope and, in general, fall to provide us with insight into the dynamics of the problem. Hoult (16) for example, reports a study of 235 children aged 10 ─ 17 in which it was found that "delinquent and nondelinquent, read about the same number of 'harmless' comic books, but delinquents read many more 'questionable' or 'harmful' comics." Heisler (14) found no significant relationship between the reading of comic books and such factors as reading ability, achievement in english, vocabulary, intelligence, personality, or the size of the home library. Malter (17) analyzed the contents of 185 comic magazines and discovered that about one-third of all comic story pages is devoted to humor and an equal amount is devoted to crime. Strang (23) interviewed a sample of children in grades 1─12 and found no lasting detrimental effect of interest in comics upon reading habits. Many of the older adolescents felt that they had outgrown this type of material. In fact, comics often served as a transition stimulus to more mature reading.
From this brief summary of some studies in this topic area it can be seen that research has been concerned with segmental aspects of the problem. The approach is characteristically a correlational one which, of course, does not permit inferences as to cause and effect relationships. In part, the paucity of research on this topic is a function of methodological difficulties inherent in the subject matter. For, although the manifestations of juvenile delinquency appear suddenly and spontaneously, the determining or casual factors are of long standing. Clearly, juvenile delinquency is a developmental problem and because of this, truly incisive research can only be conducted on a longitudinal basis in which the subjects of the investigation are examined periodically over a span of several years. This type of research is beyond the means of individual investigators and requires some sort of institutional support.
Summing up this section, it seems apparent that research is sorely needed in this problem. If we are to understand the impact of the horror comics upon the behavior of normal and emotionally disturbed children, we must initiate a broad program of research and provide means for its support. It seems imperative, however, that this research be placed in a broad context, one in which the influence of comic books is but one aspect of a larger program which has as it objective the determination of the multiple causes of juvenile delinquency.
2. In view of the many factors which influence the behavior of children, it seems unlikely that any single factor such as the reading of comic books could be the major determinant of behavior. In this connection it is sometimes helpful to distinguish between predisposing and precipitating factors in considering the causes of behavior. In other words, there are a great number of experiences and relationships which influence the behavior of a child; his relations with his parents and siblings, the socioeconomic status of the family, housing conditions, membership in peer groups, school achievement, emotional adjustment. All of these forces, and many others, interact within the individual and presumably influence delinquent behavior. Placed alongside these influences, the comic books seem rather insignificant except as they might provide a trigger function for behavior. If all of the predisposing factors make a child "ready" for certain types of nonsocial actions, an idea derived from comic books may be the catalyst which provides impetus to the behavior. This, of course, is high speculation on which there is very little empirical evidence.
The more important issue, however, is that we should consider the question of comic books within the context of the child's total experience. To concentrate solely upon this fragment of his experience would seem unwise both in terms of the meaningfulness of the investigation, and in terms of the recommended actions stemming therefrom. In short, it is my opinion that there are many factors which influence juvenal delinquency and when compared with these other factors, the reading of comic books seems quite insignificant. I do not wish to discourage investigation on this topic but it would be my recommendation that such an investigation would be more fruitful if conducted as part of a much more extensive investigation of the basic problem.
3. It is conceivable that comic books, regardless of their content, may serve some useful function in the education of this Nation's young people by pointing out the limits of bad taste, improper conduct, and antisocial behavior. Without attempting to develop a philosophy of education, I should like to point out my reasons for such a statement. In the education of children we are faced with a decision as to method which falls somewhere between two extreme ends of a continuum. At the one end there is a Victorian point of view which would advocate the protection of children from all that is evil or bad on the assumption that by so doing we would be teaching only good things. At the other extreme is an educational process which exposes the child to reality, to all the things among which he must at some point in his life discriminate. Obviously it is possible to adopt a position of moderation, an educational method which falls somewhere between these two extremes.
We can draw upon the vast literature in the field of learning for evidence in this matter. When we teach animals or humans to discriminate colors, sounds, or other stimuli, we find that the subjects must first become familiar with the differential characteristics of the stimuli in a series. As this familiarity develops, discrimination becomes more successful when the subject recognizes a particular stimulus as different from others, and also, perhaps more importantly, in what ways they are different. This process might be called constituting the variable in the sense that each subject learns the properties of stimuli at certain positions along some continuum and can make discriminations among them. Obviously the examples of color and sound are simple ones, but we may generalize to more complex learning situations. As an example, suppose we were concerned with music or art appreciation. It would seem desirable to give students exposure to bad paintings or music as well as excellent ones so that each individual can set up his own standards of "goodness" and "poorness." If we show them only the works of masters they may be unable to discriminate properly because they have not identified the properties of various points on the continuum.
It is in this sense that comic books may be useful as horrible examples of grammar, literary taste, and conduct. If placed in the appropriate context, parents may be able to point out the more desirable extremes of these continua by contrast. This, of course, places a great deal of responsibility on parents and/or teachers, but if the underlying assumptions are valid, such difficulties should not deter us. Once again I must state that these are only opinions, but they do represent reasonable generalizations from the findings in experimental psychology. There is an obvious need for research to demonstrate the extent to which these generalizations are appropriate.
In conclusion, I wish to express regret that I have no more tangible assistance to give your subcommittee. I speak for all our 12,000 members when I say that we share your concern with the problem of juvenile delinquency. We stand ready both as citizens and as professional persons to provide any further assistance you might require.
CARL H. RUSH Jr., Ph. D.,
(1) Averill, Lawrence A. Psychology of the Elementary school Child. Longman, 1950.
(2) Bakwin, Ruth M., M. D. The comics. J. Ped., May 1953, 42:638-685.
(3) Bender, L. and Lourie, R. S. The effects of comic books on the ideology of children. Am. J. Orthopsychiat., 1941, 11: 540.
(4) Brown, John Mason. The case against the comics. Sat. Rev. Lit., March 20, 1948.
(5) Butterworth, H. F. and Thompson, G. G. Factors related to age-grade and sex differences in children's preferences for comic books. J. Genet. Psycho., 1951, 78: 71─94.
(6) Cavanaugh, J. R. The comics war. J. Crim. Law Criminol., 1949, 40: 28─35.
(7) Denny, George V., Jr. What's Wrong With the Comics? New York Town Hall, Inc., 10 cents.
(8) Frank, J. Chills and thrills in radio, movies, and comics, some psychiatric opinions reported. Child Study, 1948, 25: 42.
(9) Frank, Josette. Comics, radio, movies, and children. Publ. Affairs Pamphl.,. 1949, No. 148, 32 pages.
(10) Frank, Josette, and Strauss, Mrs. H. G. Looking at the comics. Child Study Association, 20 cents.
(11) Frank, J. What Books for Children? New York: Doubleday, Doran & Co., page 70.
(12) Green, G. H. The psychological significance of some children's comic papers. Egypt. J. Psycbol., 1947, 3 (2), 303─308 (15─20).
(13) Gruenberg, Sidonie M. Comics as a Social Force. Child Study Association, 10 cents.
(14) Heisler, Florence. A comparison of comic book and noncomic readers of the elementary school. J. Educ. Res., 1947, 40: 458─464.
(15) Heisler, Florence. A comparison between those elementary school children who attend moving pictures, read comic books, and listen to serial radio programs to an excess with those who indulge in these activities seldom or not at all. J. Educ. Res., 1948, 42: 182─190.
(16) Hoult, T. F. Comic books and juvenile delinquency. Sociol. Soc. Res., 1949, 33: 279─284.
(17) Malter, Morton S. The content of current comic magazines. Elem. Sch. J., 1952, 52: 505-510.
(18) Milton, J. Children and the comics. Childh. Educ., October 1939.
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(20) Reed, G. E. Comic book ideology in the preventative therapy of juvenile delinquency. J. Crim. Psychopath., 1944, 5: 779-786.
(21) Reich, Annie. The structure of the grotesque-comic sublimation. Bull. Meninger Clinic, 1949, 13: 16─171.
(22) Smith, Ruth Emily. Publishers improve comic books. Libr. 3., 1948, 73: 1649-1652.
(23) Strang, R. Why children read the comics. Elem. Sch. 3., 1942─43. 43: 336─342.
(24) Weaver, H. B. A scale for evaluating comic books. Childh. Educ., 1949, 26: 173-175.
(25) Wertham, Frederick, M. D. The comics ─ very funny. Sat. Rev. Lit., May 29, 1948.
(26) Wertham, F. et al. The Psychopathology of comic books ─ a symposium. Am. J. Psychotherapy, July 1948, 2: 472─400.
(27) Wigransky, David P. Cain before comics. Sat. Rev. Lit., July 24, 1948.
(28) Witty, Paul, and Bricker, Harry. Your Child and Radio, TV, Comics, and Movies. Chicago, SRA, 49 pages, 40 cents.
(29) Wolf, Katherine M., and Fiske, Marjorie. The children talk about comics. In Lazarsfeld, B. F., and Stanton, F. N. Communication Research: 1948─49, pages 3-50.
(30) Bibliography on the comics. J. Educ. Sociol., 1944, 18: 250─255.
(31) Are comic books a national hazard? Club and Educational Bureaus (Newsweek) February 1949.
(32) The influence of radio, motion pictures, and comics on children. New York State Committee on Mental Hygiene 10 cents.
(33) How do the comics affect your child? Northwestern University Reviewing Stand, August 14, 1949, volume 13, No. 6.
(34) Comics, Radio, Movies, and Children. Public Affairs Pamphlet No. 148. New York: Public Affairs Committee.
Mr. BEASER. Mr. Chairman I have a statement prepared by Joseph J. Fiske, education director, Cartoonics, who has asked that his statement be made part of the record.
The CHAIRMAN. Is Mr. Fiske in the room? I saw him this morning.
Mr. BEASER. He has left, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. He is satisfied to have this included without presentation?
Mr. BEASER. Without presentation.
The CHAIRMAN. Without objection, this statement of Mr. Fiske will be incorporated in the record at the point, I might say for the record the Chair has read the statement of Mr. Fiske and it relates entirely to the subject under inquiry here.
(The statement referred to is as follows.)
STATEMENT SUBMITTED BY JOSEPH J. FISKE, EDUCATION DIRECTOR, CARTOONICS, NEW YORK, N. Y.
It is a pleasure to come here today and appear before a United States Senate subcommittee that sits in the dignity and decorum so eloquently shown during its hearings held here yesterday.
The objectives of thia subcommittee are being fulfilled, without fanfare or politics ─ without baiting or criticism of witnesses, and except for the glare of TV, one would imagine himself before a United States Supreme Court tribunal.
The seriousness displayed by the members does justice to the cause this subcommittee is serving so thoroughly and so intelligently but one cannot help but wonder why in the most important city in the world, at a time when juvenile delinquency is at its peak ─ so few parents, teachers, civic organizations, social workers, and many other groups claiming interest in this subject, all seemed conspicuous by their absence. Less than 50 individuals occupied seats in the hearing room and most of those were staff members or witnesses. Apparently the adults are the delinquents and the juveniles less so.
The most successful of the so-called comic books are those originating from the pornographic picture publishers, and it must be called that, accept that code of ethics which was printed by its own "code-authority" even that word is a misnomer as is also the name comic book.
A one-time owner and publisher of a St. Louis newspaper said: "The dictionary probably does not contain word more inappropriate than "comic" to describe such a page (or book) ."
After many years in the newspaper publishing field this expert could not rid himself of the confusion caused by what is known generally by "comics." His description of a comic page even in a newspaper, even before the forties, published under a lead editorial was as follows: Little "Smitty" did a humorous turn on yesterday's comic page, but the subjects of 10 other comics could have been listed as follows: first fight; domestic quarrel; torture; death; murder; arson; despair; deception; fright; theft.
This publisher's analysis of the comic page further said: "We are just one of hundreds of clients of the syndicates that sell comics, and the latter's attitude is that the rest of their customers are apparently satisfied ─ so they cannot be bothered with our lone complaint."
Unfortunately the public is never vocal and comic books, like newspapers, are manufactured for profit and should not be condemned per so. This is clearly proven by the various witnesses who have appeared here and in other cities too.
What is desirable and necessary is a change in public taste.
During the "spinach" era, teachers complained that, among other "comics," Pop-Eye the Sailor was ruining the spelling of every "reading" child. That profession never followed up and educators everywhere left the subject to be pondered over by psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, and pediatricians.
In the meantime, while all the various educational and social agencies sat idly by, some of the comic book industry subsidized child study agencies, groups, and even parents groups, filling the air with the rantings of those who sought the pot of gold.
The prevention of juvenile delinquency is far more important than fighting crime and horror newspapers and books, or on the air waves, and TV, too.
Give the adult public proper substitutes for this filth and trash and the comic book industry, now reduced by over 60 percent in sales, will soon eliminate itself. There will remain no profit in publishing smut, if the public is properly educated. Those who blame children for spending 50 cents to $1.50 at one buying session on comic books should blame those who give their children such allowances. In many cases some children work for such moneys and others have been known to steal in order to satisfy such an appetite.
Substitute clean comics, in good taste, with large type to aid in interesting reading, scripted in good English and proper grammar, and we will go a long way to eliminate juvenile waywardness. Keep children occupied, their minds active in athletics and in interesting education and we will have very little delinquency. In fact, I suspect most of it is even now a matter of adjectives only.
The CHAIRMAN. Now will you call your first witness?
Mr. BEASER. Mr. Monroe Froehlich.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Froehlich, will you be sworn? Do you swear the evidence you are about to give before this subcommittes will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Mr. FROEHLICH. I do.
TESTIMONY OF MONROE FROEHLICH, JR., BUSINESS MANAGER, MAGAZINE MANAGEMENT CO., NEW YORK, N. Y.
The CHAIRMAN. Will you state your name, address, and association for the record, please?
Mr. FROEHLICH. My name is Monroe Froehlich, Jr. I am business manager of Magazine Management Co., 270 Park Avenue, New York City.
Mr. BEASER. Do you have a statement you wish to make?
Mr. FROEHLICH. I don't have any prepared statement I have made some notes on matters which I think are pertinent. I want to be sure I stay within the area of fact rather than opinion.
The CHAIRMAN. Would you prefer to make your presentation from the notes or would you prefer to have counsel examine you?
Mr. FROEHLICH. I don't think it makes any difference, Mr. Chairman, just so long as I can refer to my notes to properly answer the questions.
The CHAIRMAN. You may proceed in your own manner, Mr. Frohlich.
Mr. BEASER. Will you tell us a little bit about Magazine Management Co., what it is and how it operates in the crime-comic field or in its total operation? I wish you would give a picture and perspective.
Mr. FROEHLECH. Magazine Management Co. is a partnership which owns a number of publishing corporations. These corporations publish comic books in various fields of editorial content, as well as a fairly large number of conventional magazines in different fields. Along with that we publish paper-back novels, also in various fields of reading interest.
Mr. BEASER. These are some of the comic books that you publish on the board here; is that right?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Yes, sir, those are some of our titles. We have roughly 60 titles which are active.
Mr. BEASER. Sixty comic books that are active?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Yea, sir; published either on a bimonthly or monthly frequency.
The CHAIRMAN. Does the Chair understand correctly that Marvel Comic Book Co. publishes 60 different titles?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Approximately, Mr. Chairman Marvel Comics group is a nonentity, so to speak. Marvel Comics group is a name applied to our magazines for advertising-space purposes. It is historic in our business to sell the advertising space in our magazines, whether they be comic or conventional style, on a group basis if you have two or more magazines as a publisher.
Mr. BEASER. Let me get the organizational structure a little clearer. How many corporations constitute Magazine Management. Co.?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Magazine Management Co. owns stock in approximately 35 corporations.
Mr. BEASER. Those corporations are in charge of the publication of the comic books, the other book similar to this?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Yes, sir; we publish a wide variety of conventional magazines, hunting and fishing magazines. We have a book devoted to the automobile, a magazine called Auto Age, with styling features, and so on. In addition we have television magazines as well as a half dozen of the conventional motion-picture fan-type magazines.
Mr. BEASER. Do you distribute, yourself, these magazines you publish?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Yes, sir. We have a wholly owned distributing company called Atlas Magazines, Inc. The stock in that corporation is held by the publishing corporations, and we distribute no magazines other than those we publish ourselves. We are a publisher-distributor.
Mr. BEASER. Both?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Yes, sir.
Mr. BEASER. What you would call an independent distributor?
Mr. FROEHLICH. We distribute through the independent wholesalers in the United States.
Mr. BEASER. Do you distribute any comic-book magazines other than those which you publish?
Mr. FROEHLICH. No, sir, no magazines published by other publishers. We distribute only our magazines through Atlas, our wholly owned subsidiary distributing company.
Mr. BEASER. You distribute to independent wholesalers in various cities?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Yes, sir; exactly as Curtis, McCall Co.
Mr. BEASER. Can you give us the approximate size, as far as the comic books are concerned, of the monthly distribution?
Mr. FROEHLICH. I believe I can give you an average, based on the last 6 months of the printed orders. I would say approximately 10 million.
Mr. BEASER. A month?
Mr. FROEHLICH. A month, divided into roughly 30 to 35 titles per month.
Mr. BEASER. And of what variety are they, what kind of comics?
Mr. FROEHLICH. If I may have a moment I can give you the exact information on that. I understood you were interested primarily in the weird and so-called crime comics.
Mr. BEASER. Crime and horror comics.
Mr. FROEHLICH. I would like to have the right, if I may, to expand on that, because that is a very small segment of our total comic output. We publish approximately 4 to 5 ─ it varies because of the frequency variations from time to time ─ so-called weird or fantastic or science fiction type of comics per month. That is out of a total average production per month of 35 comics approximately per month. It breaks down as follows:
We have no crime books. We have two anticrime comics. One is called Justice and the other is called Police in Action. Justice is an old title; we published it for many years and it is based primarily on true cases, and so on, and in both of those anticrime comics we carefully adhere to what we think is the correct pattern, that forces of law and order are never held up to ridicule, government agencies as well as agents representing government are respected, and in the end the criminal a ways has a disastrous disappearance or experience. We have never had any adverse comment concerning those, to the best of my knowledge. I can't recall any correspondence, nor even one letter, about those two anticrime comics. We publish approximately 9 western comics per month, about 9 of the so-called war-type comics per month. I just saw a few up there, Combat Casey, Combat Kelly, and so on.
We have a large number in this so-called teen-age field, including some comics which again are very old, Miss America, Patsy Walker. They have a large sale and have gone on for years.
That is roughly 15 teen-age books, 9 in the war-type field, 9 in the westerns, 2 books which we call anticrime, Justice and Police in Action, and 8 so-called weird or science fiction or fantastic field.
Mr. BEASER. Now we had one that was put in as an exhibit yesterday, or rather we were shown a picture of it. I will have it brought on.
It is from your Marvel comic group, Strange Tales, May 1954, which is a story of roughly a doctor committing hari-kari, letting his patient die early in the story, and ultimately it winds up with the scene showing the wife dead, the doctor with a knife in him beside her.
Now, you are a member of the Comic Publishing Association?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Yes, sir. We are just as disappointed and unhappy about the way the association has progressed as Mr. Shultz who testified yesterday. Incidentally he is our attorney, and I and the other members of our firm have been very vocal in the last year trying to get a real association. As Mr. Shultz testified, it has been difficult. We feel the association hast lost a great deal rather than gained.
Mr. BEASER. Mr. Shultz said something about the fact that the seal of the association, which is on your publication Strange Tales, is there but it is a self-policing business, that you yourself are the conscience of the enforcement.
Mr. FROEHLICH. That is the way it is now. Up to 3 years ago there was a real active self-censorship program in effect. Now I believe there are only three publishing companies that belong to the association.
Mr. BEASER. Would you say that a seal such as that, with the doctor lying there thrusting a knife in his stomach, and lying there dying, would you say that would conform to the code?
Mr. FROEHLICH. I would say this, Mr. Beaser. From what story that?
Mr. BEASER. Strange Tales, that one right there.
Mr. FROEHLICH. It is very difficult for me to answer that properly because what we are doing here is taking four panels and trying to interpret a story from those four panels. I have read through these books. I can't say I scanned them extremely objectively but I do go through every one of our titles. I don't believe I can answer that. I think I would like to go through the whole thing and answer your question.
Mr. BEASER. I am trying to ask how effective is the self-policing of the code?
Mr. FROEHLICH. I think it is very effective so far as we are concerned. I can't speak for all the companies in the business. As I say, there are only three publishers, including ourselves, who belong to the association. We try at all time to abide by the code.
Mr. BEASER. This you say would abide by it; is that right?
Mr. FROEHLICH. I think it is impossible for me to properly answer the question because illustrated here are 4 panels out of a story that may contain as many as 30 panels. That is the same thing as taking a still from a conventional motion picture, let us say, and using a still which by itself may be sensational to advertise the motion picture and therefore either condemn the picture as a whole ─ I am not trying to duck your question, I don't feel I can properly answer that.
Mr. BEASER. Let me ask you another question that might help me. Am I to understand that the code only means that if justice triumphs in the end, anything goes before that?
Mr. FROEHLICH. No, sir, far from that.
Mr. BEASER. Then I thought you could not depict scenes of crime such as that, and we have a few more.
Mr. FROEHLICH. I would believe that the code obviates the depiction of crime, but I think that segment must be considered as a whole rather than as a small part of the whole.
Mr. BEASER. This is from Adventures Into Weird Worlds, the May issue. It is the scene of a man being crushed to death by some sort of vise.
Mr. FROEHLICH. That is quite reminiscent of a very well-known story called The Pit and the Pendulum, which has been a classic in American literature for many decades. I don't know if the artist had that in mind at the time. Again I am not trying to justify it or say it is wrong. I feel that we are in the area of weird comics and only a very small portion of our business ─ it is all part of our concept of a merchandising program of publishing. I do have some notes on that, if I may refer to them.
Mr. BEASER. Go ahead.
Mr. FROEHLICH. This is on weird comics, on weird comics and reference to comics in general. I have a copy of the code. We have many copies in our comic department.
The CHAIRMAN. Will you furnish the subcommittee with a copy?
Mr. FROEHLICH. I will be happy to.
This is the code of the Comic Magazine Publishers Association. This supplants the code which was originally set up for us.
The CHAIRMAN. Counsel advises us that the code is already in the record.
Mr. FROEHLICR. Yes, sir.
(The code appears on p. 70, as "Exhibit No. 9.")
Mr. FROEHLICH. We welcome the opportunity to express our opinion concerning comic books and controversies pertaining to them. It is our considered opinion that in the main the public interest is best served through enlightened self-regulation resulting from full public discussion and resulting open competition. Invariably undesirable publications and those put out hastily by marginal publishers fall by the wayside and worthy publications produced by conscientious publishers endure to entertain young and old.
We publish many old comic magazines and we fully realize our responsibility to the demands of youthful and adult readers of comics. I am referring now specifically to our line.
It is and always has been our aim to avoid production of such comic magazines as may be considered in any way conducive to lowering the moral and ethical standards of those who read them. With this in mind we sometime back retained the services of Dr. Thompson as a consultant. Dr. Thompson was a psychiatrist employed at the time by the Board of Education of the City of New York and after a year and a half the board of education decided that they would not permit an employee to continue as a consultant in an outside field and for that reason Dr. Thompson gave up her consulting position with our firm. Obviously at that time we stopped using Dr. Thompson's name.
Dr. Thompson consulted with the editor and prepared for us a code which we followed religiously. Since that date the code has been supplanted by the code drawn up by the Association of Comic Book Publishers which I believe was acknowledged to be a carefully planned, well thought out, and objective code yesterday by the members of the committee.
Under our arrangement with Dr. Thompson every comic book we published was submitted to her for reading and criticism. Changes were made in accordance with her criticisms.
In the main I can truthfully say during the time that Dr. Thompson acted as our consultant she had no adverse criticism for the great majority of our comic titles and when there was criticism we changed it in accordance with her recommendations.
Mr. BEASER. When was this?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Back in 1948 and 1949, for a period of a year and a half.
Mr. BEASER. She is no longer with you?
Mr. FROEHLICH. No, sir; because the board of education ruled that an employee of the board could not hold an outside position as a consultant, and for that reason she was supposed to sever her connection with us.
As a result of the framework within which we operate we have developed a well-organized, intelligent, regulatory procedure and continue to strive to maintain the high standard of our comic books. Our editorial and artist department have been taught to understand the reactions of readers to the publications so produced. There is no question that a serious and directed effort with constant improvement at self-regulation has been successful as has been evidenced in the past by the favorable comment of many of those who have matched our work and effort and particularly by the fact that our sales of our entire comic line are consistently good as compared to our competition.
All of our comic book magazines, approximately 60 titles, are carefully edited with regard to the editorial as well as the art work contained therein. We avoid the publication of material which can be considered offensive or salacious. Obviously we try to stay within the code. We feel that we not only observe the code in the spirit but in fact as well.
Mr. BEASER. Is there not one provision in the code, as I recall from yesterday, relating to the depiction of scenes of crime and sadism?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Paragraph 2 of the code reads:
Crime should not be presented in such a way as to throw sympathy against the law and justice or to inspire others with a desire for imitation. No comic shall show the details and method of a crime committed by a youth. Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions should not be portrayed as stupid and ineffective or represented in such a way as to weaken respect for established authority.
That bears on the point I was making to take a panel or two panels out of a story requiring 30 to 40 panels is not, I believe sufficient to judge the entire content of that particular story or the book.
Mr. BEASER. That panel of the person being squeezed does not come within your definition of sadism?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Well, I question if I am qualified to answer that particularly, as that is a point which is in great dispute, as you know, otherwise you would not be having this hearing.
Mr. BEASER. What I am trying to get at is, that what it comes down to now is, that that is each individual publisher's definition or interpretation of the provisions of the code.
Mr. FROEHLICH. I think I will get to that in just a moment.
Mr. BEASER. I am sorry.
Mr. FROEHLICH. We have no so-called crime comics, but we do have the two anticrime comics I mentioned, Justice and Police Action, both of which are based on true stories, primarily. They are essentially no different than the conventional detective magazine. The stories in these magazines are presented to depict nothing but respect for order and justice. Our code policy precludes other than presenting of crime or criminals in a favorable light. Nor do we show the representatives of our government in ridicule or contempt. We at all times in these two books handle an endless story in a manner which contributes to the prestige of the individual and the organizations enforcing law and order. Now with regard to weird comics specifically in our concept within our own line, we wish to be realistic. We are a private company engaged in the publishing business and the profit motive is what compels us to publish magazines in certain fields. We, are in the publishing business and cannot change the reading taste of the public. We are in the publishing business just as any adult works in the normal course of his life for his living. That does not mean that we are not mindful of our obligations to the potential reader of our obligations to the potential reader of all of our magazines. We are parents and fathers ─
The CHAIRMAN. Let me get this straight, Mr. Froehlich. You say you cannot change the reading habits of your public?
Mr. FROEHLICH. I believe that basically would apply.
The CHAIRMAN. You are in the business for the profit motive?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Now by the same token a saloon keeper is in the business for a profit motive but he does not have to selling to a man until he is dead drunk, does he?
Mr. FROEHLICH.. I agree. But I think the circumstances are far different because the saloon keeper knows quite well what the effect is going to be if he keeps plying his customer.
The CHAIRMAN. Do all publishers today know what the effect will be on each individual?
Mr. FROEHLICH. No, Mr. Senator. I don't believe there has been any conclusive evidence to date. In here you will see if there is any evidence at all, however small, and it is agreed upon by a reputable substantial group of persons so that there is no divergence of opinion by experts, we would be the first company to give them up because at best it is a minute part of our total business. I think if those magazines were carefully read for the weirdness, you will find that in every case the cover may be much more attention getting ─ not maybe but it is definitely more attention getting ─ than the editorial content contained therein.
The CHAIRMAN. I am sorry I interrupted you. I mean there is an area here that requires thorough exploration.
Mr. FROEHLICH. I certainly agree.
I can't overemphasize the point ─ well, from the point of our billing to the wholesalers in the United States those comics represent possibly 5 to 6 percent of our business. Certainly we are not going to hang on to something because of the profit motive involved which represents only 5 to 6 percent.
Incidentally the weird comics do not sell as well as the national average of all of our other books.
I believe I left off at the point which is that we are parents and fathers just as many of us here in this room. We watch sales trends, just as manufacturers do in many industries. Merchants and manufacturers of all types watch trends, and frequently change their products to meet the demands. Generally speaking, the stronger companies are those that are most alert and the most sensitive to sales patterns and in many cases those patterns are set by the consumer first and the manufacturer, the merchandiser involved, produces to conform to those patterns.
Mr. BEASER. Is it possible, then, that assuming that these are getting into the hands of kids in large numbers that they want them; therefore they are creating demand?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Yes; I really feel that most of the folks way as to with whom we have talked. One of the best proofs possibly of the point as to the readership is that I believes ─ I am not certain of this, but I think you will find that almost all the advertising in those books advertises adult items. Now the greatest majority of the advertisers are so-called mail order advertisers. They are interested in just one thing, results.
The CHAIRMAN. You are referring to the books on the board there?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Yes which would indicate there is a substantial percentage of percentage of adult readership in our total sales figure.
Mr. BEASER. Also a large number of ads for kid stuff?
Mr. FROEHLICH. That is correct; but if you go through those books I think you will find most of the inside ads are aimed primarily at the adult market. The mere fact that those advertisers come back month after month would indicate that they are reaching for their customers the adult market.
Mr: HANNOCK. "Wash away ugly pimples"; do you think that goes to adults?
Mr. FROEHLICK. Yes, because I think the book itself is bought to a substantial degree by adults. Incidentally, as we all know, pimples very often come with puberty. So I don't think it is unreasonable to carry an ad which might do something for a youngster 12 to 14 years old.
Mr. BEASER. You mean adults to include teen-agers?
Mr. FROEHLICH. I am saying it is quite difficult to evaluate your readership on these books, but I think there is a very substantial percentage in a true adult area.
Mr. HANNOCH. "Bed wetting, how to stop bed wetting."
Mr. FROEHLICH. That is an adult problem. Certainly not to the degree of a 2-month-old child, but certainly it is prevalent enough. You will find that in colleges, a person of college age, such as that. The Armed Forces know that.
Now may I continue?
Mr. BEASER. Yes.
Mr. FROEHLICH. I say we watch sales trends. We frequently change our product to meet the demand. When the demand was created for so-called weird or fantastic comics we felt that it was wise for our company to have a relatively few comics in the field provided they met the standards.
Now hanging over this part of our operation I can't overemphasize the fact that dollarwise it is 5 to 6 percent tops, but the Sword of Damocles criticism is directed by many in the direction of weird comics and this faces us with the problem of producing them or withdrawing from that phase of the comic market. We are in the comic business and we want to stay in it. It is a good business. There is no reason for it to be sullied by marginal operators.
If we are convinced that any comic magazine or any conventional magazine we publish causes harm to any reader, we would immediately discontinue such a publication. We are not so crass as to be unmindful of the effects on the reader, but to the best of our knowledge nobody yet has proven that our weird comics are harmful.
Now we are still in an area of mixed opinion on that point in general and additionally we get into an area of degree with regard to the art and editorial work in weird comics. We have many times spoken to our editors and we through the editors' supervision believe we adhere to the letter and the spirit of the code.
Mr. BEASER. Would you also say that nobody has proven to your satisfaction that any of these crime and horror comics can do harm?
Mr. FROEHLICH. I wouldn't say that. I have maintained a large file over the years on opinions as to the value and merit of comics, and within the comic field generally of specific types, for and against them. I have tried to do as much reading as I could as a layman on this subject, because I feel so strongly about the business. It is a good business. It serves a purpose just as a magazine of many fields and newspapers serve a purpose. The youngsters love them. The mere fact that we sell 7 or 8 or 6 million copies per month without advertising or without any conscious effort to create a demand other than a superior product would indicate that.
Certainly I know that the Gluecks testified before your committee; they certainly are highly respected as authorities in the field, and I was very much struck in their book Task of Prevention, which I believe is the layman's book, of the tremendous work they put together, with the following quotation:
Children have to live in a world as it is. Fundamental changes cannot be effectuated in a short space of time. Too many special interests, prejudices, values are concerned. Nor can children be made good by removing evil out of their experience. Character is not built that way. One does not correct the basic problems presented an energetic lad by taking movies and comics away from him. If he has need for such outlets he will get to them and deprivation is no cure.
Mr. BEASER. Do you believe then that anything could be put into a comic that would be detrimental to a child?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Certainly not. As publishers, and I am speaking only of our own line, I do not feel that we would at any time consciously put anything in any one of our magazines which might be detrimental to the reader. Now we can't evaluate fully obviously something that a reader might say of our magazines, how he would react to that. We don't know, but there is such a tremendous divergence of opinion among experts in the field I hardly think we are qualified to prejudge on that point. We would like to know.
Mr. BEASER. In your concern who does the examination for compliance with the code? Do you do it?
Mr. FROEHLICH. It is done, I would say, before and after the magazine is produced. I believe I made the point that our editor, assistant editors, and the artists with whom we work, as well as most of our writers, are familiar with the code, the fact that we have tried to adhere very, very closely to it, and after the magazine is ultimately printed I see them. Others in our organization see them. And I cannot honestly say to you that we read every word in them. It is a physical impossibility with the volume that goes through, but we do watch them.
Mr. BEASER. Where is the responsibility, on the artist or editor?
Mr. FROEHLICH. I hasten to add that occasionally a mistake may be made but ours is a hurried business, a business of deadlines. There are divisions of responsibilities and such factors that make for errors, but basically we believe that 95 percent of our total comic production is acceptable by any standard. We publish westerns, teen-age, romance, adventure, as well as comics, and occasionally comics in other fields. I have a sad story to tell you about Bible comics, if I may touch on that point. Weird comics are apparently wanted by the reading public. There is a demand for them. We did not create the demand. We still don't create the demand. We do not advertise or promote, but we do want our share of the market if there are no deleterious effects. Nothing would please us more than to produce the technically finest possible comic, wonderful artwork, fine worthwhile editorial matter etc. But I have news for you, nobody would buy such comics.
Mr. BEASER. Is the sole theory whether there is a demand?
Mr. FROEHLICH. No, sir; but we are in the publishing business, and if there is a demand for a certain type of published material and there is no reason to feel on a conclusive basis that there can be any harmful effects from the reading of any one of our publications, hardly see why we should not fill the demand. I can hardly see it is any different from an automobile manufacturer stopping the manufacture of automobiles just because people get killed in automobiles.
Mr. BEASER. They do put brakes on them.
Mr. FROEHLICH. And so do we. We certainly do.
May I tell you about Bible tales? I mentioned 5 to 6 percent in dollar volume in our business is in the weird field. We have no crime comics.
Mr. BEASER. You have no crime under your definition of crime comics.
Mr. FROEHLICH. I think if a crime book is one which will depict a conventional crime story, the story of John Dillinger, then a the mass media are guilty of the same thing we are guilty of.
We published a comic magazine called Bible Tales. The sixth issue is out now. We were very anxious to move into this field if we could. There are no competitive books of this type on the market. We feel that it is a fine worthwhile type of publication and there may be a real market in the United States and Canada. Our editor went up to Yale Divinity School for guidance as to the sort of subject material that should go into this book. Each issue is a combination of better stories, better incidents, from the Old Testament and the New Testament.
We normally print 350,000 copies of a conventional magazine in the western field or in the teen-age field. We started with only 265,000 copies for the first issue. If there is a real market for this sort of thing we felt that because the print order, was one-third less than we would normally print, that the sales percentage would be abnormally high. We went right ahead with the second and the third issues. The artwork is far superior. It is the finest artwork we could buy. The editorial is most carefully handled. The book cost us better than 40 percent more than the conventional comic, not including the income from advertising, which of course was lost in this thing. Unfortunately our final print order on the last issue is down, to 230,000 copies. The book came in with a 34 percent sale, meaning we had sold only about 80,000 copies, and on that issue we lost over $6,000. To date we have lost over $29,000.
Mr. BEASER. What did you sell that for?
Mr. FROELICH. Ten cents. That magazine also enjoyed the finest display we could ever hope to get from the wholesalers of the United States. We previously communicated with them and told them what we wanted to do and what the purpose was. They went all out in giving the magazine a break saleswise, and in spite of that there are only 80,000 people in the United States who are willing to lay down a thin dime for a book of that caliber.
Mr. BEASER. Do all these magazines come under the editorship of a single person?
Mr. FROEHLICH. No, sir, we are departmentalized to a certain extent. We have some men's books, heavy on adventure. Those books have an editor. The motion picture magazines have an editor. The TV book operates under the same, but the associate editor charged with them.
Mr. BEASER. You have one for comic books?
Mr. FROEHLICH. For comic books and two assistant editors, and so on.
Mr. BEASER. Does the editor have time to see the material before it is printed? I just want to get the mechanics first.
Mr. FROEHLICH. Does he ever see it?
Mr. BEASER. Does the editor in charge see the material before it is printed?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Absolutely. He buys it.
Mr. BEASER. Then he is the one who does the enforcement of the code if anyone does it?
Mr. FROEHLICH. In the next to the final analysis.
Mr. BEASER. Or is it his assistant who does it?
Mr. FROEHLICH. That is a "toughy." Our buying is handled only by our editors. Many of the revisions of the editorials submitted to them are handled by the assistant editors.
Mr. BEASER. How many people have their own interpretation of this code in this application?
Mr. FROEHLICH. There may be a half dozen. So far as the comics are concerned; only a few. There is no problem on the conventional magazine.
Mr.BEASER. You distribute these by mail or by truck or how?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Our magazines go mail, freight and express. In the case of the comics about 35 percent go by mail, the balance by freight, express, truck.
Mr. BEASER. Are all these entered as second-class mail?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Yes, sir. We don't publish a single magazine excepting an occasional so-called one shot which would not qualify for second-class mailing privileges and for which we don't apply for second-class entry.
Mr. BEASER. All those have been accepted for mailing and are mailable?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Yes. There is no reason why they shouldn't be. There are many magazines ─
Mr. BEASER. We couldn't get them on one board.
Mr. FROEHLICH. I think I mentioned we have this magazine Auto Age and All the World's Cars one shot, baseball, boxing, and so on.
Mr. BEASER. We have heard a few words about a possible practice called tie-in sales in the distribution of crime and horror comics. You are a publisher and a distributor?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Yes, sir.
Mr. BEASER. You deal then with the wholesaler who in turn deals with the dealer?
Mr. FROELICH. That is correct.
Mr. BEASER. Does your concern apply pressure upon the wholesaler to carry a complete line? Must he?
Mr. FROELICH. We wish he would. There are roughly 800-odd wholesalers in the United States. We operate our distributing company in the identical pattern that those other distributing companies follow, such as Curtis and Science, McCall Co. I believe we have 14 roadmen who would normally be considered the equivalent of salesmen who contact the wholesalers in their territories. We have many so-called open spots, an open spot being a ─ I would like to change that ─ there are wholesalers who do not carry our entire line for various reasons. They may carry only 20 of the 35 comic title releases per month. They may claim that the pressure is too great or the retailers in their area cannot absorb them. But we wish the wholesalers would carry our entire line. Most wholesalers in the United States do carry it. There are many open spots, however.
The CHAIRMAN. You were going to tell the committee what an open spot is, what you call an open spot.
Mr. FROEHLICH. For example, we publish 35 comic titles on an average per month. There are wholesalers in the United States who will say "We will take 20 of your comic titles," at which point we have our roadman in there and he says, "Come on, this is the best selling comic line in the business, and there is no reason why you shouldn't take our other 15 and drop 15 distributed by our competitors." It is a constant pressure to keep your magazines going in there, but nothing like a tie-in, because we are not strong enough and the retailer through the wholesaler brings terrific pressure to bear on you. He will draw his copies from the wholesaler and drop them on the counter and never expose them for the sale, which is rough to take if you are a publisher, because you pay for that in the final analysis.
The CHAIRMAN. Can the retailer send them back at the end of the month?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Yes. Ours is a consignment business and they can send them back.
The CHAIRMAN. Within what period?
Mr. FROEHLICH. We try to have all the returns in within 60 to 90 days of the off-sale period, but you must honor your commitment to the wholesaler. We would do it under any circumstances, and if he should happen to find the copies of a magazine long after that period he can return them to his ─ referring to the retailer ─ if he happens to find them in the store and returns them to the wholesaler, the wholesaler will return such copies to us and we will grant credit for them.
I can honestly say that at no time do we lower the boom so far as return date is concerned.
Mr. BEASER. If a particular retailer or wholesaler sends back month after month one of your Mystery Tales, he would still continue to get whatever he wanted on some other of your products?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Yes.
Mr. BEASER. What happens in the wholesale end? If I am a wholesaler will you send me a copy of next month's Mystic and say "how many comics do you get?"
Mr. FROEHLICH. No, sir. Your allotments to the various wholesalers in the United States are generally set on the basis of experience. You know approximately what your other books ─ in the case of a new title you know approximately what your other hooks are doing in that field by that specific wholesaler. Go to your records and you set your allotment on that basis. We watch our allotments very, very carefully. We don't want to waste copies. We are more interested in a high percentage of sales than we are in total number of copies sold. So that we try to use every possible device to properly allocate the quantity per wholesaler. We check competitive records constantly. Through our roadmen we can get the figures on competitive books going into the various wholesale agencies just as the other companies can get the figures on our books.
Mr. BEASER. As a wholesaler, the first time I see next month's Mystic is when the bundle comes in?
Mr. FROEHLICH. That is right; but you know what you are going to get because you get a card from our distributing company's office advising as to the allotment. That is done so that the wholesaler in the area can break down the quantity for the retailers he serves.
Mr. BEASER. Now, you say there is no opportunity for you to bring pressure to bear upon the wholesaler?
Mr. FROEHLICH. We try to sell the wholesaler through our roadmen the same way as the manufacturer of cigarettes tries to sell more cigarettes to the wholesaler or the jobber handling them.
Mr. BEASER. Have you heard that pressure is being brought by the wholesalers upon the dealers?
Mr. FROEHLICH. No, sir. It may be. I can't answer that. I am too far removed from that end of the business.
Mr. BEASER. There have been, you know, some statutes passed in some of the States outlawing tie-in sales?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Yes.
Mr. BEASER. You still say that all these publications of yours are mailable in the post office?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Yes, sir. If the magazine is ─ if we know they are going to publish, rather, if we anticipate publishing four issues or more of a title we always apply for a second-class entry privilege. We can't get it on a so-called one shot. The magazine must be published at least four times a year.
Mr. BEASER. Is Focus mailable?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Yes, sir.
Mr. BEASER. Is I Confess also mailable?
Mr. FROEHLICH. To the best of my knowledge, they are. We have had very little difficulty with the post office. From time to time we have had some dispute in the N. and P. section because of the change in frequencies. There may be errors in the office pulling out the proper kinds of forms which might be nonmailable. It is very seldom.
Mr. BEASER. You think some of these may have been held nonmailable?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Occasionally, it can happen. But invariably, we could go down there and straighten it out. That applies to one issue. It does not affect the magazines over the continuity of time.
Senator HENNINGS. In those instances where the material has been held to be nonmailable, have they been in terms of the advertisements or reading content, or both?
Mr. FROEHLICH. It is generally considered as a package, Senator. That happens occasionally, and as soon as we find out the cause for that we immediately eliminate it. Again when that does happen you are working in an area of opinion. It certainly happens. A picture which may be accepted in a newspaper may become so prosaic, and you put the thing in a book and somebody will write in and say, "Gentlemen, that shouldn't happen," and the Post Office might take a stand one way or the other.
Senator HENNINGS. Is there some variation, too, in the postal districts?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Not that I know of. I think the procedure is quite standardized. I think the Post Office has always been extremely fair and reasonable in their attitudes. On the few occasions we have had difficulty concerning the entire scope of the production per year we have always adjusted it satisfactorily.
The CHAIRMAN. What was the nature of those difficulties?
Mr. FROEHLICH. We have run into an occasional problem such as this. We publish a comic book, My Friend Irma. Some time ago the Post Office ruled that such ─ I want to be very careful, I am not an attorney ─ but generally, if I remember properly, it was ruled to the effect that the comic book, My Friend Irma, so-called royalty-type book, was in practice an advertising device featuring a central character. You see, My Friend Irma is a title on it by Cy Howard who, I believe, at that time was under contract with. CBS and there was a series of My Friend Irma motion pictures as well as radio and television shows. In any event, the Post Office considered that our comic book, for which we paid a royalty to CBS on a per copy sold basis, was an advertising device featuring building up and enhancing the value of My Friend Irma, and they cracked down on it and said we were not entitled to second-class privileges. There was quite a hassle about it. Unfortunately we lost.
That set a pattern for the industry generally. It did not affect titles to which second-class entry had been granted prior to that decision, but since that time it is not possible to obtain second-class mailing privileges on so-called royalty-type books. I wish we had a lot more of them.
I have a few more comments. We were talking about the fact that we certainly know that we cannot change people's taste. Unfortunately this was very upsetting, to try to put out something that has a great deal of moral, esthetic value, and have it backfire like that. That does not mean that we should cater to every literary demand that will sell, but the lines in a few fields are not clearly defined.
If the gentlemen on your committee would tell us what we should produce in a comic technique such books probably would not sell. We have discussed this problem with many decent, intelligent persons, educators, psychiatrists, clear-thinking members of PTA groups, minsters, and so on. Inevitably such persons, if they do have criticisms, recommend a type of comic book which would appeal only to the small intellectual minority in the United States, and which would be basically uneconomic and inconsistent with the pattern followed by the other vast media.
Senator HENNINGS. That applies somewhat to television, so-called educational, documentary films, radio programs?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Yes, sir.
Senator HENNINGS. The word "educational" sometimes causes people ─
Mr. FROEHLICH. It has to be sugar-coated and made palatable. That is what we tried to do here.
If something were to happen to change the demand of our reading public so that the only comic that would sell would be simple, animated comics ─ and we have made books in that field ─ we would be all right.
I can assure you that we would definitely get our share of such business, but while the rules of the game are as they are, we wish to maintain a foothold in all areas of comic fields, however tenuous that hold may be, with one tremendous provision, and that is that there is no proven evidence of harm to the reader. It is just as wrong to take motion picture selected stills and show bare legs and so forth and use the picture as representative of the entire industry - as it is to take a relatively small number of comic books and brand a line or the industry.
At least 95 percent of our production is completely defensible and our remaining 5 percent may be in the area of mixed opinion. But in our opinion, it is injurious to none.
Now I think I should qualify that because in the last couple days, while I have not been here, I have read some of the testimony. If there is sufficient evidence to prove that anything that we might publish might be injurious to a child who is in the pattern of becoming delinquent, we would stop, we would be the first ones to stop. This industry is highly competitive, and one of the vicious things that has happened to comics generally is that; because of the fanatical pressure and exaggerated claims made some without being definitive in their statements, some publishers have been forced to give up comic publishing. As is Gresham’s law, the bad drives out the good, and a few hard skinned, marginal publishers we know, have provided most of what the public demand in weird and so-called crime comics.
The relatively few weird comics we publish cannot be considered in the category of those books, and our low sales figures for such books prove it.
Speaking generally, if the criticism leveled against the content of crime and weird comic books were to be carried to other literature, if all written material pertaining to violence, crime, savagery would come under scrutiny, then the very heart and sinew of literature might suffer.
If an era of moral stigma concerning specific acts, words or individual intention in written word were to surround all the literature, then how explain the value of the story of Cain and Abel or the slaying of the firstborn Egyptian children in the Old Testament? If violence per se had been outlawed from all literature, if the weird and savage in Taboo, would Mary Shelly have written Frankenstein, would Shakespeare have written Macbeth, would the legend of Billy the Kid, the homicidal gunmen known to present-day Americans of all ages, been written, would the stage be barren of the thrilling tragedies of Greek playwrights?
Would not this Nation have suffered had Harriett Beecher Stowe not written Uncle Tom's Cabin? It, too, was replete with action, torture scenes, violence, and death. It was a period of unrest, tension, and violence.
To then say to these kids you must not read about terror and occational savagery, would be hypocrisy. Were these stories published by themselves with no other reason than to horrify, then criticism might be justified.
There is known to be present a period of calm, of relaxation, after witnessing or participating through reading of a violent fact. We have had plenty of information gleaned from newspapers and quotations from men of principle, psychiatrist and child guidance counselors and soon, to feel that way.
Obviously, there are many who feel opposite.
Mr. BEASER. You are talking about your own comics, or are you talking about all crime comics?
Mr. FROEHLICH. I am referring only to our own books. You ask me why we should have some weird books, which is a small part of our business.
For the reasons I have mentioned here.
Mr. BEASER. Some of your statements do not apply to other comics you have heard about?
Mr. FROEHLICH. I am not concerned with what the other people do.
Mr. HANNOCH. Which of your books would you say is like Cain and Abel and Shakespeare's Macbeth, and some of these other names you have given us?
Mr. FROEHLICH. I think the story of Cain and Abel is in some of the issues of Bible stories.
Mr. HANNOCH. Which of the horror comic magazines would you say compares to Cain and Abel?
Mr. FROEHLICH. I cannot, offhand say but I would be very happy, Mr. Hannoch, to have anybody from your committee, or all of the committee, come up to our office, and go through every book we published for a long time and try to assist you in every way possible.
I am sure we can find the answer there. I am making the point that occasional tales of violence, savagery, even crime, has stemmed from the year 1 in literature.
Crime comics, weird comics, gangster movies, western and science fiction might give the otherwise passive child an opportunity at least to repress violence. It may be true that such entertainment is an act of deterrent to the criminal impulse.
I believe we have heard some testimony from reputable people to that effect.
This is not an argument for or against a few weird comics. I merely wish to show that such comics generally are a modern adaptation of age-old themes in literature.
Mr. BEASER. I have no questions.
The CHAIRMAN. Senator Hennings?
Senator HENNINGS. I have no questions, Mr. Chairman. I do think that Mr. Froehlich has expressed some very important parallels or analogies in terms of the great literature of the world and great plays.
Hamlet has a number of assorted felonies. Macbeth, the Rape of Lucretia, and so on.
Certainly Huck Finn was a juvenile delinquent himself by the standards of that day, if not of this. And the saga of Billy the Kid and the Jesse James stories.
I know I read all of those. Maybe I would be a lot better than I am if I had not read them, but I read them with great interest and delight, and certainly the Shakespearean plays are playing on Broadway now.
It is difficult to single out which one of these things may have an adverse impact and to what extent.
Mr. FROEHLICH. May I add just one more thing. I think there have been some misstatements made to date which might unfairly brand the entire comic industry.
No. 1, the volume of sales. We figure, and I believe that we have a fairly accurate yardstick to use because we are publishers, distributors ─ we have our own men out to evaluate these things properly ─ that the sale is not anything like 70 or 80 or 100 million a year.
At the present time I would guess ─ not guess, but a real good estimate, would be in the area of 40 to 45 million per month.
Mr. BEASER. Sales?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Sales.
Mr. BEASER. How many printed each month?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Possibly double that at the present time. Normally you might figure there is a 60 to 62 or 63 percent sale.
Mr. BEASER. How many titles?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Possibly 415 to 420. That is very hard to measure.
Mr. BEASER. What is your minimum print order for distribution?
Mr. FROEHLICH. Ours?
Mr. BEASER. The normal.
Mr. FROEHLICH. Let us say it averages around 350,000. The total impact on all the factors affecting delinquency, juvenile delinquency, that can possibly be contributed by crime or weird type comics, can itself be only infinitesimally small or the sheer statistics of the operation.
The CHAIRMAN. The Chair has no questions, Mr. Froehlich.
I do want to thank you for your appearance here today and say you have been helpful to the subcommittee. We know that we confront a real problem in this field.
Mr. FROEHLICH. Mr. Chairman, if we can be of any assistance in any way, we are only too happy to do so. Our records are open to anyone on your committee. We shall be glad to help.
The CHAIRMAN. We appreciate your cooperation and your complete honesty.
Mr. FROEHLICH. Thank you, sir.
May I produce something as exhibits?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes, indeed.
Mr. FROEHLICH. I have copies of our comic stories thrown out.
The CHAIRMAN. These will be made part of the permanent files. Let those be exhibit No. 23.
(The comic books were marked "Exhibit No. 23," and are on file with the subcommittee)
Mr. BEASER. Mr. William Richter.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you solemnly swear that the evidence you are about to give before this subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Mr. RICHTER. I do, sir.