Image 1 of
Zoom In
Zoom Out

Exhibit 22: Crime SuspenStories, April 5, 1954

An issue of Crime SuspenStories depicting a bloody, severed head featured prominently in the Senate’s comic book hearings. Its publisher, William Gaines, explained that the artist’s original drawing had been even more grisly. Though Gaines and other publishers argued that crime and horror comics always had a moral ending, this gruesome example turned public opinion against them.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

Senator KEFAUVER. Here is your May 22 issue. . . . Do you think that is in good taste?

Mr. GAINES. Yes, sir; I do, for the cover of a horror comic. A cover in bad taste, for example, might be defined as holding the head a little higher so that the neck could be seen dripping blood from it

Senator KEFAUVER. You have blood coming out of her mouth. 

Mr. GAINES. A little.

Hearings before the Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency . . . , April

Exhibit 22: Crime SuspenStories, April 5, 1954 (Cover)

Comic Books and Juvenile Delinquency

Alarmed by a dramatic rise in juvenile delinquency in the 1950s, Congress explored the possible influence of crime, horror, and superhero comic books on youths’ behavior. To investigate this potential correlation, Senator Robert Hendrickson of New Jersey moved to create a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, who succeeded Hendrickson as chairman of the committee, oversaw a series of televised hearings in New York in the spring of 1954. Following the hearings, comic book publishers voluntarily developed new standards of content control.

This country cannot afford the calculated risk involved in feeding its children, through comic books, a concentrated diet of crime, horror, and violence.

Interim Report of the Committee on the Judiciary, 1955–1956