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A documentary film about Fredric Wertham’s crusade against comics, which helped spur burnings of comics and Congressional hearings.
A documentary film about Fredric Wertham’s crusade against comics, which helped spur burnings of comics and Congressional hearings.
A documentary film about Fredric Wertham’s crusade against comics, which helped spur burnings of comics and Congressional hearings.
106 backers pledged $8,811 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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This is a documentary film about the most hated man in comics history: psychiatrist Fredric Wertham.

Beginning in the late 1940s, Wertham began publishing articles linking comic books to juvenile delinquency. This work culminated in his now-infamous 1954 book, Seduction of the Innocent. Burnings of comics were reported across the United States, and Congress held hearings into the matter, which helped spur the creation of the self-censoring body the Comics Code Authority (only just recently dropped by DC and Archie Comics).

Wertham was himself a contradiction. Although forever linked with artistic repression, he was a social crusader whose writings on the damaging effects of segregation were used as evidence in the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling. Although forever linked to the Comics Code, he claimed to be against censorship. Wertham developed his theories about comics while caring for juvenile delinquents, which biased his analysis by ignoring healthy juveniles who read comics -- a fact that has caused his case to be often used as a negative example in statistical analysis. But his theories about comics, highlighting Wonder Woman's themes of lesbianism and bondage, claims of Batman and Robin's homosexuality, and the excesses of the era's crime comics, had a lasting impact on the medium.

Wertham's last book, in 1974, defended the culture of comics fanzines, as if a belated and lackluster apology for his involvement in the by-then infamous Congressional hearings. This led to him being invited to speak at the New York Comic Art Convention, where the audience heckled him. He died in 1981.

Featuring interviews from comics scholars and professionals, this documentary film will not defend Wertham. Instead, it seeks to place the wider story of Wertham and his effects on comics into a historical context, one in which comics subsequently evolved into more sophisticated material that is no longer primarily children's fare. To illustrate this story, the documentary will use recreations and Wertham's own files, which were only made public in late 2010 and have mostly never been seen before.

The film's title comes from Wertham's own notes, in which he claims comics provide a "detailed diagram for delinquents."

To make this documentary a reality and tell this important story, we're asking for your help. We're looking for $6000 in pledges. Every dollar helps! Any additional money will be used first to upgrade our filming equipment and then to support Sequart's overall book and movie production.

Making movies is expensive. We wouldn't be asking if we didn't truly need your help. Thank you for supporting this project and helping to ensure that this captivating and important chapter in comics history is told.

About Sequart Research & Literacy Organization Sequart's first documentary film, Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods, was released in 2010 to widespread critical acclaim. Its follow-up, Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts, is scheduled for release later this year.

About the Director Robert A. Emmons, Jr. is a documentary filmmaker focusing on American popular culture and history. His films include Enthusiast: The 9th Art, Wolf at the Door, Yardsale!, Goodwill: The Flight of Emilio Carranza, and De Luxe: The Tale of Blue Comet. Goodwill was screened as part of the Smithsonian exhibition "Our Journeys / Our Stories: Portraits of Latino Achievement," won Best Homegrown Documentary Feature at the 2008 Garden State Film Festival, and led to him receiving Mexico's Lindbergh-Carranza International Goodwill Award as a "Messenger of Peace." From February to August 2010, Emmons created two short documentaries a week; the 52 short documentaries formed the weekly internet series MINICONCEPTDOCS. His print work focusing on electronic media, documentary film, and comic books include Who's Responsible Here? Media, Audience, and Ethics (Cognella, 2009), The Encyclopedia of Documentary Film (Routletdge, 2005), Small Tech: The Culture of Digital Tools (University of Minnesota 2007), and The Encyclopedia of Latino and Latina History (Facts on File, 2010). He teaches film, new media, and comics history at Rutgers University-Camden, where he is also the Associate Director of the Honors College. For more information, visit robertemmons.com.

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    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    the movie poster (director will sign upon request) [free U.S. shipping; for international, please pledge $20 additional]

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    a DVD of the finished documentary (director will sign upon request) [free U.S. shipping; for international, please pledge $20 additional]

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    the Wertham DVD (signed upon request), the poster (signed upon request), and a "Thanks" in the end credits and on IMDB [free U.S. shipping; for international, please pledge $40 additional]

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    your likeness used in one of the film's animation sequences! -- plus a "Thanks" in the end credits and on IMDB

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    a Sequart book of your choice, the Wertham DVD (signed upon request), the poster (signed upon request), and "Thanks" in the end credits and on IMDB [free U.S. shipping; for international, please pledge $45 additional]

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    3 Sequart books of your choice, the Wertham DVD (signed upon request), the poster (signed upon request), Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods DVD, and "Special Thanks" in the end credits and on IMDB [free U.S. shipping; for international, please pledge $60 additional]

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    Pledge $450 or more About $450

    5 Sequart books of your choice, the Wertham DVD (signed upon request), the poster (signed upon request), Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods DVD, and "Associate Producer" in the end credits and on IMDB [free U.S. shipping; for international, please pledge $70 additional]

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    the entire released Sequart library (as of 31 May 2011, 9 books and Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods DVD), plus Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts DVD (upon release), the Wertham DVD (signed upon request), the poster (signed upon request), and "Executive Producer" in the end credits and on IMDB [free U.S. shipping; for international, please pledge $100 additional]

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Funding period

- (90 days)