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Comic-book double entendres

Posted by Christopher Shea  September 22, 2010 12:02 PM

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Over at HiLobrow, the playwright Jason Grote is halfway through a series of posts exploring double entendres in classic comic books. He notes that the psychiatrist Frederick Wertham, whose book "Seduction of the Innocent" helped to set off a mid-'50s panic about comics, did not target only the most outré crime-and-horror works. He also argued that there was a homosexual subtext to Batman and Robin's camaraderie and that Wonder Woman was subjected to punishments that looked a bit like sadomasochism. Today Wertham is often vilified as a censorious bluestocking. But how wrong was he on those two subjects?


Asks Grote, of the now-famous double meanings: "Were they accidental blurts from the artists' subconscious minds? Can they simply be explained away as products of a 'more innocent time?' Or perhaps they were acts of mischief from perverse, disgruntled, or bored comic artists. I don’t know the answer to these questions--and furthermore, I don’t care."

Amusingly, several of the panels are too risqué to reprint in a family newspaper, though judgments will vary depending on the imagination, or salaciousness, of the reader.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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