Diagram for Delinquents, the Documentary Film on Fredric Wertham

Sequart is proud to announce 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 claimed 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’ve set up a page on Kickstarter where you can pledge donations through 24 April 2011 at 6:16pm Eastern Time. In return for your generous help, we’re offering various rewards, from the movie poster and DVD to various Sequart products — and even an array of credits in the film. This is currently the only way you can order our upcoming book on PlanetaryKeeping the World Strange, and our upcoming documentary, Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts.

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.

For more information, go to kickstarter.com/projects/sequart/diagram-for-delinquents and fredricwertham.com.

About the Film’s Creators

Diagram for Delinquency is written and directed by Robert A. Emmons, Jr. It is produced by Robert A. Emmons, Jr., Peter J. Gambino, Julian Darius, and Mike Phillips; with first assistant director Justin J. Emmons; first assistant camera Stephen P. McMaster; and production assistant Andrew Tan Mai.  The film is produced in association with Gambino Boys Studios and Scifidelity Pictures.

Robert A. Emmons, Jr. is a documentary filmmaker focusing on American popular culture and history. His films include Enthusiast: The 9th ArtWolf at the DoorYardsale!Goodwill: The Flight of Emilio Carranza, and De Luxe: The Tale of Blue Comet. His 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), andThe 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.

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.

Sequart is a non-profit organization devoted to promoting comic books as a legitimate artform.  To this end, it publishes books, produces documentary films, and maintains online resources that encourage comics scholarship.  It also promotes comics literacy by encouraging others to understand the medium as a legitimate art form.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

In 1996, while still an undergraduate, Dr. Julian Darius founded what would become Sequart Organization. After graduating magna cum laude from Lawrence University (Appleton, Wisconsin), he obtained his M.A. in English, authoring a thesis on John Milton and utopianism. In 2002, he moved to Waikiki, teaching college while obtaining an M.A. in French (high honors) and a Ph.D. in English. In 2011, he founded Martian Lit, which publishes creative work, including his comic book Martian Comics and his transgressive novel Nira/Sussa. He currently lives in Illinois.

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1 Comment

  1. This is beyond exciting and necessary. As the panic of safety grows everyday in America, we need more things that show how this could all go bad quickly.

    Wertham, while against censorship, felt the need to pin the blame of deliquency on something. The comic book was the unfortunate scapegoat. While we can speculate how comic books would have grown without the Comics Code Authority, we will never know.

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