Diagram for Delinquents Update #1

Let me begin with huge thanks to those who have pledged already to help make Diagram for Delinquents a reality! I cannot express the excitement, joy, and encouragement this gives the filmmakers.

I’m going to use this space to tell you about the pre-production progress of the film and to share some of the exciting discoveries we have made so far and will continue to make.

1. Some Participants

Let me begin with some of the participants that will appear in the picture. To tell this story we will be capturing artists, writers, historians, editors, and many others inside and outside the world of comics. So far we are set to interview three individuals that have made huge contributions to comic book studies:

  • Bart Beaty, author of Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture

Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture, by Bart Beaty

Seal of Approval: The History of the Comics Code, by Amy Kiste Nyberg

Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean, by Douglas WolkWe are so pleased to be working with them, as they will bring so much experience and original thought to the discussion and narrative.

2. It Came from the Archives!!

Tales from The Crypt #21

I’d like to release some of the more interesting documents we have uncovered in our journey through the Fredric Wertham Papers. Today, I’d like to share a curious letter sent to Senator Estes Kefauver from Dr. Frederic Wertham on September 21, 1954.

Kefauver on the cover of Time magazineBut first, some background: Senator Kefauver (right) was elected to the Senate in 1948 after putting in significant time as a state Representation from the 3rd District of Tennessee. While in the Senate, Kefauver sat on significant committees dealing with monopolies and organized crime. However, it his time spent on the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency that is the focus of our story, Diagram For Delinquents. The Subcommittee was established and originally chaired in 1953 by NJ Senator Robert Hendrickson (My home state!). The original formation of the bipartisan Subcommittee included Hendrickson, Kefauver, Thomas C. Hennings, Jr. of Missouri, and William Langer of North Dakota. Others and various lead counsel came later.

The Subcommittee heard testimonies, in several parts, from experts testifying on the possible causes of juvenile delinquency from television to comic books as well as defenders of targeted culture and media.

Seduction of the Innocent, by Fredric WerthamOne of the experts in the comic book hearings (held on April 21st, 22nd, and June 4th of 1954) was New York psychiatrist Dr. Fredric Wertham.Wertham, who had recently published his indictment of comics, Seduction of the Innocent (which was read with enthusiasm by Kefauver) was an expert witness on the impact that comics made in creating deliquent behavior in children.

(Wertham had spent much time and energy investigating the causes of juvenile delinquency and child gangs well before the hearings that day. This was quite evident as we poured through the hundreds of clipped news articles on gangs, poverty, and delinquency that Wertham had amassed…)

The drama of Wertham’s and other’s testimonies before the Subcommitte and the exchanges with Kefauver will make much of the drama of our film.

I now present to you a letter written to Kefauver from Wertham about five months after his testimony. This letter, from Wertham’s own archives, expresses his unhappiness at the direction of some of comic book publishers and who they may or may not have in their “back pockets.” Of note are Wertham’s description of the situation, the money that is involved in the comic industry, and Wertham’s urgency to push Kefauver to complete his intended goal of straightening out this whole comics business.

Wertham Letter to Kefauver 9-21-1954Click on this (and above images) to enlarge.

3. Be a Part of Getting Diagram for Delinquents Made

Getting a film produced is difficult and requires the aid of many. Fortunately, using new and creative fund-raising ventures, the internet has made the process all the more achievable.

If you’ve found any of this interesting or historically important, please help us bring you the full story in video form by visiting our Kickstarter site. There, you can watch the promo trailer for the film, and you can make a pledge to help make this film a reality. You can also pre-order your own copy, and there are many other exciting incentives.

Thanks, and we’re looking forward to hearing from you!

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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. 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), 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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Also by Robert A. Emmons, Jr.:

director, producer, executive producer

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