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Mr. Monster’s Comic Crypt!

Dr. Lauretta Bender: Comics’ Anti-Wertham —Part 3 Introduction by Michael T. Gilbert


ver wonder what went on behind the scenes at DC Comics during the Golden Age? For instance, how much did DC pay the psychiatrists and psychologists on their Editorial Advisory Board to make sure their comics were kid-friendly? Did the experts use kids to field-test every single issue of Superman and The Fox and the Crow, or did they just wing it? Well, if you have wondered—do we have a treat for you!

1954 Senate Testimony of Dr. Lauretta Bender, Part One The Chairman: Dr. Bender, will you be sworn, please? Do you solemnly swear that the evidence you will give to this sub-committee of the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate, will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God? Dr. Bender: I do. TESTIMONY OF DR. LAURETTA BENDER, SENIOR PSYCHIATRIST, BELLEVUE HOSPITAL, NEW YORK, N. Y.

The Chairman: Doctor, will you state your full Lauretta Bender, Feb 1935. [Photo name, address, and association for the record, ©2009 Peter Schilder.] In Alter Ego #87 & #88, we reprinted “The Effect of please? Comic Books on the Ideology of Children” from The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, XI. That 1941 article by Dr. Dr. Bender: My full name is Dr. Lauretta Bender. I am an M.D. My Lauretta Bender and Reginald S. Lourie, M.D., was one of the earliest New York City residential address is 140 West 16th Street. I have quite articles discussing the therapeutic effects of comics on children. It’s a a number of associations. The major ones are that I am a senior fascinating piece, referencing spanking-new DC heroes like Superman, psychiatrist on the psychiatric division of Bellevue Hospital, a civilBatman, Hour-Man, and Hawkman, as well as more obscure features like service position in New York City, a position I have had since 1930, Columbia’s The Face and Fiction House’s Red Comet. and since 1934 I have been in charge of the children’s ward. I am also a professor of clinical psychiatry in New York University Medical At the time, Dr. Bender was working at Bellevue Hospital in New York. School. I am also on the training program of the Veterans’ Ironically, the director of Bellevue’s mental hygiene clinic was Dr. Fredric Administration, which is associated with the New York University Wertham, the very man who in 1954 would demonize comics in his Medical School. I am on the editorial board of the National Comic bestseller Seduction of the Innocent. It’s unknown whether the two ever Companies as an adviser, on the advisory editorial board. This spring I discussed their opposing views on comics, though it’s quite likely. Dr. accepted an Bender’s son, Peter Schilder, doesn’t recall his mother ever specifically appointment as mentioning Dr. Wertham. In fact, when I asked him about it, he wasn’t consultant in child familiar with the name at all. psychiatry in the In any case, shortly after her article appeared, DC comics hired Dr. New Jersey Bender to head their Editorial Advisory Board. Bender’s credentials, Neuropsychiatric described in her testimony, were impressive and gave DC added crediInstitute. I think that bility. From July 1944 until 1954 (when the Comics Code Authority took covers the major over), her name could be seen in virtually every DC comic. But in her ones. testimony she states that she began working for DC as early as 1942, a The Chairman: year after her psychiatric journal article was published. In fact, that article Thank you. Counsel, directly led to her job at DC. you may proceed to Comic books had always been an easy target for critics. Almost from examine the doctor. the start, articles warned anxious parents about their dangers. It all came Mr. Beaser: Doctor, to a head in 1954 when Senate hearings were held to decide whether to we are inquiring ban all crime and horror comics, which Wertham singled out as particuhere into the larly damaging. Though the atmosphere was decidedly anti-comics, child possible effects of experts and comics industry veterans were invited to give testimony. crime and horror Some, including Mad publisher Bill Gaines, testified that comics were a comics on children, harmless outlet for kids. But many others declined to speak up. Dr. both normal and Bender, however, gave a well-reasoned defense of comics. We’re printing some who are her testimony in its entirety. emotionally Comics fans will find her nuts-and-bolts descriptions of DC’s inner disturbed. Could workings fascinating. One juicy tidbit includes the fact that she received you give us your three copies of each comic published during her tenure in the ’40s and ’50s. Talk about a comic fan’s dream come true! Her son Peter recalls that, New York’s Governor even though his mom never prevented them from reading comics, her Nelson Rockefeller and three children had little interest in the leftovers. Dr. Bender at

And now, here’s part one of Dr. Bender’s testimony from April 22, 1954.

Creedmoor Hospital, Christmas 1965. [Photo ©2009 Peter Schilder.]

Alter Ego #91  

ALTER EGO #91 (100 pages, $6.95) features a Fantastic Fawcett Festival! Behind a brand new Captain Marvel cover by JERRY ORDWAY & EMILIO SQU...

Alter Ego #91  

ALTER EGO #91 (100 pages, $6.95) features a Fantastic Fawcett Festival! Behind a brand new Captain Marvel cover by JERRY ORDWAY & EMILIO SQU...