History Changes the Past

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History changes the past.  Comic books were bad, bad, bad when I was a kid.  I knew this because my mother told me so.  I could read Tarzan and a couple of others I can’t recall, but never Batman, Superman, or any of the darker comic fare.  Like many kids I hid the Superman and others inside my stacks of Tarzans.  Also, like many in those days, when Marvel comics came out I was a teen-ager and Mom was no longer a taste-maker in my world.  The Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, the Silver Surfer and my personal favorite, Dr. Strange became staples in my library alongside War and Peace, Crime and Punishment.

Only in the past couple of months have I learned why comics were bad.  Fredric Wertham, a German born immigrant and psychiatrist, saw Superman and the superhero ilk as sub rosa evocations of the Übermensch, Nietzsche’s man who transcended morality and who Nazi’s believed justified their crimes. 

Well, all I can say is, that Fredric must not have read a Superman comic.  Superman fought for Truth, Justice and the American Way.  Any kid who watched the TV program could tell you that.  Batman was too troubled to be an ubermensch or an undermensch. 

This history has changed my past.  I always thought it was just a pacifist quirk of Mom’s that she restricted my comic reading, after all I learned from her to carry bugs outside in a kleenex and liberate them.  But no, it was another parenting influence, like Dr. Spock, only this one was a psychiatrist who probably believed Freud had it right after all.  It helps me see Mom as a parent, a person searching for advice on how to raise her children, how to keep them from harmful influences. 

Boy, when I think of the fifties I realize how few really harmful influences seemed available, at least in Alexandria, Indiana.  No  rap.  Few drugs.  They weren’t on our radar.  An STD might have been an additive for gasoline.

I began watching horror and science fiction movies as soon as I could scrape $.25 together to spend on my own.  I don’t know why Mom never stopped me from seeing those.  Or, maybe I didn’t tell her.  I can’t recall and she died when I was 17 so I never got a chance to ask her.

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