. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – NBC Radio – New World: Comic Books – July 1, 1956 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection
As the 50s galloped on, and as the Cold War brought with it a certain fear, paranoia and fatalist look at life, our entertainment started taking on that general tone of dissatisfaction, rebellion and questions within our society.
Popular Culture was going through a revolution – from movies and music to comic books. Everything was showing some emotional strain, some questioning of values, some growing agitation. And it was all centered around Youth.
In the 1950s there was an explosion in comic book reading – and the vast majority of comic books being read had storylines encompassing the weird, the grotesque, the horrific and the unexplainable.
Science Fiction was huge. Followed by tales of the Supernatural. And somewhere tucked in there was crime, mayhem and general hysteria. It was estimated that one out of every four comic books sold to kids had stiffly graphic portrayals or grim stories. And it was this wave of brightly colored mayhem that was believed to be singularly responsible for the skyrocketing rates of crime among juveniles.
Yep – in the 1950s, kids were getting their brains rotted by stories of spine-sucking Zombies, murder-crazed dope-addicts and deranged sadists, dismembering damsels-in-distress with gleeful abandon – all for the princely sum of a dime.
And this alarmed the hell out of parents and educators. So much so, that Congressional subcommittees were ordered on Capitol Hill and investigations were held over alleged Communist influence in our otherwise wholesome comic book industry.
A big topic of discussion, and yet another element in the age-old complaint of youth going straight to hell.
So this program – an installment of the NBC Radio series New World, tackled the question by bringing on board a panel of educators and psychiatrists and pondered the state of Americas Youth and what was going to be done about this scourge on our society.
Difficult to imagine just how disturbed people were over this seemingly innocuous entertainment. But the 1950s were at the uneasy crossroads of the old world and the brave new one. And nobody knew what was going to happen next.
Here is that episode of New World: Comic Books, as it was originally broadcast on July 1, 1956. I left the relatively quaint intros and outros in, to give you an idea of the timeframe and the social climate we were at the time.