A Crisis of Innocence

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"A Crisis of Innocence” is a critically curated online exhibition that investigates the widespread public outcry over comic books, and the ill-effects the horror and crime genres in particular were believed to be having on young readers in the 1940s and 50s. The site archives several hundred legal, legislative, academic, and popular media documents chronicling the controversy, along with sound and video files relating to the 1954 Senate Subcommittee Hearings on Juvenile Delinquency. Also featured are some of the comics stories at the heart of the controversy. A great deal of excellent scholarship exists on these remarkable events, which gripped the public imagination not only in the United States, but in Canada, England, and elsewhere. Most of this research, however, concerns itself primarily with the adult players in the events of the period: the producers of the comics, the legislators who tried to outlaw them, the experts from many fields who weighed in on the issue. This exhibition puts the child, around whom all the anxiety revolved, at the forefront and aims to demonstrate the extent to which twentieth-century Western conceptions of childhood ‘innocence’ informed and shaped the public outrage directed against the period’s most ubiquitous form of popular culture.