Thursday, August 08, 2013

Literature Calculated to Encourage Depravity Part II - Banned Comics: 1937 - 1959

Part II in an unlimited series.

The two questions that are often asked in regards to the banning of comics within Australia is why were they banned, and what titles were banned.  The answer to the first question isn’t as difficult as it might seem.  Comics were banned for two main reasons; the first reason was due to the practice of American publishers using countries like Australia as a dumping ground for overstock and the second, which we’ll shortly come to, was more obvious.

On the 5th of December, 1939, a statement was read in the Senate by Victorian senator Donald Cameron questioning the importation of pulps, comic books and syndicated strips and their impact upon Australian writers and artists.  Cameron, a Boer War veteran, had worked as a printer and editor, among other jobs, was highly educated and used to winning arguments without resorting to screaming or intimidation.  Cameron’s style was described as such, “he was equally capable of gently-mocking irony, biting critique, reasoned debate, or lengthy recitations of well-researched facts and statistics gleaned from voracious reading.”   Cameron pointed out that between September and November, “…three steamers, the Yomachi, the Tampa and Mahout, had discharged no fewer than305 200 copies of backdated American magazines in Sydney. At a conservative estimate, for every current copy landed from America,three back-date numbers are landed in this country.”  Cameron’s long statement created debate and raised further questions, mainly about the dumping of magazines from the USA in Australia, which were then on-sold for cheaper than their original cover price.  Magazines were being brought into the country in the hundreds of thousands, books, sheet music, comics, pulps, magazines, and their importation was affecting the job prospects of Australians who would normally be employed to create such works.  Adding weight to the issue was a letter to the then Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, from the Sydney Black & White Artists Club, pointing out that the importation of syndicated strips and comic books meant that Australian artists were being denied work by publishers and newspapers.  The solution to this mass dumping, stated Cameron, was to invoke the Australian Industries Preservation Act 1906-1937 and the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation Act) 1901-1936, both of which would then see the imported material as a commodity being dumped and sold at prices much below its price in its country of origin.   The reasoning behind the ban was to protect the Australian dollar.  With war in effect, as Australia had entered the European theatre, the Government felt that it was prudent to reduce expenditure on foreign publications and the easiest way to achieve this was to cease importing them resulting in a predicted saving of an estimated ₤200,000. 

This was the tip of the iceberg though.  Cameron’s statement started a landslide which resulted in all American comic books and pulps, along with a large number of magazines, being banned from importation as of the 10th of April, 1940 under the Preservation Act.  This meant that American comic books, such as the first issue of Batman, were never on sale in Australia.  The list of comics was massive – all American books including, but not limited to, Ace Comics, Ace High, Action Comics, Action Stories, Adventure Comics, Air Trails, Avenger, Best Stories, Best Western, Blue Ribbon Western, Broncho Bill, Captain and the Kids, Colour Comics, Complete Love, Cowboy Romances, Crackajack Funnies, Crackshot Western, Daredevil Aces, Double Action Western, Famous Funnies, Famous Western, Flash Comics, Fun Comics, Greater Western, Lone Eagle, Love and Romance, Love Tales, Marvel Tales, Masked Rider Western, Mickey Mouse, Modern Romances,
Monthly Love Story Magazine, New Adventure Comics, Popular Comics, Popular Sports, Popular Western, Quick Trigger Western, Real Western, Red Seal Western, Silver Streak Comics, Six-gun Western, Sky Aces, Sky Devils, Sky Fighters, Sky Raiders, Smashing Western, Spur Western, Star Sports, Startling Stories, Super Comics, Sweetheart Stories, Texas Rangers, Thrilling Adventure, Thrilling Love, Thrilling Ranch Stories, Thrilling Western, Tip Top Comic, True Confessions, True Experiences, True Love and Romances, True Romances, True Story, Twelve Adventure Stories, Two gun Western, Wags, Western Aces and Wings were placed on the prohibited list, along with all western, romance, fiction, adventure, sports and more.  All comics, comic strips and art were totally prohibited.  Banned magazine included Vogue, Colliers, Saturday Evening Post, Esquire and more.  The ban was a blanket ban and complete.

Once the war was over another factor in comic book banning raised its head – censorship. Standards were relaxed and American comics and pulps began to trickle into the country, bringing with them material that was considered to be unsuitable for the younger audience that would be reading/buying them.  This caused various community groups to decry the material on offer, again resulting in Customs becoming more diligent on prohibiting material destined for sale in the Australian market.  Unlike America which moved to outlaw mainly crime and horror comics, Australia wanted all comics banned – crime, horror and, especially, romance comics, which were in the firing line due to a perceived influence on young woman with questionable morals.  Romance comics were cited as the main reason why young women would become excitable when in the company of young men and why they experimented with pre-marital sex, a definite no-no in an era where females were expected to remain chaise until their wedding night.

The bans ran on from the pre-WWII bans and extended through to the early 1960s.  By the time the bans were lifted hundreds of comics and pulps, along with other literature such as anything by Micky Spillane, most of Ian Fleming and Aldous Huxley’s novels and more, were on the prohibited for importation list.  Putting the pulps, magazines and books aside, here is as complete a list of what was banned between the years 1937 when Detective Comics was banned, through to the beginning of April, 1960 when the list was prepared in Australia, by publisher and title:

ACE MAGAZINES: Challenge of the Unknown, Crime Must Pay the Penalty, Hand of Fate, Men Against Crime, Mr Risk, Super Mystery Comics, War Heroes, Web of Mystery

AJAX/FARRELL:  Battle Report, Fantastic Comics, Fantastic Fears, The Fighting Man, G.I. In Battle, Haunted Thrills, Men In Action, Midnight, Strange Fantasy, Voodoo, War Report


AMERICAN COMICS GROUP: Adventures into the Unknown, Forbidden Worlds, Operation Peril, Out of the Night, Out of the Night, Soldiers of Fortune, Spy Hunters


ARAGON MAGAZINES: Weird Tales of the Future


ATLAS COMICS (Including Marvel & Timely): Adventure into Mystery, Adventures into Terror, Adventures into Weird Worlds, All True Crimes, Amazing Detective Cases,Amazing Mysteries,Apache Kid, Arizona Kid, Battle, Battle Action, Battle Brady, Battle Ground, Battlefield, Battlefront, Combat, Combat Casey, Combat Kelly, Complete Mystery, Crime Can’t Win, Crime Cases Comics, Crime Fighters, Crime Fighters, Crime Fighting Detective, Crime Must Lose, Journey Into Unknown Worlds, Jungle Tales, Justice, Kent Blake Of The Secret Service, Kid Colt Outlaw, Lawbreakers Always Lose, Man Comics, Marines In Action, Marines In Battle, Marvel Tales, Men In Action, Men’s Adventures, Menace, Mystery Tales, Mystic, Our Fighting Men in Action, Outlaw Fighters, Outlaw Kid, Police Action, Private Eye, Rawhide Kid, Ringo Kid Western, Space Squadron, Space Worlds, Spellbound, Spy Cases, Spy Fighters, Spy Thrillers, Strange Stories of Suspense, Strange Tales of The Unusual, Suspense, True Adventures, True Complete Mystery, True Secrets, True Western, Two Gun Western, Uncanny Tales, Venus, War Action, War Adventures, War Adventures on the Battlefield, War Combat, Western Kid, Western Outlaws, Western Outlaws and Sheriffs, Wild Western, World of Suspense, Wyatt Earp, Young Men, Young Men On The Battlefield

AVON PERIODICALS: Attack on Planet Mars, Badmen of the West, Boy Detective, Captain Steve Savage, Diary of Horror, Eerie, Famous Gangsters, Fighting Undersea Commandos, Flying Saucers, Gangsters Can't Win, Jesse James, Murderous Gangsters, Police Lineup, Prison Break, Prison Riot, Rocket to The Moon, Space Detective, Strange Worlds, U.S. Marines In Action, U.S. Tank Commandos, Underworld Story, Wild Bill Hickok, Witchcraft, With The U.S. Paratroops Behind Enemy Lines


CENTAUR PUBLICATIONS: Keen Detective Funnies

CHARLTON COMICS GROUP: Badge of Justice, Crime and Justice, Johnny Dynamite, Lawbreakers Suspense Stories, Public Defender In Action, Strange Suspense Stories, Tales of the Mysterious Traveler, This Magazine Is Haunted, True Life Secrets


COMIC MEDIA: Danger, War Fury


D.S. PUBLISHING CORP: Public Enemies

DC COMICS (inc. National Comics Publications): All American Men Of War, Detective Comics, Flash, G.I. Combat, House Of Mystery, Mr. District Attorney, My Greatest Adventure, Mystery In Space, Our Army At War, Our Fighting Forces, Phantom Stranger, Real Fact Comics, Sensation Comics, Sensation Mystery, Star Spangled War Stories, Strange Adventures, Tales of the Unexpected

DELL: Terry and the Pirates

EDUCATIONAL COMICS INC: Crime Patrol, Crime Suspense Stories, Crypt of Terror, Frontline Combat, Haunt of Fear, Modern Love, Piracy, Shock SuspenseStories, Tales From The Crypt, Tales of Terror Annual, Two-Fisted Tales, Vault of Horror, Weird Fantasy, Weird Science



FAWCETT PUBLICATIONS: Battle Stories, Captain Marvel Adventures, Down With Crime, Exposed, Haunted, Marvel Family, Master Comics, Mike Barnett - Man Against Crime, Romantic Story, Romantic Western, Soldier Comics, Strange Stories from Another World, Strange Suspense Stories, Suspense Detective, Terror Tales, This Magazine Is Haunted, Unknown World, World's Beyond, Worlds Of Fear

FICTION HOUSE: Fight Comics, Ghost, Jumbo Comics, Monster, Planet Comics, Rangers Comics, War Birds, Wings Comics


FOX FEATURE SYNDICATE: Colossal Features Magazine, Crimes by Women, Crimes Incorporated, Famous Crimes from Police Cases, Hunted, Martin Kane Private Eye, Murder Incorporated, My Love Secret, My Story, Spectacular Stories Magazine, Western True Crime

GILBERTON: Classics Illustrated #26 ("Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley), Classics Illustrated #84 (The Gold Bug and other Stories by Edgar Allan Poe), Classics Illustrated #89 (Crime and Punishment)

GILMOR MAGAZINES: Weird Mysteries, Real Adventure

HARRY A. CHESLER: Dynamic Comics

HARVEY FEATURES SYNDICATE: Chamber of Chills, Fighting Fronts, Joe Palooka’s Battle Adventures, Kerry Drake Detective Cases, Tales of the Invisible featuring Scarlet O'Neill, Teen-Age Dope Slaves, Thrills of Tomorrow, Tomb of Terror, True War Experiences, War Battles, Warfront, Witches Tales



HILLMAN PERIODICALS: Crime Detective Comics, Frogman Comics, Real Clue Crime Stories


KIRBY PUBLISHING: Dead End Crime Stories

L. MILLER & SON(London): Daring Detective, Detective, Detective Weekly, Famous Crime Cases, True Police Cases, Two-Gun Kid, Western Outlaws, Zaza The Mystic


LEV. GLEASON PUBLICATIONS: Boy Comics, Crime and Punishment, Crime Does Not Pay

MAGAZINE ENTERPRISES: Ghost Rider,Manhunt, Tim Holt, Undercover Girl

MASTER COMICS: Dark Mysteries

MENS PUBLICATIONS: Fighting War Stories

K.G. MURRAY (London): Grand Comic Album, Wonder Comic Album

NEWSBOOK: Dime Comics


P.L. PUBLISHING: Weird Adventures

PARENTS MAGAZINE INSTITUTE: Steve Saunders Special Agent

PERIODICAL HOUSE: Baffling Mysteries, Trapped

PREMIER MAGAZINES: Horror From The Tomb, Mysterious Stories, Police Against Crime

PRIZE PUBLICATIONS: Headline Comics, Strange World of Your Dreams

QUALITY COMICS GROUP: Doll Man, G.I. Combat, Hit, Love Confessions, Plastic Man, Police Comics, Spirit, T-Man, Yanks In Battle

REALISTIC COMICS: Crime on the Waterfront, Dead Who Walk, Famous Gangsters, Parole Breakers


S.P.M. PUBLICATIONS: Weird tales of The Future

SONG HITS: The Thing

St. JOHN PUBLISHING: All Picture Adventure Magazine, All True All Picture Police Cases, Amazing Ghost Stories, Atom-Age Combat, Authentic Police Cases, Crime Reporter, Fightin' Marines, Fugitives from Justice, Hawk, Nightmare, Strange Terrors, Tor, True Crime Cases, Weird Horrors, Zip Jet

STANDARD MAGAZINES: Battlefront, Crime Files, This is War, Thrilling Comics, Who is Next

STANMOR PUBLICATIONS: Battle Attack, Battle Cry, Mister Mystery, Silver Kid Western

STAR PUBLICATIONS: All Famous Crime, All Famous Police Cases, Blue Bolt, Blue Bolt - Weird Tales of Terror, Ghostly Weird Stories, Horrors, Outlaws, Shock Detective Cases, Shocking Mystery Cases, Spook, Startling Terror Tales, Terrifying Tales, Terrors of the Jungle, Thrilling Crime Cases

STERLING COMICS: Surprise Adventures, Tormented

SUPERIOR PUBLISHERS: Journey Into Fear, Strange Mysteries


TOBY PRESS: Al Capp's Wolf Gal, Fighting Leathernecks, He-Man, Monty Hall of the U.S. Marines, Tales of Horror, Tales of Terror, Tell It To The Marines, With The Marines On The Battlefields Of the World


TROJAN MAGAZINES: Attack, Beware, Crime Smashers, Western Crime Busters

WILLIAM H. WISE: American Air Forces, United States Marines

YOUTHFUL MAGAZINES: Atomic Attack, Attack, Beware, Chilling Tales, Captain Science, Famous Western Badmen, Fantastic

ZIFF - DAVIS PUBLISHING: Crime Clinic, Eerie Adventures, G.I. Joe, Kid Cowboy, Lars of Mars, Little Al of the F.B.I., Little Al of the Secret Service, Weird Thrillers

As can be seen it was a large, impressive list of comic books.  The irony was that although the American editions of these comics were banned (and, in the case of L Miller and K.G. Murray – UK editions), Australian comics could, and did, reprint the contents, albeit with censored panels and other alterations.  In this way Charlton and DC Comics, in particular, were widely available via Australian publishers such as K.G. Murray and New Century Press.  This reprinting even extended to E.C. Comics, although only a few titles can be identified as having E.C. reprints. 

The Australian reprints weren’t automatically passed though, with the Queensland Literature Board of Review banning a number of Australian produced titles, mainly romance comics (for further reading feel free to download the 1955 Romance Comics Trials), but as these titles were banned on a State level they generally were available somewhere.  The American titles were banned on a Federal level, which remained in force until importation rules were relaxed, to the detriment of Australian distributors as one enterprising importer arranged a shipment of an estimated 4,000,000 back-dated American comics, to a large outcry – but that's another story.

NEXT: The Media Response.  It went something like this...


Doc V. said...

Great entry, Danny! In the list above, Newsstand Publications Men Comics is actually Martin Goodman's Timely/Atlas' "Man Comics".

Lauren said...

That's pretty hilarious. Interesting to compare those statements to ones made about kids and video games today :)