The comic book industry hardly took Wertham's criticism in stride though. Not only did publishers hire private detectives to investigate his past, these detectives also harassed Wertham's colleagues at his clinic. According to an unfortunately-worded editorial written in the comic book industry newsletter Quest, "The immediate enemy is Fredric Wertham, not some other publisher. He cannot be reasoned with. He must be discredited and rendered ineffective. Will he go away?Probably not. He must be knocked out". Wertham was sufficiently alarmed by the editorial to send a copy to New York's police commissioner.
on the Senate hearings, the Comic Code Authority was established in
1954 to regulate comic book content. Until it was revised in the
1970s, the Code banned all graphic descriptions of violence, gore, and
sexual innuendo in comic books.; It also banned any negative
representation of authority figures and stipulated that "in every
instance, good should triumph over evil" as well as any representation
of kidnapping or concealed weapons. EC Comics only survived by
focusing on its only non-horror title, Mad Magazine (which savagely parodied Fredric Wertham for years afterward).
Wertham's influence was hardly limited to the United States
welfare agencies in Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and elsewhere
began to call for restrictions on the importing of American comic
books (partly out of concern for the violent content and partly to
protect their own domestic comic book industries). Articles in British,
Canadian, and Australian newspapers routinely denounced American comic
books as being equivalent to a "narcotic"
administering steadily greater shocks that desensitized children to
violence. Women's groups, educators, the Catholic Church, and various
other special interest groups formed alliances designed to
counter the comic book menace on an international scale. Fredric
Wertham's writings were extensively quoted in speeches and radio
broadcasts around the world and government panels weighed in on the
concerns that anti-comics crusaders raised. By the late 1950s,
government regulating bodies for comic books were established across
North America as well as various European and Asian countries.
The passing of the Comic Code Authority represented Fredric Wertham's greatest achievement (even if he protested that the regulation didn't go far enough). He would never be as influential again despite his efforts to expand his crusade to include other forms of media violence. In 1959, he attempted to publish a followup to his earlier book to focus on television violence but no publishers were interested. Despite occasional television appearances and articles in popular newspapers, his career as a media pundit was effectively over. Wertham continued writing on juvenile delinquency and the power of media until his death in 1981. Later social scientists tend to dismiss his work as being without scientific merit and comic book fans remember him only as a conservative demagogue and an advocate of censorship (one comic book writer referred to him as the "Josef Mengele of funnybooks"). To this day, comic book writers continue to parody Wertham and his crusade in various forms.
Whatever we try to make of Fredric Wertham, he was hardly your typical demagogue. An early supporter of desegregation (and a personal friend of Ralph Ellison), Wertham's writing on race relationswere used as testimony in the 1954 Brown vs Board of Education case which overturned school segregation in the United States. In his 1966 book, A Sign for Cain, he linked racism to the genocidal policies of Nazi psychiatrists in the forced euthanasia of mental patients. Heended the book with a powerful message for abolishing the death penalty and his own philosophy of social reform. He even tried to reach out to the comic book subculture with his support of fanzines although fans refused to forgive him for his role in undermining the industry. Throughout his lifetime, Fredric Wertham placed his reputation on the line to support unpopular causes and to defend what he believed to be right.
While he is mainly remembered by the anti-comics crusade, his role as an early pioneer in the role of media in influencing behaviour can't be denied, even if you disagree with his views. It was Fredric Wertham who took comic books seriously enough as a cultural medium to address their impact on the children for which they had been written (something no other social scientist had bothered to do before). Whether his crusade was completely without value is open to argument.