Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Extreme and abnormal 'avidity'

The reasons given why contact is often sought for children with physicians or psychiatrists or psychologists or social workers usually does not include any reference to comic books. But from the very beginning there are cases where the reading of comic books is part of the complaint. In these cases the main complaint is what the Reverend Shelton Hale Bishop, an authority on juvenile gangs, calls the "extreme avidity" of their comic-book reading. "These comics may be a counterpart of what youngsters see in the movies," he says, "but at least they cannot live with the movies day in and day out as they do with their comics. They take them to bed with them. They walk along the street on their way to school reading them. When they go on an outing for sheer fun, for vacation, along goes an average of five or six magazines per child, and an abnormal amount of attention is given them. They read them going; they read them there; they read them coming home; they swap them; so that the whole thing borders on extreme and abnormal avidity."

If all the children who pass through a period of this "extreme and abnormal avidity" are really sick children in the first place, as experts of the comic-book industry would have us believe, this would be a sick generation. But such arguments are so superficial, and so evidently special pleading, that the only thing worth noting about them is that so many adults are naive enough to give them credence. It is necessary to analyze the comic books themselves, the children in relation to them and the social conditions under which these children live.