SDCC ’14: Werthamania

Seduction of the Innocent 204x300 SDCC 14: WerthamaniaThis year marks the 60th anniversary of Fredric Wertham’s influential and notorious Seduction of the Innocent, and Comic Con’s programming schedule includes several panels addressing the book and its core themes.

Today (Thursday) at noon, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is holding a panel on the increasingly important topic of “Using Graphic Novels in Education,” and a key issue that it will address is how to deal with the prospect of censorship. Speakers include CBLDF web editor Betsy Gomez; Meryl Jaffe, author of Raising a Reader! How Comics & Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids; and Carol Tilley, who in addition to being a nationally renowned Wertham critic is also an information science professor whose work “focuses on the intersection of young people, comics, and libraries.”

The legal dimension of censorship is one of the topics covered by law professor Marc Greenberg in his comprehensive new book, Comic Art, Creativity and the Law, and he will be speaking on “Forecasting How Business and Law Will Affect Creativity in Comics” today at noon in a panel with futurist Rob Salkowitz, author of Comic-Con & the Business of Pop Culture.

Friday is the peak of Werthamania, with no fewer than three panels dealing with Wertham, his legacy and more contemporary approaches to the impact of comics on kids.

At 1pm, the CBLDF is sponsoring “Dr. Wertham’s War on Comics,” which is dedicated to Professor Tilley’s widely celebrated research on his work.

Later on Friday, at 8pm, I will be moderating “60 Years of Seduction: Right, Wrong, and Wertham,” in which a panel of experts will discuss Wertham’s legacy and what he means today. Besides the intrepid Carol Tilley, the panel also includes Robert A. Emmons, Jr., whose documentary Diagram for Delinquents can be downloaded here; historian Bradford Wright, author of Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America; and forensic psychiatrists Vasilis Pozios and Praveen Kambam of Broadcast Thought, the pathbreaking consulting firm on media and mental health.

Finally, I’ve just learned that the 4pm Friday Reading with Pictures panel, “Getting the Most Out of Graphic Novels in Your Classroom and Library,” has added Carol Tilley as a panelist. 60 years ago Wertham warned that comics were a threat to literacy, and this panel exemplifies how antiquated notions of a world ruled by words are giving way to a future in which reading pictures is an essential skill.

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