Williamson And Chan Ask ‘What If Wertham Was Right?’ For The ‘CBLDF Liberty Annual 2013′ [Interview+Preview]
Given that his book Seduction of the Innocent and subsequent anti-comics presentation to the United States Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency resulted in the formation of the Comics Code Authority, Fredric Wertham is basically considered the biggest real-life boogieman in the history of the medium. But what if he hadn’t become the face of comic-crippling paranoia by asserting that all kinds of comics caused real world social problems? What if he’d been… right all along. That’s the question Josh Williamson and Ron Chan chillingly answer in “What if Wertham Was Right?” a six-page segment of the CBLDF Liberty Annual 2013, which drops on October second to fund the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and its efforts to protect the artistic rights of comic creators. CA hit up the duo to see what inspired such a heretical question. See what they had to say, along with a spoiler-free preview of their tale, after the jump.
ComicsAlliance: How did you two get involved with this year’s CBLDF Liberty Annual and what sparked this particular tale?
Josh Williamson: During WonderCon in Anaheim this last year, after lots of drinks and talking about comics, I woke up one morning with this idea. A phrase. “What if Wertham was right?”
And then I started thinking about how when I was a kid we’d always found porno mags in the middle of the woods. Who was leaving these naughty treasures out there? Why? Why didn’t they leave comic books?! That’s when the story really started to take on a life of its own. That weekend I was crashing on Jason Ho’s (Bongo, Adventure Time) couch and just tore off the sheets and jumped up and reenacted the whole story for him like a crazy person. Originally my idea was for a short film or a longer short story. After that I told some friends the silly idea and had a good laugh.
One night I was having a few drinks with Scott Allie and he mentioned that he had a Captain Midnight idea for the CBLDF annual. After we worked it out I said, “Well… I have this OTHER idea as well.” And then I acted out the Wertham story. Scott didn’t flinch the entire time I told the tale. When I was done I was thinking he’d just say “You’re an idiot.”
But then he laughed and said “That’s f**king great. I love that! We’re doing that and Ron Chan is drawing it. He’ll nail down all the facial expressions.” And then Ron KILLED it! So amazing. Ron really made the story sing. Every time I’d see a new page I’d start laughing.
Ron Chan: Josh pretty much said it all on this one. Once they had decided the story was happening and that I was the right artist for the job, Scott pitched the idea to me soon after. Josh and I had talked for quite some time about doing a story together, and the story sounded like a blast, so the answer was easy. For some reason, Scott seems to have a great deal of trust in me, so when I said I wanted to experiment a bit with the art on this one, he let me run with it, which is how we ended up with the animation-inspired look of this story – a technique I had not previously used.
CA: There’s some fictionalized self-insertion in this story. Did comics ever get either of you in trouble as kids?
JW: Oh for sure. I can’t even begin to count how many times I ditched school to go to the comic book store on aWednesday morning. And I remember one time in middle school getting in a bunch of trouble for not doing homework and the teacher thought I was … I don’t know selling drugs or something. She refused to believe I was too busy reading comic books. I was in a heavy X-Factor re-read! That was my priority!
RC: Naw, I wouldn’t say so. Maybe my parents thought it was silly for me to spend so much allowance on comic books and action figures, but they let me get away with it. I’d often lay belly down on the floor, as kids do, looking at X-Men comics, and my mom would yell at me for reading (or drawing) with my head too close to the paper. Said I would ruin my eyes. I can’t focus past a foot away from my face now without glasses, so I guess she was right!
CA: Are there any comics that you think helped shape your lives for the better, as kids or even in adulthood?
JW: Preacher. Easily. I started reading that when I was a senior in high school and like most nerdy kids not having the best of time. But then I just started thinking “At least my grandma didn’t force me into a coffin at the bottom of a lake!” Y’know?!
Also the single line: “You gotta be one of the good guys, son, ’cause there’s way too many of the bad.” That still sticks with me to this day.
RC: I can’t say I recall any specific story that had a major impact on me as a kid. I think I spent a lot more time looking at the art than I did actually thinking about the stories. One particular title I read later on that comes to mind is the manga Sanctuary, by Sho Fumimura and Ryoichi Ikegami. It’s a gangster story about two lifelong friends, politics, and yakuza. The story is by no means one of virtue – we’re talking about murdering gangsters here – but running throughout the story were heavy themes of ambition, loyalty, confidence, and perseverance. I’d like to think I’ve had taken some inspiration from that.