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‘Diagram for Delinquents’ Doc Focuses on Fredric Wertham, Comics’ Most Hated Man

The producers of Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods, Sequart are hard at work on a new documentary that focuses on another major figure in the story of American comic books, but one who affected the medium in altogether different way. Diagram for Delinquents: Fredric Wetham and the Evolution of Comic Books will tell the story of the most hated man in comic book history, Doctor Frederic Wetham, the psychiatrist whose prodigious work in erroneously linking comics to juvenile delinquency helped create the recently abandoned Comics Code Authority and changed the industry for decades.Diagram for Delinquents is is directed by Robert A Emmons, Jr. (Goodwill: The Flight of Emilio Carranza), and will explore Wertham as an individual as well as his work as a scientist, and include interviews with comics scholars and creators (such as ComicsAlliance contributor Douglas Wolk). Recently released materials from Wertham’s files will also be used to examine the man and his work, and his most famous writing, Seduction of the Innocent, will of course be a major subject of the documentary.

Wertham was himself a contradiction. Although forever linked with artistic repression, he was a social crusader whose writings on the damaging effects of segregation were used as evidence in the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling. Although forever linked to the Comics Code, he claimed to be against censorship. Wertham developed his theories about comics while caring for juvenile delinquents, which biased his analysis by ignoring healthy juveniles who read comics — a fact that has caused his case to be often used as a negative example in statistical analysis. But his theories about comics, highlighting Wonder Woman’s themes of lesbianism and bondage, claims of Batman and Robin’s homosexuality, and the excesses of the era’s crime comics, had a lasting impact on the medium.

As with many of today’s worthy independent works, Diagram for Delinquents needs a little help to get made. The non-profit Sequart Research & Literacy Organization and Emmons have taken to the Kickstarter fundraising website to ask interested parties to help raise just $6,000 to help produce the film as well as the company’s other endeavors, such as the documentary, Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts. Depending upon the size of their donations, backers will be rewarded with signed movie posters, DVDs, Sequart books, and special thanks in the film’s credits.

For more on Diagram for Delinquents, check out the filmmaker’s theatrical appeal for funding in the video below.

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