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Publisher's Summary

In the years between World War II and the emergence of television as a mass medium, American popular culture as we know it was first created in the bold, pulpy pages of comic books. The Ten-Cent Plague explores this cultural emergence and its fierce backlash while challenging common notions of the divide between "high" and "low" art.

David Hajdu reveals how comics, years before the rock-and-roll revolution, brought on a clash between postwar children and their prewar parents. Created by outsiders from the tenements, garish, shameless, and often shocking, comics became the targets of a raging generational culture divide. They were burned in public bonfires, outlawed in certain cities, and nearly destroyed by a series of televised Congressional hearings. Yet their creativity, irreverence, and suspicion of authority would have a lasting influence.

©2008 David Hajdu (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Every once in a while, moral panic, innuendo, and fear bubble up from the depths of our culture....David Hajdu's fascinating new book tracks one of the stranger and most significant of these episodes, now forgotten, with exactness, clarity, and serious wit." (Sean Wilentz, Professor of History, Princeton University)"This book tells an amazing story, with thrills and chills more extreme than the workings of a comic book's imagination." ( The New York Times)

What members say

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  • Overall

Art can't hurt you

This well researched book clearly details how Comic Books were used as a quick easy target for the difficult problem of violence in society. One can't help but see the parallels to current events as we scapegoat video games as the cause of violence in young people, even though violent crime has gone down as the sale of video games has gone up over the last 5 years. It is precisely the same dynamic described in this book.

A fair criticism is that there are too many sources referenced. I would have liked less quantity and more in depth interviews. However, as a fan of old EC Comics, I enjoyed hearing from all of the people who created them; many who lived through the ban went on to create modern comics. And all of the first person dialog brings the tone of the times to life.

Now I understand why my grandmother, to my horror, threw away all of my comics when she discovered them in my room in 1962. She thought I was headed for a life of crime!

The narration was excellent.

35 of 37 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Paul
  • Portland, OR
  • 09-24-08

Very frightening

Most people believe that we live in a country where freedom of the press is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. This book, which is very well written, shows a slice of our history in which this right was removed. What was done to the comic book industry was the equivalent of Salem witch hunts. I was horrified and nauseated at the descriptions of massive comic book burnings. I had no idea that this event occurred and reminds me that we have to be ever vigilant to attempts by people who attempt to dictate what my morals and tastes should be. This book was gripping and very informative.

41 of 44 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

As good as a novel!

What a terrific book. As a child in the fifties I vaguely remember my parents warning me about comic books. But this book tells all the background information I could have never understood.
And the birth of MAD magazine is a great bonus to the birth of all the comic creations.
How our country got so wrapped up in fearing comic books is absurd, but not surprising given the hubbub a few years back over the flash of a breast at the Super Bowl.
This book is worth every moment of time. And while I usually enjoy the narrator, his attempts to do a "Noo Yawk" accent was a little too "dese, dems, and dose" to enjoy.

26 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • Arthur
  • North Kitsap County, Washington, USA
  • 02-27-13

Freedom of the Press? Not here you don't.

Well written and frightening account of the McCarthy-esc government crack down o the comic book industry during the 1950s. Less than ten years after WW2, American children were being encouraged to have mass comic book burnings by their teachers and religious leaders. Very scary stuff; I couldn't put it down.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

An important and timely story

I think everyone ought to read this book so they might understand what happens when you impose outside censorship on any medium. I'm glad someone thought to do a book about this incident. My only complaint is that the author has a poor sense of sentence structure and the awkward, crammed-together, run-on sentences make the text hard to follow when it's read out loud.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Hadju's incredibly well researched examination of the censorship of comics offers a deeply contextualized narrative about the cultural and social impact and implications of the comics scare while also portraying of the rise and fall of the men and women who worked in the right industry at the wrong time.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Cather
  • Cumberland, VA, United States
  • 07-21-08


The book itself is well written; I will have to look at the other book he has out on audible.

Rudnicki is a great narrator, but when he attempted a "New York" accent he sounded like one of the characters from his reading of ENDER'S GAME, whom I hadn't realised where supposed to be New Yorkers, and it's kind of jarring.

Other than that, no complaints.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Coffee
  • Virginia Beach, VA, United States
  • 06-21-12

So much potential.

Man. It's been a while since I've not been able to finish an audio. Just remember that I'm no audio expert, but since I'm cataloguing my reading choices, I really can't ignore this one. I can only tell you that I've hit play on this audio twice and... I just don't think I can plod along with it anymore.

The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America tells the story of how comic books first came about after World War II and before television became mainstream and accessible, and the subsequent hysteria generated by those who felt that comic books were lowering standards and ethics for the youth of the day.

This held so much promise. I love comic books, history, and audio. I wanted to fall in love with this. I started it a couple months ago, and stopped it after one hour because I just couldn't get into the story and wasn't the biggest fan of the narrator's voice.

The second time I started it, this past week, I went much further along with it to around the six-hour mark, but I decided today I needed to just stop. I found my concentration wavered and I was easily distracted.

I might try this one more time...maybe I should try it in the printed version instead? I can say that I am most definitely in the minority on this. The reviewers on gave it high marks, so make sure you consider that as well. I'm in no way the final authority.

Audio Notes: I know Stefan Rudnicki has a great fan base and he does have a very nice, soothing voice. Although it is a comforting tone, I felt there wasn't much variation in the characters' voices, or in the overall narration. An reviewer also pointed out that he unfortunately pronounces "submariner" as though it's "submarine" with an "r" at the end, like sub-ma-reen-er, but the correct pronunciation is sub-mare-uh-ner. It sort of drove me nuts as well. Click here for the sample at

20 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • Eric
  • Los Angeles
  • 02-09-09

Great for the true comic book fan

I found this book enjoyable, but. . .

I think a comic book collector should and would cling to most of this book. It sort of got a little dry in the middle with historical information that I started to just want to work through.

Having said that, I really liked the book overall. I am a fan of Mad Magazine, and I particularly enjoyed reading about its history in this book. This book also does remind us that censorship has been around a long time--and will continue for a long time to come. I particularly love how we use blame and censorship to absolve us of blame for the behavior of our children. G(g)od forbid we should blame genes and poor parenting.

Enjoy this book and fast forward when it gets too dry. Many moments are quite entertaining.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Wowza! Who knew?

I had no idea of the intrigue surrounding the comic book. Who knew of their scandalous and scurrilous history? Since reading I can't stop asking my older friends and relatives to share their memories with me of the attacks on Wonder Woman and Tales of Horror. My mother remembered and retold her resentment as if it had happened last week. Her face and tone expressed her anger so perfectly, "They took away our zombies! They took away our monsters! All they left us were boring stupid comics that no one wanted to read..."

My only complain was that Hajdu included many details that didn't really seem relevant.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful