When it comes to his role in the development of the Comics Code Authority, I’ve long believed that Dr. Fredric Wertham received far too much criticism from fans and historians, alike. This is due to no profound insight on my part, but only an educated grasp of some of what was available to children on comics racks in the period from the late 1940’s to the early 1950’s. Now, a new documentary has not only made me even less antagonistic toward Wertham, it has actually birthed new admiration for the man and a more distinct understanding of his motivations.
Diagram for Delinquents, by Robert A. Emmons, Jr., stands to set the record straight on precisely who Wertham was, and exactly why he deserves fresh consideration, not only from comics fans, but people in general. I feel fairly safe in stating that, despite some of Wertham’s mistaken views and blanket condemnation of an entire medium, viewers should plan to have their opinions of him challenged upon viewing Emmon’s work.
Unless you are already an expert on Dr. Wertham, you are sure to learn more about him. You may actually gain respect for the man as a researcher, compassionate doctor, and even one who, it could be argued, had a unique role in the civil rights movement. This will be accomplished by well-conducted in-depth interviews with those who are experts and authorities in several different fields, not just the world of comics. That, along with a wealth of photos and newsreels from the first half of the 20th Century, slick production work and, of course, many reproductions of Golden Age comic book covers and pages, makes Diagram for Delinquents a must-watch for all but the youngest fans of the comics medium.
Diagram for Delinquents addresses not only the history of comic books, but much weightier issues, as well, and does so in a highly professional and informative manner. Kudos to Emmons for crafting a project which has the potential to change some decades-long conceptions about one of the most controversial figures in the history of American pop culture.
Review by Mark Allen