Comic Books’ Ultimate Battle: Staying Relevant in an Ever-Changing Society

Izzy Tegtmeyer '16

The project: Ms. Tegtmeyer recounts the origins and history of comic books, exploring their putative connection to juvenile delinquency and the various censorship movements that arose in response. She shows how comics have evolved as publishers leverage the appeal of their brands and characters in the digital age.

Notable quote: “Clark Kent and his alter ego started more than a genre of comic books; he started a battle over censorship that nearly crippled the comic book industry. Eighty years later, comics are still around. Comic books and superheroes have remained a key component in both teen culture and the entertainment business because of their successful transition between mediums in the digital age. From their conception, comics were destined for a world beyond the cheap pages they were printed on. It took many decades for comics to reach the level of importance in pop culture they are on today, and those years were not without controversy.”

Biggest challenge as a scholar: “Narrowing down my topic. From the get-go I knew I wanted to do comic books and youth culture, and Ms. Klumpp informed me early on that I needed to narrow it down. At some point, my topic got off course and I ended up writing about Wonder Woman, and I didn’t really like it. So I had a meeting with Ms. Klumpp and I was like, Can I go back and do the World War II era and then nowadays? And she said that’s fine. The day before we had a 10-page deadline, I switched my topic back and cranked out ten pages.”

Surprising discovery: “I was struck by how easily the writing came to me. Gathering all the research and figuring out what I wanted to use in my paper was difficult, but once I got going it was really easy to put all my ideas down. The hard part was editing it and making sure it was all in the right order and sounded coherent.”

Tip for future scholars: “Once you know the broad idea of your topic and what you want to do, start researching and then your research will help you narrow it down.”

From her presentation: A notable crusader against comic books was psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, who asserted that “certain instances of delinquent and criminal behavior in children were directly attributable to the comic books they had read.”