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Wertham Comix: Issue 2 of "Comic Book Comics" tells this story: "One of comics' earliest critics was the consulting psychologist for Family Circle magazine, William Moulton Marston, world-renowned as an inventor of the lie detector." He mouthed off about comics' ill effects on youth until proto-DC editor Maxwell Gaines co-opted him by giving him a chance to write his own comics that pushed his crackpot views on the youth. The result was Wonder Woman, the tough, independent woman who's always getting tied up for no adequately explained reason.

A few years later, liberal psychiatrist Fredric Wertham published Seduction of the Innocent and started his better-known anti-comics crusade. CBC speculates that if Maxwell Gaines' son William had been less confrontational, he might have been able to co-opt Wertham the way his father co-opted Marston. I don't think that's terribly likely; once you publish a best-selling book taking a stance on an issue it's difficult to back away from it.

But What If? Gaines or some other editor had convinced Wertham that the answer to bad comics was more comics? What would Wertham have come up with? Since Wertham's big concern was juvenile delinquency, I think he'd have done comics about boys, for boys. I envision a team of teenagers with superpowers who fight prejudice in nonviolent ways. Maybe it would have been too preachy to survive to the modern day (Marston's kinks were much more interesting and comic-book-compatible), but I think it would have been the first serious comic book exploration of kids with superpowers. What do you think?

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