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5. Johnny Gets the Word
Date published: 1957 (original version), 1965 (revised version)
Government agency: New York City Department of Health
In the late 1940s, as public sentiment against crime comics intensified, the comic book industry turned to romance titles as a source of less objectionable material. According to David Hadju’s The Ten-Cent Plague, the industry was publishing 148 romance titles in 1950. In comparison, only 30 crime titles were being published at that time.
While Dr. Wertham worried that the close relationship enjoyed by Batman and Robin—not to mention their “sumptuous quarters, with beautiful flowers in large vases” and “beautifully landscaped” house—was instilling the nation’s youth with homoerotic urges, Johnny Gets the Word suggests all those romance comics of the early 1950s might have had more impact. Published by the New York City Department of Health, it depicts the Big Apple as an extremely active matrix of heterosexuality, where pretty much every teen, even that “nice kid” Gloria, has got “the siff.”