For those who may be unaware, comic books came under attack on a national level during the 1950s, mainly due to Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent and a U.S. Congressional inquiry into the comic book industry. Fueled by the sensationalized and violent imagery of the horror and crime comics of the time, the crusade against the comic book industry resulted in the adoption of the Comic Code Authority. Banning numerous items from the pages of comics, including zombies, “excessive violence,” and any deviation from the idea that "good shall triumph over evil," the Comic Code Authority was the publishers‘ attempt to self censor their own books and avoid any future issues with the public. The Code slowly lost its influence over the years until it became defunct in 2011 after being completely abandoned by all comic publishers.
Collins' Seduction of the Innocent is the third book in a trilogy of novels featuring the characters of Jack and Maggie Starr, but even if you’ve never read one of Collins‘ novels before, the stories operate as self-contained stories, and this new release would a good start for any comic book history buff who likes his stories hard-boiled. Collins uses fairly decipherable names to point readers in the direction of his characters‘ real-life counterparts (such as the character of Werner Fredrick representing Fredric Wertham) and weaves a tale that takes a crime noir-themed stroll through one of the most formative times in comic book history. While steeped in the funny books of the past, there’s nothing laughable about Collins‘ ability to weave a solid crime fiction yarn. In the words of the author, Seduction of the Innocent is “a mystery in the Rex Stout or Ellery Queen tradition, with a dollop of Mickey Spillane.” Jack Starr is a likeable enough rogue, instantly recognizable as the kind of hero who knows how to throw a punch and kiss the girl, and the case he needs to break, a murder that mirrors the plot of one of the beseeched crime comics, is both thrilling and entertaining. Starr’s internal dialogue is witty, Collins‘ cast of characters is full of seedy and suspicious suspects, and the dames of Seduction of the Innocent have definitely got the “seduction” part of the title down. All-in-all, Seduction of the Innocent is a solid tale of crime, greed, and murder with a tasty dash of sequential art history in the mix.
In addition to the captivating story, Seduction of the Innocent also has a few other “bonus features” that make it a desirable item for comic book fans. First, as the back cover of the book proclaims, Seduction of the Innocent features “over a dozen brand new illustrations in the classic EC style by comic legend Terry Beatty!” The images by Beatty that begin each chapter really add some unexpected flair to the novel and look like classic '50s comic art, helping to cement the time period of the story for the reader. There’s also a section in the back titled ‘A Tip Of The Fedora’ in which Collins explains his thoughts behind writing the book, how this book relates to the previous two ‘Jack and Maggie Starr’ novels, each of his characters‘ historical counterparts, books recommendations regarding the time period and subject matter covered in the novel, and more!
Those interested in learning more about Seduction of the Innocent by Max Allan Collins can visit Titan Books' official website or the Hard Case Crimes official websites.