Associate Professor Carol Tilley had an unexpected citation in her favorite medium—comic books! Dav Pilkey, author and illustrator of a number of bestselling and award-winning children’s books, including the popular Captain Underpants series, depicts Tilley's research on psychiatrist Fredric Wertham in his newest comic, Cat Kid Comic Club Influencers.
Wertham was an anti-comics critic whose 1954 book, Seduction of the Innocent, inspired federal hearings that decimated the comic book industry. When Wertham's archives were made available to researchers in 2010, Tilley began her research, finding numerous inconsistencies between the psychiatrist's case notes of children he treated and the content in his book. In addition, she discovered that while Wertham's claims about the negative effects of comic readership on young people were taken as fact by many, some were already questioning his methods.
Pilkey's comic depicts this moment in true comic book fashion, with the Tilley character crying out, "That dude lied!"
Tilley called the depiction and citation in the comic book a "most pleasant surprise."
"I've been championing Pilkey's work to students and librarians since the first volume of Captain Underpants came out in 1997," she said. "It’s wonderful to see one of the champions and leading creators of contemporary kids' comics acknowledging my work."
Read more about Tilley's findings in her article, "Seducing the Innocent: Fredric Wertham and the Falsifications that Helped Condemn Comics," published in the November-December 2012 issue of Information and Culture: A Journal of History.