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Batom Comics – The Untold History Chapter 2

posted on July 18, 2014

Seduction Of the Innocent

The fifties were a really star crossed time to start a comic book company, and 1954 in particular was the hands down worst year in the decade. The industry was reeling from attacks by parents groups, state and local legislatures, and, in April of that year, from a Senate subcommittee. Chief architect of this war on comics was Dr. Frederich Wertham who had made it his personal crusade to banish comic books from the face of the Earth. No single individual was more responsible the downfall of a number of comic book companies, the destruction of the careers of many fine artists, and the stigmatization of an entire art form. His articles in popular magazines such as the Ladies Home Journal lit the fuse with the American public, but it was his book Seduction of the Innocent that was the biggest bombshell.

 

In his book, Wertham tried to tie the rise in juvenile delinquency in the country to the influence of comic books. It led to the aforementioned public outrage, a Senate investigation, and eventually to a self imposed censoring by the publishers themselves. The establishment  of The Comics Code Authority effectively handcuffed the efforts of the industry’s artists and writers.

 

It was into this world that batom Comics was born, the brainchild of brothers Barry and Thomas Martin. Their father ran a small printing firm in Cleveland. Chief among the varied clients of the company was the Catholic Diocese newspaper. When he passed away, along with the printing company, part of the legacy he left to his sons was a newsprint allotment contract. The brothers had no interest in running a printing company, but what they did see was an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream, that of running a comic book company.

 

So in spite of the toxic atmosphere surrounding the comic book industry, they rented some space for editorial offices in an abandoned warehouse on West Third Street in Cleveland. The first thing their company needed was a name, and, by combining parts of both of their names, they came up with Batom Comics. The next thing they would need would be characters, artists and writers. An ad was placed in the Cleveland Press and in short order the man who would create their star character walked through the door. And so in the city where two young men had made comics history, history was about to be made again by a new pair of young men whose love for comics blinded them to the mine field that lay in their path. A true seduction of the innocent.