You go to law school, you teach for a whole bunch of years, you read a bit of this and that in law and still you’d no idea that:

163. (1) Every one commits an offence who
(b) makes, prints, publishes, distributes, sells or has in his possession for the purpose of publication, distribution or circulation a crime comic.

So says part of the Corrupting Morals section of the Criminal Code. And goodness me, it’s right up there with “obscene phonograph recordings,” “indecent shows” and advertising “instructions…for restoring sexual virility.”

It’s peculiar that though I’ve read half the crime novels ever written and though I’ve even contributed to the genre, I’d get off scot free“scot” derived from “scutage,” a form of land tenure by payment, and nothing at all to do with my ancestors on my mother’s side. simply because I and nearly all the authors I read are too inept to draw illustrations:

163. (7) In this section, “crime comic” means a magazine, periodical or book that exclusively or substantially comprises matter depicting pictorially

(a) the commission of crimes, real or fictitious; or

(b) events connected with the commission of crimes, real or fictitious, whether occurring before or after the commission of the crime.

The law against crime comics, known originally as the [E. Davie] Fulton Act, was passed in December of 1949, the very moment, almost to the day, when I arrived in Canada, as it happens — still too young to read comics of any sort, of course; but, I now see, already yearning in an inchoate way for Superman and Boston Blackie and Captain Marvel et al.

I learned all of this and a whole lot more about this particular moral panic from a fascinating web production by Library and Archives Canada, Tales from the Vault: Canadian Pulp Fiction, 1940 -1952. No dry-as-dust production this: the visuals are great. Come to think of it, mightn’t the site be a “crime comic”? Oh, those archivists and librarians! You know there’s also a “lib” in “libation” and another in “libertine.”

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