Comics have historically been a popular way to get messages across to children and child-like adults, but there’s little educational value in these often well-meaning but tragically ineffective comics.
10) The Amazing Spider-Man and Power Pack on Sexual Abuse (1984)
In this “very special” Spider-Man adventure, the masked web-slinger discovers that the boy who lives next door is being touched inappropriately by his hot teenage babysitter. Poor kid. Spider-Man reveals that as a boy, he too was molested by a…slightly older boy. He teaches his neighbor the value of reporting such crimes, imparting the lesson that you should trust a spandex-clad masked man climbing through your window more than your babysitter.
9) If an A-Bomb Falls (1951)
This Cold War-era comic no doubt caused many a sleepless night for 8-year-olds back in the ’50s — see the drawing of a schoolboy cowering in a ditch under a newspaper as everything behind him is blown to kingdom come or the handy chart that explains that even with adequate preparation, the mortality rate of anyone within a half mile of an a-bomb blast is 75%. Dubious advice: “If you see a brilliant flash, leap behind a bank, sturdy building or in a doorway.” Apparently, a bank isn’t a sturdy building, and apparently, no one thought that a brilliant flash could be a bug zapper, someone’s high beams, the sun, a paparazzo, a cigarette lighter, a firefly, lightning, the Rapture or the Terminator’s time machine. Or maybe you’re just having a seizure.
8) Bobby Gets Hep (1946)
The folks at Bell Telephone delivered this oh-so-dated comic that instructs groovy, hep kids on the etiquette of using party lines. Somehow, Bobby’s overuse of the line leads to him almost burning to death. Sounds like an appropriate punishment.
7) New Uses for Good Earth (1960s)
Apparently, strip mining is awesome for the environment. The Mined-Land Conservation Conference wouldn’t steer us wrong, would it?
6) The Secret of the Happy Pig! (1962)
This social engineering from the National Social Welfare Assembly comes with a vague goal of making kids feel good about themselves, basically implying that you can cure clinical depression with a two-minute conversation.
5) Foreskin Man (2010)
This anti-circumcision propaganda piece from a group seeking to pass legislation against “male genital mutilation” inadvertently (or perhaps not so inadvertently) veers dangerously close to anti-semitism, with its Aryan “intactivist” superhero taking on the evil Jewish supervillain Monster Mohel. Oy vey.
4) Dangerous Playgrounds (1950s)
With this comic, the Association of American Railroads aimed to show children the dangers of playing around railroad tracks, but it ends up making the rails look like the coolest playground ever, giving kids ideas for pastimes like racing trains across the tracks, tossing rocks at passenger cars, riding bikes between the tracks, flipping railroad switches and putting spikes on tracks.
3) What’s Your B.Q.? (1966)
This well-meaning one-pager from the National Social Welfare Assembly tests your Brotherhood Quotient — i.e., your propensity to commit a hate crime — by asking you to rate how much you like or dislike a series of seemingly innocuous items (alligators, cabbage, detective stories, “long-hair music,” spiders) but tricks you when you let your guards down by slipping in “foreigners,” “Catholics,” “Indians,” “Jews” and “Negroes.” One misstep and oops, you’re a racist!
2) There’s a New World Coming (1974)
Doomsday Christian evangelist Hal Lindsey, who incorrectly predicted the apocalypse would occur in the ’80s and then again the ’90s (more on that type of stuff: here), created this comic as a “hip” way to explain the book of Revelation to kids. The end result is a confusing onslaught of images, pseudo-cool yet inadvertently sexual phraseology (“THE GREAT SNATCH!!!”) and “facts” about Jews being “God’s chosen race,” kids today taking part in “drug-related occult activities” and the subtle implication of the artwork that non-hot, buxom, nubile, Caucasian youths need not apply for admission into Heaven.
1) The Perils of Pip Preventing Poisoning (1978)
This comic from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission introduces Pip the Magic Safety Elephant, a mascot who’s supposed to teach kids about the dangers of swallowing poisons and other harmful substances. Instead, he ends up giving a lesson in socioeconomic discrimination, as he allows an “inner city” child to eat lead paint flakes for MONTHS before stepping in to explain to his parents why Johnny is approaching death’s door. Meanwhile, in other story lines, he steps in before any of the kids ingests even a drop of poison. He explains to the “inner city” parents (as their son lies unconscious) that they should take Johnny to the emergency room right away because “lead poisoning must be treated early if it is to be cured.” Gee, thanks a lot, Pip.