Dark Horse Comics is releasing a “best of” compilation of the seminal 1940s crime anthology series Crime Does Not Pay this July, according to information the publisher released to Comic Book Resources (and other comics news sites).
Crime Does Not Pay was a huge hit in its day, as spearheaded by editors and writers Charles Biro and Bob Wood. As the first “true crime” comic book, it spawned countless derivatives and significantly altered the course of comics. It was the first non-superhero genre to really take hold in America, and the first to expand readership to a somewhat older demographic. Today people are ordering hookers and heroin if their comic sells over 100,000 copies, so it’s amazing to think that Crime Does Not Pay at one point had sales in excess of 1 million. The publisher theorized that due to friends lending out copies, they had a readership of over 5 million people.
Parents and other concerned citizens didn’t approve of the graphic violence and often glorified criminals, and the entire crime genre of comics, along with the growing horror genre, became a target of political leaders. By the mid-’50s, the United States Senate formed a sub-committee to investigate the relationship between comic book and juvenile delinquency. The entire industry was publicly embarrassed and essentially shamed into self-censorship. Everyone reigned in their content at the risk of losing newsstand distribution, far and away the dominant. While there was definitely a need for some kind of content warning, what instead resulted was that an entire medium was sterilized and made safe for kids. Needless to say, Crime Does Not Pay and the genre it had created lost what made it appealing to readers and was canceled within months.
This story has been told before and will be told again, but the actual stories of the Crime Does Not Pay comics have rarely if ever been reprinted in modern times. I’m very excited to be able to get this as an affordable soft cover graphic novel. Usually these kinds of things are released in massive hard cover tomes that tend to be too expensive for the mildly curious and too unwieldy for reading without a lectern. There will also be great bonus content, like an illustrated essay by comics historian Denis Kitchen detailing how Crime Does Not Pay co-editor Bob Wood’s later life could’ve made for a story in his own comic.
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