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The bizarre tale of how America almost destroyed the comic book industry

Comic books have been a staple of American pop culture for the better part of 90 years.

The origin story of comics as we know them, however, is much more complicated. In the 1950s, a moral panic swept across the country — one in which parents and children burned comic books by the bushel in public gatherings — and led to the near destruction of the comic book industry.

Comics were big business even by the 1940s. They reached millions of readers each week. And the superheroes created then have now become billion-dollar franchises, showcased in blockbuster films and massive conventions such as Comic-Con.

Events in 1954, however, almost changed that. Laws were passed. Careers were ruined. And comics fell under a strict censorship regime that lasted for decades to come.

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