Walt and the Great Comic Book Controversy

The best-selling magazine on newsstands in 1953 was not Time or Newsweek or The Saturday Evening Post—it was Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories.


Though Walt had little to do with this funnybook—widely considered the top-selling comic book series in history—he took pride in its excellence and the quality of all the Disney comics. In April 1954, when the U.S. Senate held hearings on comic books—especially “horror” titles and their “impact upon adolescents”—Walt spoke out. He upheld Disney comic books, of course, but he also defended comics in general: “It does seem a bizarre case of guilt by association, that because a minority publishes trash, the whole comics field should be condemned.”

Walt Disney Comics featuring Donald Duck's nephews on the cover

“The biggest magazines in the field are wholesome magazines built around perfectly wholesome characters.”

The televised hearings made headlines, and in panic the comics industry created the infamous self-censoring Comics Code Authority. The Disney comic books were virtually alone in not carrying the Code’s seal of approval since the publishers maintained Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories and the rest had always been clean and wholesome. As Walt said at the time of the hearings, “Nobody can convince me that Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are monsters.” Nope, just monster hits. The Comics Code Authority disappeared for good in 2011, and Disney comics are the most popular in the world.