Comics With Problems is an online magazine that reproduces old comic books that had a "message." Comics have long been used as a way to spread awareness about social and political issues through a narrative -- more or less After School Specials or political commercials in print. Some comics come from as early as the 1940s and some as late as the 1990s. Some are corny, some are offensive, and some are just plain weird. Often, they also give us an insight into the times in which they were written.
Recently, Comics With Problems managed to dig up an old Planned Parenthood comic that was distributed in the 1950s and 60s. It was called Escape From Fear and followed the story of a couple whose marriage was on the rocks because they were afraid of unplanned pregnancy.
Reading the comic today, it looks pretty silly. Over the top dialogue and melodrama fuel the story. But in terms of the history of Planned Parenthood and family planning, it's also pretty interesting.
Despite the fact that it was taboo in the day, the comic discusses the reality that couples have sex for pleasure and may want to prevent pregnancy even as a married couple. It shows us a time when birth control was not widely available or known about, but still desperately needed -- the very reason that Margaret Sanger opened her first birth control clinics in the 1910s. It even allows women to shamelessly express sexual feelings Joan talks about her sexual desire and frustration early on in the comic, and then later alludes to her concern with sexual pleasure by asking the doctor if birth control would make sex "unpleasant." The doctor herself even openly admits to using birth control, no embarrassment involved!
Lastly, we see that even from the early days, Planned Parenthood was about more than just preventing pregnancy -- Planned Parenthood recognized that allowing couples to plan their families also helped to keep families healthy.
Sure, it's corny. And certain aspects, like the traditional gender roles, wouldn't make it through the editing process today. But it also provides a window into life before knowledge about birth control was common and sex could be talked about openly -- and shows that Planned Parenthood was on front lines promoting change.
And hey, it's kind of funny, too. What's your take?