[Ads-l] Butch Dykeman and Miss Gay (UNCLASSIFIED)

Mon Jun 8 19:15:04 UTC 2015

Thanks, Bill, very interesting.  As Bill's link indicates, there were even some attempts at establishing comics codes prior to the 1954 Comics Code Authority.  However, these either were unenforced or applied only to one publisher.  The stories featuring Toni Gay and Butch Dykeman were published by Star Publications, which subsequently was to be singled out for criticism in Seduction of the Innocent (although I don't think there was any reference to these particular stories).  Effectively, despite the increasing public criticism, comic books in 1949 - 1951 were limited only by what distributors were willing to carry, and distributors saw themselves as in the business of distribution, not editing.  (I've written before about the very different situation with newspaper comic strips, which were carefully edited by a syndicate and then received editorial scrutiny again at many of the newspapers running the strip.)  We don't see comic books from this period with explicit nudity or strong obscenities, but distributors had no interest in combing through comic books to spot inappropriate words like "butch" and "dyke" (or, to use an example from Mad Comics that was disguised as a town name, "poontang").  This relative freedom was to change radically in 1954 with the Comics Code Authority, which did comb through books looking for inappropriate material.  Star Publications did not survive the change.  

While I haven't done an extensive survey, I don't think that either Seduction of the Innocent or any of the other criticisms of comic books chose to mention Toni Gay or Butch Dykeman.  I see this as further support for my assertion that the terms "butch" and "dyke," although already extant, were still little-known, since the critics likely would have seized upon this evidence if they had recognized it for what it was.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Mullins, Bill CIV (US)
Sent: Monday, June 08, 2015 1:49 PM
Subject: Re: Butch Dykeman and Miss Gay (UNCLASSIFIED)

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
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Thanks, fascinating post.  Despite having been a comics collector in my youth, having worked in a comic book store, and having paid attention to comics for just this sort of thing for 35+ years, I'd never heard of Gay and Dykeman before.

One minor comment -- people were paying attention to the potential negative influences of comics for several years before SotI in 1954.  The author, Fredric Wertham, wrote an article about how bad comics were for kids in a 1948 Saturday Review of Literature.

is a timeline for such things.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On
> Behalf Of Baker, John
> Sent: Saturday, June 06, 2015 10:37 AM
> Subject: Butch Dykeman and Miss Gay
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header ---------------
> --------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Baker, John" <JBAKER at STRADLEY.COM>
> Subject:      Butch Dykeman and Miss Gay
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> I recently encountered the old comic book characters Toni Gay and Butch
> Dyk= eman, although it seems that these names have attracted comment on
> the Inte= rnet for years.  It would seem that the names adhere too
> strongly to the sa= me theme to be coincidence.  Particularly striking
> is the story in Popular = Teen-Agers #6 (Jan. 1951), the first page of
> which is at http://digitalcomi=
> cmuseum.com/preview/index.php?did=3D5695&page=3D3, where a gym
> instructor s= laps Butch Dykeman around for his bad posture. =20
> Toni Gay started as Toni Gayle, a "glamorous model with a yen for crime
> det= ecting."  She appeared under that name in comics such as Young
> King Cole, G= uns Against Gangsters, and Thrilling Crime Cases.  Still
> using the Toni Gay= le name, she was first paired up with Butch Dykeman
> in School-Day Romances =
> #1 (Nov. - Dec. 1949), in which she was a student at the Venus School
> of Mo= deling and he was a student at the adjacent Adonis School of
> Dramatic Arts.=
>   The crime-fighting adventures were now done; Butch and Toni instead
> were = comedic romantic figures, and some stories also featured Toni's
> romantic ri= val, Eve Ardor.  Without explanation, Toni Gayle's last
> name changed to Gay=  with School-Day Romances #4 (May - June 1950) (or
> possibly #3, which I don= 't see online).  School-Day Romances changed
> its name to Popular Teen-Agers=  with #5 (Sept. 1950).  Gay and Dykeman
> continued as a feature through Popu= lar Teen-Agers #7 (Apr. 1951), and
> Gay appeared without Dykeman in Popular = Teen-Agers #8 (July 1951).
> After that Popular Teen-Agers became a standard=  romance comic that
> did not have regular characters, continuing in that for= mat until #23
> (Nov. 1954).
> Comic books in the 1949 to 1951 period received little formal
> attention, an= d there was considerable flexibility in what could be
> portrayed.  This was = to change radically in 1954, with the
> publication of the best-seller Seduct= ion of the Innocent and
> publishers' institution of the Comics Code Authorit= y, which imposed a
> rigorous system of censorship, but it was still an almos= t-anything-
> goes system for Butch Dykeman and Toni Gay.  These comics are no= t
> antedatings of "gay," "butch," or "dyke," but they are early uses and
> dem= onstrate that the terms were sufficiently little-known that they
> could be u= sed as names in a children's comic book.
> John Baker
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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