In it he looks at the history of independent sceptical reading and self-education by disadvantaged people... including comic books and cartoons:
"In 1955 Puck, a humor weekly, commissioned a remarkably sophisticated and nuanced study of reader response, surveying 700 Chicago residents for their reactions to the Sunday comics. It was a moment when intellectuals were most anxious about mass culture, and the comics seemed to be the ultimate “standardized form of entertainment and advertising. Large sections of their audience receive similar or identical Comic strips and Comic sections every weekend.” The investigators therefore began with the assumption that the funny papers were “a stereotyped experience for the reader, the same for one and all . . . determined by the creators and publishers of the Comic sections. The Comic reader would, presumably, read the strips as the creators wish, and feel as they wish him to feel.” But this, they found, was:
far from the truth for our respondents . . . For the consumer and reader, the Comic experience tends to be personal, private, and even secret, not visible to others, and only partly visible to the reader. The Comics are like an iceberg, with the important and significant part of their meaning tending to be below the surface and concealed from the public view. Most of the people we studied appeared to be active readers of the Comics. They sought out the kinds of strips and the kinds of activity within the strips which interested them and gave them satisfaction. They selected and chose, manipulated and interpreted, in order to obtain the experience they desired from the Comics. Physically passive while reading, they tended to participate emotionally.
Well before Susan Sontag published “Against Interpretation,” these readers experienced the comics intensely and immediately, and did not closely analyze or understand their own responses. Drawing on a series of interviews, the investigators found that: “The total experience people have with the Comics, the satisfactions they receive, is conscious as well as unconscious.”