My recent post about Mr. Mind's connection to serialization in comics storylines has made me realize something terribly obvious that I never noticed:
Golden Age comics were NOT written for kids, no matter what they tell you.
When they began making comics, composed of part newspaper comic strip reproductions and new material, they were doing the same thing newspaper did with the comics page: trying to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. So Golden Age heroes were just as bloodthirsty as newspaper adventures strips, like the Phantom or Dick Tracy.
It really wasn't until the Silver Age that publishers suddenly realized: hey, most of our readers are CHILDREN. We can, and should, start to use styles targeted toward them.
This is why people think Comics Used To Be So Innocent; they are thinking ONLY of Silver Age comics. Golden Age comics weren't like that at all. Case in point: two panels from a Rusty Ryan adventure story in early issue of Feature Comics:
There is simply next to no way to interpret "play with them" other than sexually. That was NOT written for children.