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Ban This! 2011: The Comic Book Code

Comics: Making the Impossible Probable and Niiiice!

Tweet of the Day: Pulp Fantasy: Writing for the Marginalized


I hate when I write myself into a corner. Yeah, that’s the reason why today there is no Wizards’ World War.

Stupid me!

Having said that, I thought it would not be fair to leave this space empty so I decided to fill it with my Ban This! 2011 post instead. Not as exciting, but pretty important none the less.

Censorship, in various forms, has a long and dark history in the U.S. But we like to think of censorship as a product of a earlier (and distant) age of prudishness and hypocrisy.

If only….

The Comic Code Authority finally closed its doors in the year….2011. Go ahead, check your calendar. Shocking I’m sure, but not to me. For you see censorship tends to leave a deep impression in any medium that is subjected to it and for that most American of media, the comic book, it brought it to its knees.

How did it happen?

You can thank one Frederic Whertham and his book Seduction of the Innocent in which he made up a lot of stuff about the impact of comic books on the American youth in the 1950s and the media/politicians of the era ate it up.  In order to survive the Comic Book industry created the CCA to fend off the critics. Some of the regulations included the following:

  • In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
  • No comic magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title.
  • Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
  • Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.
  • Instances of law-enforcement officers dying as a result of a criminal’s activities should be discouraged.
  • Respect for parents, the moral code, and for honorable behavior shall be fostered. A sympathetic understanding of the problems of love is not a license for morbid distortion.

So parents are always right, nobody dies, and females shall be drawn realistically.

(Looks at the top of the post)

Oh boy!

But you get the gist of it. The irony of course is that comic books became the very thing that the no-so-good doctor accused them of being (and it is a common accusation leveled by any would be censor), instruments of indoctrination. The CCA decided what was “good and moral” and the kids were supposed to accept it at face value.Not only that, but it killed many types of comic books, such as crime and horror themed comics.

But that didn’t last long. By the 60’s things in America were changing and comic books reflected those changes. The final irony came in the 1980s, with a conservative President in the White House, comic books got a harder edge that ripped apart the bounds of of the Comic Book Code and left it bleeding ink on the bottom of the presses. And like any medium freed from its shackles, the industry went overboard which in part lead to the exploitation of gimmicks, the rush to splatter blood on every page the expansion of  bust lines into the Double-D territory.

(Looks up again!)

Today, while comic book sales are in decline, their adventures spread across film, stage and video games. It is also grown up considerably with the introduction of high quality graphic novels and book tie ins. But remember the year I posted above:


For it reminds us that censorship in its many forms still exists today and will continue to be with us for some time to come.


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