Archie drops the Comics Code…Wertham dead forever

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comics code Archie drops the Comics Code...Wertham dead forever
After yesterday’s news that DC Comics was dropping the Comics Code, leaving Archie the last surviving member of the Comics Code Authority…comes word that Archie has also dropped the Code, starting with books on sale in February. The move will have no effect on content:

But Pellerito said Archie’s decision has nothing to do with content, and there will be no editorial change when the code leaves the front of the Archie books.

“The code never affected us editorially the way I think it did other companies,” he said. “You know, we aren’t about to start stuffing bodies into refrigerators or anything. We have to answer to Archie fans.”

Currently, everything Archie Comics publishes is “all ages.” And Pellerito said that, if Archie comic ever skews to an older audience, the publisher will let the readers know.


Archie had made the decision to drop the code a year ago, but only announced it when asked in the wake of the DC announcement.

Thus ends the last clinging particle of darkest days in comics history, an era that did its best to choke the life out of an artform — but didn’t succeed. Created in the paranoid days of the commie scare — a period much shorter in its reign than the current post 9/11 world — the Comics Code was for a time a very real chain around the neck of the American comics industry. It wasn’t until the underground comics and alternative publishers of the ’70s that it became clear that comics without the seal of approval would find an audience without scarring the nation forever. And the nation is all the better for it.

Good-bye, and good riddance. Let the code live on only as a zuvembie, shambling through history.

Comments

  1. We should anoint this day a holiday, of some sort. We’ll call it William Gaines’ Last Laugh Day.

  2. Anxiously awaiting the deluxe all-orgy, injury to the eye and dismemberment issue!

  3. “You know, we aren’t about to start stuffing bodies into refrigerators or anything.”

    LOL!

  4. Alexa says:

    It’s not like anyone outside comics history buffs really knew what it meant anyway. The idea of some pearl-clutching parent buying their kids some comics at a grocery store being reassured by a nearly invisible seal is laughable.

  5. But now I want to create Barko, the Nearly-Invisible Seal.

    He creeps around grocery stores trying to reassure nervous parents. Trouble is, he tends to scare the crap out of them. Nearly invisible seal, sneaking up on them like that.

    kdb

  6. How many people are going to be out of work due to this? I can’t imagine the CCA had all that many employees.

  7. Joe Lawler says:

    “But now I want to create Barko, the Nearly-Invisible Seal.

    He creeps around grocery stores trying to reassure nervous parents. Trouble is, he tends to scare the crap out of them. Nearly invisible seal, sneaking up on them like that.”

    If you make Barko the Nearly-Invisible Seal Looney Leo’s sidekick in Astro City I will reward you with three of my hard-earned dollars.

  8. Isn’t Bongo still a Comics Code member?

  9. J. Adam Hart says:

    I think Bongo Comics (Simpsons & Futurama) still carries the CCA seal, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they also dropped out.

    I never like to see anyone out of a job, but it’s high time that the CCA was put to rest.

  10. Robert C. Hurst says:

    The last vestige of Dr. Frederic Wertham and “Seduction of the Innocent” has died! HALLELUJAH! It only took 50+ years!

  11. Bongo dropped the code over a year ago, they just didn’t announce it….

  12. Zuvembies!

  13. Alexa says:

    Kurt, if you do, I want credit!

  14. Max G says:

    Looking in retrospect, it’s a damn shame what the code did to the many talented comic book professionals in the 1950s. It destroyed many lives and labeled these individuals making them outcasts of society. Just to be associated with comic books was being branded some sort of sick, demented pervert. Comics code…burn in hell!

  15. I’m also curious as to how many employees the CMAA had at the end, or whether the remaining workload was just being palmed off on some secretary at Archie.

  16. I checked Previews… the Archie covers still have the Seal. So they weren’t, but they were?

    Oh well.

    Oh, and for those who wish to celebrate, send $25 to the CBLDF. Eternal vigilance and all that…

    Oh, and one question… if there is no longer a Comics Magazine Association of America, then who fields the industry questions? Who convinces the various publishers to work together? Who promotes the medium?

  17. Question about the CCA, does it employ anyone or is it any sort of real entity? whats going on there?

  18. Ding! Dong! The Code is dead! I’m gonna go convert the Wikipedia article into past tense.

  19. Sean D. says:

    Perhaps the CBLDF party at San Diego can serve as the official wake/funeral for the Code.

    “The Comics Code is survived by its younger relatives – the MPAA Ratings, The Parental Advisory Sticker and the Video Games Ratings.”

  20. Gary Leach says:

    The Code may be dead, but the attitudes among the population and the politicians of America that spawned it aren’t. “Comics are for kids!” remains stubbornly entrenched, and there are still lots of easily outraged parents and posturing prosecutors ready to take up arms against any comic book content doesn’t live up to that thoroughly wrongheaded “standard.” What the Code should probably have become is what the CBLDF is, to remain relevant and useful.

  21. J. Rumple says:

    I bet the Republican=controlled House of Reps tries to repeal this.

  22. I think Frank Miller once said (in an interview back in 1983) that the comics code authority was basically one guy looking at pages of comic book art.

  23. Last time I heard the code was updated it was 1989 and they had public guidelines and a private guidelines.

    I would love to see those private guidelines.

    If anybody would like to pass them along…

  24. The real cause for celebration here is that Heidi used the word ‘zuvembie’! Doug Tonks, I’m totally with you.

  25. Carl Redstone says:

    I personally am sorry to see the code go. I wish it were still with us, only with the kind of clout it had in the early days of its existence.

  26. >> if there is no longer a Comics Magazine Association of America, then who fields the industry questions? Who convinces the various publishers to work together? Who promotes the medium? >>

    And when was the last time the CMAA did any of those things?

    For an association that was (on paper, at least) supposed to promote the industry, they sure made themselves hard to find. Did they have a website? An easily-googlable phone number?

    What kind of industry association hides from the public?

  27. hikaru go says:

    Kind of irrelevant in the practical sense but a huge symbolic victory nonetheless. Now will it take 60 years for comics to be readily acknowledged by all? Ah, that great pond sludge of stagnation we call progress!

  28. When I worked at Marvel one (Of Many) jobs I had to do was to send out copies of the comic books to the code. Very little if any changes where made, since Marvel’s own house code keep things pretty much clear of any real problem. Yes, once and a while sometime slip past, but for the most part it was a very easy process and the person I had to send the books to was very nice. Sorry to see anyone lose there job. The Code It’s been part of comics for so long and when you look at a history of books, you can see the code get smaller and smaller on the covers. Love it or hate it, I think it was an important part of comics. As a creator I didn’t like the idea of the code but then as someone who wants their comic books read by kids I did like that it told parents right off the bat that this book was ok for kids. Interesting to see what happens because of this.

  29. Jim Lee walks into the DC offices one day. There is an amazed look on his face. He sits across from Dan DiDio.

    “Dan. Did you know none of our readers are under forty years old?”

    Dan DiDio nearly drops his latte in surprise. “Really?! Why the hell do we have these CCA labels cluttering up our covers for?”

    Lee shrugs. “Beats me. I just figured it was one of Geoff’s nostalgia things…”

  30. Sphinx Magoo says:

    >> “The code never affected us editorially the way I think it did other companies,” he said. “You know, we aren’t about to start stuffing bodies into refrigerators or anything. We have to answer to Archie fans.” <<

    Zoinks! I wish The Big Two took more steps to adopt this line of thinking. It's easier to sell Underoos and action figures to my kids that way!

  31. Carl Redstone says:

    I loved the code. I loved the way it looked on the page. That was magic.

  32. I don’t think anybody worked at the code anymore. They converted to the “honor system” about a decade ago, because there weren’t enough fees coming in to hire anybody to actually look at the comics. So it was probably just the Administrator.

  33. Tommy Raiko says:

    Didn’t Dark Horse briefly submit some of their comics to the Code? Maybe just their Star Wars/licensed material? If they did, it probably wasn’t for long but does anyone remember that? Or am I totally misremembering things?

  34. The CMAA did two important thngs: it quickly quashed the public outrage over comics. (Public bonfires. Comic strip cartoonists publicly, under oath, testifying that were not part of those horrible comic books.) They spun PR, they opened markets, they did what a trade organization is supposed to do.

    The thid (last?) version of the Code was less a lst and more a list of guidelines. EC’s “Judgement Day” was a scratch, but Spider-Man and actual magazines (Warren, Marvel, Heavy Metal) were the first fatal stab wounds.

    It should not be forgotten. It did ruin many lives and careers, yet it did save the industry.

    I wonder which issue will be the last to show the Seal?

  35. “If there is no longer a Comics Magazine Association of America, then who fields the industry questions? Who convinces the various publishers to work together? Who promotes the medium?”

    ComicsPRO.

  36. Mark Twain says:

    Yes we have come so far haven’t we? Now we just censor books that we dont like the language because it may offend some people who are idiots.(Huck Finn)The PC world today is much worse than anything that happened in the fifties. So celebrate this pyrrhic victory hoot and holler all you please but be real careful you dont offend anyone or anything. Just remember folks Big Brother is watching but he’s not who they said he’d be he’s not the far right moralist you all worried about he’s a snivelling weenie liberal who’s trying not to offend anyone except you know….white guys.

  37. >> They spun PR, they opened markets, they did what a trade organization is supposed to do.>>

    I’ll ask again: When was the last time they did that? Heck, when was the first?

    I’ve never known the CMAA to do any outreach at all. They did “self-regulation,” and provided a stamp that, as time went on, fewer and fewer people had any idea of what it meant, and the CMAA made it difficult (if not impossible) to find out.

    If the stamp was to assure parents that comics lived up to the Code, why didn’t they have somewhere that the Code was explained? How were parents to know what code the comics were living up to, if the CMAA wouldn’t explain it to the public?

    And what PR did they spin? What markets did they open? If someone wanted a statement from the CMAA on events or status or whatever in the industry, who was that person? And how did someone find them for a quote?

    I don’t see much evidence that the CMAA “did what a trade organization is supposed to do.”

  38. >> Now we just censor books that we dont like the language because it may offend some people who are idiots.(Huck Finn) >>

    That’s not actually censorship. It’s dopey as hell, but it’s one publisher modifying a work that’s in the public domain, and therefore open for anyone to modify it however they see fit.

    If they were simultaneously making it impossible to get un-Bowdlerized copies, that’d be censorship, but they’re not.

  39. “I wonder which issue will be the last to show the Seal?”

    Now that there won’t be anyone with standing to object to it, I suspect the CCA Seal will show up here and there as a joke. I’m tempted to set up my own Comics Code Authority with the rules consisting of “do what thou wilt”. :)

  40. Gary Brown says:

    What is interesting is that John Goldwater was one of the first and most vocal supporters of the Comics Code. And now, his company gives it the heave ho. Thing is, there were probably more “inside” and “sex” jokes in the Archie titles than anywhere else in the business.

  41. Laurie S. Sutton says:

    I worked as the Reviewer for the Comics Code in the late ’70s. I got the job by making a cold call to the CMAA listing in the Manhattan Yellow Pages. The work was pretty much benign. At least I got to read hundreds of comics before they were published!

    @ Rich: “I think Frank Miller once said (in an interview back in 1983) that the comics code authority was basically one guy looking at pages of comic book art.” Frank was most likely referring to Len Darvin, my boss. When I left the Code in 1979 to take a job at DC Comics, Mr. Darvin became the sole Reviewer until he retired a few years later. (Frank was my boyfriend at the time I worked at the Code. He often visited me at the office and actually met Mr. Darvin.)

    @ Heidi: I had a good, appreciative laugh at your use of the word “zuvembie”. Very apt. The Code did not allow the use of the word “zombie”, and so the word “zuvembie” was invented and was Code-approved.

    I still have one question this article hasn’t addressed: Have the all the publishers withdrawn their memberships (and paid dues) from the CMAA/CCA? Just because the CCA seal no longer appears on their comic book covers doesn’t necessarily mean the organization to which they belong is defunct. Can you clarify this?

  42. Yup… that Huck Finn thing has been going on as long as publishers have been publishing “children’s editions” of classics originally written for adults. Or selling “safe” versions of Shakespeare to high school students. Or Loeb Classics translating naughty Greek and Latin texts into “polite” English. (The editions show the parallel texts, so bilingual scholars can compare.)

    As for what the CMAA did, I’ll have to photocopy their early newsletters currently on file in the New York Public Library. I read the 1970s code from a copy found at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, so they were mailing the pamphlets to various organizations. There were also window stickers for retailers

    In the meantime, I suggest:
    Seal of Approval: The History of the Comics Code by Amy Kiste Nyberg 9780878059751

    Facts About Code-Approved Comics Magazines CMAA by Comics Magazine Association of America, 1959

    Goldwater, John L. Americana in Four Colors: Twenty Years of Self Regulation by the Comics Magzine Industry. New York: Comics Magazine Association of America, 1974. 48pp.

    A Haunt of Fears: The Strange History of the British Horror Comics Campaign
    by Martin Barker 9780878055944

    Bad Language, Naked Ladies, and Other Threats to the Nation: A Political History of Comic Books in Mexico by Anne Rubenstein 9780822321415

    http://www.thecomicbooks.com/1954senatetranscripts.html
    by Jamie Coville

    Judge Charles F. Murphy, Mrs. Guy Percy Trulock, and Leonard Darvin were the prominent Code administrators. It seems that Darvin was ill when Marvel submitted their USHEW Spider-Man comics, and that John L. Goldwater made the fateful decision.

  43. I have a copy of AMERICANA IN FOUR COLORS (which is 36 years old), but I’m not asking, that much, about the Code itself — I think the CMAA became pointless the minute they began hiding what the Code meant, but that’s neither here nor there.

    If they were doing all the things a trade association is supposed to do, and most trade associations don’t censor their members, what were those other things? What did they do that wasn’t about censorship? Er, self-regulation?

    The MPAA seems mostly to be about ratings, but they also provide various movie-industry-boosting reports and information. If the CMAA ever did something similar, they seem to have given up on it decades ago.

    Do books about Mexican and British comics history really have much information on the non-censorship activities of the CMAA, or just the usual overview of the existence of the Code? I’m hesitant to look them up to learn more about the trade-association activities of an American trade association when they’re not about American comics, unless there’s actually some meat there. I know there isn’t any meat in the 1954 Senate transcripts (on this subject, at least), because all but one of those transcripts predate the CMAA, and the one transcript that refers to their existence only mentions them in the context of self-censorship, and not about any other thing a trade association might do.

    As for the Nyberg, it looks interesting, but purports to be a history of the Code. Does it have much about the CMAA’s activities beyond administering the Code? That’s what I’ve been asking about, after all.

    Those early newsletters might be interesting, even if only to show that the CMAA had actual trade association functions beyond censorship for a period, but gave up on them early on.

  44. Dr. Wertham is in his grave, crying …

  45. If you do a search on google, I can’t find an official website for the CCA. How difficult would it be to have that?

  46. Guy Stone says:

    Dr Wertham had his positive aspect though. In the NYC area during the Vietnam War, he was the go-to guy if you were looking for a Dr’s letter for avoiding the draft. A friend of mine got such a letter, and pre-med and graduate social work students for his interview rehearsed him to display the behaviours consistent with his diagnosis. He was successful in getting his 4F.

    Bit of a moral dilemma for all involved.

  47. I’ve read Amy’s book (flipping through it now actually) and there is no mention of any trade association functions, except for the initial effort to publicize the code. Much of the book is about criticism of children’s entertainment, the history of comic books being criticized, CMAA formation and how it worked, the changes made over time, etc..

  48. Guy: Dr. Wertham did a lot of good things in his time. His fight against segregation and creating a clinic providing free or low cost mental health in Harlem among them.
    Some details on the clinic is here: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,779465,00.html

    He was just wacky when it came to comic books.

  49. >> I’ve read Amy’s book (flipping through it now actually) and there is no mention of any trade association functions, except for the initial effort to publicize the code.>>

    Thanks for the info.

    >> He was just wacky when it came to comic books.>>

    Looking at his other books, it seems like he simply knew how to make money by writing books about simple, broad, scary claims.

    But his final book, THE WORLD OF FANZINES, was much more positive about comics fans and fannish subculture.

    kdb

  50. Wraith says:

    When I worked at Marvel one (Of Many) jobs I had to do was to send out copies of the comic books to the code. Very little if any changes where made, since Marvel’s own house code keep things pretty much clear of any real problem. Yes, once and a while sometime slip past, but for the most part it was a very easy process and the person I had to send the books to was very nice.

    ______________________________

    I KNEW IT.

  51. Bill Adams says:

    Good news, but this notion that the code was connected with the “commie scare” is getting to be universal, and is quite bogus.

    Wertham himself was a classic bleeding-heart liberal, like anti-violence crusaders of the present day. (True, some of his flights of fancy strike us as very homophobic, but that too was typical of how mainstream liberalism in the heyday of Freud.)

    Juvenile delinquency and violence was the (bipartisan) scare crusade that led to the Code. McCarthy was on his way out, censured the same year as the comic book hearings.

  52. Mike Thompson says:

    Found this in my files:

    Standards of the Comics Code Authority for editorial matter as originally adopted
    Source: Comix, a History of Comic Books in America, by Les Daniels, copyright 1971 by Les Daniels and Mad Peck Studios.
    Code For Editorial Matter

    General Standards Part A:
    1) Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.
    2) No comics shall explicitly present the unique details and methods of a crime.
    3) Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.
    4) If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.
    5) Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates the desire for emulation.
    6) In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
    7) Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gun play, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.
    8) No unique or unusual methods of concealing weapons shall be shown.
    9) Instances of law enforcement officers dying as a result of a criminal’s activities should be discouraged.
    10) The crime of kidnapping shall never be portrayed in any detail, nor shall any profit accrue to the abductor or kidnapper. The criminal or the kidnapper must be punished in every case.
    11) The letters of the word “crime” on a comics magazine shall never be appreciably greater than the other words contained in the title. The word “crime” shall never appear alone on a cover.
    12) Restraint in the use of the word “crime” in titles or subtitles shall be exercised.

    General Standards Part B:
    1) No comic magazine shall use the word “horror” or “terror” in its title.
    2) All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.
    3) All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.
    4) Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.
    5) Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.

    General Standards Part C:
    All elements or techniques not specifically mentioned herein, but which are contrary to the spirit and intent of the Code, and are considered violations of good taste or decency, shall be prohibited.
    Dialogue:
    1) Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
    2) Special precautions to avoid references to physical afflictions or deformities shall be taken.
    3) Although slang and colloquialisms are acceptable, excessive use should be discouraged and wherever possible good grammar shall be employed.
    Religion:
    Ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group is never permissible.
    Costume:
    1) Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.
    2) Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.
    3) All characters shall be depicted in dress reasonably acceptable to society.
    4) Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.
    NOTE: It should be recognized that all prohibitions dealing with costume, dialogue, or artwork applies as specifically to the cover of a comic magazine as they do to the contents.
    Marriage and Sex:
    1) Divorce shall not be treated humorously nor shall be represented as desirable.
    2) Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at or portrayed. Violent love scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.
    3) 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 moral distortion.
    4) The treatment of love-romance stories shall emphasize the value of the home and the sanctity of marriage.
    5) Passion or romantic interest shall never be treated in such a way as to stimulate the lower and baser emotions.
    6) Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.
    7) Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.
    Code For Advertising Matter:
    These regulations are applicable to all magazines published by members of the Comics Magazine Association of America, Inc. Good taste shall be the guiding principle in the acceptance of advertising.
    1) Liquor and tobacco advertising is not acceptable.
    2) Advertisement of sex or sex instructions books are unacceptable.
    3) The sale of picture postcards, “pin-ups,” “art studies,” or any other reproduction of nude or semi-nude figures is prohibited.
    4) Advertising for the sale of knives, concealable weapons, or realistic gun facsimiles is prohibited.
    5) Advertising for the sale of fireworks is prohibited.
    6) Advertising dealing with the sale of gambling equipment or printed matter dealing with gambling shall not be accepted.
    7) Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures shall not be permitted in the advertising of any product; clothed figures shall never be presented in such a way as to be offensive or contrary to good taste or morals.
    8) To the best of his ability, each publisher shall ascertain that all statements made in advertisements conform to the fact and avoid misinterpretation.
    9) Advertisement of medical, health, or toiletry products of questionable nature are to be rejected. Advertisements for medical, health or toiletry products endorsed by the American Medical Association, or the American Dental Association, shall be deemed acceptable if they conform with all other conditions of the Advertising Code.

  53. Mike Thompson says:

    Not sure why the (oddly placed) emoticon appeared…sorry

  54. Strannik says:

    @Mike

    Because the comment system automatically translates punctuation into emoticons. So 8 ) automatically gets converted into 8)

  55. I think I need to turn that off.

  56. The Code was revised a couple of times (at least) since then, Mike.

    It’s pretty easy to find past iterations of the Code online. But the current one? Not so easy.

    So if you’re a parent and wondering what that seal means: You’re out of luck.

    If you’re a reader and you’re wondering what limitations exist on your entertainment: No dice.

    If you’re a comics creator trying to figure out what boundaries you were supposed to respect: Forget it.

    But it’s over now, so I guess it doesn’t matter any more.

    In my comics career, the only trouble I ever had with the Code wasn’t even with the Code; it was some stuff that the then-EIC at Marvel said would never pass the Code, so it had to be changed, but the Code never saw it. So would they have objected to a character mentioning steroids by name and being shown to take pills? Beats me. I kind of doubt it, but it was changed to him stuffing burgers into his face, which is Jughead-approved, at least.

    kdb

  57. The last code change I know about happened in 1989. It is here: http://www.thecomicbooks.com/old/cca3.html

    This code is a general guidelines for public consumption. According to Amy’s book, there was a private list of no-no’s made available to the publishers.

  58. Oh and Amy’s book was published in 1998. I don’t know if the code has been updated since then.

  59. >> This code is a general guidelines for public consumption.>>

    But not, apparently, easily available to the public…Nyberg got her copy from Tony Isabella.

    kdb

  60. I’ve gotten onto a V for Vendetta kick lately, and to see the CCA guidelines for (what was possibly) the time that Moore started work on it made me cackle madly.

  61. I posted those sources to help others understand how the Code came to be, and how other countries dealt with the problem.

    I know the CMAA was ineffective as a trade organization, and comics history is littered with examples of non-profits which tried and failed. (ComicsPro is thriving, thankfully!) I just wanted the record to show that they did a little good before becoming just a review organization.

    Do they have an archive?

    And at least the Code is easy to find online. Try locating Marvel’s ratings guide! (The Wikipedia links are dead.) Are there detailed criteria at Marvel or DC? Something like this?
    http://www.tokyopop.com/ugc/tokyopop/uploads/misc/091307rating_flyer.pdf

  62. xeen meen says:

    OK that makes a lot of sense dude, Wow.

    http://www.total-anonymity.edu.tc

  63. Steven Rowe says:

    Rather surprised to see that some folks think Wertham liked the code, which of course he didn’t. Since his main concern was those under 12 reading “crime-filled” comics, and he had no problem with adults reading comics; he would have been delighted with the end of the code, which he felt was a sham. And since Marvel and DC have long given up on the under 12 market, what’s left for him to even be concerned about?
    The CMA apparently did some type of PR stuff back in the early 1950s, but as the money dried up in the 1960s, all that stopped.

  64. Wertham stated at least once, and publicly, that the code didn’t go far enough. He was rather up-front about his desire to see comics regulated out of existence entirely. This sentiment was echoed – decades later – by at least one member of the PMRC, those “concerned” folks behind music labeling. The more things change…

  65. It seems a little bit temporally parochial to be crowing about the death of the last vestige of the comics code, as if now we don’t have to worry about comics being censored and suppressed from the marketplace anymore, when companies like Apple are carving up the new digital marketplace while, um… censoring and suppressing comics from them.

    There are many times when I wish human beings actually understood the principle of a thing, and didn’t merely oppose themselves to a single, historical embodiment of it. The comics code isn’t dead at all, it’s alive and well in Apple, and everybody appears, to my horror, to basically love it and think its awesome. And when you point out that it’s a censored, controlled marketplace no different than that presided over by the CCA, there is nothing but excuses on their lips.

    But hey, by all means, celebrate the death of this institution in name only, while the impulses that gave birth to it are not only alive and well but firmly placed at the vanguard of the march of comics into the digital age.

  66. Apparently a long time ago the Authority was involved in providing comics racks to retailers. That little blurb that used to be in comics in the early sixties about retailers contacting somebody about a “display allowance” was from the code. However since the code’s entire income in 2008 was only about $38,000 I doubt they’ve been doing much promotion lately. That’s barely enough to pay a part time reviewer.

  67. Mike Hunter says:

    The news inspired this lil’ photocollage:

    http://img140.imageshack.us/img140/9532/deathofcomicscode.jpg

    The background photo I took in a historic cemetery here in Tallahassee; re the lettering…
    ————-
    This font is based on the Leroy lettering used in the EC Comics of the 1950s. I’ve made Mac and PC versions of the font. Feel free to download them for free…
    Squa Tront is the regular font, Spa Fon is the bold italic version, for classic EC emphasis.
    ————–
    http://www.fontspace.com/casey-burns/squa-tront

  68. I am glad that Archie and DC wised up.The Code was irrelevant. I feel now that issues that were taboo in the 50s can now be discussed without censorship.

  69. Wow, man, so that crazy code thing only lasted, like, about half a century. They sure gave up quick. What a bunch of pikers!

  70. Laroquod is quite right. Celebrating the remission of a symptom does not signal the cure of a disease. Please read about the Hays Code, the repeated attacks on comics (not just the Kevauver commission that sparked the CCA), the PMRC hearings, and the various recent attacks on video games and Hollywood (by folks like Senator Joe Lieberman).

    Look, folks, the so-called epidemic of juvenile delinquency in the late 40s and early 50s was no more real than the alleged epidemic of schoolyard shootings in the 90s and 00s, and yet both prompted immediate overreaction by folks who employed special pleading to try to nullify the First Amendment. “It’s not a free speech issue! We’re trying to save the innocent children!”)

    Think it won’t happen again? Don’t be naive. I urge anyone concerned about free speech and comics to continue to support groups like the CBLDF. You can never be too safe.

  71. The Nyberg book (Seal of Approval) is actually quite good, and it’s the first book I’ve seen that takes a balanced approach to Fredric Wertham’s work. As someone who has actually read Seduction of the Innocent, I can’t just dismiss Wertham as a wacko who wanted press exposure to sell his books. I believe Wertham was sincere, though anyone who has taken a first-year logic course can pick apart his arguments with ease — circular reasoning, special pleading, and card-stacking predominate. Then again, Seduction was never meant to be an academic, scientific book: Wertham had already solidified his agenda by that time, and Seduction was purely intended to arouse the public.

    As for the role of the CCA once the ACMP was incorporated… Well, the publishers wanted a palliative for the public, but what they got was Judge Murphy, who took the code quite seriously, enforcing it as strictly as he knew how. The ACMP was clearly all for show, but the publishers got a bit more than they expected from their comics “czar.”

    As for the code itself, I had no problem accessing it online using Google, though the site did not distinguish between the 1954 version and its later revisions (the latest being, iirc, 1971?).

  72. The 1971 revision has been obsolete for years. If that’s the most recent you could find, it only supports the idea that parents who might want to know what it means can’t find out.

    There are later revisions that can be found online — there’s a link above to the 1989 revision, but the link is to Jamie Coville’s history site, and he got that version of the Code from Amy Nyberg’s book. She, in turn, got it from comics writer Tony Isabella. And that’s not the most recent revision either. For some reason, the CCA did not seem to want to make public what that stamp was supposed to assure parents of.

    And since their only function for the last few decades, it seems, has been to reassure the public, it’s odd that they wouldn’t make it easy to find out what the stamp stands for.

  73. Kurt, you’re right. I forgot about the 1989 revision, which was issued to the public only in a generalized form, while the detailed editorial guidelines were given to publishers (who had to promise not to disseminate them to the press or the public).

    The funniest thing, to me, is that Archie Comics had in-house guidelines even before 1954 which were much stricter than the CCA’s. So if Archie was the last member to submit work for prepublication approval, I have to wonder what there was to approve.

  74. Oops, I’m wrong. I was thinking of DC/National, not Archie. That’s what I get for writing at 4 a.m. before coffee.

    Maybe I got Archie Andrews confused with Jimmy Olsen, eh?

  75. >>there’s a link above to the 1989 revision, but the link is to Jamie Coville’s history site, and he got that version of the Code from Amy Nyberg’s book. She, in turn, got it from comics writer Tony Isabella. And that’s not the most recent revision either.>>

    Kurt, I was wondering if you knew roughly when the most recent revision was done. I’m working on a literary/historical piece on the Code and its affect on comics content over the years, and I’m really curious about the timing on that.

  76. Keep in mind that the Code borrowed heavily from Hollywood’s movie production code, drawn up in 1930 and still very much in effect in 1954. What upset parents and authority figures was that comics was such an unregulated business, without guidelines governing content (as the movie, TV and radio industries had). And the bulk of the audience was children in those days.

    The 1950s were a very different time. We can laugh the quaint code now, but at the time, it may have prevented the U.S. Senate from regulating the industry.

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