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    Demise of the Comics Code Authority


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    Demise of the Comics Code Authority

    Post  mindspike on January 25th 2011, 10:35 am

    Comic Quest Weekly wrote:THE CCA STAMP VANISHES, FINALLY!
    It’s a new age for comics as DC Comics and Archie Comics both drop the Comics Code Authority stamp from their all-ages comics. Created in 1954, the CCA was created by comics publishers to identify proper content in their titles in response to possible government regulation. During the 1950s, juvenile delinquency was a hot topic (like today’s health care debate) and it was thought that comics contributed to the problem. With Congress investigating, the comics industry decided to create their own code. The CCA focused on policing the following: the glamorizing of crime; evil never triumphing over good; showing excessive violence (torture, gunplay, sadism, masochism, etc.); including the word “horror” or “terror” in a comic’s title; stories dealing with zombies, vampires, werewolves, etc.; exaggerating the female physique; of course, sexuality (especially abnormal or perverted); etc. This created a few well-documented problems. First and foremost, distributors would not carry comics that were not approved by the CCA. In an age when newsstands were the “go to” spot for comics, many publishers had to comply with the distributors’ whims. Eventually, direct markets (like CQ) would relieve that pressure. Marv Wolfman could not be credited for writing a comic under the code (with WOLFMAN being in all caps, the authorities didn’t see the difference between the writer and lycanthropes), but the CCA eventually allowed Wolfman’s credit. Realistic stories about drug abuse would not be approved, including a Department of Health, Education and Welfare sanctioned Amazing Spider-Man story (issues #96-98) written by Stan Lee that went without the CCA stamp. (Later, the authority approved stories involving drug addition if portrayed properly.) And, then, probably the most famous story involving the changes from the new code, EC Comics had to discontinue publishing all of their comics except for Mad Magazine. EC publisher William Gaines felt the excluding of “crime,” “horror” and “terror” from titles was focused on his most popular books as many of them included some of the “excised” words (like Crime SuspenStories, Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror). A year after the CCA began, only Mad continued to exist. In time, underground comics (that didn’t depend on the usual distributors), Marvel Comics’ Epic Comics, and DC Comics’ Vertigo Comics would forego the CCA approval. Following them, new publishers would skip the authority’s approval all together. The first nail in the CCA’s coffin came when Marvel began its own rating system and bowed out of the CCA in 2001. Last year, Bongo Comics removed the stamp and puts “all ages” on its comics. Now, this past week, the CCA ceased to exist as the final two publishers who used the CCA system, DC and Archie, have announced they will no longer use the code. DC will use its own rating system, and Archie considers all of its comics “code approved” because of their content and audience. So, over 50 years of self-policing has come to an end. Why spend so much space in CQW on an antiquated code that should have been discontinued anyway? Censorship, even self-censorship as in this case, causes more problems than it fixes: lost jobs, lost creativity, and the loss of the potential evolution of a medium that continues to tries to be valuable to the masses. Comics Code Authority R.I.P. 2011.
    I'm curious to follow this trend, but I disagree that censorship causes more problems than it fixes. In the case of the CCA, it was not even censorship, as the ruling body has no legal authority over the affected publications. I firmly believe that creativity flourishes within a set of guidelines, and that there will always be those who simply rebel at any perceived restriction.

    Do I agree with everything the CCA did and all of their policies? No. Do I think that I can share any of my books bearing the CCA stamp with my 7-year-old? Yes.

    I think the CCA was an important part of pop-culture history, an excellent example of self-governing, and an organization with admirable goals. I dislike seeing it vilified.

    -Winston Crutchfield
    "The rational mind is dangerous; the Christian mind is devastating."
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