Comics Code Authority
The Comics Code Authority (CCA) was formed in 1954 by the Comics Magazine Association of America as an alternative to government regulation. The CCA allowed the comic publishers to self-regulate the content of comic books in the United States. The code was voluntary; there was no law requiring its use, although some advertisers and retailers looked to it for reassurance. Some publishers including Dell, Western, and Classics Illustrated never used it. Its code, commonly called "the Comics Code", lasted until the early 21st century. The CC formation followed a moral panic centered around a series of Senate hearings and the publication of psychiatrist Fredric Wertham's book Seduction of the Innocent.
Members submitted comics to the CCA, which screened them for adherence to its code, then authorized the use of their seal on the cover if the book was found to be in compliance. At the height of its influence, it was a de facto censor for the entire U.S. comic book industry.
By the early 2000s, publishers bypassed the CCA and Marvel Comics abandoned it in 2001. By 2010, only three major publishers still adhered to it: DC Comics, Archie Comics, and Bongo Comics. Bongo broke with the CCA in 2010. DC and Archie followed in January 2011, rendering the code completely defunct.
- The comic-book medium, having come of age on the American cultural scene, must measure up to its responsibilities.
Constantly improving techniques and higher standards go hand in hand with these responsibilities.
To make a positive contribution to contemporary life, the industry must seek new areas for developing sound, wholesome entertainment. The people responsible for writing, drawing, printing, publishing, and selling comic books have done a commendable job in the past, and have been striving toward this goal.
Their record of progress and continuing improvement compares favorably with other media in the communications industry. An outstanding example is the development of comic books as a unique and effective tool for instruction and education. Comic books have also made their contribution in the field of letters and criticism of contemporary life.
- "Code of the Comics Magazine Association of America, Inc.", (October 26, 1954), Preamble
- (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) If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.
- (3) Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.
- (5) Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates a 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 gunplay, physical agony, the gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.
- "Code of the Comics Magazine Association of America, Inc.", (October 26, 1954), General standards—Part A
- (1) No comic magazine shall use the words "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 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.
- "Code of the Comics Magazine Association of America, Inc.", (October 26, 1954), General standards—Part B
- (1) Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
- "Code of the Comics Magazine Association of America, Inc.", (October 26, 1954), Dialogue
- (1) Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.
- (2) Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.
- (4) Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.
- "Code of the Comics Magazine Association of America, Inc.", (October 26, 1954), Costume
- (2) Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at nor portrayed. Rape scenes, as well as sexual abnormalities, are unacceptable.
- (6) Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.
- (7) Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.
- "Code of the Comics Magazine Association of America, Inc.", (October 26, 1954), Marriage and Sex
- (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.
- "Code of the Comics Magazine Association of America, Inc.", (October 26, 1954), CODE FOR ADVERTISING MATTER
Quotes about Comics Code Authority
- So he said it can't be a Black [person]. So I said, 'For God's sakes, Judge Murphy, that's the whole point of the Goddamn story!' So he said, 'No, it can't be a Black'. Bill [Gaines] just called him up [later] and raised the roof, and finally they said, 'Well, you gotta take the perspiration off'. I had the stars glistening in the perspiration on his Black skin. Bill said, 'Fuck you', and he hung up.
- Von Bernewitz, Fred and Grant Geissman. "Tales of Terror: The EC Companion" (Gemstone Publishing and Fantagraphics Books, Timonium, Maryland and Seattle, Washington, 2000), p.88
- [T]he list of requirements a film needs to receive a G rating was doubled, and there were no other acceptable ratings!
- Scott McCloud (2000). Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology Are Revolutionizing an Art Form. New York: Perennial.
- This really made 'em go bananas in the Code czar's office. 'Judge Murphy was off his nut. He was really out to get us', recalls [EC editor] Feldstein. 'I went in there with this story and Murphy says, "It can't be a Black man". But ... but that's the whole point of the story!' Feldstein sputtered. When Murphy continued to insist that the Black man had to go, Feldstein put it on the line. 'Listen', he told Murphy, 'you've been riding us and making it impossible to put out anything at all because you guys just want us out of business'. [Feldstein] reported the results of his audience with the czar to Gaines, who was furious [and] immediately picked up the phone and called Murphy. 'This is ridiculous!' he bellowed. 'I'm going to call a press conference on this. You have no grounds, no basis, to do this. I'll sue you'. Murphy made what he surely thought was a gracious concession. 'All right. Just take off the beads of sweat'. At that, Gaines and Feldstein both went ballistic. 'Fuck you!' they shouted into the telephone in unison. Murphy hung up on them, but the story ran in its original form.
- Diehl, Digby. "Tales from the Crypt: The Official Archives" (St. Martin's Press, New York, NY 1996) p.95
- RINGGENBERG: Well, given that the Comics Code expressly forbid the use of the words Weird, Horror and Terror, did you feel that your company was being particularly targeted?
- GAINES: I would say so, yes. (Chuckles)
- RINGGENBERG: Let's jump ahead a little bit, to the New Direction comics. In Impact #4 you had a story called "The Lonely One", which was about prejudice against Jews. The Jewish in the story had a very bland name. It was "Miller".
- GAINES: Oh, well, that's very probably the Code at work. I'll tell you an even funnier one. In Psychoanalysis we had a guy, who, one of whose problems was that he was Jewish. This was giving him problems. And we were not allowed to say he was Jewish. And we had to take all reference to the fact that he was Jewish, thereby the entire story made no sense at all, because it was a story about a man with a Jewish problem and we're not allowed to say he was Jewish. This was the Code.
- RINGGENBERG: So you weren't allowed any kind of depictions of different ethnic backgrounds?
- GAINES: Not allowed to call any attention to it.
- My first assignment, as a new art assistant, was to remove cleavages and lift up low cut blouses on Katy Keene.
- Victor Gorelick, (1992). "Introduction". Archie Americana Series Best of the Fifties Volume 2. Archie Comic Publications. p. 4.
- His sometimes suggestive storytelling – and he was one of the best – almost cost him his job. When his pencilled stories came in, the characters were dressed on one page only. The inker, a woman by the name of terry Szenics, would have to clothe them on the remaining pages.
- Victor Gorelick, (1992). "Introduction". Archie Americana Series Best of the Fifties Volume 2. Archie Comic Publications.
- I could understand them; they were like lawyers, people who take things literally and technically. The Code mentioned that you mustn't mention drugs and, according to their rules, they were right. So I didn't even get mad at them then. I said, 'Screw it' and just took the Code seal off for those three issues. Then we went back to the Code again. I never thought about the Code when I was writing a story, because basically I never wanted to do anything that was to my mind too violent or too sexy. I was aware that young people were reading these books, and had there not been a Code, I don't think that I would have done the stories any differently.
- Stan Lee, "Stan the Man & Roy the Boy: A Conversation Between Stan Lee and Roy Thomas". Comic Book Artist. No. 2. TwoMorrows Publishing. Summer 1998.