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The Comics Code Authority - a few questions

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I've been reading a few 1980s / 90s DC and Marvel comics (neither of which I have a huge knowledge of) and was wondering about the Comics Code Authority stamp that most of them still had at this point.  I was under the impression that it was very restrictive regarding sex, violence, drugs etc but there's quite a bit of all on show within the pages.  80s Wonder Woman, for instance, starts off with a fairly explicitly-described mass rape, as well as a post-coital prostitution scene.  Daredevil had some serious ultraviolence and overt references to heroin addiction, and then there was that godawful John Byrne story about Superman and Big Barda in a porn film.  There was the Punisher, of course, who was clearly a murderer and yet was the star of the comic.  All of these, I seem to remember, had the CCA stamp on the cover.

So, did the CCA morph over the years to allow more of this kind of thing? Or was it just there for lip service to worried parents when the 70s and 80s rolled around? I know it was established after Seduction of the Innocent crippled the industry, but I honestly was amazed at what the comics were getting away with a few decades after that shitshow.

I'm not up on the detailed history of the CCA, but it was still enough of a thing in the 80s for them to rule that nothing Kev O'Neill would ever draw could get a CCA stamp of approval. They also famously refused to certify Swamp Thing #29 (1984) leading DC to publish without the issue without the CCA stamp — the first time they'd ever done this, but obviously not the last. You can pretty much draw a direct line from Swamp Thing #29 through to the birth of Vertigo and the explosion of 'Mature Readers' comics.

So, like you, I'm not sure where the CCA actually drew its lines, but there were certainly still lines in the 80s.

Cheers Jim, I do remember the Kev O'Neil thing alright. Absolutely bizarre - banned not for WHAT you draw, but HOW you draw? The mind boggles.  John Hicklenton wouldn't have had a look in, I'd imagine.

CCA lost its appeal I think in the 80s, when comics grew more darker and serious. If the initial concern was all "juicy" material, then it became a cosmetic decor, nothing else. Which is paradoxal, because one issue of Elvira House of Mystery (don't know which one) had no CCA seal and allegedly sold poorly. But since then, it became practically useless. In its beginnings, the seal was quite restrictive, at its end, a joke and some comics I read, for example, in 2000s, that had CCA, would never receive CCA in the Silver or Bronze age (i think there was a bare bum in Batman RIP). Then again, Death in the Family had started with Dynamic duo beating child pornographers, and it was in the late 80s.

I don't know if CCA had anything to do with it, but famously Frank Miller, Howard Chaykin and Alan Moore had fallout with DC (in Alan's case, plus Watchmen controversy) who left the company over censorship issues. Howard returned though in the 1990, with Twilight, that carried "suggested for mature audiences".

Colin YNWA:
There was the Daredevil Roger MacKenzie + Frank Miller (never forget Klaus Janson) angel dust storyline that got rejected and was originally planned for DD 160ish in the early 80s. That was rejected - I think - as it explicity showed a child taking drugs. This eventually morphed into the Miller Janson Punisher storyline which still has some very heavy themes - for the day around drug use in minors.

The Code as I recall was a voluntery set up created by and funded by the big comic companies to avoid external regulation. It therefore was continually watered down over the years as moods changed...

...any of this may be me misremembering.


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