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Author Topic: The Comics Code Authority - a few questions  (Read 506 times)

JayzusB.Christ

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The Comics Code Authority - a few questions
« on: 15 November, 2021, 01:38:27 PM »
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.
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Jim_Campbell

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Re: The Comics Code Authority - a few questions
« Reply #1 on: 15 November, 2021, 01:52:55 PM »
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.
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JayzusB.Christ

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Re: The Comics Code Authority - a few questions
« Reply #2 on: 15 November, 2021, 05:21:52 PM »
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.
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milstar

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Re: The Comics Code Authority - a few questions
« Reply #3 on: 15 November, 2021, 05:31:14 PM »
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".
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Colin YNWA

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Re: The Comics Code Authority - a few questions
« Reply #4 on: 15 November, 2021, 05:33:15 PM »
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.

rogue69

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Re: The Comics Code Authority - a few questions
« Reply #5 on: 15 November, 2021, 08:05:55 PM »
Writer Marv Wolfman's name was briefly a point of contention between DC Comics and the CCA. In the supernatural-mystery anthology House of Secrets #83 (Jan. 1970), the book's host introduces the story "The Stuff that Dreams are Made of" as one told to him by "a wandering wolfman". (All-capitals comics lettering made no distinction between "wolfman" and "Wolfman".) The CCA rejected the story and flagged the "wolfman" reference as a violation. Fellow writer Gerry Conway explained to the CCA that the story's author was in fact named Wolfman, and asked whether it would still be in violation if that were clearly stated. The CCA agreed that it would not be, as long as Wolfman received a writer's credit on the first page of the story; this led to DC beginning to credit creators in its supernatural-mystery anthologies.

JayzusB.Christ

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Re: The Comics Code Authority - a few questions
« Reply #6 on: 16 November, 2021, 08:25:10 AM »
Thanks guys, interesting stuff - I'd had no idea that the Big Two dealt with such adult themes in their later CCA-labelled comics.  Not being allowed to say the word 'Wolfman' in one decade, and mentioning kiddie porn the next - the CCA really must have been diluted to a huge extent.
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Bad City Blue

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Re: The Comics Code Authority - a few questions
« Reply #7 on: 16 November, 2021, 04:07:59 PM »
In 1971, Stan Lee was asked by the government to do a story warning of the dangers of drugs, because a lot of teenagers read hid comics. As a result, Amazing Spider-man 96 contained an anti drugs message when a character reacts badly to a hit.

Thing was, the Comics Code (a self governing, voluntary body, nothing to do with the govt) didn't allow drug references, and so said it wouldn't get the seal. Not having the seal was assumed to be a kiss of death for an issue, as stockists may refuse to put it on the shelves. Stan argued that the government of ths Unites States had asked him to do this, but they wouldn't change their mind.

Well, Spider-Man was so big at that time that the lack of a seal made no difference whatsoever, and the issue sold as well as ever. Whilst the seal reappeared after this, it was an important moment, as it showed that this awful, bullying authority that no one ever wanted was not nearly as powerful a thing as when it was first introduced.

I have a copy of the issue, which is not that valuable, as to me it marked a really important moment in comics history.
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