The Bondage Cover wiki last edited by Jetshade on 04/18/15 08:04AM View full history

Overview

Comic book bondage covers are generally considered to depict the physical restraint of a female character (examples with male characters are far less frequent and are usually not considered as exploitative in nature, due to the target audience being predominantly male). Ropes, chains, and shackles are the most commonly seen restraining devices, but the restraining material is limited only by the imagination of the artist. Often-seen 'living' restraints include vines, roots, tentacles, snakes, or other rope-like appendages. Webs, nets, and glowing energy bonds have also been used as restraining devices. Bound characters may also be gagged, usually with cloth or tape, to further the appearance of helplessness.

History

Golden Age

Fight Comics #50 (1947): Typical "jungle girl" bondage cover

Bondage covers were very common in the Golden Age of Comics and fairly common in the early Silver Age. Most of the Golden Age bondage covers showed not only a bound woman, but also portrayed her under threat from a villain/animal/monster or some other deadly danger (fire, drowning, a ticking time bomb, oncoming vehicle, etc). The provocative appeal of such covers accounted for their popularity and proliferation. In Jungle Comics (1940-1954), one of the first titles to prominently feature bondage covers, a fur-bikini clad heroine appeared in bondage on no less than 50 covers of the title's 163 issue run. By contrast, the male hero of the series, Ka'a'nga, was always shown rushing to the woman's rescue and was almost never depicted as a captive himself. Bondage covers were also a frequent theme of early superhero titles. When Superman's girlfriend Lois Lane made her first cover appearance in 1940 (Action Comics #29), she was depicted as a bound-and-gagged damsel in distress.

Controversy

Phantom Lady #17 (1949): The bondage cover condemned by Wertham

Because comic books of the era were mainly targeted towards younger readers, bondage covers attracted controversy due to being perceived as lurid and provocative. Controversy intensified in the socially conservative 1950's, prompting psychiatrist Fredric Wertham to write his famous 1954 book "Seduction of the Innocent." Wertham contended that comic books were corrupting the minds of young people with their excessive violence and degradation of women. On his list of targets were the numerous "jungle girl" titles as well as Phantom Lady, whose notorious issue #17 bondage cover art was singled out for attack. This cover, featuring a buxom Phantom Lady struggling to escape from ropes, was presented by Wertham along with the caption: "Sexual stimulation by combining 'headlights' with the sadist's dream of tying up a woman." Even the most famous female superhero in comics, Wonder Woman, was pointed out by Wertham as having a bondage subtext. Despite being a symbol of female empowerment, Wonder Woman has appeared in bondage on more covers than any other well-known superhero.

The Comics Code Authority

Spider-Woman #6 (1978): A more overt CCA-approved bondage cover

Wertham's book led to the creation of the Comics Code Authority (CCA) in 1954, which shook up the comic book industry. It was essentially the job of the CCA to censor the comic industry from publishing material that would be considered inappropriate for impressionable minors. Publishers who relied on good girl art combined with bondage covers for their sales (such as "jungle girl" publisher Fiction House) quickly went out of business due to restrictions enforced by the CCA. Bondage covers became much less frequent, and those that were published usually depicted the restrained female in a less extreme manner than what was previously the norm. Mainstream superhero publishers often included male characters (usually teammates) in the same bondage situation as the female characters in order to dilute the perception that the cover was being sexist or exploitative. Despite the CCA's censorship during this period, some Golden Age style bondage covers still managed to make it to print.

Revival

Red Sonja #39 (2008): Golden Age style bondage cover

Over the decades, progressive social changes and anti-censorship sentiment led to a decline in the influence of the CCA. By the 1980's, independent publishers simply chose not to have their comics approved by the CCA, allowing them to publish more overt bondage covers in the tradition of the Golden Age. The CCA's decline culminated in industry giants Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and even the younger-themed Archie Comics all breaking away from the CCA by 2011. That same year, the CCA became defunct. Bondage cover art has survived to the present, and depictions of bondage on comic book covers has seen an uptick in popularity with publishers like Dynamite Entertainment. Bondage often appears on variant covers of Dynamite titles featuring scantily-clad heroines such as Red Sonja and Dejah Thoris.

Collector's Items

Overstreet Price Guide #8 (1978) with an homage bondage cover

Because of their notoriety and provocative nature, issues with bondage covers (particularly classics from the Golden Age) are sought after by collectors. In the Overstreet Comic Price Guide, "bondage cover" is often added as a designation of enhanced desirability for a particular issue, and 3 volumes of the Overstreet Guide themselves feature homage bondage covers. The collectibility of bondage covers was parodied on the cover of a 1988 issue of The Trouble With Girls. The art featured a bound woman in peril, along with a faux price guide excerpt underneath that valued the issue at hundreds of dollars due to the bondage cover, while surrounding issues were barely worth cover price.

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