Although you may not notice it as much on comics today, except for maybe on kids books from DC, Bongo, and Archie, between the mid-50s and early 00s, almost every comic had a stamp on it, somewhere on the cover that read "Approved by the Comics Code Authority." As a kid, in the wistful 80s, I never really understood what that meant. I always imagined a room full of old men reading comic books and after each one yelling "approved!" or "hogwash!" Sadly, as I got older and found out exactly who and why this was on each comic book, I realized I wasn't too far off.
Brief History of the CCAThe Comics Code Authority (CCA) was a list of don'ts and more don'ts for content within comic books and was established in 1954 in order to try and clean up the supposed cesspool of immorality that was in each comic of that time. Led by Fredric Wertham, a psychiatrist and author of the book Seduction of the Innocent, the goal was to let morality shine through in comic books to create a moral and innocent youth. Although the CCA had no legal authority over whether or not comics could be printed without the approval of CCA, it caught on. Places that sold comics wouldn't pick up books that didn't have the CCA logo on the cover. So eventually, anyone that wanted their comics in the mainstream had to follow these rules.
== TEASER ==
Rules of the CCAThe complete list of original rules is on our CV Comics Code Authority page; however, there are a few more ridiculous rules to bring light to this miserable moment of history. "No comic magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title." A lot of EC Books were using those words in their titles. Horror books were big business, at that time, and I could never understand how cutting out one singular word could make everyone more "moral."
"Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited." If there's one problem this country (America) has had over the years, it's the amount of werewolf comics coming into good American homes and corrupting kids. This was a different time, and although we may find werewolves tacky and cheesy now, they were pretty terrifying fictional characters. Again, fictional characters. There is a rumor going around the internet (whether its true or not, I couldn't tell you) that Marv Wolfman wasn't allowed to use his last name because of this rule.
"Divorce shall not be treated humorously nor represented as desirable." Because people that get divorced never really want to get divorced? I just made a joke about the rule about not making jokes about divorce. Am I in trouble? No? Well, it was more of a quip than anything.
On the other side of the fence, there are actually some rules that make sense: no cussing, no nudity, and restrain from using the word "crime" as much as possible. Ok, that last one is terrible, but they do have a couple of understandable rules.
Why It's BogusIt's censorship, plain and simple. It's actually above and beyond that. These sets of rules create cut and dry stories that are boring and redundant. Bad guy attacks someone, good guys beat them, end of story. If this was something that just lasted during the 50s, I wouldn't have a huge problem with it; however, the group still exists to this day. They have no where near the pull that they used to. Marvel dropped off in 2001, and DC seemingly still submits stuff to them, but they put their comics on store shelves regardless of whether the CCA approves or not. As I stated before, Johnny DC, Bongo, and Archie Comics still have that CCA label on the cover. This is fine. It's comics for children. The rest of us shouldn't be subjugated to this though. Comics aren't for kids anymore. They cater to a more adult crowd. There's violence, cursing, occasional nudity, just like real life.
Censorship vs Ratings You can't do nothing and expect complacency from the masses. One of two things should be done. You can either censor the material, like the CCA did for almost 50 years, or you can simple be in charge of your own rating system, much like Marvel does now. It's not hard to put a ratings stamp onto your books so a parent can see if said book is appropriate for their child. True, it should be all about the parent's responsibility, but if you were a parent, and didn't care for comics, would you want to read every single book to make sure it was cool for your kid?
That's the CCA in a nutshell, an abridged version of it at best. To keep this light hearted, check out the CV CCA page and let us know what your favorite CCA rule is.
~Mat "InferiorEgo" Elfring is a comedian, teacher, writer of Gorgator, and comic store employee.~