1954 Comics Code Interesting History Lesson

Notes by Jamie Coville are in red. (BOLD)

Source: Seal of Approval, The History of the Comics Code. Author Amy Kiste Nyberg. University Press of Mississippi. 1998.

Comics Magazine Association of America

Comics Code

1954

CODE FOR EDITORIAL MATTER

General Standards Part A

  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. No comics shall explicitly present the unique details and methods of a crime.
  3. Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.
  4. If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.
  5. Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates the 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 gun play, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.
  8. No unique or unusual methods of concealing weapons shall be shown.
  9. Instances of law enforcement officers dying as a result of a criminal's activities should be discouraged.
  10. The crime of kidnapping shall never be portrayed in any detail, nor shall any profit accrue to the abductor or kidnapper. The criminal or the kidnapper must be punished in every case.
  11. The letter of the word "Crime" on a comics magazine shall never be appreciably greater than the other words contained in the title. The word "crime" shall never appear alone on a cover.
  12. Restraint in the use of the word "crime" in titles or sub-titles shall be exercised.

This was aimed at Lev Gleason's Titles as they were the most popular of the crime comic genre, but many others were affected to. Here is a partial list:

Lev Gleason (Crime Does Not Pay, Crime and Punishment)

EC (Crime SuspenStories - Notorious for the headless woman cover, shown during the hearings)

Charlton (Crime and Justice)

Timor Publications (Crime Detector)

Marvel (Crime Fighters always Win)

Ace Magazines (Crime Must Pay the Penalty)

Ribage/Trogan (Crime Mysteries)

General Standards Part B

  1. No comic magazine shall use the word 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 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.

This entire section was in response to EC Comics and other similar titles. Banning the words "Horror" affected titles such as:

EC (Vault of Horror)

Allen Hardy (House of Horror)

Premier Magazines (Horror from the Tomb)

St. John (Weird Horrors)

Star Publications (The Horrors)

Toby Press (Tales of Horror)

Banning the word "Terror" was likely aimed at Harvey Comics Tales of Terror. Among the publishers affected include:

Allen Hardy (Weird Terror)

Marvel (Adventures into Terror)

St. John (House of Terrors)

Star Publications (Startling Terror Tales, Terrors of the Jungle)

General Standards Part C

All elements or techniques not specifically mentioned herein, but which are contrary to the spirit and intent of the Code, and are considered violations of good taste or decency, shall be prohibited.

Dialogue:

  1. Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
  2. Special precautions to avoid references to physical afflictions or deformities shall be taken.
  3. Although slang and colloquialisms are acceptable, excessive use should be discouraged and wherever possible good grammar shall be employed.

This was aimed at the Crime comics, where they had the gangsters talk like gangsters. I guess parents were afraid if their kids picked up the lingo and talked like gangsters, they'd become them.

Religion:

Ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group is never permissible.

Likely aimed at EC stories showing how prejudice and bigotry is wrong, during the stories they would have the bad characters use slurs. Wertham used this as ammunition, selectively telling of how comics had characters using these slurs, but not mentioning that the stories were teaching kids why they were wrong. Now no slurs could be used, regardless of the moral of the story.

Costume:

  1. Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.
  2. Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.
  3. All characters shall be depicted in dress reasonably acceptable to society.
  4. Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.

NOTE: It should be recognized that all prohibitions dealing with costume, dialogue, or artwork applies as specifically to the cover of a comic magazine as they do to the contents.

This applies to a whole lot of publishers but Fiction House would be among the most prominent.

Marriage and Sex:

  1. Divorce shall not be treated humorously nor shall be represented as desirable.
  2. Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at or portrayed. Violent love scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.
  3. Respect for parents, the moral code, and for honorable behavior shall be fostered. A sympathetic understanding of the problems of love is not a license for moral distortion.
  4. The treatment of love-romance stories shall emphasize the value of the home and the sanctity of marriage.
  5. Passion or romantic interest shall never be treated in such a way as to stimulate the lower and baser emotions.
  6. Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.
  7. Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.

This was for the crime and romance comics. I guess the old men didn't want little girls growing up to be anything but prim, proper women who knew their place.

Code For Advertising Matter

These Regulations are applicable to all magazines published by the members of the Comics Magazine Association of America, Inc. Good taste shall be the guiding principle in the acceptance of advertising.

  1. Liquor and tobacco advertising is not acceptable.
  2. Advertisement of sex or sex instructions books are unacceptable.
  3. The sale of picture postcards, "pin-ups," "art studies," or any other reproduction of nude or semi-nude figures is prohibited.
  4. Advertising for the sale of knives, concealable weapons, or realistic gun facsimiles is prohibited.
  5. Advertising for the sale of fireworks is prohibited.
  6. Advertising dealing with the sale of gambling equipment or printed matter dealing with gambling shall not be accepted.
  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.
  8. To the best of his ability, each publisher shall ascertain that all statements made in advertisements conform to the fact and avoid misinterpretation.
  9. Advertisement of medical, health, or toiletry products of questionable nature are to be rejected. Advertisements for medical, health or toiletry products endorsed by the American Medical Association, or the American Dental Association, shall be deemed acceptable if they conform with all other conditions of the Advertising Code.

One legit complaint about comic books was their advertisements. There was a fair amount of snake oil and dangerous toys sold through them. During this time there were stories about how XX number of kids bought a certain toy and how XX number of injuries were reported because of that toy. These toys were things like air rifles and knives.

Wertham suggested that the purpose of the crime comic was to teach kids how to commit crime and advertise/sell them the weapons to carry it out. Then kids would have more money to buy comics with.

I doubt anybody really believed that, but those ads were removed for public safety.

End of Article and Notes!

Got this Interesting piece from http://www.thecomicbooks.com/cca1954.html.

I figured I'de post it to show you guys some of the old laws comics and magazines use to have I find it as a interesting history lesson. This does remind of G-Mans article about the Superhero always winning. This shows that back then (maybe even now) that it was Law for Superheros to win. Yay. So give response if you want. I hope you guys like this look a Comic History as much as I. Thank You. ^.^

12 Comments
12 Comments
Posted by Gambit1024

Did a paper on this my senior year of high school. The comics code was garbage, and I'm glad the damn thing is obsolete.

Posted by TheCheeseStabber

@Gambit1024: I think its funny that almost all of these hings it outlaws are used so commonly NOW in comics that half the time we barely notice lol

Posted by Gambit1024

@TheCheeseStabber: I know. They were so strict that cleavage lines were actually ordered to be erased.

Posted by TheCheeseStabber

@Gambit1024: ...I kinda wanna see what that would look like but I'm not sure xD

Posted by Gambit1024

@TheCheeseStabber: It was... stupid looking.

Posted by TheCheeseStabber

@Gambit1024: well with all there regulations I was guessing all comics were Superman either in fetal position or taking a walk

Posted by Gambit1024

@TheCheeseStabber: Actually, it was very different to Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman (the big three that the CCA really effected first).

Superman, after being called a fascist by Fredrick Wertham, operated much closer to the law. He was more like a policeman than anything else.

Batman, after being called gay by the same guy, was spending much more time with new female characters.

Wonder Woman, after being called a lesbian by you-know-who, was awful close to Steve Trevor (well... as close as they were allowed to be, anyway).

Posted by TheCheeseStabber

@Gambit1024: As close as all of them were aloud to be with lack of breast,violence,the word horror and the word Crime xD

Posted by Gambit1024

@TheCheeseStabber: Exactly. If it weren't for the reintroduction of The Flash, who knows where the industry could've gone? By the time Marvel got into the game in the 60's, they pushed the envelope to the extremes.

Posted by TheCheeseStabber

@Gambit1024: Marvel was writing the word "CRIME" In very large letters... those monsters

Posted by lykopis

This was very interesting - so much has changed, lol.

Thing is - there are some things I agree with, but for entirely different reasons than why they were put on that code originally.

Posted by ssejllenrad

Ahhhh... So this is the source of all superdickeries....