Issue #12 of 35   INDEX

Joel Grineau
by: Joel V. Grineau
Origin Of The Comics Code Authority

Over ninety-five percent of all comic books published by Marvel and DC contain a tiny logo, always clearly visible on the cover, of a capital 'A', enmeshed within two smaller 'c's. About the logo are the words 'Approved by the Comics Code Authority'. This little logo represents a very large and important story. If not for this logo, comic books might have been abolished by the government, just a scant forty-four years ago.

Our story begins with Dr. Frederick Wertham, a medical doctor and psychiatrist, who in 1954 published his now infamous "Seduction of the Innocent". Wertham was convinced that comic books were evil, that they contributed to the delinquency of minors, and also to their sexual perversion. In addition Wertham claimed that when any questioned the comic book publishers on their product, they were conspired against, and were labelled communists.

Taken together, it was a bombshell! 1950's America was only too eager to investigate such a combination of charges: contribution to delinquency and sexual perversion, conspiracy and communism!

The controversy started by "Seduction" was to attain witch hunt status when comic books were examined by the US Senate Subcommittee Investigation on Juvenile Delinquency in the United States. Of course, Wertham was a key speaker at the Subcommittee Investigation, and in his summary stated that "Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic book industry".

On his part for the defence, William M. Gaines, publisher of EC Comics, had to defend his horror line, being asked to justify the suitability of 'a blood dripping severed head' in a story intended for juveniles?'

In order to dodge the axe swinging their way, the comic book publishers of the day agreed to self- regulate themselves. By creating and enforcing their own Code, they could guarantee that their companies could continue publishing comic books. As a symbol of this self- imposed regulation, the small logo 'Comics Code Authority' was affixed to the cover of all comic books which met the standards of publication set; it was a guarantee to parents, educators, and the government that these comic books were now safe for young readers.

Wertham of course labelled self- regulation a sham; many of the fans of the day felt that regulation had killed their comic books.

Killed, was an appropriate term. Comic books were forced to adhere to a code which simplified and neutered the westerns, crime and romance genres. The horror comic books all but disappeared, while the funny animal comics flourished. Over a half dozen publishers went under, and a number of talented industry professionals moved into other fields for a while. Super-hero comics were hardly affected, as at the time, they were but a small proportion of the total comic book market.

As amazing as it sounds, the comic book industry was almost killed, ironically enough, just before Rock and Roll was to shake the American establishment far worse than these funny books ever could have.

Joel Grineau is a former Writer/Contributing Editor for "Chaos" Magazine. "Iron Man" 146 (purchased in the spring of 1981) was his first comic book, and time has not worn down his enjoyment of them. Joel holds a BA from the University of Guelph and an MA from the University of Saskatchewan. He is currently an officer with the Canadian Forces.

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