Comics Code Authority  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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The Comics Code Authority was formed in 1954 by the Comics Magazine Association of America as an alternative to government regulation, to allow the comic publishers to self-regulate the content of comic books in the United States. Its code, commonly called "the Comics Code," lasted through the early 21st century. Many have linked the CCA's formation to a series of Senate hearings and the publication of psychologist Fredric Wertham's book Seduction of the Innocent.

Members submitted comics to the CCA, which screened them for adherence to its Code, then authorized the use of their seal on the cover if the book was found to be in compliance. At the height of its influence, it was a de facto censor for the U.S. comic book industry.

By the early 2000s, newer publishers bypassed the CCA and Marvel Comics abandoned it in 2001.

Publisher William Gaines believed that clauses forbidding the words "crime", "horror" and "terror" in comic book titles had been deliberately aimed at his own best-selling titles Crime SuspenStories, The Vault of Horror and The Crypt of Terror. Such restrictions, in addition to content those banning vampires, werewolves and zombies, helped make EC Comics unprofitable; all of its titles except MAD were cancelled in the year following the CCA's introduction.

Founding

The CCA was created in 1954 as part of the CMAA, in response to public concern about what was deemed inappropriate material in many comic books. This included graphic depictions of violence or gore in crime and horror comics, as well as the sexual innuendo of what aficionados refer to as good girl art. Dr. Fredric Wertham's book Seduction of the Innocent rallied opposition to this type of material in comics, arguing that it was harmful to the children who made up a large segment of the comic book audience. Senate subcommittee hearings led by Estes Kefauver had many publishers concerned about government regulation, prompting them to form a self-regulatory body instead.

The Code

The CCA code was based upon the largely unenforced code drafted by the Association of Comics Magazine Publishers in 1948, which in turn was modeled loosely after the 1930 Hollywood Production Code. The CCA, however, imposed many more restrictions than its predecessor.

Like the previous code, the CCA prohibited the presentation of "policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions ... in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority." But it added the requirements that "in every instance good shall triumph over evil" and discouraged "instances of law enforcement officers dying as a result of a criminal's activities." Specific restrictions were placed on the portrayal of kidnapping and concealed weapons.

Depictions of "excessive violence" were forbidden, as were "lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations." Vampires, werewolves, ghouls and zombies could not be portrayed. In addition, comics could not use the words "horror" or "terror" in their titles. The use of the word "crime" was subject to numerous restrictions.

Where the previous code had condemned the publication of "sexy, wanton comics," the CCA was much more precise: Depictions of "sex perversion," "sexual abnormalities," and "illicit sex relations" as well as seduction, rape, sadism, and masochism were specifically forbidden. In words echoing the Hollywood Production Code, love stories were enjoined to emphasize the "sanctity of marriage" and those portraying scenes of passion were advised to avoid stimulating "lower and baser emotions."

Advertisements of liquor, tobacco, knives, fireworks, nude pin-ups, postcards, and "toiletry products of questionable nature" were all prohibited.

Criticism and enforcement

The CCA had no legal authority over other publishers, but magazine distributors often refused to carry comics without the CCA's seal of approval. Some publishers thrived under these restrictions, others adapted by canceling titles and focusing on Code-approved content, and others went out of business.

Publisher William Gaines believed that clauses forbidding the words "crime", "horror" and "terror" in comic book titles had been deliberately aimed at his own best-selling titles Crime SuspenStories, The Vault of Horror and The Crypt of Terror. Such restrictions, in addition to content those banning vampires, werewolves and zombies, helped make EC Comics unprofitable; all of its titles except MAD were cancelled in the year following the CCA's introduction.

Psychiatrist Dr. Fredric Wertham dismissed the Code as an inadequate half-measure.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Comics Code Authority" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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