Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Superheroes no longer live by The Code

A post in BoingBoing yesterday eulogized the death of an American legend: The Comics Code Authority. 

This holdover from the "moral corruption of youth" anxieties of a more innocent era, the Code was established as a means for the comic book industry to self-regulate rather than be regulated.

The Code was specifically set up to crack down on "graphic depictions of violence and gore in crime and horror comics, as well as the sexual innuendo of what aficionados refer to as good girl art."

In the 1960s and '70s, when underground stoner comics just ignored censorship, the Code was especially concerned with depictions of drug use. In 1971,  Stan Lee of Marvel comics famously published a trilogy of Spider-Man issues that were not code-approved, because they dealt with the negative effects of hallucinogenic drugs.

Ironically, those issues were actually an early attempt at alternative social marketing, having been requested and endorsed by the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare!

But the Code survived. However, soon afterward the drug issue was addressed even more directly and graphically in rival publisher DC's Green Lantern:

Note the Code
 So obviously, things were changing. But not fast enough. Comics went "adult" in the 1980s, and the code became largely irrelevant.

I don't think any Code could have anticipated this.

Now Marvel, DC, and even squaky clean Archie Comics have abandoned it.

So now that it's dead, I'd like to look at what the Code did allow.

Cracked recently published a list of The 8 Most Awkward Sexual Moments in Comic Book History. It included one character "dating" his step-sister, and more than one excuse to promote ephebophilia:

Dude, she's 13...
In another post, Cracked unearths some of the comic book industry's most unfortunate attempts to become more inclusive:

And if you think that guy looks like a "bad motherfucker", you don't know just how twisted comic books can be. In yet another Cracked post about disturbing comics, they lay on us an Avengers storyline that has a guy raping (and impregnating) his own "mother"...

You thought I was exaggerating?
I was not.

Another site called "Superdickery" specializes in posting out-of-context frames from old issues of mainstream comics to expose their pervasive sexual undertones:

It's okay to come out of the cave, Batman. We're okay with it now.

This is also okay now, Jimmy. Be proud.
Wonder Woman, by the way, is all about bondage...

And more bondage...

... with a little voyeurism thrown in.
Ummm... WHAT?

If you don't get it, don't ask.
This is probably another example of slang not aging well, but DAMN!

Farewell, Comics Code Authority. You will not be missed.


  1. Great Post, Tom.. It's interesting to look back and see how entertainment and arts have been policed in the past for the 'good of our moral health'.. haha.

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