The Comics Code Authority

January 4, 2014|In Comics, Miscellaneous

Back in the mid part of the 20th century, the United States lost its collective mind. They had won the Second World War and were nervous about being leaders of the world. Fear set in. Fear of all threats, internal and external.

They’d finally gotten movies to adhere to the Production Code. Senator Joseph McCarthy was busy rooting out all the communists and other undesirables in government and Hollywood. Senator Estes Kefauver – not to be outdone – had the US Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. One of the areas of insidious juvenile corruption the committee targetted was comics, spurred on by Dr. Fredric Wertham and his book Seduction of the Innocent.

Comics lost that fight, and decided to create their own internal censorship body to avoid being policed by an outside agency which would most likely have made their lives even worse.

The Comics Code Authority (CCA) was structured much like Hollywood’s Production Code and ensured that American comics would be safe and bland for decades to come. It went through three major versions: its introduction in 1954, a relaxation in 1971, and a further softening in 1989 before it was phased out over the following years.

Today, the Code is no more, replaced by different ratings and notices applied by companies in an informal imitation of the movie rating system. If Mom & Dad don’t want their kids reading certain books, it’s up to them to police their children.

The CCA’s assets are now owned by The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, as a reminder of what censorship can do to creativity in a society ostensibly based on free speech.

I re-created the CCA seal – which appeared on most American comics from 1954 to the 1990s – for my cover reconstruction work. The other pieces were produced as part of a pitch to the CBLDF as items which could be sold to benefit their efforts.

I never heard back from them. I could cry, “Censorship!” but I think they just ignored me.

The Comics Code Authority Logo

Re-creation of the logo originally designed by Ira Schnapp, who was the inhouse logo designer/letterer at DC Comics for many years.

The Comics Code Authority Evolution

A new poster displaying the three major versions of the CCA.

The Comics Code Authority Flyer

Re-creation of a CCA flyer.

The Comics Code Authority Companies

Scan of a mailer listing the companies which were part of the CCA in 1963.

The Comics Code Authority Everyone Poster

A new poster the CCA could have used back in the 1950s.

Andrew Loomis was a noted illustrator, painter and educator, and I have a couple of his books and admire his work. However, to me the image above sums up what the CCA and American society in general thought what upstanding citizens should be.

No rock’n’roll, no comics, no science fiction or horror movies. No weird. No pushing the boundaries. Just calm – very calm – white people at the top of society’s pyramid, never stepping out of line and always doing the ‘right’ thing.

Download the 1954, 1971 and 1989 Comics Codes

Comics Code Authority 1954–89


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