The Comic Book Code

What was in that "comic book code" we've heard so much about? Let's find out, from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Attack of the Factoids.

In 1954 the U.S. government enacted a “code” for the comic book industry to regulate violence, language, and other issues that might come up in the stories. Comic book creators lived by that “code” for almost half a century. Marvel finally became the first to renounce it in 2001, and in 2011 DC Comics and Archie Comics were the last publishers to use it. Here are some of government’s rules:


“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… If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity… Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous… In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.”


“Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority… Respect for parents, the moral code, and for honorable behavior shall be fostered.”


“All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted… All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated… Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited… Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used 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.”


“Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden… Although slang and colloquialisms are acceptable, excessive use should be discouraged and, wherever possible, good grammar shall be employed.”


“Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable… All characters shall be depicted in dress reasonably acceptable to society… Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities… Passion or romantic interest shall never be treated in such a way as to stimulate the lower and baser emotions…

Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested… Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.”


“Divorce shall not be treated humorously nor represented as desirable… Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at nor portrayed… Sexual abnormalities are unacceptable… The treatment of live-romance stories shall emphasize the value of the home and the sanctity of marriage.”


“No comic magazine shall use the word( s) ‘horror’ or ‘terror’ in its title… Restraint in the use of the word ‘crime’ in titles or subtitles shall be exercised… The letters of the word ‘crime’ on a comics-magazine cover shall never be appreciably greater in dimension than the other words contained in the title. The word ‘crime’ shall never appear alone on a cover.”


The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Attack of the Factoids. Weighing in at over 400 pages, it's a fact-a-palooza of obscure information.

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!

I thought one of the interesting points about the Comics Code Authority is that it was not the US government enacting a code, contrary to this article. The CCA was enacted by an industry group trying to self regulate before the government stepped in as some reactions to horror comics had the industry scared. This means independent comic books could still ignore the code, but most shops and distributors wouldn't carry non-CCA aproved comics. And there is no first amendment recourse when the government is not the one doing the censorship.
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