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November 14, 2007


This is one of the many 12 cent comics I own. Most are in awful condition, mostly because mint copies are insanely expensive. Insanely expensive. I just want to read the books, not collect for value, so I’m happy to buy a beat-up copy for about a third of the price.

The Comics Code Authority emerged from Senate hearings into the effects of comics on youth, and charges made by Frederic Wertham that comics were turning young boys and girls across America into violent, sex-starved delinquents. It was, simply, a censorship board for comics. If you didn’t have the CCA seal, your comic wasn’t carried on newsstands. This was happening in the 1950’s…there wasn’t a direct market or specialty stores, and no one was reprinting the books as trades yet.

You can see some of the many things the CCA prohibited here. There doesn’t seem to be a way to create anything that deals with adult themes under these guidelines.

One of the earliest victims of the CCA was William Gaines, publisher of MAD Magazine and E.C. Comics, a line of horror, crime, and science-fiction titles that are often upheld as high watermarks in North American comics. In the documentary Comic Book Confidential, he claims that he gave up fighting the CCA when they wouldn’t authorize a short story for publication that had no violence, no swearing, no nudity, and no sex; the CCA told him it wouldn’t be approved until the sweat was removed from a black man’s brow.

When I was in high school, there was an ‘all-lecture’ day one year…we were marched into the auditorium for two separate presentations; one by a Native American on issues surrounding First Nations rights, and the other on the ‘corrupting influence of comics on young Catholic minds’. The amateur preacher spent a long time letting us know exactly how bad the current crop of comics were, and that the filth was destroying our personal relationships with God. All of the comics he held up had the CCA seal. I honestly think the teachers who booked him did so not because they agreed with him, but because they wanted us to see just how badly blind faith and bad reasoning can poison a human being.

The CCA died early this century, brought low by the increasing popularity of manga, and the increasing genre diversification it brought with it.

Hopefully, all this symbol will ever be in the future is an ironic reference to a dark patch of the past.

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