What brought about the formation of the Comic Code Authority?

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Answered by: Richard, An Expert in the Comic Books - General Category
The Comics Magazine Association of America (CMAA) came about in 1954 after public concern over the subject matter of comic book content. The intent was to devise some form of a code of ethics and standards for the comic book industry. The Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency in 1954 had caused many publishers to worry about government regulations, so they sought to form a self-regulating group for themselves. Born of the organization, and devised by New York Magistrate Charles F. Murphy, was the Comics Code Authority (CCA).Among many new restrictions to published content were the protection of police, judges, and government officials, so as not to foster disrespect for authority along with the banning of “excessive violence,” and “illicit sex relations.” The old horror standards such as vampires, werewolves, and other ghouls were also deemed unsavory and not allowed.

Thanks to these new standards, many publishers fell apart, bringing an end to such classic books as The Vault of Horror and Tales From The Crypt. Having an African-American lead character, as in the story “Judgment Day,” published by William Gaines in Incredible Science Fiction #33 and depicting homosexuality were banable offenses in the name of protecting America’s youth.In 1971, the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asked then Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Stan Lee to do a story about the perils of drug abuse. Even with the government on his side, Lee was still denied approval. He published the stories, The Amazing Spider-Man #96-98, anyway. The overall story was well received, silencing the Comic Code Authority's objections. This small victory was followed by the now classic story of Green Arrows sidekick, Speedy, being shown as a heroin addict.

As the 1980’s came around the bend, more leniency was allowed. Depictions of violence and subtle sexual innuendo began to creep up past the Comic Code Authority. These slow but steady revisions came about as the rise of comic specialty shops allowed publishers to bypass the more traditional book outlets and strait to their core audience.

In the new millennium, the iron grasp that the Comic Book Authority had held over the comic book publishing industry had begun to fall apart. Many new publishers refused to join and old giants like DC Comics and Marvel began to implement their own rating system, including marketing books for adult audiences only. Milestone Comics, a DC Comics affiliate, submitted all its books to the Comic Code Authority, but published them regardless of the groups approval. In 2001, Marvel withdrew from the Comic Code Authority, DC Comics in January 2011, and Archie Comics, the last publisher still utilizing the code, a day later.

For over half a century, the Comic Code Authority made its business by protecting people from themselves. As a group, they decided what people were and were not ready to deal with. From rampant government and political corruption to racial prejudice, these wise thinking men took an innovative and creative medium and reduced it to nothing more then vanilla propaganda for similar men who kept their heads in the sand expecting the problems in the world to go away.

When people talk of the horror of burning books, they never realize that censorship, in any form, is no different then lighting a match.

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