Reggie & Me – The Complete Comics Code Notes

 Hey everybody, I was in something of a melancholy mood today – and decided to revisit the series of essays I’d written about Reggie and My coverage of the Comics Code Authority shortly after he passed.  I figured it might a good idea to compile them here, in case I ever wanna revisit them again… or, if anyone out there discovers it!

If you’ve never read/heard these bits before, I hope you enjoy… and maybe learn a thing or two about the “Boogeyman” of Comics!

Today’s piece is going to focus more on the “craft” of Reggie and my work.  This will likely be a less emotionally-charged article… but is important for me to share, in that I credit the creation of the work we’re about to discuss as being the bedrock of most every creative endeavor I have engaged in since.  I owe much of those “nuts and bolts” to Reggie’s vision… and confidence.  It might go without saying, that I’m not the most confident person when it comes to my “work”… to say I have an inferiority complex would be greatly underselling it.  Reggie… knew what he was talking about… what’s more, he knew he knew what he was talking about.  This is a story about how he and I “zigged” when much of the established comics commentary community continued to “zag”.

When we decided to break Weird Comics History out from being “just a segment” on the Weird Science DC Comics Podcast, we knew we had to launch in a meaningful way.  A month or so prior, once we got our first few segments done, we knew exactly the topic we’d want to discuss if and when we ever upgraded to standalone program… and that topic was a biggie.

The Comics Code Authority.

We were both fascinated by it and everything surrounding it… and, we were both kind of annoyed how any discussion of the topic would almost inevitably devolve into a bunch of angry comic book fans shaking their fists in the air complaining about “that damn Wertham!”  Ya see, there’s a lot more to the story than Dr. Frederic Wertham and Seduction of the Innocent… not that all that many people seem to know that, given the usual shallow and reactionary coverage the subject gets.

We sought to fix that.

Did we find the perfect way to expand upon this story?  I don’t know… maybe?  All I know is, the work we put into this initial multi-part episode, which ultimately weighed in at 7 hours, 35 minutes, and 11 seconds (and a bullet-point script in the triple-digits)… is still, even to this day, one of the things I’m most proud of being a part of.  I tell you one thing, it kind of ruined other podcasts for me.  But, we’ll get there.

Reggie had the format down for this series of shows within minutes of us deciding to go through with it.  Five episodes… each focusing on a different piece of the CCA puzzle.

The First – Life Before the Code… here is a snippet of our “mission statement”:

This was all I had to read to know we were going to be taking this in the direction I was hoping we would.  We never considered ourselves “provocateurs”, but… talking about Wertham in a somewhat positive light?  That might make us Public Enemy Number One to the wider comics community (who would listen to our little pop-up show, that is).

Taking a step back.  During my first year as a sophomore in college (I was working full-time, had to space out my classes a bit) I was told I needed a humanities course.  I decided to take an American Literature class that had a focus on comic books.  The first quarter of that class was basically an inch-deep/mile-wide look at The Comics Code Authority… which could be summed up in two phrases:

  • Seduction of the Innocent
  • Trauma to the Eye motif

That was it… and, this was a class I was paying for.  This is what “civilians” think the Comics Code Authority was all about.  When I told that to Reggie, he laughed through his nose… and, told me we’re gonna do better than that.  And, I can say without hesitation… we did.

We did so, by beginning our series with a somewhat disjointed first “chapter”.  It was sort of split between discussing what comic books were during the Golden Age… and how things changed after World War II.  Then, we talked about the 99% of Frederic Wertham’s life that had nothing to do with comics.  This… might not have been the best approach, at least if we look at this as a “single episode”, but… maybe this was just a case of us “podcasting for the trade” realizing that, when it was all said and done, it would make perfect sense.

We put in the work.  We both loved research so much… and this was our first opportunity to engage in a “limitless” sort of way.  Prior to breaking out of our segment-form, there were a lot of rabbit-holes and story-strands we would shy away from… simply due to time constraints.  We never wanted to give “partial” information… so, if it was something we wouldn’t be able to give full attention to… it was going to have to be “cut”.  It wasn’t perfect… but, it was what we had to do.

Here, however… as a standalone program, the sky was the absolute limit.  We had an “unwritten” rule of trying to keep the shows under 90 minutes (which wouldn’t last long), but that’s still plenty of time to fill.

And so, we did the research… crossed our T’s, dotted our I’s… and presented to the world: Frederic Wertham, Social-Justice Warrior.

Talk about a crisis of confidence.  Even in spite of all of our research… everything we found out by digging through old journals, old court documents, old research papers… it still felt as though we were doing something “wrong”, since everything we were delivering kind of flew in the face of the “conventional wisdom” and established narrative surrounding Wertham.

There were times I sorta wanted to pull back.  I was still very young in this hobby, and felt I wasn’t “established” enough to present this information.  Heck, it’s a half-decade later, and I’m still not.  Reggie… man… he was confident.  He knew we knew our stuff… and we could site our sources if and when we were questioned.  He told me, flat out, there were going to be people out there who absolutely hate this… and, by extension… there are going to be people out there who absolutely hate everything we do.  We don’t worry about those people.

So long as we put out work that we’re proud of… and can back up… that’s all that matters.  Once again… he was right.

For that first episode, we presented Wertham as a highly-educated and caring man.  We wanted to establish that there was a reason why people of the day put so much stock into his words.  He didn’t just “come out of nowhere” as an anti-comics activist… as much as it hurts the easy/lazy narrative, Wertham isn’t… and wasn’t “the Boogeyman”.

We talked about the Lafargue Mental Health Clinic, the first Mental Health facility in Harlem, New York… which emphasized providing low-cost services to the poor (visits would cost 25-cents).  Completely unsegregated (in staff and patients)… in 1946.  Any guesses who might’ve started it?  Yup, the Boogeyman.

We discussed Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which established that segregation in schools was Unconstitutional.  Any guesses who might’ve provided research and testimony for that landmark decision?  Yup… him again.

We didn’t want to come across as Wertham “cheerleaders” or anything… we simply wanted to establish him as a credible figure of his time.  There was a reason why his words carried so much weight.  So when his interview in Collier’s Magazine (1948), his various comics symposiums, and Seduction of the Innocent (1948) did come out… they hit like hammers.

Which, took us into Part Two of our series: Seduction of the Innocent.  But, I think we’ll talk about that tomorrow… I really wasn’t expecting to go this long talking about a single episode… but, it was very important one, on several different fronts.  It allowed me to show a little bit more of Reggie the Mentor.  How his confidence, and the way he carried himself as a content creator… it was contagious.  Together we broke away from the “narratives”… we took the extra steps, we put in the work… and we uncovered historical pieces that, maybe don’t get enough mention.

We never viewed ourselves as provocateurs… nor sensationalists.  We only wanted to paint as clear a picture of the “gestalt” of the day… and, I’m completely biased, but I think we did a damn good job.  The only complaint I could possibly have is… it sorta ruined comics podcast listening for me.

I want to thank you for reading.  This piece was more “process heavy”, but… in the overall scheme of things, this is and was a very important piece of my relationship with Reggie.  There was a lot of learning in this first episode… for both of us.  Although Reggie was most definitely the “pro” during this series, he encouraged my contributions… he validated them… he made me feel like we were a team.  In standing outside the greater Weird Science podcast, he made sure I knew that we were partners in this project… equals.  This was a good time in my life.  I miss it dearly.

Yesterday, I began my reflection on Reggie and my first “big” project.  One of the “tent pole” series of the Chris and Reggie Channel.  I had expected it to be a “one and done” piece, however, I found I had a lot more to say about our craft than I thought I would.  Today, we will look even deeper into our methodology, and also discuss how quickly our little show, that we figured we’d only spend an hour or two a week working on… became quite a bigger part of both of our lives.

Rather than be just two more comics podcasters who lambaste Seduction as being unfounded trash… we took the extra step and, get this… we actually read it.  So often, when Seduction comes up in conversation… people can tell you that it was bad for comics, but very few… even those who were purporting to “learn you something” could tell you anything specific.  Like Reggie said, we could do better than that.

Also like Reggie said, so long as we can site our sources, and back up what we say… we’re okay.  And so, I suggested that we hit up the “ultimate source” for this subject.  The one people view as the root cause of the establishment of the Comics Code Authority.  We managed to “find” copies of Seduction… and we spent a better part of a week working our way through this book… while filling in our notes in the script.

Here was our “mission statement” for Episode 2:

I know to this point, we’ve been pretty… I don’t want to say “pro-Wertham”, but we haven’t outright dismissed him or run him down.  Folks, Seduction of the Innocent… sucks.  I can say that as someone who actually put the work in and read it.  It sucks, but… it sucks on purpose.  It’s not written as a peer-reviewed academic piece… it’s written with very basic vocabulary, and is absolutely loaded with anecdotes.

The inherent “goodness” of Dr. Wertham is something that could be debated.  His intelligence, however… I think that’s just something even the most fervent Wertham haters are going to have to accept.  This book had a message… and an agenda… and he knew how to cast as wide a net as possible so that his words could be heard.

Thing is… he was hardly the first person to posit that comic books led to juvenile delinquency.

  • Sterling North (May, 1940)
    • “A National Disgrace (and a Challenge to American Parents)” – Chicago Daily News
      • Referred to comics magazines as “a poisonous mushroom growth” and a “violent stimulant” for children
        • This article, which might be our “patient zero” would be reprinted in over 40 newspapers and magazines of the day
          • Remember, this is just two years after Superman makes his first appearance
  • Stanley Kunitz (April, 1941)
    • “Libraries, to Arms!” – Wilson Library Bulletin
      • Compared comics to violent and narcissistic “Nazi training manuals”.  Saw comics as an “aesthetic monstrosity” that stifled development
  • John Mason Browne (1948)
    • “Seeing Things” – Saturday Review of Literature
      • Comics are… “the marijuana of the nursery; the bane of the bassinet; the horror of the house; the curse of the kids; and a threat to the future.”
So, being anti-comic book was sort of “in the ether” back in the day.  If you stop and think about it, over time… most forms of entertainment aimed at children wind up getting blamed for delinquency or adaptation of poor habits.  Movies, television, music, video games, cartoons… and, of course comic books.  So, in a way: this is less anti-comic book (specifically), and more, perhaps looking for answers where there might not be any.

Which brings us back to Wertham.

One of our theories, as it pertained to Seduction… which, I don’t believe we actually included in the show.  We wanted to keep the first four parts of this series mostly “editorial-free”.  That theory was that, Wertham… in his daily work, might have heard from some children and adolescents that they had adopted some of their maladaptive behaviors from… a comic book.

Remember, we’re up to post-War comics right now.  Superheroes were on the wane… replaced by more diverse offerings, including horror and… crime.  Among the biggest, were the Biro books from Lev Gleason Productions (Crime Does Not Pay).  Those old crime books were a passion of Reggie’s… he really enjoyed them, and even sent me a copy of a Dark Horse book of reprints last year:

There were also the EC books, which had been passed down from Max Gaines to his son Bill.  Max’s story is long and involved, but for brevity’s sake… his EC stood for “Educational Comics”.  He did not want to be associated with juvenile delinquency… and so, his comics are more literary… and Bible-based.  When he passed in a boating accident (1948), his son William took over the biz… renamed EC as “Entertaining Comics”, and started putting out horror, sci-fi, and war books… among others (most with the word Weird in the title).

Now, if you’ve ever delved into psychological research… like, specific psyche research, you would eventually begin to see trends.  Trends are important in research, as they lead to best practices… and “established wisdom”.  For example, much of the basis of profiling in Forensic Psychology, is predicated on seeing trends and generalizing from past research.

Back to Wertham… and again, this was just a theory we had.

We had the idea that Wertham, upon hearing from a handful of troubled adolescents that their behaviors were do to exposure to comic books… he might have attempted to generalize that to the rest of the young patients he treated.  This could/would invite, what we in the biz refer to as “leading questions”.  Something the psychology community is all too familiar with.

Take Sybil (1976), for example.  A book that became a TV-movie about a woman with Multiple Personality Disorder (as it was referred to at the time… nowadays, it’s Dissociative Identity Disorder).  This became something of a phenomenon… and wouldn’t you know it, MPD diagnoses began to skyrocket!  Counselors, Psychoanalysts, and Psychologists all wanted their own “Sybil”… and so, “leading questions” were employed to get them.

So, say you’re a kid in 1950… and you just got busted for stealing some candy… or maybe a bike.  The strange doctor with the thick accent offers you an “out” by asking if this was something you learned from a comic book.  Not knowing how to answer… you say “Maybe”… and that doctor’s eyes light up.  You’ve given him what he wants to hear… and so, your punishment suddenly becomes less severe.  You have an excuse for your misbehavior… you no longer need to “own” what you did.

Again, this was just our theory… don’t take it as anything more.

Wertham began discussing comic books in a meaningful way, as far as we could tell, in 1948.  There are some important quotes here that I’d like to include.
  • Colliers Magazine (March 27, 1948):
    • “Horror in the Nursery!” by Judith Crist
      • “We do not maintain that comic books automatically cause delinquency in every child reader, but we found that comic book reading was a distinct influencing factor in the case of every single delinquent or disturbed child we studied.”
        • Studies were provided from Wertham’s own Lafargue Clinic
Classic “correlation does not imply causation” at work here.  Wertham cites comics as being a “distinct influencing factor” in every delinquent he studied, while not being an “automatic” cause of behavior.  Now, this was the mid-late 1940s… comics were a rather ubiquitous thing, right?  It would probably be harder to find a child/adolescent who didn’t read comics.  We see this as Wertham sort of “riding the wave” of the comics controversy that was being fomented at the time.
  • “The Psychopathology of Comic Books” (1948)
    • A symposium delivered by Wertham
    • Later Printed in the American Journal of Psychotherapy
      • Claims that children might identify with the heroes in the comics… and may project their own problems on to them.  If a hero kills a villain, the reader may equate their problems with the villain.  If the villain ends up maimed or killed… well…
      • The price being only a few cents apiece, and the distribution national, every city child can, and does, read from ten to a dozen of these pamphlets monthly, an unknown number of times, and then trades them off for others. If there is only one violent picture per page–and there are usually more–every city child who was six years old in 1938 has by now absorbed an absolute minimum of eighteen thousand pictorial beatings, shootings, stranglings, blood-puddles, and torturings-to-death, from comic books alone. The fortification of this visual violence with similar aural violence over the radio daily, and both together in the movies on Saturday, must also be counted in. The effect–and there are those who think it has been a conscious intention–has been to raise up an entire generation of adolescents who have felt, thousands upon thousands of times, all the sensations and emotions of committing murder, except pulling the trigger. And toy guns–advertised in the back pages of the comics–have supplied that.”
This sort of thing might sound a bit familiar to you if you’re play video games. Exposure to violent images… makes you violent. Of course, much of this has been debunked… and yet, anytime there is a violent outburst in society, video games are usually at least mentioned in passing. Perception is reality… no matter how much data flies in the face of it. The narrative is important… I don’t have to remind you, we are talking about the “Boogeyman” here.
  • Saturday Review of Literature (May, 1948)
    • “The Comics… Very Funny!” by Wertham
      • In this piece, which would be reprinted (in part) in Reader’s Digest, Wertham provides anecdotes from his cases at the Lafargue Clinic.
        • “I examine a boy of fourteen referred to the clinic for stealing. I ask him: do you think your stealing had anything to do with the comic books? And he answers: “Oh no, in the comics is mostly murder.” This is like the arguments used by experts under subsidy from the comic book industry.”
Well… there’s a leading question right there! The rest of the article is much of the same, however also includes his line-by-line refuting of a list of “Twelve Points in Support of Comic Books”. If I’m remembering right, he doesn’t even really address those points… he more or less just sticks his fingers in his ears and says “No.”

So, we’re almost up to Seduction of the Innocent… but, first, let’s recap a bit. Frederic Wertham didn’t “come out of nowhere”. He was an established and respected member of the psychological and intellectual community. He did a lot of good for society… which is a point we cannot forget. He helped a lot of people who otherwise would have been cast aside. The words he wrote were taken seriously… his symposium was was reprinted in the American Journal of Psychotherapy… a widely respected publication which still comes out four times a year to this very day. His pieces were reprinted in Reader’s Digest… a widely-read publication… even to this very day (it’s the largest paid circulation magazine in the world).

I’ve been writing for about an hour and a half at this point (and we haven’t even started to discuss Seduction yet!)… using the notes we had put together in the Summer of 2016. This is just further evidence of how seriously Reggie and I were taking this project. How far we were willing to go in order to give an actual “fair and balanced” look at an event in comics history that has sadly been lost to a lazy narrative. A narrative that continues to be perpetuated.

We were spending many hours a day together at this point. This was the first time in a long time where I actually “made a friend”. Reggie was working full-time and I was working part-time while a full-time student, which made this “destination research”… rather than “passive research”. We had to make the time for this… waking up extra early, and/or staying up extra late. Maybe pushing aside some of our other responsibilities and/or hobbies. While we never assumed anything we would say might change any perceptions (and ultimately, it didn’t)… we were passionate about getting this “right”.

I had mentioned that this series of episodes was our first “big” project… and would inform much of how we would operate for the next several years… and, upon reflection… man, that’s absolutely true. I feel in the years following this, we both matured as content creators and grew closer as friends and partners. It’s weird… I think back to 2016… which, was only four years ago, and when I picture us… we were kids.

We weren’t. Not by any definition… but, still… that’s what I picture. A couple of kids starting on this monumental (to them) project… that would solidify into an amazing relationship going forward.

I think… that’s all I have in me today… tomorrow, I promise, we’ll actually get into Seduction of the Innocent. I thank you all for reading.

I want to start today by thanking readers of this site for indulging me in this change in direction for the time being.  It’s been nearly a week since Reggie’s passing… and, I feel as though taking the time to revisit and reflect upon our early days has helped me greatly with the coping process.  It still doesn’t feel “real”… but, I suspect our residing on opposite coasts might have something to do with that.  Distance is a weird thing…

Today, we’ll finally get into some of our notes regarding our deep-dive into the pages of Seduction of the Innocent (1954).  Another “craft-heavy/emotion-light” piece… but one that is vital in the foundation of my and Reggie’s work.

Yesterday, we looked at some anti-comics crusaders who predated Wertham, and floated the theory that our “Boogeyman” might’ve used some leading questions in order to ride that trend.  After publishing some thoughts on the subject in magazines and journals… Wertham wrote a book.  You may have heard of it… but, you probably haven’t read it.  To make our program as complete as possible – we did.

For brevity’s sake, I’m doing to refrain from going into full-on “essay mode”, and just try and deliver the more salient points.

According to Frederic Wertham…

  • The comics format was an “invitation to illiteracy”
  • Comics create an atmosphere of cruelty and deceit
  • Comics create a “readiness for temptation”
  • Comics stimulate unwholesome fantasies
  • They suggest criminal or sexually abnormal ideas
    • By furnishing a rationalization for them
  • Comics suggest the forms a “delinquent impulse” may take… while supplying details
And, perhaps most importantly, for the purposes of everything to come:
  • Comic books may “tip the scales” toward maladjustment or delinquency
Wertham made the assumption that “the conquest of the American childhood by the [comics] industry was already an accomplished fact.”  Living in the 21st Century, as we do… we can make that sort of statement regarding most forms of entertainment.  The television industry “conquered” the American child… the music industry… the video games industry… and, so on.  This isn’t all that outlandish a statement… in and of itself.  Comics were everywhere… kids read them.  The words he chose to express that fact, however, suggest something far more sinister.

Perhaps taking a page out of Piaget or Vygotsky’s theories of early childhood development, Wertham claimed that comics facilitate the concept that “children see solutions to to all problems as ‘simple, direct, mechanical and violent’.”  Children, who have not yet reached a particular stage of mental development may not yet be equipped with the ability to apply critical or abstract thinking.  Which is to say, if a child sees Superman punch a guy… they may see that as a feasible (desirable) solution to a problem.

Ready for an even slipperier slope?  “Comic books and life are connected.  A bank robbery is easily translated to the rifling of a candy store.”  Again, we’ve seen this and heard this, most recently with violent video games… despite evidence to the contrary.  Like we say, perception is reality… and accepted narratives carry weight.

Wertham stated that comics led to what he called “moral disarmament”.  These stories influenced how children defined concepts like “right” and “wrong”.  Comics blunted the finer feelings of conscience, mercy, and sympathy.  They skew the view of human relationships, and stifles the influence of art and literature.  Again, nothing we haven’t heard applied to [insert hobby/form of entertainment here].

Seduction of the Innocent, as stated… is an awful book.  It was written at a low-grade level in order to reach as wide an audience as possible.  It was bogged down in anecdotes… and, blanket statements.  This was 1954… there wasn’t an internet.  There wasn’t an easy way for a member of the target audience of this book to contest anything Wertham posited.  Wertham, for example, could say All child drug addicts, and all children drawn into the narcotics traffic as messengers, with whom we have had contact, were inveterate comic-book readers.”

See what he did there?  He made a blanket statement… wrapped in an anecdote.  All of these delinquents… that he had contact with… were comic book readers.  Hard to argue that point without access to his personal files, isn’t it?  Plus, we’ve spent the past several days here talking up Wertham’s credentials and legitimacy… who’d even think to contest this?  In 2020, skepticism is part of the learning process… in 1954, however… fewer people were going to “do the work”.  Heck, by simply reading Seduction, many thought they already were.

Some comic book trends Wertham described included…
  • The “injury to the eye motif”
  • Advertisements for “violent toys” in comic books
  • Damsels in distress… in fire
  • History being rewritten
  • Classic literature being modernized
  • Femme Fatales
We’ll delve deeper into a few of those…

The “injury to the eye” bit… is interesting, when you stop to think about it.  It’s a pretty visceral thing… we theorized that this was a sort of pain that children and adults would both feel in a subconscious way when they see it.  The great generational unifier when it comes to pain infliction.  It doesn’t take much in the way of force or skill to poke an eye out.  He uses this to further separate comic books from literature, by positing that there is no “literary counterpart” for eye-harm.

“Violent toys”.  B.B. guns, knives… many of us have seen these sort of things advertised in old comics.  Times were different.

Girls being tossed in fire.  This is multi-layered… in that, not only does it depict a woman in danger, who must be rescued by a heroic male… it also had them tossed in a fire, where their clothes might burn off, leaving them… ya know, nakedish.

The rewriting of history is… kind of silly.  Well, sillier.  Wertham took issue with stories written to suggest that comic book characters were in some way vital to (American) history.  Consider Superman going back in time to save Benjamin Franklin from… I dunno, a bear attack or something.

Wertham also criticized the actual logo design of many crime and horror comics.  Remember DC Comics’ “go-go check” books?  Those “checks” were a way to make DC’s books instantly recognizable from the newsstand.  Crime books did something similar, in that a child could see exactly what the publishers wanted them to see from the newsstand peeking out over whatever book might be in front of it.  Words like CRIMELAWBREAKERSGUNS, and CRIMINALS would be prominently placed toward the top of the cover… easily drawing the eye of a passerby.

These crime comics, Wertham states, claim to be in accordance with “comics code”.  Remember, Wertham wasn’t the first to criticize comic books… and, as we’re (eventually) going to discuss… he didn’t force or enforce the actual Comics Code Authority.  This “code” was from the A.C.M.P. (Association of Comics Magazine Publishers)… an organization Wertham dismissed as being real, on account that he could not locate them in the phone book.  Remember, times were different.

Crime comics are a bit of an easy target.  They were sort of the Grand Theft Auto of the day.  Let’s talk about superheroes for a bit.  With many of these theories, today’s “narrative” makes them seem far more salacious and sensational than they actually were.  The reality, as is often the case, isn’t all that interesting nor exciting.
  • Batman“Like a wish dream of two homosexuals living together”
This is one of those concepts that comic fans usually cite when discussing this book (that they never read).  Something I see a lot when people discuss this theory, is “the Rainbow Batman”.  Let’s take a step back though.  The Rainbow Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #241 (March, 1957)… Seduction was written and published before that.  Also, the rainbow flag as an LGBTQ symbol didn’t come into being until 1978.  But remember… the narrative has power.

What Wertham suggests here is that the relationship between Batman and Robin is pedophilic in nature… and initiated by Robin.  He felt that this relationship may embolden gay feelings.  Not make straight children/people gay… but, strengthen thoughts and questions that may already be there.  Wertham never stated outright that Batman was homosexual.
  • Superman“A disregard for democratic processes combined with the idealization of vigilantism.”
When it came to Superman, Wertham “Godwinned” before it was cool.  He made the usual comparison to Nietzsche’s concept of the Ubermensch… and suggested the “Big S” on his uniform may as well have been an “S.S.”
  • Wonder Woman“physically very powerful, tortures men, has her own female following, is the cruel ‘phallic’ woman.”
Is Wertham perhaps reading into things much?  Maybe.  Worth noting, Wonder Woman hung out with a group called the “Holliday Girls” (two L’s).  Back in the 1930s, “Holiday Boys/Girls” (one L) were slang terms for gay and lesbian.

So, we’ve touched on Crime and Superhero comics… how ’bout Romance?

Wertham saw romance comics as setting false ideals for female readers, citing especially the concept of “love at first sight”.  They were also viewed as problematic for male readers… in the more, uh, stimulatory way.  They were referred to as “headlight comics”, for exactly the reason you suspect.  This whole piece seems to be predicated by… an anecdote that was reported to Wertham by a Newsagent, who reported he’d sold “thirty love comics to a sailor in his mid-twenties”.

Wertham cited “love comics” as glamorizing and promoting misbehavior… in the name of romance.  You could steal… so long as it led to romance.  You could sock a dude in the mush… so long as it led to romance.  He also viewed these as promoting greed and consumerism.  That girl won’t give you a second glance?  Go buy (or steal) something shiny for her!

With several genres covered… and with the realization that I’ve been writing this piece for over two hours at this point… let’s jump ahead to “Comic Book Syndrome”.  More anecdotes!

Children Wertham spoke with/treated would state they felt guilty after reading violent comic books… and even guiltier by the fantasies they stirred up inside them.  The child is made to feel guilty by those around them for indulging… something we “growed up” comic readers might get from time to time, when people raise an eyebrow in our direction and ask “You still read those things…?”.  Usually right after they ask “They still make those things…?”.  The children will often resort to hiding their collection of violent/superhero comics in shame.  They also admit to spending money earmarked for other things on comics.  Well, I tell ya… I got lunch money most every day… and very seldom ate at school.

I believe at this point in our research, we ran into Nights of Horror… fetish comics drawn by Joe Shuster… which depicted members of the Superman cast… though, not outright… in rather risque and “adult” situations.  Nights was something we always planned on devoting an entire episode on… it was on our most recent to-do list as a Cosmic Treadmill After Dark (we’ll talk about CT:AD somewhere down the line), so we didn’t go too deep here.  This led to our researching Jack Koslow and the Brooklyn Thrill Killers… another very interesting piece of this puzzle, and more fuel for Wertham’s fire.

In brief, the Thrill Killers were a gang of Jewish Neo-Nazis (yeah…) aged between 15 and 18, who killed and tortured several homeless people over the Summer of 1954.  Jack Koslow, their leader, claimed he’d gotten most of their ideas for their rampage from… comic books.  They’d even procured many of their tools of torture from the advertisements in those comics.  Koslow was very keen to discuss this with Wertham… which, is and was a bit suspect.

In a case of the broken clock being right twice a day… Wertham, the Social-Justice Warrior – addressed social injustice.  He cited women being used solely as “victims” in comics… and also, the minority characters always being depicted as inferior, wrong… and “bad”.  Wertham said this informed the opinions and beliefs of impressionable youth… and would offer the following:
  • Racial and ethnic stereotypes were given “nourishment” and “perpetuation” in comic books
  • Children, when shown comics they haven’t yet read… and asked to pick out the “bad man” – they would often immediately choose based on ethnic or racial stereotypes
  • Juvenile gangs at the time tended to attack “dark-skinned others”
  • White women were always drawn with their breasts covered, while “colored girls have their breasts fully exposed”
  • Heroes were “Nordic-looking strongmen”, which emboldened an impression of “human perfection”
    • In this way, Wertham would compare comics to the Nazi magazine, Der Sturmer… which taught antisemitism 
As we’d mentioned several times to this point, this book relies on anecdotes.  We’ll wrap up today’s piece with some of those.

  • To “pad” his numbers as they pertain to juvenile delinquency, Wertham classified such things as daydreamingrestlessnessmasturbation, and nightmares as being signs of maladaptive behaviors… and therefore acceptable cases for his study.
  • Wertham would cite cases from Bellevue and Queens County Hospital… from children and adolescents with histories of mental imbalance and illness, skewing the data in his favor
    • “I like the one where a man puts a needle in a woman’s eye” – a cherry-picked statement from a mentally disturbed girl, who had been admitted to Kings County Hospital for fantasizing about murdering her younger brother.
  • More cherry-picked statements, this time regarding the Batman and Robin homosexual relationship claim:
    • “I think I put myself in the position of Robin.  I did want to have relations with Batman.” said a sixteen year old homosexual.
    • “The only suggestion of homosexuality may be that they seemed to be close to one another.” said his seventeen year old partner
      • Wertham chose to omit “… like my friend and I.” from that last statement.
There are plenty more “lies of omission” in this portion of the episode… and it gets rather dark.  A real sign of data manipulation… and how far a respected member of the psychological community may go in order to build his case.  Confounding variables are not addressed… things like socioeconomic status, living in abusive homes, living with alcoholism, other mental illness… all left out.  They don’t serve the narrative… they don’t make the case, and so… they don’t make the cut.

Like we said… Seduction of the Innocent isn’t a good book.  It’s hardly worth a read, unless you’re looking to discuss it deeply.  This second episode of Weird Comics History, focusing on the formation and foundation of Comics Code Authority… was a learning experience for both Reggie and I.  Many misconceptions and bits of “conventional/accepted wisdom” were challenged… as were our own perceptions.  This was such an experience we shared… and I humbly thank you all for allowing me to share it with you here.  This little reflection “project” is really helping me to process things.

Tomorrow, we’ll go into some of the “behind the scenes” on the next chapter.  We’ll meet Senator Estes Kefauver (D-Tennessee) and go through the 1954 Senate Hearing on Juvenile Delinquency… which, in actuality, was more of a root-cause of the Code than Seduction or Wertham… and yet, isn’t cited or mentioned nearly as much.

Before starting this project, I had never heard of an Estes Kefauver.  When Reggie suggested we include the “Kefauver Hearings” into our research, I assumed “Kefauver” was some far off Eastern European city-state with a courthouse in it.  Or maybe, it was a street in Washington, D.C. with a courthouse on it.  I really had no clue.  It’s here I want to remind you that shortly before we started this venture, I paid for a college course about American Literature with a focus on comic books.  Kefauver never came up.

Like most folks, all I knew was the inch-deep, mile-wide on the Comics Code Authority:  From out of nowhere came a Boogeyman, who wrote a book (that I hadn’t yet read)… bada-bing, bada-boom – the Code!  That’s the easiest way to look at it… it’s also the laziest.

Here was our game plan for this episode:

With this third chapter, many of the building blocks of what the “Chris and Reggie Channel” would become were established… but, we’ll get there.

First, let’s take a look at Panic #1 (1953)… founded by Al Feldstein, and published under Bill Gaines’ (of EC Comics) Tiny Toy Imprint.  Panic was in the vein of MAD, which had launched two years prior.  It was unspectacular in many ways, however… it included this one story: a straight re-telling of The Night Before Christmas/A Visit From St. Nicholas, by Clement Moore.

This story featured some “visual embellishments” from Bill Elder… which sort of poked fun at the holiday, Santa, and many of the festive trappings.  Christians and Catholics were displeased at the, what they felt to be, “desecration” of the holiday… and its depiction as Pagan in nature.

On December 18, 1953 – the Governor’s Council of Massachusetts called for a statewide ban on Panic #1.  Less than two weeks later on December 28, employees at EC Comics were arrested (presumably on indecency charges).  The charges would not stick… but, I’m sure the raid ruined their day.

Used to be, around Christmastime on social media… I’d see the cover of Panic #1 getting shared around.  I’d make a comment regarding how it was banned in Massachusetts… or how it was vital in the establishment of the Comics Code Authority.  I’d usually be “corrected”/”educated” by whoever posted it… and referred back to Seduction of the Innocent.  I’ve since given up trying.

Next, let’s meet Senator Estes Kefauver (D-TN).  He was something of a shining star in the Democratic party… and was fresh off a failed bid for the Democractic Presidential nomination.  He actually managed to beat sitting President Harry S. Truman in the New Hampshire Primary in 1952!

Truman ultimately wound up withdrawing, as this would have been his third term in office.  The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was still new at this point, and Harry would have been able to claim “grandfather clause” to run a third time.

Kefauver would win the bigger states in the primary, including New York, California, and Illinois… and yet, somehow lost the overall nod to Adlai Stevenson (I don’t talk current-year politics, but you might compare this to something that happened during the 2016 Democratic Primaries).  Stevenson would lose his bid against Ike.  Two years after the Hearings we’re about to discuss, Kefauver once again threw his hat in the ring… and fell short to Stevenson.  This time, however, Adlai chose Estes as his running mate.  Together, the lost to Ike.

So, Estes Kefauver was a “name”… it was just a name I’d never heard of!  Before getting into American politics, Estes graduated from Yale Law School… and would practice law in Chattanooga, Tennessee for over a decade.  Now, among Estes’ main concerns was… taking down organized crime.  Come to find… many organized crime “families” had printing “interests”… and, one might have had some nebulous (or maybe not-so-nebulous) connection to DC Comics/National Comics founders Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz.

Reggie and I, from very early on in our partnership, always had our eyes on putting together a book.  The founding of DC/National… and the stories of Donenfeld and Liebowitz was at the top of our list.  I still have a folder full of Donenfeld information… including some bits and bobs from his FBI file.  That was going to be a wild ride.

Back to Kefauver.  He became something of a national celebrity for taking part in the first-ever televised trial: the Frank Costello case.  Frank Costello, by the way, is who Orson Welles’ speaking pattern in The Godfather was inspired by.

The trial began in May, 1951… and would go on for several months.  It was aired live throughout twenty cities… causing sales of television sets to double.  It was estimated to have been viewed by 20-30 million Americans.  As part of a deal made with the Defense, Costello’s attorney insisted that the TV cameras not show their client’s face during his time on the stand… only his hands.  Look at that image above… do those look like innocent hands?

After this, Estes Kefauver was viewed as a “Crusading Crime-Buster”… and an opponent of “political corruption”.  He would go on to appear on the popular game show What’s My Line? and would even get a bit part in the Humphrey Bogart film, The Enforcer.  This was 1951… and three years (and a failed Presidential bid) had passed.  Kefauver needed a hit!

The United States Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency was put together by Senator Robert Hendrickson (R-New Jersey) in 1953.  On April 21, 1954 the hearings would begin in Washington, D.C..  Estes Kefauver would loom large throughout… and (crime/horror) comic books would be his primary target.

Richard Clendenen, the Executive Director of the United States Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency would open with the following:

  • “The increase in craven crime committed by young Americans is rising at a frightening pace”
  • The trial is not an “attack” on Freedom of the Press
  • Claims to have received mail from parents regarding the “influence” crime/horror comic books were having on their children’s behavior
  • Statistics: Between 75-100 million comic books were sold every month
    • Kefauver claimed that approximately 20 million of those were crime and horror
Exhibit A – Letter from R.H. Felix, MD.  Director, National Institute of Mental Health:
  • “It is not my feeling that the solution to delinquency or emotional disturbances in children is to be found in the banning or elimination of comic books.  Rather, I feel that parents do have a responsibility for remaining alert to the kinds of reading material and viewing material, including the comics, being utilized by their children.”

Sound familiar?

Exhibit B – A Study of 1,313 gangs in Chicago (that we could not actually find… though, we never doubted its existence).  Whatever the case, this study posited that comic books did influence the behavior of these groups.  Again, I wish we had been able to find this piece of research, as we were sure it’d been a pip.  Many more pieces of anecdotal evidence were included, mostly with an anti-comics stance, before people were called to give testimony.

Dr. Harris Peck – Director, Bureau Mental Health Services – Children’s Court:

  • Wasn’t convinced either way about the effects of comic books on behavior… or, at the very least, didn’t feel strongly enough one way or another to go “on record”.
Henry Edward Schultz – General Counsel – Association of Comic Magazine Publishers:
  • He’s here to discuss the first “Comics Code”, which was in place from 1947-1948.  It stated the following:
    • Sexy, wanton comics should not be published
    • Crime should not be depicted in a sympathetic light
    • No sadistic torture should be included
    • Vulgar/obscene language forbidden.  “Slang” kept to a minimum
    • Divorce should not be depicted as neither humorous nor glamorous
    • No overt racism or anti-religious attacks
This “code” was not widely abided by… and, there wasn’t really a “governing body” in place to enforce it.  Several of the publishers who did attempt to use it would quickly abandon the effort.  Ultimately, Schultz more or less claims that the CMPA seal was worthless.

Dr. Frederic Wertham, some guy we might know:
  • More or less recaps Seduction of the Innocent, before veering into a rant about the merits of sex-education in public schools
    • He just might’ve been “over” comics at this point
    • Some Boogeyman, right?

Bill Gaines, Publisher EC Comics:

Worth noting that Gaines was sort of “Public Enemy Number One” here.  Not only was the Senate Subcommittee out to put him out of business… but, his fellow comics publishers seemed to be totally fine with his getting grilled here.  Gaines/EC was a giant of the newsstand at this point… and the smaller players wouldn’t have minded one bit having EC taken out of the equation.

Also worth noting, Gaines was taking diet pills around this time… and was still reeling from his offices being raided and his staff being arrested.  He was kind of a blubbering, sweaty mess on the stand.  Kefauver himself took it to Gaines… questioning him about the cover of Crime SuspenStories #22 (May, 1954).  You know, this one:

This back-and-forth was the first time Reggie and I engaged in “voice acting”.  I played Bill Gaines, while Reggie got his Estes on.  Gaines, on the stand, wasn’t really able to keep up with Kefauver.  Estes showed a blatant disregard and dismissal of every rebuttal… and really illustrated how agenda-driven this entire clown-show was.  This hearing feels more and more like a means to an end… simply a way in which the Senate Subcommittee could say they weren’t attacking Freedom of the Press… while in reality, I suppose that’s something we could argue.

Walt Kelly, Milton Caniff, Joseph Musial – National Cartoonist’s Society:

  • They’re here to discuss the National Cartoonist’s Society’s “internal code”
    • They are not allowed to draw obscene or horror “stuff”
      • They’re basically here to run down popular EC artist Johnny Craig – the man responsible for that Crime SuspenStories cover included above.
      • Craig would leave comics in embarrassment shortly thereafter
Murray Illson, New York Times:
  • Wrote an article titled, Comic Books Help Curb Delinquency (April 17, 1954)
    • Illson is not present, however his article is added into evidence
      • This article is reliant on a small sample size and anecdotal evidence

That’s marks the end of Day One of the “Kefauver Hearings” aka. the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency.  We’ll continue with more tomorrow.  It feels so weird to revisit this research.  On a personal level, I’m not sure I’d ever felt such “creative synergy” to this point.  This was a topic Reggie and I were both so passionate about… and the research, while sort of “all-encompassing” for the weeks and months we were doing it, never felt like a burden or a chore.

It’s here where we’d learn something very valuable about the research process as it pertains to an audio offering.  I think it’s safe to say we’ve all performed research… whether for school, work, or personal curiosity.  When you’re writing an academic paper… there’s (almost) nothing more demoralizing than spending several hours researching a particular “thread”… finding the information you seek… then realizing that, all the time you spent will ultimately result in like… I dunno, 2-3 additional sentences in your paper.

When you apply that sort of situation to audio… it’s more of a 1:1 comparison.  We’d spent literally hours researching particular bits of this Trial (and everything surrounding it)… which, would wind up only adding five or so seconds to our production.  If this was something we weren’t passionate about or enjoying… that’d probably have been enough to shut us down completely!  Instead… it only seemed to fuel us on more.

Some Chris and Reggie-isms established with this episode:

  • Researching “side” information to provide as deep a contextual background as possible.  Connecting comic book history to real-world history
  • Role-playing characters, reading dialogue
  • Spending many hours looking for intricate details/confirming facts… which may only add a second or two to the actual broadcast

Before we get into today’s piece of reflection, I’d like to share a different kind of story with you, if you’ll indulge me.  Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a virtual sitting Shiva in the memory of Karl (Reggie).  It was organized by some of his oldest and dearest friends, and I was honored to be included.

I had the opportunity to meet some of those who were closest to him in “real life”, and spent several hours listening to wonderful stories and memories… and even shared a couple of my own.  I left this Shiva with a feeling of lightness and peace.  It really felt as though the gathering was less to mourn a loss and more to celebrate a life.  It was very helpful to own personal coping and acceptance process.

Over the course of the past week, several of my friends have reached out… assuring me they’d be there if I needed to talk.  I decided not to burden any of them… and that, that was a mistake.  I’ve never dealt with loss before… and so, I don’t really have a “process”.  All I knew was the concrete… nothing that anyone could say would bring him back.  I didn’t realize how (metaphorically) wrong I was to think that.

Day Two of the Senate Subcommittee Hearings on Juvenile Delinquency took place on Thursday, April 22, 1954… and opened with a man taking the stand.  A man whose name we had a lot of fun with.

Gunner Dybwad (which we pronounced “dipwad”) – Executive Director, Child Study Center of America:

  • The Child Study Center of America were consultants for DC and Fawcett Comics, and were part of creating DC Comics’ “Internal Comics Code” (which was entered into the proceedings as Exhibit 21)
  • Some of that code read:
    • Sex: Inclusion of females in stories is specifically discouraged.  When included, they should be drawn realistically.
    • Language: No taking of the Lord’s name in vain.  Heroes cannot use slang.  Slang is only to be used by crooks/villains.
    • BloodshedNever show bleeding.  Never show dead bodies.
    • Torture: No chains, whips, etc.  No sexual sadism
    • Kidnapping: No kidnapping of children allowed, limited kidnapping of women… so long as there is no implication of sex.
    • Killing: Heroes never kill.  Villains can only die by their own machinations.  Only Police Officers can kill.  Women cannot use lethal weapons.
    • Crime: Justice must triumph in every case.  Crime should be depicted as sordid and unpleasant.
Sounds pretty cut and dry, doesn’t it?  At least as a list of guidelines that apparently once existed.  Outside of a few key differences, we’d eventually see many of these items included into the Comics Code.  One that stood out to us then… and still does to this writing is the just the simple inclusion of female characters being discouraged.

This “internal code” was quickly dismissed when the Subcommittee claimed that there was a vague relationship between DC Comics and some “bad” publishers.  We were unable to clarify what this meant, but we might assume they were referring to DC’s salacious (and connected) founders… and how pornography was being printed… likely on the same press as the latest issue of Superman.

William Friedman, fmr. Master Comics:
  • Friedman gave the Senators a bit of lip… and plays dumb when shown some violent comics images.
  • Not appreciating the “cherry picked” evidence, he interrupted the Counselor with:
    • “A whipping boy is being made out of one particular facet of the means of information…”
      • Council and Friedman would continue to interrupt one another with just about every breath, until the latter was allowed to leave.
Dr. Laura Bender, Psychiatrist retained by DC Comics:
  • Her “day job” was working with children at Bellevue Hospital
  • She received $150/mo (around $1,500 in 2020 money) as a Board Member for DC Comics
    • She, unsurprisingly, defends DC Comics… and, even calls out the court for the “overwhelming broad statements” being made regarding juvenile delinquency.
    • She continues to call out the court for the way they treated Mr. Dybwad during his testimony.
    • Claims that Superman is a good influence for children… and if there was, in fact, any horrifying imagery included in DC Comics, she herself would have called the company out for it.
      • The way she’s handling herself during this circus, we tend to believe her!
Monroe Froehlich, Jr. – Business Manager, Magazine Management Company (Atlas/Marvel).

We get a bit of the “lay of the land” for Atlas/Marvel of the day:
  • 15 “teen-age” books
  • 9 war books
  • 9 westerns
  • 2 “anti-crime” books
  • 8 “weird” or sci-fi books

Froehlich seems to be on the stand to discuss disparity between the subject matter in the comics and advertisements aimed at children.  He claims there isn’t any disparity… and that the advertisements are changed in accordance to demand for whichever book they appear in.  He maintains throughout his questioning that nothing that can be put into a comic book could/would be detrimental to a child’s development.

That’s not what the Senators wanted to hear… good thing they’ve got this next fella swinging in the “on-deck” circle…

William Richter, New Dealers Association of Greater New York:
  • Openly hates Bill Gaines… and seeks for there to be a law passed banning crime/horror comics nationwide
  • Really did not appreciate Panic #1, and claims that satirical comics were just as, if not more, detrimental to a child’ development as horror and crime.
  • Richter started the Long Island Stationary Owners Association, in order to combat distribution of books he did not like
    • Basically collected $2/mo (about $20 in 2020) from each partner outlet as “dues”… for whatever that was worth
Alex Segal – President, Stravon Publications:
  • He’s really only here to promote his company’s “good” books
    • Stravon also published Mademoiselle Fifi and the Sexcapades… but, Segal assures the Counsel that those books stay separate from the “kids fare”

This “testimony” adds… less than nothing to the proceedings?

Samuel Roth, Publisher:
  • Roth had been imprisoned on obscenity charges
  • He “pleads da fifth” here
Helen Meyer & Matthew Murphy – Vice-President & Editor, Dell Publications:
  • Dell Publications, claiming “Dell Comics are Good Comics” refused to join the Comic Book Association… as they feared they would wind up “lumped in” under the umbrella of publishers of horror/crime comics.  They would run “A Pledge to Parents” in their books to assure them that they’ll only find clean and wholesome stories in Dell books.

They are quick to point out that Dell doesn’t get a mention in any of Dr. Frederic Wertham’s literature.  They personally “abhor” horror and crime comics, and even go as far as to censor the advertisements that run in their books.

Thus ends Day Two… Day Three would take place on Friday, June 4, 1954.

Hon. James A. Fitzpatrick, Chairman – New York State Joint Legislative Committee to Study the Publication of Comics:

Fitzpatrick provides a panel-by-panel review of Panic #1, which, if you recall was banned in Boston.  He does so in order to point out specific things he takes issue with.
  • The book shows “repeated disdain” for its own readership
  • The Police are depicted as looking foolish
  • It contained the “complete and utter perversion” of a man dressed in women’s clothing
  • Santa Claus is depicted as being divorced

Fitzpatrick closes with a threat!  Comics have one year to “clean their own house” before the Feds step in and do it for them.

Benjamin Freedman – Chairman of the Board, Newsdealers Association of Greater New York and America:

Freedman’s testimony introduces us to the concept of “tie-in sales”.  This is a very important piece of puzzle… as it gives the impression that comics distribution is a bit of a “hustle”.  For example, a newsdealer could be withheld their copies of a big-seller, like Superman (or another magazine)… unless they also take certain other books.  Perhaps those of a horror and/or crime variety.  So, if you refuse Crime SuspenStories… you’re also not going to get Superman (or other big-selling mag).  You follow?

Freedman claims that this is very much the case, even alluding to being threatened and harassed for refusing to carry “bad” comics.  He even hints at being the victim of physical violence.  This adds a whole new element to the perception of bad comics publishers/distributors.  It’s almost like they’re just as bad as the people in the comics!  Another case of perception being reality?

Hold that thought…

Harold Chamberlain, Circulation Director – Independent News Company:

Chamberlain claims tie-in sales don’t exist!  He backs this up by discussing the reality of newsstand sales.  Newsagents don’t even have the room to display all of the publications they receive… and so, even if they did get some crime/horror comics, it would be left to their discretion whether or not they decided to display them on the racks.

He dismisses claims of harassment and/or physical violence as being isolated incidents involving “overzealous routemen”.  He also dismisses incentivization of crime/horror comics by reminding the Court that all books were fully-returnable.

We’re not done with this yet…

Charles Appel, Owner – Angus Drug Store:

Appel claims there are tie-in sales… though, does back-up Chamberlain’s claim that newsagents can choose what they display on the racks.  Appel never “stocked” crime/horror comics and always simply returned them.  He never faced any clap-back… until recently.

He claims that his last shipment arrived… without the TV Guide.  TV Guide, was a huge seller… one of the biggest of the day.  He took this as a personal attack… rather than a mistake.  The Senators didn’t much care or press the issue… they were hearing exactly what they wanted to.

George B. Davis, President – Kable News Company:

Check it out… no such thing as tie-in sales!  We’re just going to keep volleying that talking point, it seems.  As Davis was nothing more than a Distributor, he claims no responsibility for the content within the books he distributes.  Upon being shown some gory art, he tends to agree with the Committee… stating that the comics industry has “gone too far”.  With that said, he does not see government intervention as being the answer.

Hon. E.D. Fulton, House Commons Canada:

Fulton passed a law which banned crime comics in Canada… and his offering to the Court is labeled not a “testimony”, but a “statement”.  The Senate Subcommittee love this guy… just check out how they introduce him:
  • “I am going to depart from our usual procedure here.  We have been swearing in witnesses, but we are not going to swear in a member of Canadian Parliament.  You are one of us.  We are grateful to you and grateful to Canada.”
Fulton claims that there is currently a big problem with “comics bootlegging”, and illegal transport of the salacious material into his country.  He suggests this is coming from Plattsburgh, New York.

He expresses that Canadian Indecency Laws were amended to include crime comics:
  • Subsection 1 of Section 207 of Criminal Code chapter 36
    • “… prints, publishes, sells or distributes any magazine, periodical, or book which exclusively or substantially comprises matter depicting pictorially the commission of crimes, real or fictitious, thereby tending or likely to induce or influence, youthful persons to violate the law or to corrupt the morals of such persons.”
Which is to say, it was now a criminal violation to print, sell, or distribute a crime comic.  Three Canadian publishers and one distributor were convicted to this point.  This law couldn’t be enforced on any United States-based publishers… which rendered it pretty toothless overall.  Worth noting, as crime comics vanished from the racks of Canadian newsagents, they were often replaced with “love, sex, and girlie mags”.

Samuel Black – Vice-President, American Coast Independent Distributors Association:

Black more or less refrains from taking a solid position.  He claims to dislike horror/crime comics… but isn’t seeking any sort of law to ban them.  He gives us some distribution/business stats:
  • 16 National Distributors
  • 950 Wholesale Distributors
  • 270 Independent Distributors
  • 100,000+ Retailers
I know what you’re thinking… what does Mr. Black think about tie-in sales?  He claims they don’t exist… and shares some realities of his industry to back that up:
  • “Distributors don’t have the time, manpower, or interest to read every mag they ship to appraise its moral value.  Returns are all handled the same… as unsold books.  Nobody cares about the content at the distribution level… that’s best left for editorial.”
He expresses disappointment in the Hon. Fulton’s “statement” that a Canadian distributor was convicted… as, he feels the distributors should be completely left out of this mess.

William A. Eichhorn – Vice-President, American News Company

This is kind of an odd testimony, in which Eichhorn claims he doesn’t bother looking at content unless someone complains… and that he doesn’t hold himself up as a “censor”.  He does mention that ANC does, in fact, distribute books into Canada… at which time, he’s immediately booted from the stand.

And, Finally…

J. Jerome Kaplan – Chairman, Juvenile Delinquency Committee, Union County Bar Association:

Kaplan is a “moral crusader” who has a problem with anything he finds to be “indecent”.  He is trying to ban crime and horror comics in the state of New Jersey… even attempting to amend a state statute.
  • Assembly #401, state of New Jersey (dated: 04/12/1954)
    • Supplement to Chapter 170 of Title 2A of New Jersey Statutes:
      • A $25 fine to anyone selling, or giving a crime or horror comic to anyone under the age of 16.
That wraps up the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency… but, that isn’t the end of the story.  Tomorrow, we will look at the Senate Interim Report – 1955 (penned by Estes Kefauver), and the findings of this absolute circus.

Today’s piece will take a look at the Kefauver-penned Senate Interim Report from March, 1955… and will end with some wisdom that, time and again, Reggie would attempt to impart on me.

Senator Kefauver opened his Report with an introductory piece, in which he basically describes the scope and goal of what he is trying to do as it pertains to curbing crime/horror comics.

From here, he includes a brief history of early comics and comics publication:

  • 1896 saw the first Yellow Kid strips by Richard Outcalt
  • 1911 saw the first publication devoted to comics, when The Chicago American offered reprinted Mutt and Jeff strips in pamphlet form for clipping coupons
  • 1935 was the first “present day” comic book, with New Fun Comics #1
  • 1938 saw Superman debut in Action Comics #1
Then, some statistics regarding comics publication in the mid-1950’s:
  • There were 112 different comics publishers (most based in New York City)
  • Minimum comic print-runs were 300,000
  • There were approximately 95,000-110,000 active newsstands nationwide
Then… he begins citing specifics regarding the nature of crime and horror comics.  Here are a couple (though he does go on):
  • “Bottoms Up” from Story Comics
    • In which, an alcoholic husband steals money from his wife in order to buy hooch from some bootleggers.  She finds out, and… kills him with an ax.  She then returns the alcohol to the bootleggers… only, with her husband’s body parts stuffed into the bottles
  • “Frisco Mary” from Ace Comics
    • Mary runs a violent gang, and murders an already wounded Police Officer
Kefauver calls into question the methods used by comics in order to portray violence:
  • Violence/Murder is premeditated, there is ample “lead-up”
  • Use of supernatural phenomena in everyday life
  • Portrayal of supernatural beings
  • Language and verbiage used in narration and dialogue both stimulates the reader and reinforces their belief/acceptance of both the supernatural… and violence
Which finally brings him to the crux of his entire argument… are crime and horror comics a contributing factor in juvenile delinquency?  Kefauver actually invokes Frederic Wertham’s name here by stating that well-adjusted children were the so-called “Innocents” being “Seduced”.  Ol’ Estes is very careful with his phrasing here… as he doesn’t claim a direct causation, but speculates and attributes that many juvenile offenses were inspired by crime comics.

Not only does Wertham get a name-drop, but… one of his academic opponents does as well.  Frederic (another Frederic) M. Thrasher wrote The Comics and Delinquency: Cause or Scapegoat, which appeared in The Journal of Educational Sociology (December, 1949).  Rather than explore Thrasher’s article, which criticizes Wertham’s approach, sample-size, and overall data… Kefauver simply adds a footnote which states that Wertham’s findings are not empirical.  You’d think this would be worthy of more than just a lousy footnote… but, shining a light on this might ruin the narrative.

Back to the kids… this time, the “bad” ones.  What if you put a comic in the hands of a kid who’s already maladjusted/antisocial? And, that’s antisocial in the psychological way… not the “I don’t like talking to people” way… that’s being “unsocial” not antisocial.  Kefauver states that crime comics give “support and sanction” to such adolescents… which sounds like a whole lot of nothing.

Crime comics are cited as providing “technique” for how to commit a crime, and ways of avoiding detection after committing it.  Crime comics usually glamorize criminal careers (until the comeuppance, of course).  Vigilantes are depicted as being above the law, which grants them the right to kill “in the name of justice”.  Kefauver, at this point, compares excessive comics reading to alcoholism… which, at this point… I’m not sure what would be the more expensive habit/vice.  He does hedge his bets here, however, stating that there will need to be more research conducted.  Ya don’t say?

Leaving actual story content behind for a bit, Kefauver turns his attention to the other parts of the “comics package” that might be questionable.  Things like advertisements for weapons… guns, knives, bows and arrows.  Also, he mentioned that the Food and Drug Administration has shown concerns regarding some of the pseudomedical nostrums advertised in comics: pimple creams, weight-loss pills (including Kelpidine chewing gum), and various muscle building methods.

Kefauver even left the entire “comics package” to discuss potential misuse of mailing lists by comic book companies… because, we’re sure the comics biz were the only companies exploiting their address books.

Kefauver feared ramifications of exportation of comics to other countries do to the depiction of some races/cultures in American comics.  Well, what’s that we said about the stuck clock being right twice a day?  He actually has a point here.  He worried that comics could lead to an “international incident”, which… might just be overselling it a tad.

In a staggering bit of “what year is this?”, Kefauver worries that specific sociopolitical ideologies were being forced upon the uninformed readership.  Well, same as it ever was, right?  Only difference is today, the writers are far less subtle about it.

So… up to this point, we’ve really established nothing, right?  We have just as many questions as we did before the three-day Senate Subcommittee Hearings.  I suppose it’s time for Estes to ask the big question: Where does the responsibility for “policing” crime and horror comics rest?

First, he wants it made crystal clear that the Senate Subcommittee is not attempting at government censorship of comics materials… which feels a bit like he’s “protesting too much”.  Doesn’t shy away from government intervention as it pertains to those slippery “tie-in sales”, however.

Are parents ultimately responsible for the material their children have access to?  Heavens no.  The report specifically states that“Attempts to shift all responsibility to parents is unjustified.”  This report places much higher emphasis on “concerned” citizen brigades than the growed-people that children actually live with.

From here, Kefauver basically runs down the entire comics/distribution food chain attempting to look for answers.  Worth noting, when he writes about the newsstands he plainly states that those vendors don’t have the time to appraise everything they receive in a shipment.  Funny… when that was part of someone’s testimony… it was quickly dismissed by the Court.  Oh well.  I suppose if we’re looking to American politicians for “integrity”, we’ve already lost.

It’s ultimately concluded that the responsibility rests with the Publishers… and so, they’re going to be allowed to “Self-Regulate” (well, Self-Regulation in accordance with suggestions made by committee).  A new association will be formed, and a new code will be adopted and adhered to.
  • “The Subcommittee intends to watch with great interest the activities of this association and will report at a later date on this effort by the comic book industry to eliminate questionable comic books.”
This brings us right up to… the actual Comics Code, which we’ll talk more about tomorrow.  This is the episode which covers everything I wrote about over the last three days:

This was an episode we were very proud of.  Back before I started making podcasts, I was a pretty rabid listener of them.  I mentioned that our coverage sort of “ruined” other shows for me… which, hey… it might be a hot-take, but it’s my hot-take.  I’d never heard a show go into this much historical depth… and to see it come together was such a thrill.  But then… something happened, which kind of put a crimp in my mood.

We shared this episode on social media… and, ya know… we were still very young in the game, and even at our “height” we never got all that much in the way of “word of mouth” (relatively speaking).  So, we put it out there… and a few hours later, some knucklehead retweeted it to a podcast quite a bit higher up on the “totem pole” than Reggie and I would ever be.  This knucklehead told this other, far more popular show, that they should do a show “just like this one”.

It was there that I my pride turned to protectiveness.  I had this revelation that… with all of our hard work… all of the hours we’d spent absolutely buried in this Comics Code material… at the end of the day, all we really did was make it that much easier for a more popular show to just slide in, take what we did… and do it again themselves.  Only difference between them and us is: they have an established audience and a “clique”.

I got pretty hot at this.  I couldn’t understand why this knucklehead… who had, I would assume, already listened to our program… run to a bigger show and ask them to do the same thing we did.  I saw this… and, got a hold of Reggie… and I think this was the first time he saw me as the sorta paranoid goofball that I was/am.  I wanna say he got a bit of a kick out of it… as it showed him how much our project really meant to me.

Thing about Reggie… he was always so cool.  This sort of thing didn’t bother him at all.  He allowed himself to be proud.  He knew what we put out there was quality… and for him, that was enough.  I, on the other hand, was getting really bogged down in details… things like podcast-plagiarism, which isn’t really a “citable” thing when you’re as small as we were/are… things like being given credit… which, again if it’s a big podcast taking material from a small one… more often than not, that small one ain’t getting a nod.

I told him here, maybe for the first time, that I wished I could be more like him.  To learn to “enjoy the ride”… to allow the “intrinsics” to feed my self-actualization.  That, unfortunately, was a bit of wisdom that never made its way into my creatory-makeup… and it certainly wasn’t from a lack of trying on Reggie’s part.  I still try and keep his advice in the back of my mind… but, I guess I’m just not as secure in my abilities as he was.

In the years that followed, there would be several occasions where our work would be “lifted” (always without credit)… sometimes verbatim.  Now, I do believe in coincidences… but when someone delivers one of our lines with the exact verbiage and cadence that we did?  That’s probably not a coincidence.

Time and again, I’d get hot.  Reggie would always settle me down.  That is one of those things I’m going to have to adjust to not having anymore.  Reggie’s overall coolness and confidence was huge to me.  It helped me to put things into perspective.  His was an opinion I highly valued… and, basically… if he was happy with what we did, it told me that we were successful in whatever project we set our sights on.  If not for his confidence and positive attitude, I doubt I would’ve been able to stick with this project/these projects for as long as I have.

After around a hundred pages of notes, months of research and several hours of audio… we’re finally at the actual Code itself.

The “mission statement” for this fourth chapter of our coverage was:

Following the Senate Subcommittee Hearings and Estes Kefauver’s Interim Report, the fate of comic books… insofar as their “regulation” was left in the hands of the publishers themselves.  Turns out, it was Public Enemy Number One (from all sides of the argument), Bill Gaines who would first suggest the publishers convene and self-regulate.  He felt, somewhat naively, that if left to their own devises, censorship would be kept to a minimum.  If he only knew…

At the first meeting of the new Comics Code Authority… it was made pretty clear to Gaines that the “Code” basically painted a target on EC Comics and himself specifically.  He’d leave the meeting, however… when the Code was eventually enforced, he had no choice but to submit his stuff.  Non-Code Approved books were being returned by distributors without even being opened.

John L. Goldwater, then-President of Archie Comics, was made the first President of the CCA.  Charles F. Murphy, New York Magistrate was appointed the Administrator of the CCA.  By the time the dust settled, just about every publisher you might’ve heard of joined up.  Two notable exceptions were Dell/Gold Key and Disney.  Dell, since “Dell Comics are Good Comics”, and Disney because… well, they’re Disney.

Because of the Code, comics were going to take a hit in popularity… there was little doubt about it.  It wouldn’t be the only reason why comics would wane, however… gotta remember, this is the mid-1950’s, and there was about to be more competition for the free-time of the American youth: television.  Entering the decade, there were approximately 15,639,872 sets-in-homes nationwide.  Leaving the decade, that number blows up to around 67,145,000!

Between the Code’s establishment and other entertainment being more readily available… by 1958, 24 out of the 29 comics companies that originally made up the Comics Magazine Association of America, Incorporated… were out of business!  All that were left (notably speaking), were Archie, Harvey, DC Comics, Charlton, American Comics Group, and Marvel Comics.  Dell/Gold Key and Disney were still kicking… but, as mentioned, were not part of the CCA.  Gilbertson, the company responsible for the absolute borefests known as Classics Illustrated were still around as well, mostly doing reprints at this point though.

  • Sales overall declined 45% from 1955 to 1961
  • In 1962, sales were down 56% from a decade prior
And now… finally, the Original Code (penned October 26, 1954):
  • 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.
  • No comics shall explicitly present the unique details and methods of a crime.
  • Policemen, Judges, Government Officials and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.
  • If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.
  • Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates a desire for emulation.
  • In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
  • Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited.  Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gunplay, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.
  • No unique or unusual methods of concealing weapons shall be shown.
  • Instances of Law-Enforcement Officers dying as a result of a criminal’s activities should be discouraged.
  • The crime of kidnapping shall never be portrayed in any detail, nor shall any profit accrue to the abductor or kidnapper.  The criminal or the kidnapper must be punished in every case.
  • The letters of the word “Crime” on a comics-magazine cover shall never be appreciatively greater in dimension than the other words contained in the title.  The word “Crime” shall never appear alone on a cover.
  • Restraint in the use of the word “Crime” in titles and subtitles shall be exercised.
Now, that was just the opener… “Part A”.  And a reminder… these were rules about comics being put into place… by people producing comics.  This isn’t the government… this is out of fear of how far the government might have gone.  Also, it’s pretty clear just from this first bit… that the CCA felt that Bill Gaines hadda go.

Part B:
  • No comic magazine shall use the word “Horror” or “Terror” in its title.
  • 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.
  • Inclusion of stories dealing with evil 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.
  • Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibals, and werewolfism are prohibited.
Check out the second and third bullets, if you haven’t yet… lots of subjective stuff there, innit?  How do you define “depravity”?  Is it the same way define “depravity”?  How do you define and contextualize “lust”?  Is it the same way I do?  Feels like the start of one’a them “slippery slopes”, doesn’t it?  Makes ya think that certain publisher(s) might get a pass for certain things, where EC Comics another publisher might not?

Part C:
  • Dialogue
    • Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words and symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
    • Special precautions to avoid references to physical afflictions or deformities shall be taken.
    • Although slang and colloquialisms are acceptable, excessive use should be discouraged and, whenever possible, good grammar shall be employed.
  • Religion
    • Ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group is never permissible.
  • Costumes
    • Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.
    • Suggestive or 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.
  • Marriage and Sex
    • Divorce shall not be treated humorously nor represented as desirable.
    • Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at nor portrayed.  Violent love scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.
    • Respect for parents, the moral code, and for honorable behavior shall be fostered.  A sympathetic understanding of the problems of love is not a license for morbid distortion.
    • The treatment of love-romance stories shall emphasize the value of home and the sanctity of marriage.
    • 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 nor suggested.
    • Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.

That covers an awful lot.  A theory we floated, though I don’t think it made tape, was that this entire endeavor sought to stifle “maturation of society”.  There’s plenty here that hasn’t aged well… and it’s easy to cherry-pick those details.  “Sex perversion” and “sexual abnormalities” are probably where most eyes go if they bother to scan this piece.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what they’re hinting at here… but, it was a different time.  Heck, the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) still referred to those “abnormalities” as mental illness back then.

Let’s look at some of the more “subtle” bits we’ve looked at.  Comic books cannot be shown as questioning authority.  Police and Government Officials were never to be shown as anything less than honest and right.  Divorce was not to be shown as a desirable option.  Moral values were emphasized… but, that’s a nebulous statement.  What’s morally sound to one… might not be to another.  There’s a lot of thought-policing going on here.  Same as it ever was for the comics biz, no?

Code for Advertisement:
  • Liquor and tobacco advertising is unacceptable.
  • Advertisement for sex and sex instruction books are unacceptable.
  • The sale of picture postcards, “pinups”, “art studies”, or any other reproduction of nude or seminude figures is prohibited.
  • Advertising the sale of knives or realistic gun facsimiles is prohibited.
  • Advertising for the sale of fireworks is prohibited.
  • Advertising dealing with the sale of gambling equipment or printed matter dealing with gambling shall not be accepted.
  • Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures shall not be permitted in the advertising of any product; clothed figures shall never be presented in such a way as to be offensive or contrary to good taste of morals.
  • To the best of his ability, each publisher shall ascertain that all statements made in advertisements conform to fact and avoid misrepresentation.
  • Advertisement of medical, health, or toiletry products of questionable nature are to be rejected.  Advertisements for medical, health, or toiletry products endorsed by the American Medical Association, or the American Dental Association, shall be acceptable if they conform with all other conditions of the advertising code.

From cover-to-cover, the Code’s looking at it all.  The advertising guidelines… I don’t feel all that strongly about.  You’d hope that the average comic book reader would be able to tell, at a glance, which ads were legit… and which were scams, but I suppose that’s probably asking too much.  If you’re looking to scam kids with your miracle drug… ehh, you probably deserve to get the boot.

That… in several parts, was the original Comics Code.  Was it good enough for Kefauver and the Kronies?  Well… sorta.  Come August, 1955… Estes threatened yet another investigation of the comic book industry.  Judge Charles Murphy (NY Magistrate/CCA Admin) would respond to Kefauver’s plea, stating that the Comics Code Authority “flushed out” objectionable material in comics… and closed with the following statement:
  • “Therefore, I would greatly appreciate your calling to my attention any new trends that might be open to criticism.  It would also be helpful if you could send me (…) any other material which you feel would guide us in our work.”
Volleying the ball back into Estes’ court proved to be enough to call his bluff.  Rather than put in any further actual investigative effort, Kefauver simply wrote back to Murphy to state: “I think generally you are doing alright.”  One year later, as mentioned, Kefauver would be Adlai Stevenson’s running-mate in a failed bid at the American Presidency.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at “Life Under the Code”, but before I wrap up for today, I want to include some revisions made to the Code… specifically those made in 1971 and 1989.

January 28, 1971:
  • Vampires, ghouls, and werewolves shall be permitted to be used when handled in the classic tradition such as FrankensteinDracula, and other high calibre literary works by Edgar Allen Poe, Saki, Conan Doyle, and other respected authors whose works are read in high schools around the world.
  • Narcotics or drug-addiction shall not be presented except as a vicious habit.  Narcotics or drug-addiction or the illicit traffic in addiction-producing narcotics or drugs shall not be shown nor described if the presentation:
    • Tends to any manner to encourage, stimulate, or justify the use of such narcotics or drugs; or
    • Stresses, visually, by text or dialogue, the temporary attractive benefits; or
    • Suggests that narcotics or drug drug habit can be easily broken; or
    • Shows or describes details of narcotics or drug procurement, or the implements or devices used in taking narcotics or drugs, or the taking of narcotics or drugs in any manner; or
    • Emphasizes the profits of the narcotics or drug traffic; or
    • Involves children who are shown knowingly to use or traffic in narcotics or drugs; or
    • Emphasizes the taking of narcotics or drugs throughout, or in a major way, of the story, and leaves the denouement to the final panels.

The times they were a-changing.  Somehow horror comics were no longer the “bane of the bassinet”… and attentions turned to late/post-sixties drug culture.  We’ll discuss a couple of stories from Marvel and DC (you know the ones) that “pushed back” on this tomorrow.

1989 Revision:
  • Healthy, wholesome lifestyles will be presented as desirable.  However, the use and abuse of controlled substances, legal and illicit, are facts of modern existence, and may be portrayed when dramatically appropriate.
  • In general recognizable national, social, political, cultural, ethnic and racial groups, religious institutions, law enforcement authorities will be portrayed in a positive light.  These include (…) social groups identifiable by lifestyle, such as homosexuals, the economically disadvantaged, the economically privileged, the homeless, senior citizens, minors, etc.
Gotta put this into perspective.  In 1989 comics distribution was a completely different animal than in 1954.  Newsstands were still “a thing”… but there was also that other way of buying comics: The Direct Market.  Add to that the absolute explosion of independent comics publishers… and the CCA started to appear even more antiquated than it was from the outset!  They had to “change with the times”… and, really grasp to maintain their… well, “authority” over the industry.  More on that tomorrow…

I really wasn’t expecting to still be talking about this early project for quite this long.  I figured by now I’d already be sharing some stories from 2018-2019.  Guess that’s just another sign of how much graham we would cram into our shows.  I hope readers are enjoying this trip down memory lane… I know they’ve been immeasurably helpful for me.

I’m at the point where I’m trying to get motivated about the future… both of this site and the podcast channel.  I have a lot of mixed emotions about continuing on… but, I’d also face a lot of guilt if I just called it a day.  Whichever way it ultimately winds up going, there’s likely to be quite an emotional challenge ahead of me.

Yesterday we went through the original Comics Code… and, I received a question from loyal reader and pal Chris U. in the comments.  He asked if I felt leaving the regulation of the industry to the publishers themselves resulted in harsher guidelines than had the government actually intervened.  That was the perfect question, as it leads pretty much into what we’re going to discuss today.

Reggie and I had posited that, had the government actually stepped in… the guidelines would likely have been far more lenient.  Government officials and offices weren’t going to dedicate the time and manpower to judge the worthiness of comic materials.  Also, the verbiage in the code would have likely been a bit less nebulous/subjective.

Comics, as they still do to this very day, over-corrected in the face of adversity.  Rather than put up any sort of fight, or try and compromise with their “accuser”, the industry just, to put it crassly, bent over.  People criticize comics for [insert whatever], and comics immediately change course.  I could go into the “insecurities” of the comics industry (then and now)… but, if I start… I doubt I’ll be able to stop anytime soon.

So, do we have an example of over-correction in the early days of the Code?  We sure do!  Let’s look at a little story called “Judgment Day”, that appeared in Weird Fantasy #18 (April, 1955) from EC Comics… Bill Gaines is back again!

This story was flatly rejected by the Comics Code Authority (Judge Charles Murphy specifically)… and Gaines was told it would pass only if they changed the final panel.  Ya see, this was a story about an astronaut… who, in the final panel, was revealed as being a (dun dun dunnnnnn) black man.

Al Feldstein, writer of the piece, would say:

  • “Judge Murphy was off his nut.  He was really out to get us.”
  • “I went in there with this story and Murphy says, ‘it can’t be a black man’.”
    • “But that’s the whole point of the story!”
Bill Gaines had to eventually get involved… and, boy did he!  He threatened Murphy and the rest of the CCA that, if the story didn’t get a pass, he’d expose them all as racists.
  • “This is ridiculous!  I’m going to call a press conference on this.  You have no grounds, no basis to do this.  I’ll sue you.”
  • “If they do not give that issue the Code Seal, I would see that the world found out why.”
In the face of Gaines’ threat, the Code Czars relented.  After all, there is nothing in the language of the code regarding “there shall not be black folk”.  Murphy did demand a single change to the panel, in that Joe Orlando remove the beads of perspiration from the astronaut’s head… which was an artistic choice.  The glistening sweat set on the black skin was supposed to look like the stars in space.

This is a pretty wild story… especially if we look at it with “current year” eyes.  Did we feel that the CCA was racist?  Maybe some of the individuals involved were… but the Code itself?  Nah.  Was this another sign of “over-correction”?  Was this an attempt at avoiding perceived controversy?  More likely… perhaps?  Orrrr… maybe it was just an office full of racists.  Who could say?

Bill Gaines’ story isn’t over yet.  With the 24th issue of MAD (July, 1955) it would be upgraded from comic book to a traditional magazine format, which… allowed it to circumvent the Comics Code Authority altogether!  MAD would go on to be a massive success… which at the time of the original scripting, was still going on.  Today, though… looks like MAD isn’t really much of a “thing”, sadly.

In the interest of brevity, let’s jump way up to the eve of the first big CCA Revision… and a handful of issues of the Amazing Spider-Man.  Amazing Spider-Man #96-98 (May-July, 1971) ran without the Comics Code Seal due to the subject matter it covers… which was drugs.

Stan Lee was reached out to by the United States Government Department of Health Education and Welfare.  The letter expressing concerns about drug use among adolescents, and the Department felt as though comic books might be the best way to share an anti-drug message which could influence the youth of America.  So, yeah… an actual Government Department asks Stan Lee personally to write this story.

The Comics Code Czars rejected it.

From Stan Lee’s Amazing Marvel Universe (2006):
  • “They (the CCA) said, ‘Oh no, you can’t do this story’.”
  • When asked why not, ‘According to the rules of the Code Authority, you can’t mention drugs in a story’.”
Even when Stan informed them this was an anti-drug story, he was told “it doesn’t matter, you can’t mention drugs”.  When Stan revealed that this was at the behest of the Federal Government, he was told “it doesn’t matter, you can’t mention drugs”.  And so, Amazing Spider-Man #96-98 would be the first books from a major publisher to run without the Code Seal since 1955!  The Seal would make its return with issue #99 (August, 1971).

Of this, Stan would say:
  • We would do more harm to the country by not running the story than by running it.”
  • “I felt the United States Government somehow took precedence over the Comics Code Authority.”
Neal Adams (who we’ll discuss in just a few lines) would say in Wizard Magazine #0 (2003):
  • The Code was totally rewritten because of Stan and that cover within the month.”
Stan Lee and Amazing Spider-Man #96-98 did change the Code (we looked at the revision yesterday)… but, it could’ve been another book and creative team responsible… if only the DC Comics of the day had half the guts Stan did.

“Snowbirds Don’t Fly” was a story that appeared in Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85-86 (August/September-October/November, 1971).  This is a popular story that many people associate with the loosening of the Comics Code.  It has that very famous cover where Speedy is shooting up heroin.  If you’re reading this site, you’re very likely aware of it.  If not, well… here ya go:

Note the inclusion of the Comics Code Seal!

This story/cover (which was pitched before Amazing Spider-Man #96-98 were a thing) was initially rejected by Julius Schwartz… it would only get the green-light after the Code revision (hence it’s inclusion on the cover of GL/GA #85).  This was seen by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams as a huge missed opportunity for them to be proactive.  Neal would say, in Comics Scene Magazine #27 (1992):
  • “We could have done it first and been the ones to make the big move.  Popping a pill and walking off a roof isn’t the sort of thing that happens (this is a reference to the events of the Spider-Man story), but heroin addiction is; to have it happen to one of our heroes was potentially devastating.  Anyway, the publishers at DC, Marvel and the rest called a meeting, and in three weeks, the Comics Code was completely rewritten.  And we did our story.”
Another Neal quote from Wizard Magazine #0 (2003):
  • “Stan took the ball and nobody said no.  It became the thing to talk about.  DC Comics was fit to be tied.  They had it in the palm of their hands and they dropped it!”
We covered plenty more in the actual episode, but I feel as though these are the three biggest takeaways.  If you want to hear us talk about a story by a “wandering wolfman”, zuvembies, the “Cosmic Code Authority” and so on, I’d encourage you to listen to the program.

Tomorrow, we ought to be wrapping up this look back at our Comics Code project… though, no promises.  Our fifth and final chapter contained some pretty intimidating stuff for me personally, as it was the first time I engaged in any editorializing and saying things on-the-air that might’ve been considered somewhat controversial… I’ll tell you all about it next time.

As we were getting into the final chapter, wherein we would both allow ourselves to editorialize and opine… I was getting pretty nervous.  Not that we had some huge following or audience that we might “turn off” with our hot-takes or anything… it’s just that I had never expressed any controversial statements on-the-air before.  Even if just one listener had clapped-back, I would have really been affected by it.

Reggie, as always, was cool about it.  He invited me to share some of my takeaways… told me we’d do the recording, and afterwards… anything either of us didn’t feel comfortable with… would be edited out.  Working very much “with a net”, I was able to allow myself to be honest… even if my honest opinion was one that might not be appreciated by a listener or two.

Here’s a look at our “Mission Statement” for Part 5:

Today’s blog post will be focusing on the very last line.

A story that kept creeping back into my head as we were preparing for this piece was one that… honestly, I can’t remember if it made air or not.  I haven’t been able to go back and listen to our back catalog… I’m not really ready for that yet, ya know?  The story was about the time I’d gotten into an contentious discussion a few years prior at, of all places, an anime and manga message board.

A man had been taken into custody for importing some digital manga (doujinshi, fan-made manga images, actually) into Canada… which, had been jumped on by the “commentary community” of the day… and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.  These images, it’s worth noting, were… unsavory.  Not the sort of thing you’d want left out on your coffee table when Grandma comes to visit.  He was accused of having well, “kiddie” stuff due to the “moe” style of the art.  That’s… an argument I’ll leave for other folks to discuss.

The person involved was, by all accounts, treated quite poorly by Canadian Customs, and it was an all-around horrible situation.  Again, the actual content of the doujinshi (which you can find online, if you’re interested) isn’t something I’m going to be covering here.  It’s more the fallout on this particular forum… wherein, one of the more notable members (an Admin, actually) wrote this scathing screed about censorship… and, as is often the case, blamed the entire thing on American Conservatives (this case, again, didn’t happen in the USA).  This Admin found themselves lost in the weeds… completely forgot the plot, and was just all-around nasty to anyone who might’ve held an opposing political opinion.

Now, I’m about as apolitical a dude as you’re going to find.  I don’t subscribe to either major party or platform in American politics.  There are things I agree with (and disagree with) on both sides.  Something I am pretty passionate about is the First Amendment and the concept of Government Censorship.  I basically just wanna be left alone.

So, on this forum… this notable member was able to foment this very pointed movement… and narrative about how, any time censorship had been invoked in the 20th Century, it always came from the political-Right (emphasis on always).  I’m not one to carry the water for any political ideology… but, that’s just plain untrue.  I added to the conversation, in as non-confrontational a way as possible in order to offer up a few examples of why this was, ultimately, a flawed position… and one that would only serve to divide and make people angry, rather than actually helping.

The two that immediately popped into my head were the semi-recent (within the past quarter-century at least), Parental Advisory stickers on music albums and the ESRB code on video games.  The Music Industry had gotten push back for explicit lyrics from Tipper Gore, then-wife of then-Senator Al Gore (D) and the Parents’ Music Resource Center, which ultimately led to those stickers getting stuck… and probably for that Butthole Surfers album getting its new K-Mart-friendly “Squirrel cover”.

Video games, around the time of Mortal Kombat and Night Trap, faced a ton of criticism in Washington, D.C.  Led by Joe Lieberman (D), Herb Kohl (D), and at the time-First Lady, Hillary Clinton.  I’m not seeing any Conservatives just yet (not to say there weren’t any involved).  Again, I’m not one to carry anybody’s water, and I was by no means attempting to make a blanket statement… I was just trying to add some context in order to stop everyone else from doing the same.  There is a productive discussion to be had here… we just gotta peel back the layers of political partisanship in order to actually get there.

Naturally, I was exposed as a witch on that forum… and run off (banned actually, which… when you’re talking “censorship” is kind of a hoot) as a George W. Bush supporter/sympathizer (which, is a most laughable accusation).

Now, in learning all about Senator Estes Kefauver (D) throughout this project… this was yet another attempt at regulation coming from the American political Left.  I figured, since this entire series of episodes was predicated on challenging established narratives (Wertham the Boogeyman, Seduction of the Innocent, etc.), it might not be the worst idea to bring some of these concepts into the light.  I mean, we were already going to mention regulatory “Codes” in other media… but, without any sort of actual background discussion.

I was worried though.  I wasn’t looking to attack anybody or any political “side” (I personally don’t have a dog in that fight)… this was going to be a simple presentation of facts.  Actually, it was going to be one of the least editorialized “bits” of the episode… because, we were certainly not looking for any sort of political debate.  But still… it’s politics on the internet, which is a scary slope to slide down.  Since we’d be sharing this on social media… I grew even more trepidatious.  Because, there are certain truisms on social media: nobody shops at Walmart, nobody eats at McDonald’s, everybody is a good driver, and everybody votes Democrat.

Granted, nothing ever came of this… we were never “called out” for our presentation of the facts… nor, looking back, was that really ever something to be worried about.  We never took a position, which… when strictly presenting facts, is really the only way to be.  Reggie was supportive, and honestly, I might’ve been most nervous about presenting this “bit” to him, as he was further to the Left politically.  Seeing as though we were simply presenting facts, without any sort of snide opinion, he didn’t see anything wrong with it.

Now, the main reason we wanted to introduce Self-Regulation among other forms of media (music, video games… even television and the movies) into the conversation was to point out one thing in particular.  American industries who regulate themselves don’t have to answer to the United States Constitution.  This is something we touched on yesterday, regarding the harshness of the CCA vs. had the government actually intervened.

If the government had been forced to get involved, and judge every piece of media (comics and otherwise) being produced… they would have to be led by the First Amendment of the Constitution and likely, quite often run in with the U.S. Supreme Court.  That’s a lot of effort… and, as we posited… not the sort of effort the Feds were looking to expend.

Here’s a bit from our notes:

Over the next couple of days, we’ll wrap this subject up once and for all… we still have to look at the end of the CCA (and life after the Code), talk about Frederic Wertham actually coming around to comics (and comics fandom) in his later years, and discuss perhaps the diciest subject of all: The “new” Comics Code Authority aka. social media.

Trying to write today’s piece on the new (and improved?) Blogger engine.  I had it foisted upon me a few weeks ago… but was able to revert to the “Legacy Blogger” like the scared little Luddite that I am.  Now, “Legacy Blogger” is giving me quite the headache when it comes to doing… well, anything.  Opening a new draft?  Takes about three minutes.  Inserting a picture?  At least 30 seconds.  It would seem the folks who run this place really want me to use their new gimmick engine.  So far… I’m not enjoying it.  Adding images is especially awful.  Fix this, Blogger.

Let’s finally talk about the end of the Comics Code.  There were plenty of factors that led to the Code becoming less of an “Authority” on what comics will be sold… and we go into detail during the episode.  For the purposes of today’s piece, however, we’ll just look at the last gasps of its relevancy.

Marvel stopped submitting comics to the CCA in 2001, deciding to use their own in-house rating system from that point on.  One notable issue Marvel released that year was X-Force #116 (July, 2001) which introduced the concept that would go on to be known as the X-Statix… instead of the usual CCA Stamp, there’s a little note which read: Hey Kids!  Look, No Code!

To be completely honest, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the lack of code if they didn’t draw any attention to it.  That’s just how much of a neutered afterthought the Seal was at this point already.  This was the Direct Market edition of X-Force #116… so, what about the Newsstand version (because there was one…)?  It still didn’t carry the code… but, it did include a Parental Advisory.

Marvel’s in-house Ratings System would sort of resembled the ESRB that we touched on yesterday.  It was actually viewed initially as being too similar to the MPAA movie ratings… so much so that the MPAA complained that they were infringing on their trademark!  Weird stuff.  Anyway, the Marvel Code was as follows:
  • ALL-AGES – Self-explanatory
  • T (or) A – Appropriate for most Readers (9+)
  • T+ – Teens 13+
Yes, Marvel MAX.  The “mature readers” line that launched out the gate with an F-Bomb.  Nothing quite says “mature” like that, right?  Hey, grown-ups… comics can be so much more than spandex and capes… they can be riddled with F-Words too!  This is why we can’t have nice things…

DC Comics would submit (some) books to the Code Authority for an entire decade after Marvel walked!  January, 2011 would mark the end of DC’s relationship with the CCA… although, at that point, they only submitted a small handful of titles to begin with.  DC, like Marvel, would rely on their own in-house Code to rate their content:
  • E – Everybody
  • T – Teen
  • T+ – Teen Plus
  • M – Mature
Archie Comics would announce their submitting to the CCA in January, 2011.  Unless I’m conflating news items, I swear the DC and Archie announcements hit the comics news cycle like the same day.  Archie would not introduce an in-house rating system, instead “promised to continue to produce family-friendly, entertaining and relevant stories.”  Archie Comics President, Mike Pellerito would say: “We have a great deal of respect for what the Comics Code Authority has stood for over the years, but at the end of the day, the final judge of our content is our readership.”

This rendered the CCA a dead organization.  The rights to the iconic Code-Seal now belong to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

So… ding-dong, the witch is dead… right?

Well… maybe not entirely.  We’ve got some quotes of the day from our old friend, John Byrne.

On January 20, 2011, Byrne would say “The Comics Code forced writers and artists to be clever.  And who wants that???”.  He goes on to cite a 1985 Comic Convention discussion panel, during which Dick Giordano fielded a question regarding whether or not the CCA “restricted creativity”.  Giordano would respond with, “Lee and Kirby and Ditko had produced all their work on Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man under one of the most restrictive periods of the Code.”  That’s… ya know, a really good point.  I know plenty of people who hold those hold the Lee/Kirby FF and Ditko-era Spidey as among the best of the best.

Byrne would continue, when after being shown a contemporary page of an issue of Superman (T-Rated).  The page depicted an “apparent orgy” and plenty of gratuitous Lois Lane butt-shots.  He’d say, “In the end there’s no reason for anybody to be naked in comics, movies, or on TV (…) Humphrey Bogart made a lot of adult (in the true sense of the word) movies, in which nobody got naked, and nobody said ‘f***’ or “s***’.”

Did Byrne have a point?  Did the restrictions hamper creativity or foment cleverness?  Maybe a bit of both… but, I guess it all really depends on your point of view.  We, as consumers of entertainment, seem to place a lot of value on what we think we want… and what we think is being kept just out of our reach.  Anytime we hear about Editorial Interference on a comic… we have a knee-jerk reaction that we’ve been robbed of some amazing piece of literature… when, in reality… the edited version might’ve ultimately resulted in the better story.  It’s just our human nature that we assume the story we didn’t get is automatically better than the one we do.

An anecdote I added to the discussion here, though I can’t remember if it made air… was discussing the shift in The Howard Stern Show from an over-the-air program to satellite.  When Howard was over-the-air, he had to be “creatively crude”.  The envelope was pushed… and it worked because they had to be clever about it.  Once they moved to Sirius Satellite… and the FCC no longer applied, the show (especially at the onset) became overly curse-filled and raunchy (when Howard wasn’t sucking up to whatever celebrity showed up, that is).  This was no longer creative… no longer clever.  It didn’t feel edgy… because there were no rules.  If everything is “edgy”… then, really… nothing is.

Back to comics… without any guidelines or rules, “Mature Readers” lines became redundant… the industry just didn’t need ’em anymore.  The mainstream superhero titles became what we would normally view as the Mature Readers line (minus the f-words and nudity).  Instead, now the industry needed to launch “All Ages” lines.  An issue of SupermanBatmanAvengers, or Uncanny X-Men of the day… those books, that introduced many folks of my vintage to superhero comics, were no longer appropriate for the preteen (and younger) market.  I mean, here’s a series of panels from Avengers (vol.3) #71 (November, 2003):

I’m no prude, but… I know how old I was when I started reading superhero comics (including Avengers)… and, I really don’t think I’d want someone that age reading this.  This issue got a PSR/Parental Advisory Rating from Marvel’s Internal Code.

Back to the pre-teen and younger readers.  Let’s look at some revisionist coding.  An issue I usually go back to when discussing this is Superman (vol.2) #22 (October, 1988).  The issue where Superman kills the Phantom Zone Criminals… which, back in the long ago was a CCA-Approved book.

Let’s look at the digital version (made available by DC Comics on May 15, 2013):

12+ Only!  A Code-Approved book in 1988… is a 12+ Only book in 2013?  Does that imply that this isn’t an “All Ages” book?  Was the CCA slapping its seal on just anything?  If that was the case… why all the complaints about stifling creativity?  I mean, in this issue Superman kills!

We only brought this stuff up as some food for thought.  We didn’t have any answers or theories when we recorded this… and, even today, I still don’t.  I guess sensibilities change over time… and will continue to.  That is something we’ll be discussing further and in greater depth over the next day or two.

Going to try and wrap this series up today… there are only a couple more things that I wanted to touch upon.  One will definitely go “against narrative”… the other, might just tick some people off.

Let’s start with “What Ever Happened To…” Dr. Frederic Wertham?

Wertham’s crusade against violence in media would evolve with the times.  Come 1963, he was more focused on the violence that might appear on the big and small screens rather than on the comics page.  He’d even go so far as to debate Alfred Hitchcock on the subject!  Of particular note, among the first words out of Wertham’s mouth during the debate were that he didn’t see Psycho.  So, perhaps this was more Hitchcock vs. Half-cocked.

Wertham would write more on the subject of violence in media.  The Circle of Guilt (1958) claimed that, due to media, Americans were beginning to feel less responsible for their actions.  Stands to reason, doesn’t it?  When every crime, murder, and delinquency gets blamed on a piece of media… rather than the individual (or the parents of an individual), it’s easy to no longer feel responsible for what we do.  Why blame a criminal or a bad parent… when we’ve got all these wonderful Boogeymen?

A Sign for Cain: An Exploration of Human Violence (1965), was based more on culture than any one piece of media… though, it is in this book that Wertham takes credit for “putting 24 out of 29 crime comic book publishers out of business.”  He blames culture’s acceptance of media for making violence an acceptable way of dealing with everyday problems in life.  All of this is fostered in the “devaluation of human life”… he goes on to discuss/compare with Nazi propaganda and whatnot as well.  This book, it’s worth noting, is not written in the more layman/casual/average Joe language of Seduction of the Innocent.

Let’s jump to the end of Wertham’s life… where, check this out… he actually sort of came around to comics!  This was something they left out of my comics history textbook… and, from the looks of the attitudes of the internet, I don’t think I’m alone in that.  He’d become very interested, not only in the comics themselves, but the culture and fandom surrounding them.  Now, this is interesting for a number of reasons… but, one I’d like to address here is: comics were no longer viewed as being “just for kids”.  Sure, there are folks even to this day who look at comics as kid’s stuff… but, that’s always going to be the case.  What I’m trying to say is, the average reader of a superhero comic in the late-1940’s into the 1950’s, probably looked a lot different than the superhero fan of the early 1970’s.

Wertham would actually write-in to comics fanzines.  He became very defensive of his role in “the day the comics died”.  He’d state that he is firmly against censorship… which, I mean, we may never know how true that statement actually is.  He stated that he had no part in the creation of the Comics Code.  This is technically true… though, if you were to post that statement on Twitter, you’d likely be bullied off the platform.

In fact, Wertham thought the Code Seal was worthless!  He’d be quoted in the Seattle Star as saying, “At present it is far safer for a mother to let her child have a comic book without a seal of approval than one with such a seal.”  He would address the Kefauver Hearings, and claim that his only role in them was as an “expert witness”.  This is another true statement.  He also claimed that he never called one single comic book “terrible”.  He “never judged comics as ‘good’, ‘bad’, or ‘the worst’.”  I’d have to do some digging to confirm this, but… from what I can recall, I might suggest he ever even read one of the comics he was rallying against to completion.

In 1973, at 78-years old, Dr. Frederic Wertham would publish The World of Fanzines: A Special Form of Communication.

In it, he would applaud and celebrate the comics fandom subculture.  He would go against the narrative that would come to proceed him (by people who have no idea what they’re talking about) by saying: “Fandom is not subversive; it is special”.  He is especially fond of the Zines, calling them “a constructive and healthy exercise of creative drives.”  He saw fandom… comics fandom in particular as a… get this… positive force in the individual growth of teenagers.

During his later years, Wertham would get heaps of hate-mail… and, check this out… the Boogeyman, the man who “killed comics” and couldn’t be reasoned with… personally responded to most of it.  Yeah, that bit was left out of my history textbook as well.  It’s almost like comics fandom needs a Boogeyman… the same way Wertham and Kefauver did back in the 1950’s, innit?  It’s pretty crazy how fans put themselves “above” the Werthams of the world… when many of us are just as bad.

One last thing about the Doc.  He was invited to… and actually attended one of Phil Seuling’s early comic book conventions!  It was the 1973 New York Comic Art Convention.  Wertham showed up… was led to his panel, annnnnd was roundly heckled and treated very poorly by comics fans.  I’m going to guess that these comics fans were just as knowledgeable about the establishment of the Comics Code and Wertham’s part in it as the fans today… which is to say, they weren’t… like, at all.  Dollars to donuts, not a single one of ’em ever uttered the word “Kefauver”.

Think about that for a second.  Frederic Wertham appeared on panel at a comics convention… and rather than viewing it as the historic moment that it was… these jackasses chose to heckle him and run him off the stage.  Could you imagine reading a transcript of Wertham dealing directly with the passionate and knowledgeable comic book fans of the 1970’s?  What a missed opportunity… just think of the history we lost because people had to be jerks.

Those jerks were successful in silencing Wertham once and for all.  He’d leave the show, and never wrote about comic books again.  Again, right after he’s officially “on our side”… we run him off.  What an absolute waste.

This brings us neatly into our final piece of this project… the “New” Comics Code Authority… also known as social media.  At the time Reggie and I recorded the fifth, and final episode of the Comics Code series… there were several “hot-button” (non) issues floating around on Social Media pertaining to social-regulation.  Let’s talk about a few here.

First, the variant cover to Batgirl #41:

Again, I’d like to stress that this was going to be a variant cover to Batgirl #41… which was during one of DC’s Anniversary gimmick-months.  Most every book DC put out was going to get a Joker-themed variant.  So, yes… a variant… meaning, if you don’t want to buy a book with this on the cover… you don’t have to.

A (successful) social media campaign was put together to get this cover cancelled… likely by the very same sort of people who might tweet out an image of the CCA seal while lambasting it as “oppressive” and “hateful”.  Here’s the question though… is this a form of censorship?  Just because it isn’t the government or an industry regulating content… does that make it any less censorious?  Clearly, those who were actually offended (which I’m guessing were very few of the mob), did not have to buy this.  Were they worried that it would be successful?  That it would further cement A Killing Joke into Barbara Gordon’s backstory?  This is a whole nother kind of narrative control, innit?

A buzz-phrase hitting the rounds during this non-event came from the then-Batgirl creative team.  It was “not on our watch”… referring to making reference to A Killing Joke.  Fans of the this creative team were quick to jump in, and make claims that we don’t want this in our comics (likely the same sort of folks who complain daily about fan-entitlement).  Were the campaigners (and creative) worried that, had this variant made a favorable “splash” at market, it would render many of their own talking points null and void?

Another contentious piece of business was the Milo Manara “butt-cover” from one of the many variant covers from one of the many #1 issues of Spider-Woman (does anybody ever buy that book?):

Placed next to Spider-Man in the same pose for emphasis.  Now, Milo Manara (1998 Jack Kirby Hall of Famer) is… kind of an erotic artist.  When you hire Manara to draw women, you sorta know what you’re likely to get.  Here’s the big question… if not for the social media “outrage”… would anyone have given this cover a second thought?  I’d suggest not.  Whatever the case, the “New” Comics Code Authority… aka social media, “censored” another variant cover.  It doesn’t take much digging on your Google Machine to find more cases of this.

I find it to be very hypocritical, personally… especially when you see how many of the internet activists claim to be champions of the First Amendment, and 100% against censorship.  Ya gotta pick a lane… what makes this “New” Comics Code any better (or more righteous) than the old one?  You can’t call Wertham a Boogeyman for stifling creativity… and then go and… stifle creativity.  Censorship isn’t a “half-pregnant” scenario… you’re either for it, or against it.

There’s plenty about “current year” comics that I can’t stand… stuff that makes me roll my eyes so hard I almost do a back-bump… here’s the thing though, I just choose not to read it.  I don’t rail against the companies and demand things I don’t like be cancelled.  I might complain here or among friends, but I never demand cancellation.  Just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean there isn’t someone who does.  Even if it’s just one person who likes it… they have every right to have it and enjoy it.  The “invisible hand” is a thing.  If Marvel/DC/whoever aren’t making that money, they won’t support the project.  If you don’t like something… don’t buy it.  Let the invisible hand do its job… or, are you afraid you might be wrong?  That the stuff you don’t like… is actually popular?  Just something to think about.

I think I’ll leave it here.  I hope this past week and change of discussing the Comics Code Authority has been an enriching experience… I know it’s certainly helped me with the healing process.  If nothing else, I hope it changed your perceptions on much of the established narrative you might find online… especially as it pertains to Dr. Wertham.  He wasn’t perfect… he did have an agenda… but, he wasn’t the Boogeyman.  If you need to point blame… just think about Kefauver’s Kangaroo Court in 1954.

The next time you see someone share the cover of Seduction of the Innocent they stole from Google Images, with a bunch of karma-farmy half-truths… just smile with the realization that you now know a whole lot more about that book, and it’s author than they do.

One thought on “Reggie & Me – The Complete Comics Code Notes

  • Jeremiah

    Nice to visit these. Are you thinking about writing more of this type of stuff or is this part of the overall "house-keeping" you've been working on?


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