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Comics Portal: Will Comics be Censored?

DC Comics, New 52, Catwoman, gun control, Washington, Seduction of the Innocent, Comics Code Authority

Several gun-related mass killings have the U.S. government considering stricter gun control laws, but many people blame violent video games and believe that the gaming industry desensitizes players to real-life mass murder with actual firearms.

Some cities and states have already introduced legislation to tax these games in an attempt to make them less available to children and teens. People on both sides of this issue have strong opinions about whether this deterrent will be effective.

Can censoring of comics be far behind?

Before you laugh at this notion and say, “They’ll NEVER do that!” it’s already happened once in the history of comics in America.

There was a time when all comics had to bear the seal of approval from the Comics Code Authority (CCA), an organization set up to ensure the book was okay for children to read, as noted here. (This began in the 1950’s, when children were the largest block of comics readers.)

This code banned graphic depictions of violence and gore in crime and horror comics as well as sexual innuendo. Fredric Wertham‘s 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent was considered the catalyst for the outrage felt by parents across the country. The code was an attempt to prevent government intervention and censorship.

DC Comics, New 52, Catwoman, gun control, Washington, Seduction of the Innocent, Comics Code AuthoritySpecific restrictions were placed on the portrayal of kidnapping and concealed weapons. Depictions of “excessive violence” were forbidden, as were “lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations.” Vampires, werewolves, ghouls and zombies could not be portrayed. In addition, comics could not use the words “horror” or “terror” in their titles. The use of the word “crime” was subject to numerous restrictions. Depictions of “sex perversion,” “sexual abnormalities” and “illicit sex relations,” as well as seduction, rape, sadism and masochism were specifically forbidden. Instead, more “wholesome” images, including the sanctity of marriage and resolving conflicts in ways besides violence, were required.

It took several decades, but eventually the market changed, and the Comics Code Authority lost its influence. By the early 2000s, newer publishers bypassed the CCA, and Marvel abandoned it in 2001. By 2010, only three major publishers still followed their rules: DC Comics, Archie Comics and Bongo Comics. Bongo broke with the CCA in 2010. DC and Archie followed in January 2011. Today, adults consume the vast majority of comics, and stores try to separate books for kids from those for adults, but it doesn’t take much imagination to see that once video games are cowed, movies, TV and comics are likely not far behind.

I’m reminded of a recent Washington, DC, Fox TV report on DC’s “New 52” in which the reporter went after the Catwoman comic specifically for being sexually graphic. She actually took a copy of the book and stood across the street from a local school, showing it to pre-teens who would talk with her. (Of course, this took place months after the book had been released. Also, I’m sure she was far from the school because they wouldn’t allow her to do this inside their walls.)

The report is no longer available online, but you can check out the commercial for it here:


Sound familiar? It should!

Am I jumping the gun here, so to speak? Are comics in the sights of lawmakers in the States? Not yet! Of course, things aren’t the same as they were during the Comics Code Authority’s heyday, but personally I can see some handwriting on the wall. I hope I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you start seeing reports of how bad comics are on your local television screen before long.

We may want to enjoy the freedom of reading today’s comics as long as we can, in my opinion!

About the author

Wayne Hall

1 Comment

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  • I guess I ought to remark that Cinebook has been channelling Braghetta’s spirit to aid them in their releases for quite some time now and that Marvel went to ridiculous lenghts to have all the nude women in The Incaal at least dressed in swimsuits. And places where they really could not help it, they at least replaced pubic hair with a neutral skin tone, which is an awfully japanese thing to do, come to think about it.

    The violence though? No changes there.

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