A Brief History of the Comics Code Authority

The Comics Code Authority,

The literal censorship of comics that nearly crashed everything in the 1960’s because the medium couldn’t evolve the story. In this episode we spend an hour to teach you ALL about the CCA, what it meant to comics and how we got out of it.

Here are some great resources we used to put this together.

Some show notes:


  • 1948 – Unenforced code drafter by the Association of Comic Magazine Publishers (based on the 1930 Hollywood Production Code)
    • Before adoption of the code many cities had comic book burnings
    • Some cities outright banned Crime and Horror comics
      • Oklahoma City, OK
      • Houston TX
      • LA County tried to, but was deemed unconstitutional in court.
  • 1954 – Founded to stop Government regulation of comics.
    • Fredric Wertham’s book “Seduction of the Innocent” is a common linked cause of the creation.
    • Original Code Criteria
      • Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.
      • If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.
      • Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.
      • 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 comic magazine shall use the words “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 used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly, nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.
      • Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.
      • Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
      • Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.
      • Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.
      • Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.
      • Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at nor portrayed. Rape scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.
      • Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.
      • Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.
      • 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 or morals.
  • 1955 – EC cancels all titles except MAD
    • William Gaines believed the CCA was aimed at him for his line of horror and crime comics.
  • 1960 – Underground comics started to rise without the CCA. Distributed through head shops and other means than the normal distributors.
  • 1967 – CCA approved first drug story in Strange Adventures #205. Deadman fighting opium smugglers
  • 1971 – CCA revised to allow
    • “sympathetic depiction of criminal behavior… [and] corruption among public officials” (“as long as it is portrayed as exceptional and the culprit is punished”)
    • permitting some criminal activities to kill law-enforcement officers and the “suggestion but not portrayal of seduction.”
    • Allowed Vampires, ghouls, and werewolves when handled in the classic tradition such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and other high caliber literary works written by Edgar Allan Poe, Saki, Conan Doyle and other respected authors whose works are read in schools around the world”
  • 1971 – May – Marvel publishes drug story in Amazing Spider-Man 96-98.
    • Story idea was brought to Stan Lee from the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare to make.
    • CCA Admin Leonard Darvin “was ill” and acting administrator John L. Goldwater (publisher for Archie Comics) refused to grant Marvel the code approval for the issue.
    • Marvel printed the book without the CCA on it
  • 1971 – Carmine Infantino was critical of Lee for defying the code, stating DC would not do a drug story unless the code changed. CCA revised the code to allow depiction of “narcotics or drug abuse” as long as it was presented “as a vicious habit”
  • 1971 -September – Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams create code approved drug story in Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85 “My ward is an junkie”
  • 1975 – Zombies still a no no, to get around this Marvel called them zuvembies.
  • 1980’s – Rules on violence laxed. Both DC and Marvel printed code approved comics with decapitations.
  • 1989 – Now Comics decides to adhere and display the code
  • 1993 – Bongo Comics decides to adhere and display the code
  • 2001 – Marvel comics abandoned
  • 2010 – Only DC, Bongo and Archie still adhered to the code
  • 2010 – Bongo abandoned
  • 2011 – DC and Archie abandoned

The process:

  • Companies made comics
  • They submitted them to the CCA
  • CCS review the comics
  • If approved they were allowed to use the official CCA seal on the cover
  • It was 100% censorship of the comic medium.

Some awesome kids books we talked about:

If you want to read Mimosa Lullaby, John’s parody of Ryan’s Torchlight Lullaby…

Mimosa Lullaby - John Horsley and Ryan Fisher

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One thought on “A Brief History of the Comics Code Authority

  • April 9, 2020 at 7:12 pm

    Great history lesson!


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