America & the Happy Ending Syndrome: The Comics Code Authority

Ever wondered what happened between Grimm's grim Cinderella, and Disney's Luminous Princess? Look no further, the CCA, or Comics Code Authority, might be the answer.
The Comics Magazine Association of America was formed in 1954, by Comic book publishers, in consultation with Right-Wing politicians. Its goal was to devise a code of ethics and standards for the industry.
Befitting the times the organization was established, in the midst of the "Second Red Scare" or at the height of McCarthyist movement, the man chosen to head it was a notorious racist and specialist in juvenile delinquency, New York Magistrate, Charles F. Murphy.  
By definition, this could not bide too well for the industry.
The CCA's domination of the comics industry was almost total and although it had no official control over the publishing house, most distributors refused Comics that had not been approved by the organization, and very few decided to forego the seal.
As expected, the code, ratified by Murphy was nothing more but a user manual for a very racist and puritanical America. 
Hereunder are some of its pearls:
  • 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.
  • Advertising for the sale of fireworks is prohibited.
  • In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
  • 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.
Had they been comics, Twilight and Hunger Games would have never made it! 
Hereunder are some of the "guidelines"
  • Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.
Queen Victoria would have given her seal of approval for its honour code. 
  • Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.
  • Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
  • Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is 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.
  • Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at nor portrayed. Rape scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.
  • Passion or romantic interest shall never be treated in such a way as to stimulate the lower and baser emotions.
  • Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.
Another illustrious guideline was about race and religion and prohibited "ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group", which, obviously, was not a bad thing, quite the contrary, had it not been enforced by the very same Murphy who barely hid his dislike for "other religious or racial groups". He simplified matters when he decided that elimination would be the best option.  In other words, not only would black character no longer be tolerated in Comics, they would also "disappear" from Comics where they had once starred and be replaced by a white version. 
1954, also happened to be the year the "separate but equal" doctrine was overturned.  The infamous doctrine, in place since 1896 that not only permitted, but also justified racial segregation.  However, it would take decades, Rosa Parks, MLK, Malcolm X and others before the overturning of the separation laws would be completed, and about the same amount of time for the ascendancy of the Code to wane.
Whereas the Code saw the end of the Comics Golden Age in America, the 1990's saw the end of the Code, the end of a bipolar world set by the rules of the Cold War and the end of a century that would prove to have been the most cruel and deadly in the history of mankind.  
It s not yet clear whether or not Comics have recovered from their Dark Agesin America, but they seem to be on the recovery.

1947 All-Negro Comics Ace Harlem Police Detective Ad



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