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The Comics Code Authority and Collectible Comics

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What is the Comics Code Authority?

The Comics Code Authority (CCA) was founded in 1954 by the Comics Magazine Association of America, a group of publishers. For more than 60 years that code of conduct set down by the CCA had to be followed in order to get the seal of approval. Advertisers, which are a major source of income for comics, made many of their decisions on whether or not that seal was present, so publishers made sure they were in compliance.

Various revisions were made over the years to adjust for changes in societal views. By the early 2000s, advertisers didn’t base their decisions on presence of the seal. In 2001, Marvel adopted a rating system of their own instead of the code. Other major publishers did likewise, including DC in 2011. Archie Comics, the last publisher still participating, dropped the code a day later.

How does the CCA fit into the history of comics?

The CCA was founded on the border between the Golden Age and the Silver Age. Silver Age comics, Bronze Age comics, and many Modern Age comics from major publishers all complied with the code and will bear the seal.

Golden Age comics will not. In fact, Golden Age comics had no code of conduct, and were known for being a little more edgy. A great example is the stereotypical golden boy Superman. During the Golden Age, he was a much more cynical person. Sometimes he was even referred to as a thorn in the side of the police. By the time the CCA and the Silver Age came about, Superman was a shining paragon of virtue.

What about comics without superheroes?

This is where collectors really start to care about the CCA. During the Golden Age, there were a large number of interesting titles that will capture the attention of comic lovers. The art form was in its infancy and had just been accepted as a legitimate medium. Writers and publishers tried a wide variety of storytelling genres and techniques. Some of titles were horror, some exploitative, some resoundingly feminist or progressive. Some comics historians have heralded the Golden Age as one of the most varied times in comic history.

What were the consequences of the CCA?

Before the CCA, there were large numbers of horror titles, true crime titles, and similar series on the market. Unfortunately, these drew the attention of many prominent figures, including US senators, who decided comics were corrupting America’s youth. The CCA was largely formed as a preemptive move to prevent governmental censorship, and as a consequence, many of these titles were stopped.

A good example is EC Comics. Before CCA, they had titles like Crime SuspenStories, The Vault of Horror, and Tales From the Crypt. The Code prohibited the use of words like crime, horror, and terror from the titles, as well as banning the subject of vampires, werewolves, and zombies. These popular titles disappeared overnight. The only reason their comic series MAD survived is because it transitioned to a magazine, which wasn’t governed by the Code.

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