A few days ago, DC Comics announced that they were dropping the Comics Code label from their books in exchange for their own, in-house ratings system. Archie, otherwise known as "the publisher least likely to ever need anything resembling an oversight committee", followed suit immediately after. What this means is that after decades of obsolescence, the Comics Code Authority is officially dead. It also means that Frederic Wertham's "mark of the beast", as it were, has breathed its last after a remarkable run of nearly 60 years, long outliving Wertham and everyone else who gave a crap about the purpose for the Comics Code in the first place. Marvel Comics dropped the Code from its books nearly 10 years ago.
As I mentioned, this news really means very little regarding the content of new comics. I've often wondered if, for the last 20 years or so, the Comics Code Authority consisted of one guy at a desk who would flip though all the major monthly comics, check out all the scenes of people getting their heads blown open, make sure that there aren't any pictures of boobs, and hit the "accept" button on...some contraption that consisted mostly of an "accept" button.
The CCA was developed, of course, in response to Wertham's witch hunt that blamed comics for all of society's ills, and looking back at some of the "rules" under the governing influence of the CCA, it's easy to see how worthless it's been for quite some time now. For example, the Comics Code, as it was designed in 1954, policed comic books to make sure that:
- good would triumph over evil "in every instance"
- scenes dealing with "walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism and werewolfism" were prohibited. And here I had this great story dealing with ghouls...
- crimes would never be presented in a way in which one might feel sympathy for the criminal or in which evil would be presented "alluringly"
- no comic would use the words "horror" or "terror" in its title
- women would be drawn realistically, "without exaggeration"
So I think we can fairly obviously see that the CCA has been a beacon of light and none of the above points on the list were ever seen in comic books for the last 56 years.
Seriously, though, even if the damage has already been done to the industry, it's nice to get Wertham's stink off of comics in at least one more, highly visible, way.