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Exactly. In this day and age the Code is pretty worthless. I remember first reading the revised Comics Code that was printed in Maurice Horn’s The World Encyclopedia of Comics, the original version from 1976:
Even with the revisions involving drug use, bad cops and comic titles it was still pretty stringent. Funnily, when the original Daredevil 168 and 169, drawn by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson, and written by Roger McKenzie was rejected over shown drug use (a teen was shown getting dusted, which the Code objected to), then EiC Jim Shooter originally yanked the issues and replaced them with Miller’s first writing credit, which was the first appearance of Elektra.
There was talk of making the issues as a "graphic album" (old vernacular for a graphic novel), which The Comics Journal made a big to-do over, before Marvel published them as issues 183 and 184 with just enough changes to slide by the Code (sad that Shooter in 1980 didn’t have as big a pair as Lee in 1970 where the code was concerned).
But the ORIGINAL Code…hoo-boy. No references to drug use, no depictions of devils/demons, no "Terror", Horror", "Crime" in the titles of comics (there were a buttload of other publishers who used those titles, not just EC), cops and public officials HAD to always be depicted as good, upstanding individuals, etc.
And this is also what Miller was forgetting about. Virtually EVERY publisher, except maybe DC, which was as whitebread as can be in the late 40s-early 50s, had a number of titles that had Terror, Horror, Crime and other later-forbidden words on the cover. When the Code came down on them, all of these companies took heavy financial hits; not just EC. Hell, Marvel (then called Atlas) hired many of the ex-EC people like Jack Davis, John Severin, Al Williamson and Bernie Krigstein and even with the Code, put out stellar stories.
But when the latter half of 1957 hit, Atlas had a RIF that virtually closed the company. According to an interview with Jack Kirby, he said he found Stan Lee in a nearly empty office crying over the nearly-complete shutdown. Nearly all the artists and writers were let go, and in September I think of that year Atlas went from nearly 40 titles to two.
Atlas did continue, but with 8 titles, as per an agreement with DC that allowed Atlas to use their printing facilities (the agreement ended in 1968, when Marvel was fully back on it’s feet financially).
And Atlas/Marvel was one of the luckier outfits. Most of the companies pretty much vanished overnight. Fox, St. John, Holyoke, Ace, Standard, etc., gone immediately or within a year of the Code. So EC certainly was not alone in the pain, as Miller suggests.
But as you point out, it wasn’t censorship since the government pointed out there was no need for it. And the publishers themselves created the Code, not because of the government but because of rabble-rousers being disingenuous with their followers. i09 did an excellent article on Fred Wertham and how he twisted the facts to reflect his point of view for his book Seduction of the Innocent: http://io9.com/5985199/how-one-mans-lies-almost-destroyed-the-comics-industry
But as we’ve seen so many times before (and we’ll certainly see again), logic and reason will always get shouted down by mindless drones driven by rabble-rousing idiots.
The Relic | 3 Recommends (and a history lesson!)
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