Smutty, atheist werewolves were not the done thing in 1954

June 3, 2009

The Comics Code Authority was created in 1954 to regulate the content of US comics. Read ‘regulate’ as ‘censor’, which is what it did astonishingly-well for almost thirty years.

Its Comic Book Code of 1954 – though clearly a puritan tragedy that set the format back by at least a decade – contains some interesting and alarming rules that give us some insight into the overly-protective nature of media at the time.

Some of my favourites include (note that the comic on the left is pre-code, and clearly a corruptive destroyer of our society’s values):

  • Policemen, judges, Government officials and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.
  • If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.
  • In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
  • No unique or unusual methods of concealing weapons shall be shown.
  • The letters of the word “crime” on a comics-magazine cover shall never be appreciably greater in dimension than the other words contained in the title. The word “crime” shall never appear alone on a cover.
  • No comic magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title.
  • All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.
  • 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.
  • Although slang and colloquialisms are acceptable, excessive use should be discouraged and, wherever possible, good grammar shall be employed.
  • Ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group is never permissible.
  • All characters shall be depicted in dress reasonably acceptable to society.
  • Divorce shall not be treated humorously nor represented as desirable.
  • 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.
  • The treatment of live-romance stories shall emphasize the value of the home and the sanctity of marriage.
  • Passion or romantic interest shall never be treated in such a way as to stimulate the lower and baser emotions.

I wonder how many comic book writers of the day were tempted to create a story about a divorced atheist werewolf, who talks smuttily in jive, and has an affair with a corrupt government official. Wearing a bikini. Called “Terror Crime”.

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