Comics used to be wild: wild stories, wild concepts, wild images, across-the-board wild creativity. The Great Comics Boom of the 1930s was a time of artistic discovery--the introduction of cheesy and outlandish ideas that became tropes by virtue of overuse. Superheroes weren’t even the tip of the iceberg. Like novels, comics embodied the breadth of story genres: horror, sci-fi, fantasy, western, romance. You name it, they wrote, drew, inked, and colored it. Actually, coloring was rare due to the cost of ink and time paid to creators, money considered wasted during the Great Depression.
Long before the Comics Code Authority wrecked ingenuity, people of all ages and walks of life reveled in leisure comic reading. The market surged into the 1940s, propelled by the sale of war bonds and topical material from WWII; within cheap pulpy pages, readers could envision themselves as these characters, as part of thrilling tales of moral quandaries, identifying with the fear and alienation of real-life situations like immigration and war.
Post WWII, Dr. Wertham capitalized on the Red Scare paranoia, citing comic book reading as the common denominator of juvenile delinquency. So, naturally, he just assumed it was the comic books making kids go batty and rebel against the system. Based on Dr. Wertham’s “evidence,” a moral guideline, created by the Comics Code Authority, was expected to provide “an effective bulwark for the protection and enhancement of the American reading public.” What does that even mean? Check out this link to understand the ruination of the comic industry.
Seriously?! Thankfully, this stringent code was laxly enforced because, quite frankly, no one knew what this decree really meant, and publishers simply stopped even pretending to follow the Code. By 2000, the Code was all but abandoned.
Please enjoy the numerous graphic novels available in Center for the Reader that eschew the CCA with abandon:
Rule 3. Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.
Rule 4. Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates a desire for emulation.
Rule 10. Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly, nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.
Rule 11. Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.
Rule 18. Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.