DC Ditches Comics Code Authority, Installs New Ratings System
After nearly sixty years, DC Comics has decided that none of its publications need carry the Seal of Approval of the controversial Comics Code Authority. The announcement was made in a communique to direct market retailers, which also included the news that DC will employ a new ratings system of its own design. Deployment of DC’s new ratings system will begin in April.
The Seal’s presence on popular DC books has diminished in the last few years, so much so that it’s become relatively difficult to find it even if you’re looking (which we were!) But now it’s official, absolutely no DC publications will carry the CCA Seal. Apparently taking a cue from the video game industry’s self-ratings system, DC Comics’ covers will feature different indications for different sorts of content. In the letter sent to retailers, DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee broke it down succinctly:
E – EVERYONE
Appropriate for readers of all ages. May contain cartoon violence and/or some comic mischief.
T – TEEN
Appropriate for readers age 12 and older. May contain mild violence, language and/or suggestive themes.
T+ – TEEN PLUS
Appropriate for readers age 16 and older. May contain moderate violence, mild profanity, graphic imagery and/or suggestive themes.
M – MATURE
Appropriate for readers age 18 and older. May contain intense violence, extensive profanity, nudity, sexual themes and other content suitable only for older readers.
Created in the 1950s as a consequence of dubious arguments put forth by Dr. Frederic Wetham, among others, that comic books contributed to the delinquency of children, the Comics Code Authority Seal of Approval signaled to parents and resellers (some of whom refused to carry material not approved by the CCA) that their children’s reading material was “safe.” According to Wikipedia, such offending material included the presentation of “policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions … in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.”
From the Comics Code Authority, circa 1954:
- Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.
- If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.
- Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates a desire for emulation.
- In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
- Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gunplay, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.
- 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.
- All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.
- 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.
- 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.
- Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.
- Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.
- Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.
- Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at nor portrayed. Violent love scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.
- Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.
- Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.
- Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures shall not be permitted in the advertising of any product; clothed figures shall never be presented in such a way as to be offensive or contrary to good taste or morals.
The code was updated over the years to allow for the depiction of werewolves, vampires, the corruption of elected officials, homosexuality and other such outrageously taboo subjects, but it’s left a bad taste in the mouths of many professionals for generations.