Horror. Crime. Science Fiction. War. Suspense. Oddball humor. Incisive writing. Eye-popping art. These are the elements that made EC Comics irresistible to readers of the 1950s. Their titles were produced by some of the finest creators the comic industry has ever seen.
When the bubble burst, and EC's line of comics fell before a squalling mob of censors, Senators, sinister psychiatrists and simple-minded puritans, one series managed to escape, transform itself into a full-size black-and-white magazine, and go on to turn American culture upside-down with its cleverly absurd approach to humor. And through it all, there was one constant figure lurking behind the scenes: publisher, co-editor, troubleshooter, troublemaker, and visionary William M. Gaines.
The Comics Code Seal of Approval, adopted on this day on 1954 by the Comics Magazine Association of America, is an instantly recognizable image to generations of comic readers. Its modest black-and-white brand adorned the covers of countless mainstream comic books for the better part of six decades, assuring buyers that the contents of their favorite title had met with some not-entirely-clear standards of suitability, and serving as a lingering reminder of an era when comics has been considered a serious threat to society.
This week, DC Comics announcd that they were no longer going to be abiding by the Comics Code Authority. Instead, they'll be doing something similar to what Marvel quietly did a few years back, instituting their own in-house system with ratings like T (for teens), T+ (for older teens) and that ol' standby, M (for mature).
This week is Banned Books Week, when we celebrate the fact that we live in a country where we are free to say, write and read what we choose -- and the importance of being vigilant against those who would try to erode those rights and make those choices for us...
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