Updated on 16 October, 2021
The Comics Code Authority was established in 1954 by the Comics Magazine Association of America in an effort to counterbalance federal regulation on comic content. The CCA required that all comic books produced and marketed in the US be governed by a set code of conduct. This code was to serve as a source of consumer protection for buyers. The code regulated many aspects of comic storytelling, from characters to violence to sexual content.
Ever since, the Comics Code Authority has attempted to weaken or abolish the Comics Code Authority, warning that it is a threat to the comics industry in the United States and throughout the world. The Comic Book Legal Defense Association has been a strong critic of the CCA and its attempts to weaken or abolish the Comics Code Authority. In fact, the Comics Code Authority even went so far as to create and publish a fictional code of conduct for comic book publishers.
The Comics Code Authority actually tries to strengthen the laws that govern comic books in the United States by warning that some readers may falsely assume that the comics code seal means that the publisher has approved or disapproved of some aspect of the story. In reality, the Comics Code Authority is not a law but a warning. It does not threaten or interfere with publishers, retailers, or writers in any way. Rather, the Comics Code Authority is there to prevent false and unfounded allegations from harming the comic books industry.
Over the years, the Comics Code Authority has attempted to weaken or abolish their ratings system by trying to get state legislatures to enact bills declaring that material contained in comic books that have been rated by the CCA does not have to be advertised or promoted in any way. These bills have failed in every State that has passed them. At the same time, the Comics Code Authority has tried to classify materials that are truly mature by removing the mature rating from some titles. These efforts only helped to bring about a weakened standing within the industry, pushing sales of mature comic books into the bargain basement as readers turned away from all things adult in favor of superheroes and fantasy. In response to this issue, a new group called the Comics Den has come forward with the mission of preserving mature materials while promoting responsible comic book publishing. The Comics Code Authority has tried to stifle the Comics Den by warning retailers that if they advertise any type of mature content on their stands they will be harassed by Comics Den groups.
Recently the Comics Code Authority has threatened to strip the seal off any comic book that sells under the New York State symbol of AO. Recently, the Comics Code Authority took steps to eliminate the symbol from comics published by two of the largest comic book publishers in the United States, Marvel Comics and DC Comics. These companies are DC comics which are owned by the company that publishes Batman, Superman, and other comic book super heroes and Marvel Comics which are owned by the Marvel comics company. These two comic book publishers have stood firm against attempts by the Comics Code Authority to remove the seal from their comics. In fact, they have filed lawsuits against the Comics Code Authority in an effort to hold the company accountable for the actions of their employees and the censorship that the Code has attempted to impose on their company. As a result, the Comics Code Authority has issued a cease and desist order to both companies.
However, the Comics Code Authority has not ruled out the possibility of reinstating the horror genre into the comics industry. In fact, the Comics Code Authority has put forward two different resolutions to the problem. The first resolution was to remove the horror element completely from Marvel Comics and replace it with a more "family" oriented superhero title. This second resolution proposed a return of horror to the Marvel Family titles such as Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four, and so on. Both resolutions have been rejected by the Comics Code Authority. In addition, the Comics Code Authority has also floated the idea of placing a horror element back into DC comics with the revival of the Batman Dark Knight.
Some of the writers for various mainstream superhero comics such as Marvel have criticized the Comics Code Authority as well as their attempts to place superheroes in a positive light. DC comic writer Scott Lobdell has said that the Comics Code Authority's decisions regarding what makes a comic "good" or "bad" are "ridiculous." He went on to say that the Comics Code Authority is "ignorant about how things are made." He further stated that the Comics Code Authority's decision on which characters are evil and which are good is based solely on their ability to sell a product. In his opinion, the use of the "good" and "bad" labels was a marketing ploy. He has stated that "decisions about what's good and bad really don't exist in a real world."
Stan Lee has said that he does not like the Comics Code Authority's decision to place the "horror" tag on his Spider-Man comic book due to the fact that the character of Spider-Man is "merely" a superhero and should not be treated with respect and ought to not have a different code of ethics than any other professional. Other comic book writers have disagreed with the Comics Code Authority's decision, saying that although the comic book business is booming, placing limitations on what can and cannot be drawn is not the best way to make money. Writer Scott Allie has said that although he generally agrees with the Comics Code Authority, he feels that their way of judging what is not appropriate is rather ludicrous. Other writers have said that they feel that the Comics Code Authority has grown too powerful and that they need more creative freedom rather than a tighter grip on popular culture.