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Author Topic: !$@* the Comics Code  (Read 618 times)

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Mongrel

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!$@* the Comics Code
« on: January 04, 2014, 04:59:24 PM »

I keep running into people who think the Comics Code was a good thing, because it gave us modern Marvel & DC.

Arghnarghgrarghrarghrawr
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Thad

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Re: !$@* the Comics Code
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2014, 05:12:54 PM »

...I SUPPOSE I can see a certain logic to it.  Whether or not you like modern DC or Marvel as a whole, you can probably pick out some favorites from the past couple of decades that would probably never have happened except as a backlash against the Comic Code -- Watchmen, Authority, X-Statix would be a few examples of mine.  Hell, you could make the case that the Marvel renaissance of the 1960's would never have happened if not for the Code.

I own a pit bull.  She is my best friend and I love her more than words can say.  My wife and I got her because we were robbed a few months ago; if we had never been robbed we would almost certainly not own this dog, and I believe our lives would be poorer without her.

So I can certainly understand having an appreciation for the good things that can result, indirectly, from a bad thing.

But I would have to be just as fucking crazy to say that the Comics Code was a good thing as I would be to say my house getting robbed was.
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TA

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Re: !$@* the Comics Code
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2014, 05:17:43 PM »

Quote from: grognards.txt
Racism has no connection to alignment. Period. It is a philosophy or life style yes but it is not one connected to good or evil until such time as one uses it as motivation that brings about deeds that are good or evil. Hitler used fear and racism to bring about a dark chapter of history. In the US racism brought political gains for politicians. But on the other end racism brought about civil right movements across the world that many say improved the world. Take it how u want.

That's basically the same logic.
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Brentai

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Re: !$@* the Comics Code
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2014, 05:38:41 PM »

Nnnot really, because the main thing the civil rights movement actually improves on is lessening the impact of racism.  I can't name a whole lot of things that we can't say we would both not have and need if not for institutional oppression (I mean sure the pyramids are nice and all buuut...)

If you're going to come within a hair's breadth of Godwin you might as well go full hog and mention the body of medical knowledge that came out of the holocaust.  But that's kind of stupid to equate to Watchmen and the Comics Code, so uhhh...

I can't think of a better "good thing as reaction to bad thing" example right now.
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TA

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Re: !$@* the Comics Code
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2014, 06:07:51 PM »

The argument to me seems to be that the quote unquote bad thing is actually a good thing because it led to good things.
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Brentai

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Re: !$@* the Comics Code
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2014, 06:19:21 PM »

Oh, you mean the idea that Mongrel's acquaintances are batting around.  Yes.  Carry on.
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Mongrel

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Re: !$@* the Comics Code
« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2014, 01:36:29 AM »

Yeah, I mean if you want to go Godwin, our current world and many good things about it were shaped in large part by the result of the events of World War II.

That doesn't mean that it's good that WWII happened*. We're talking about a classic boneheaded conflation of results and method, that once something happens, it's justified by the simple fact of it having happened.

*I guess if you're one of those people who hold that violent conflict is an intrinsic and inevitable part of the human condition, you could argue that WWII went about as well as a war that killed 2.5% of the entire global population could go. If we had to have one. But that's an entirely separate argument.
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Royal☭

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Re: !$@* the Comics Code
« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2014, 01:42:44 AM »

You know, in these kinds of things, context could matter. Saying "The Comics Code produced Watchmen" isn't the same as saying "WWII produced The Diary of Anne Frank" by order of magnitude of oh, let's say, one net Holocaust. You can't and it would be stupid to make the comparison between the Comics Code and Racism or WWII because the Comics Code didn't go out of its way to kill people or oppress them.

Mongrel

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Re: !$@* the Comics Code
« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2014, 02:19:16 AM »

That's fair of course - obviously that's an orders-of-magnitude difference. But that doesn't make me a fan of a massive censorship regime that crippled and possibly permanently stunted the development of an new art form through an entire continent, just as it was entering adolescence, because hey, at least we got Alan Moore to behave that one time.

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Büge

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Re: !$@* the Comics Code
« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2014, 02:21:00 AM »

Okay, okay, let's pull back a little.

Saying The Comics Code is good because it gave us modern DC and Marvel is like saying One More Day is good because it gave us The Gauntlet and Grim Hunt.

Quote
Warning - while you were typing a new reply has been posted. You may wish to review your post.

I don't care, I'm not changing it.
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Royal☭

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Re: !$@* the Comics Code
« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2014, 03:26:17 AM »

That's fair of course - obviously that's an orders-of-magnitude difference. But that doesn't make me a fan of a massive censorship regime that crippled and possibly permanently stunted the development of an new art form through an entire continent, just as it was entering adolescence, because hey, at least we got Alan Moore to behave that one time.

Well, yes, I just think the issue of the benefits of the Comics Code is more complicated than immediately comparing it actual systems of oppression. The "massive censorship regime" was actually a voluntary code of conduct adopted by the industry to prevent an incensed public and government from producing much more strict, legal systems that would have crippled the comics industry further. Then again, it was also designed specifically to sink EC and leave the field open to just DC & Marvel superheroes. And it's not like Marvel didn't continually push the boundaries of the code during the 60s and 70s anyway.

Really, to me, the thing that makes the argument so bafflingly stupid is how it hagiographies Watchmen to some kind of super important status while ignoring the works it was reacting and commenting on. It also reduces some 30 - 50 years of comic book history down to just one book.

Mongrel

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Re: !$@* the Comics Code
« Reply #11 on: January 05, 2014, 04:00:24 AM »

The funny part is that typically the people I've seen making that argument are not citing Watchmen as the positive, they're citing like Marvel Ultimates or such.

 :wakka:
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Büge

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Re: !$@* the Comics Code
« Reply #12 on: January 05, 2014, 06:05:00 AM »

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Royal☭

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Re: !$@* the Comics Code
« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2014, 09:51:15 AM »

i... what? I mean, that doesn't even make sense. It'd been at least a decade since Marvel ditched the Comics Code before they did Ultimates.

Thad

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Re: !$@* the Comics Code
« Reply #14 on: January 05, 2014, 05:00:00 PM »

That's fair of course - obviously that's an orders-of-magnitude difference. But that doesn't make me a fan of a massive censorship regime that crippled and possibly permanently stunted the development of an new art form through an entire continent, just as it was entering adolescence, because hey, at least we got Alan Moore to behave that one time.

It did ruin careers and livelihoods.  It wasn't war or slavery but it was a pretty terrible thing nonetheless.

Well, yes, I just think the issue of the benefits of the Comics Code is more complicated than immediately comparing it actual systems of oppression. The "massive censorship regime" was actually a voluntary code of conduct adopted by the industry to prevent an incensed public and government from producing much more strict, legal systems that would have crippled the comics industry further. Then again, it was also designed specifically to sink EC and leave the field open to just DC & Marvel superheroes.

Not exactly.  First of all, Fantastic Four was years away and Marvel/Timely/Atlas was primarily publishing watered-down versions of EC's horror comics.  The publisher that became Marvel was not even really a player; it went onboard with the Code but it's a mistake to suggest it had the same level of influence that DC or Archie did.

And I wouldn't call the code "voluntary".  It's true that it was created by the industry as a means to self-regulate rather than as a government censorship regime, but it wasn't voluntary if you wanted your comics to be, you know, available at newsstands for sale to people.

Indeed, there's an argument to be made that government censorship at the federal level would have been less catastrophic -- because there WERE local laws passed in the years prior to the Code (and maybe some state ones too, I don't remember offhand), and every single one of them was struck down by the courts.  If Congress had had the balls to pass laws saying that, oh, comic books weren't allowed to have vampires in them, that never would have passed constitutional muster.  But the Code successfully kept the no-vampires rule in place for, what, 20 years?

And it's not like Marvel didn't continually push the boundaries of the code during the 60s and 70s anyway.

Well, in a safe, coloring-inside-the-lines kind of way.  They did a story about DRUGS! -- which was a schmaltzy after-school special about how Drugs are Bad.  And they pushed for the inclusion of vampires and reanimated corpses!  In non-threatening forms best resembling the Universal Monsters of the 1930's.

The push-pull of Marvel's creators trying to test limits and editorial and the executive office pulling back is everywhere, but I can't think of a better example than Kirby putting a black superhero on the cover of Fantastic Four and somebody deciding to cover up his jaw so you couldn't tell he was black.

i... what? I mean, that doesn't even make sense. It'd been at least a decade since Marvel ditched the Comics Code before they did Ultimates.

Er, if by "at least a decade" you mean "a little over six months"...?

X-Force #116 -- the "Hey kids!  Look, no Code!" issue -- was cover-dated July 2001; Ultimates #1 was cover-dated March 2002.

Which doesn't make the argument that Ultimates makes up for the Code any less dumb, mind (and I say that as somebody who LIKED Ultimates); it's just that your dates are way off.
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Mongrel

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Re: !$@* the Comics Code
« Reply #15 on: January 05, 2014, 05:47:47 PM »

One thing I found was that it was surprisingly hard to find real statistics to cite, so in those trolly arguments, I saw a lot of [CITATION NEEDED, CHUMP] from people who claim the code didn't have much of an effect.

I've read stats in paper publications that described sales losses of 75% - 90% but those are in paper publications I don't own and haven't seen in a good couple of years. I mean I know that a ton of studios closed between 1953 and 1959 and there's a commonly quoted pre-code figure that pegged general north american industry circulation at 1 billion issues total right before the Code, but it's hard to really get documentation for that.

Modern circulation figures are available (and are nothing remotely close to 1 billion) and I think there was one site that did have some stats for 1965 (and onward), which showed Superman at 840,000 or so and most Marvel books at around 250,000 - 350,000 for 1965/66. But they were hardly a complete record.

There's also the valid argument that the rise of TV would have significantly dented comic sales even without the Code, but obviously the Code was catastrophic for many existing publishers as well as creating a sort of near-genre-genocide (I think that in spite of the code some non-code magazines were still printed with crime, horror, etc. stories, albeit at a vastly lower circulation, but again documentation is hard to find).
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Thad

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Re: !$@* the Comics Code
« Reply #16 on: January 06, 2014, 05:03:59 PM »

The most thorough book I've read on the subject is The Ten-Cent Plague, by David Hajdu (affiliate link).  It's got some inaccuracies -- for example, it repeats the claim that Mad became a magazine to avoid the Code (false; it became a magazine because Harvey Kurtzman wanted to be a magazine editor, and avoiding the Code was a happy coincidence) -- but on the whole it makes a great crash course and is impressive in the breadth of the primary sources Hajdu interviewed.  (In fact, it's probable that the Mad story was told to him by someone who was there at the time and, understandably, misremembered the details some 55 years later.)



EDIT TO ADD: And as far as citations, it ends with a list of names of people who never worked in the comics industry again after the Code was introduced.
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Royal☭

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Re: !$@* the Comics Code
« Reply #17 on: January 07, 2014, 02:50:58 AM »

Gah, yeah. Might check that out, most of my details about the code come from various articles on the internet and a few books about the history of Marvel, mostly centered around Jack Kirby. Not sure why I thought Marvel ditched the code in the early 90s, though. Probably mixing it up with some of Marvel's creators leaving to go form Image.

Zaratustra

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Re: !$@* the Comics Code
« Reply #18 on: January 07, 2014, 07:31:03 AM »

Probably the whole Todd McFarlane/Rob Liefeld craze? Turns out that was entirely in-code, imagine that.

Bongo Bill

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Re: !$@* the Comics Code
« Reply #19 on: January 07, 2014, 07:42:07 AM »

Lemonade.
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...but is it art?
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