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Comics Code Authority

After World War II, the changing youth culture brought with it fears of juevnile delinquency and social decay. Traditional society was on an irreversible decline in the eyes of many.

Many blamed comic books, along with television and rock and roll, for spurring these supposed menaces to society. The rise in popularity of horror comics from publishers such as EC Comics, known for series such as Tales from the Crypt, contributed to such fears.

Psychiatrist Fredric Wertham's 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent pointed to comic books as a corrupting influence on America's youth. Wertham became a central figure in the battle over comics in the 1950s.

The United States Senate even formed a committee on juvenile delinquency. This committee, chaired by Senator Estes Kefauver, who became his party's nominee for vice president in 1956, investigated causes of supposed juvenile delinquency in post-war America, particularly comic books.

A number of industry figures such as EC Comics publisher Bill Gaines testified before the commitee. As a result of the unwelcome publicity and fears of government censorship, publishers facilitated the formation of the Comics Code Authority by the Comics Magazine Association of America.

The Comics Code Authority reviewed and approved the content of comic books, acting as a censor. The group had strict rules as to what could be depicted in the pages of comic books. Initally, these rules largely forbade sexual content, supernatural themes, and any situations where authority figures were depicted in a less than favorable light.  The absence of the CCA seal on a book's cover meant it wouldn't be carried by many retailers.

To many comic book writers and artists, the CCA was a symbol of Cold War suspicion and hysteria that stifled creativity.  With the social changes of the 1960s and 1970s, the CCA's rules became more relaxed. Topical issues such as drug addiction and race relations began to appear in mainstream titles. The CCA's influence waned throughout the remainder of the century and by 2011 the CCA seal was no longer appearing on comic book covers.

To read the full text of the original 1954 code, please click here.