The Comics Code Authority
The Comics Code Authority is an organization whose chief purpose is to allow comic books to place the CCA stamp on their covers. They get this right after the CCA has determined whether the content of the issue is suitable for a largely youth audience. In the 21st century, this serves as sort of a guide for parents, to let them know whether there might be objectionable content inside. In the beginning, though, the CCA’s scope was quite wider. It was, in fact, a de facto censorship board for the comic-book industry. In the 60s especially, they were the arbiters of whether or not a comic book would be available on the comic stands. Spiderman, however, changed the CCA’s power forever.
Let’s back up and examine the CCA’s history. The Comics Code Authority was created in 1954 as a reaction to the publics growing concern about the “subversive” content in comics. Following congressional hearings into the medium, the CCA was created, and imposed numerous restrictions on the industry. Specifically, excessive violence, and “lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations” were forbidden. Also, they could not use the words “horror” or “terror” in their titles. And under no circumstances could a comic book talk about drugs or alcohol abuse.
Then along came Stan Lee and Spiderman. In 1971 in The Amazing Spider-Man #96-#98, Stan Lee created a story arc with an anti-drug message. In it, Peter Parker’s best friend was seen suffering the negative effects of drugs. Lee was informed that the story arc could not be published. The writer’s argument was that this story did not portray drugs in a positive light, but showed their negative effects. The CCA was unmoved. So Marvel Comics made a bold move: They published the issues without the coveted CCA seal. The story arc had fantastic sales, and received critical and fan approval.
Soon after, DC followed suit, showing Speedy (sidekick to Green Arrow) with a heroin habit. This took the Spiderman story a step further, because they actually identified the drug.
Soon after these issues, the CCA modified their requirements to allow the depiction of drug use as a “vicious habit.”
Today, the CCA continues to exist….but not with the power they once wielded. Today they serve as sort of a “parent’s friend,” to help them monitor the content of their children’s reading material.