It’s almost upon us! APE (the Alternative Press Expo) will be opening its doors Saturday October 1st and run through Sunday October 2nd. Like Comic-Con, APE is a convention that gives fans, aficionados, pretenders to the throne, and general misanthropes the opportunity to connect with artists, writers, creators of media formats other than comics, and other misanthropes.
The programming kicks of with a discussion on the history of comics censorship. 2011 marks the end of the Comics Code Authority. At the beginning of the year, the last adopters discontinued the use of standards as defined under the code’s guidelines. Most publishers have developed their own practices for self-censorship. This allows the individual publisher to decide what to release and then allow the consumers to decide what they want to purchase.
We believe the code was established on sound theory, namely, to protect the innocent from exposure to dangerous things. As soon as reality kicked in, that auspicious principle became impractical to define and enforce in a balanced and fair manner. The Authority was established in 1954 during a period of heightened paranoia about the impact of adult themes on children. Intention to do good had the unfortunate consequence of creating something bad. At its peak, the CCA was the guiding force on what was published for general consumption. While some principles were sound, especially given the fact that many of the consumers of comic books were young children, the CCA overextended itself egregiously. Established standards included the requirement to show good always triumphing over evil. The standards disallowed the use of the words “terror” or “horror” in the comics book titles. Zombies were prohibited. Sexuality was reduced to the similar practices followed by network broadcasters in the same era to ignore the natural inclinations of our species. “Excessive violence” (impossible to define) was not allowed.
Democratic societies are generally protective of the freedom of expression, so, as an entertainment medium, comic books were intended to be free to explore topics that are of current interest and expose the consumer with new ideas (good or bad). The CCA was an opportunity for the puritanical sensibilities of some to censor the interests of others. Sadly, the CCA effectively truncated the ability for publishers to release stories that would have met the interests of its consumers. What was more tragic is that is squashed the exposure of young and old minds to contemporary issues like racism, sexuality, the admission of fear of a nuclear crisis, disillusionment with established political authority and more. Instead we got aliens with ray guns that shot purple energy beams to turn people … purple, we guess. And the hero wins by using a mirror to bounce the rays back at the alien and … we’re bored already.
We’re not sad to see the CCA go. More on APE later.