DC Comics drops out of Comics Code, will start own rating system in April

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Comics Code Authority logoDC Comics announced earlier today that as of this month, comics they print will no longer be submitted to the Comics Code Authority for their approval. (A brief glance at my copy of this month’s “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” confirms such.) Instead, starting in April, DC will use its own ratings system for all of their non-Vertigo comics. More on the ratings system to be used (and the decision) can be read at this Comic Book Resources article.

Created in 1954 after a series of witch hunts and Congressional hysteria over the supposed negative influence comic books (particularly those of EC Comics, the company of “Tales From the Crypt” fame) were having on children, the Comics Code Seal of Approval has been a part of American comics for decades. Their heavy-handed rules in the 50s led to many limits on creativity; the only fare that passed muster were categories like superheroes, Westerns, funny animals, and teen humor titles (such as Archie).

The Code’s standards loosened in the early 70s, allowing for the revival of the horror comic; said genre had all but been banned since the mid-50s (even titles couldn’t contain certain horror-specific words in them). The standards since have been loosened further and further, with the result that the Code is now pretty much toothless (judging from DC’s hyper-violent output of late).

Most comic companies don’t bother submitting their books to the Comics Code anymore; Marvel ceased doing so in 2001, creating their own ratings system similar to the one DC plans to use. Even Disney’s line of books (via Boom! Studios) don’t bother with Code approval. Per the CBR article, the only major companies left that still submit books to the CCA are Bongo (makers of “The Simpsons” and “Futurama” comics) and Archie.

I feel this was a long time coming for DC. I also feel that a ratings system should be more useful for those interested in ratings than a generic “Code approved” stamp that got put on both “Tiny Titans” and the latest shock-value Joker-killing-spree comic. Which makes me wonder how many DC books will wind up with an “E” rating, anyway; my guess is very few, outside of the Johnny DC line.

As for the fate of the Comics Code Authority, now that its two biggest companies (Marvel and DC) are gone and their only big publishers left are Bongo and Archie, I think it’s time they closed up shop permanently. Bongo’s fare, like “The Simpsons” and “Futurama” TV shows, are PG- or PG-13-rated material at worst (the Halloween stories, “Itchy & Scratchy,” the occasional mild swear word or mention of sex), and usually considered suitable comics for children, or at least older children.

Archie has always been kid-friendly; if they ever decide to put out something that isn’t as kid-friendly, they could always use an imprint (such as their “Red Circle” line of superheroes). Thus, it’s time for the CCA to get tossed into the quarter-bin of history. (UPDATE, 1/21/11: Looks like Archie and Bongo are now out of the Code too).

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