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TVparty is Classic TV on the internet! Classic Comic books

of the fifties

by Billy Ingram  / 1995 article


In the early 1950's, a Senate committee was convened to look into the possibility that the comic book industry could be corrupting the minds of the young people of the nation. Some senators and psychiatrists argued that the lurid content of the comic books of the day was directly linked to the supposed rash of juvenile delinquency among teenagers.

The usual witchunt ensued when elected officials started getting media attention, the magazine distributors started getting nervous and parents stopped buying comics for their children. All of the major comic book publishers (except E.C. Comics) got together and formed the Comics Code Authority to specifically regulate what can and can't appear in their comic books, and this action took some of the heat off of the industry.

The code was full of restrictions designed to make comics wholesome for kids again. Some sample guidelines: 'Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall not be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.' and 'No comics magazine shall use the word horror or terror in it's title.'

The longest passage in the comic's code governs the depiction of drug use, since comic books were presented to the Senate committee that contained scenes of people shooting up drugs and hypodermic needles going into people's eyes, stuff like that. Comics that passed the code carried a stamp of approval printed in the upper right hand corner, a symbol that you still see on comic books today.

Here are some comic book covers that were published in the late forties and early fifties, before the inception of the Comic's Code.

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Planet Comics no.51 © Fiction House Nov. 1947
This slithering green alien is getting into position, tongue extended, for a taste of what every red blooded boy was looking for. This cover might help explain why so few girls read science-fiction comic books, and would have surely been rejected under the Comic's Code rule that states: 'Suggestive and salacious illustration is unacceptable.'

Witchcraft no.2 © Avon Comics Aug. 1952
"The Death Tattoo!". "The Vampire Puppet!". This cover leaves little to the imagination, but it's a clear example of the kind of content that had parents worried and why Senate hearings were called for in the first place. It's also a bold cover design that would probably sell well today.
Amazing Adventures no.4 © Ziff-Davis july 1951
"Invasion of the Love Robots' depicts a hideous alien controlling his 'Love Robot' as it works it's charms on one of our Earth girls in this great painted cover. Publisher Ziff-Davis' covers almost always depicted a well-endowed woman in trouble, often in bondage, and that may be why the publisher didn't stay in comic books very long after the Code went into effect. Now Ziff-Davis publishes most of those internet magazines you read.
amazing adventures
Venus no. 11 © Marvel Comics nov. 1950
Venus faces "The End of the World". It couldn't have really been the end of the world, because 'Venus' wasn't cancelled until issue 19, and by then Bill Everett had taken over the strip and turned it into a well-drawn treat. However, the rule that states 'All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated' might have kept this cover off the stands if it had been published just three years later. Still, you have to admire Venus for keeping her hair and evening gown looking good, even under the worst circumstances.
Venus no11
Wild Bill Hickok no.1
© Avon Comics Sept. 1949
'True stories from official files!' promises this cover by EC Comic's seminal horror illustrator 'Ghastly' Graham Ingels. It's easy to see why 'Wild Bill' and the Indians are fighting so furiously here, his girlfriend's breasts are displayed front and center. This cover would have been a violation of the clause that states: 'Females shall be drawn realistically without undue emphasis on any physical quality.'

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