Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Comics Code In Action: Saving Kids From Reading The Word Yipes!!

Most of us are to young to remember the Comics Code Authority at the height of it's power. Defanged by Stan with the Spider-Man drug story, growing more irrelevant as moral crusaders found bigger and more powerful media to target, and loosening their grip as the society became more tolerant of depictions of violence, most of us only have memories of the CCA as a quaint organization that occasionally did something laugh-worthy (zombies = bad, zuvembies = OK!!).

But back in the day? They were pernicious censors who would sanitize the most trivial of things.

Let's look at Harvey's Thrills Of Tomorrow #20 (1955), the very first book of that title to have the CCA stamp.

The entire issue was merely reprinting Stuntman #2 (1946), by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. So it was hardly the kind of violence and gore fest the CCA was created to deal with.

And yet, censor away they did.

Check out this panel:

Wow, that's not a very effective word balloon, is it?

Well, according to the indexer of this issue at GCDB, the original panel from 1946 had Dan Daring yelling, "YIPE!" Yes, "yipe." Perhaps, in 1955, the exclamation had some lurid conotation that's lost to time. Maybe our children needed to be protected from that. Not likely, though.

Or take this panel:

Hmm, why was that balloon to large? Well, maybe, again according to GCD, the director finished by saying, " break every bone in your thick head!!" 

Now, in context, this wasn't a serious threat. He was just trying to motivate the actor to stop goofing around. But heaven forbid, the Comics Code declared we can't have people threatening to break bones, even facetiously! Break out the white-out if you want to reprint the story!

Exhibit the next:

So, wait...why is the actress standing on a chair? What, exactly, was the villain threatening?

Well, I do have access to the original panels of the story, thanks to the LA Times' Hero Complex. So let's check it out:

Yes, they went and removed the rope from the panels. Yes, that completely destroys the context. And even more ironically, this was just a scene during a play--no one was actually going to hang anyone!! But dammit, we're going to censor it!

And from the story's splash page:

What, the bad guy is threatening to punch someone?

Ah, I see...

And again, as our clumsy movie star/amateur detective steps on a cat...

Heavens to Betsy, that must have been some exclamation to have required censoring, right?


Whatever the drawbacks of some of today's hyper-violent comics--and yes, I wish I could beam some Geoff Johnsian stories back to 1955 and watch the CCA's heads explode--at least we can say "YIPE!" in our comics today.

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