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December 16, 2008


Jim Azelvandre

Good post, and I do agree with you for the most part. The arguments both for and against the code have been extremely over-simplified over the years.

It IS refreshing, though, to see the editor's response. Even today, too many people equate "mature" with gratuitous stuff that doesn't really add to the story except to pander to prurient interests. Just the other day, I was complaining to my wife about a recent Vertigo book that struck me as "trying too hard" Gah, I sounded like my dad!

I never gave the code much thought then (I think we're about the same age), but I've wanted one of those shirts for awhile now (in a completely un-ironic way)


A surprising amount of depth and insight for a letters page.

It's interesting to think about how frequently "adult" is wrongly equated to mean containing large quantities of sex and/or violence. A complex and layered story can be adult in a way that's inaccessible to children, and we've sort of lost that as a definition of what it means to have an adult story.

I think the inverse is also true, though. We keep feeding children these adult themes, without thinking how it will affect these outlooks.

My two-year old son recently started becoming addicted to Superman. We happened to catch Superman: The Movie being broadcast on TV, and he was hooked. But as I watched it, I thought how it wasn't really subject matter for someone his age.

As I reflected on it, I realized that there wasn't really any Superman content out there that would be appropriate for him. The Bruce Timm cartoons (Superman: The Animated Series as well as all the Justice League stuff) were great, but they weren't really meant for anyone younger than 15. The Christopher Reeve movies were generally for younger viewers (or, rather, younger than the Brandon Routh/Bryan Singer movie was), but still had some complex scenes involving Superman's relationship with Lois.

There was a time, long ago, where these characters were meant for children and the stories were digestable by children. Where did those stories go?

Pat Curley

Excellent post, Mark. I have some longish thoughts about this so I will create a blog post. What I find odd about the response from Roy about zombies, though, is that Marvel had by that point been publishing comics with vampires and wolfmen, both of which were expressly forbidden by the code, at least the version that I've read. Was there some amendment to the code around 1971, or did they allow those stories on a case-by-case basis?

Mark Engblom

I think Marvel's "trojan horse" when it came to introducing vampires and wolfmen (and zombies for that matter) were their line of magazines, which weren't covered by the code. This way, I think they could gauge their popularity to see if it was worth an attempt to introduce them to the comic book side in a "kinda sorta" way.

For example, Marvel's first vampire was Spider-Man villain Morbius, who was created through a science accident...which nicely skated around the supernatural vampires covered in the Code. Another famous dodge was Marvel's use of "zuvembie" creatures which, for all intents and purposes were zombies, seemed to pass muster (though I'm sure they got a skeptical eyebrow-raise out of the Code office).

So, this sort of thing gradually diminished some of the Code's supernatural admonitions, which...paired with Marvel's famous "drug issues" appeaing in Spider-Man...lead to an overall weakening of the Code's influence.

Mark Engblom

"I realized that there wasn't really any Superman content out there that would be appropriate for him."


I know how you feel. When my kids were much younger, it was always a challenge finding stuff that I knew was appropriate for them. As for animated shows, you should give the new "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" a viewing. They're aimed at a much younger audience, but are still quite entertaining to those "young at heart" (like Yours Truly). Give it a shot...I think a two year old would enjoy the show...but that's just my opinion.

ShadowWing Tronix

You also have the current DC Super Friends comics, the old Superfriends cartoons, and even the unlamented Ruby-Spears cartoons of the 90's that probably won't be appearing on DVD anytime soon. (I actually liked that show, so that's too bad.)

I read the editor remarks posted, look at what the Marvel editors are doing now, and cry.

Chris Mullen

The comics of the early 50's really made the Code necessary. The lurid and violent crime and horror stories really had no merits as stories, and the more wholesome superhero stuff was dying out. The creation of the Code really indirectly caused the dawn of the Silver Age, as Superman and Flash comics really weren't that offensive to begin with.

I'm a video games fan as well as a comics fan, and I sort of see the same things happening today with video games as happened to comics in the past. Stuff obviously made for kids like Sonic the Hedgehog get violence and swearing thrown in for no reason. It's a far cry from when "Rated G" meant "for everyone," not "for kids under 7."

Pat Curley

Sent a trackback on this, Mark. Do you have to approve them before they show up? I got the confirmation message from the pinger.


I think the Bruce Timm cartoons are perfectly appropriate for younger kids (though they'll probably get more out of them once they're old enough to follow moderately complex plots.) Occasionally there might be some content that's a little scary for very young kids, but they've played well for my niece and nephew from about age 4 up.

At age 2 (I think), my nephew really dug the Fleischer Superman cartoons. I think it was before he was even talking much, but it was fun to see how his eyes just lit up whenever Superman was on the screen. There's clearly something about Superman that just plain *works* on a fundamental level, even for little kids who don't already know him.


Agree wholeheartedly with sudenim. I never really found much in the way of offense when it came to any of the Timm cartoons - least of all S:tAS. As sude said I'm sure there's more they'll get out of it once they are older, but I don't see why they wouldn't be perfectly appropriate, fun cartoons for someone a little younger (if you have specific reasons, please, enlighten me - not trying to be sarcastic or anything, just genuinely curious).

Of course, I might hold off before introducing them to some of the second season Justice League stuff...with the whole "Justice League vs. the government" stuff I can imagine it being hard for them to distinguish the bad guys from the good.


Just wanted to drop back to say I picked up a DVD of the Fleischer cartoons. Great stuff. Best rated version I could find was put out by Bosko, which was also pretty cheap!

Thanks all!


Wasn't there a whole Marvel Zombie arc where Spider-Man was a zombie?

Pat Curley

BTW, just found out an interesting fact. Roy Thomas the (apparent) editor in question? Wrote an article that was intended for the original Alter Ego #1 recommending getting rid of the CCA. But because Jerry Bails had gotten Julius Schwartz's enthusiastic backing for the project, Thomas apparently pulled the article (I don't think it was ever published).

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