January 21, 2011

DC Comics to ditch the Comics Code Authority


In 1954,  the Comics Magazine Association of America (CMAA), under the pressure of an increasingly concerned public, the questionable work of Dr. Fredric Wertham, and the fear of possible government regulations, decided that it would be within their best interest to install their own self-regulatory organization. The result, the Comics Code Authority (CCA) and its seal of approval, became a means to guarantee the “quality” of an individual comic book to both concerned parents and vendors. Although the CCA had no legal authority over the industry, the overwhelming majority of distributors refused to carry items without the seal. As a result, comic book publishers were quick to comply with the restrictions for fear of facing seemingly inevitable ruin.

Although the CCA’s power has been on a steady decline since its introduction, its seal has, nonetheless, been present on some of DC Comics publications for the last 56 years.

Now, however, as a report at Comics Alliance informs us, that won’t be happening anymore. In an announcement on its blog labeled “from the co-publishers” (they go unnamed, but they are Jim Lee and Dan DiDio), DC says it will no longer use the CCA Seal on any future publications, and will be implementing a new rating system “of its own design” starting in April.

This new rating system, as detailed in the letter, appears to borrow heavily from the self-ratings of the video game industry. Rather then effectively ban certain material as the original CCA sought to do, this new system seeks to create simple levels of content that should be easily recognizable to both distributors and buyers:

Appropriate for readers of all ages. May contain cartoon violence and/or some comic mischief.

Appropriate for readers age 12 and older. May contain mild violence, language and/or suggestive themes.

Appropriate for readers age 16 and older. May contain moderate violence, mild profanity, graphic imagery and/or suggestive themes.

Appropriate for readers age 18 and older. May contain intense violence, extensive profanity, nudity, sexual themes and other content suitable only for older readers.

For contrast, here are some of the highlights, as provided by wikipedia, of the CCA regulations at the height of its power in 1954: