Comic Code Authority

The Comics Code Authority (CCA) was formed in 1954 by the Comics Magazine Association of America as an alternative to government regulation, to allow the comic publishers to self-regulate the content of comic books in the United States.

The code was voluntary, there was no law requiring its use although some advertisers and retailers looked for it for reassurance. Some publishers including Dell, Western, Classics Illustrated and Treasure Chest never used it. Its code, commonly called “the Comics Code”, lasted until the early 21st century. The CCA formation followed a series of Senate hearings and the publication of psychiatrist Fredric Wertham’s book ‘Seduction of the Innocent’.

Members submitted comics to the CCA, which screened them for adherence to its Code, then authorized the use of their seal on the cover if the book was found to be in compliance. At the height of its influence, it was a de facto censor for the U.S. comic book industry.

Before the CCA was adopted, some cities already had organized public burnings and bans on comic books. The city councils of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Houston, Texas, passed ordinances banning crime and horror comics, although an attempt by Los Angeles County, California was deemed unconstitutional by the courts.

Although the CCA had no official control over the comics publishers, most distributors refused to carry comics which did not carry the seal. However, two major publishers of comics – Dell Comics and Gold Key Comics – did not display the seal, because their output was subject to a higher authority: their licencors which included Walt Disney and the producers of many TV shows aimed at children.

Seal of Approval

By the early 2000s, publishers bypassed the CCA and Marvel Comics abandoned it in 2001. By 2010, only three major publishers still adhered to it: DC Comics, Archie Comics, and Bongo Comics.

Bongo Comics broke with the CCA in 2010. DC and Archie followed in January 2011, rendering the Code completely defunct.