It isn’t just the medical issues I’ve had the past couple of months that delayed this final installment. It’s not easy coming up with a code by yourself that isn’t about screwing over your publishing rival under the guise of “protecting the children”. It would be like if Sony used the ESRB rating system to mess with Nintendo. I wanted to do this right.
The biggest problem with the Comics Code is that it was an all-or-nothing system, in large part due to the pressure put on newsstands to not sell comics that didn’t have the CCA logo on it. While the music industry would later get away with it using the advisory sticker and then releasing the rest of it, comics weren’t so lucky as the do-gooders insisted that all comics were for kids so selling a comic that kids shouldn’t read was evil. You know, the usual garbage. When independent publishers starting rising in the 1980s and the do-gooders found a new media to demand was only for kids and you had to protect the kids by keeping the teens and adults away, the Comics Code was on its way to becoming obsolete, the rise of comic stores and book stores while comics disappeared from newsstands at the stores (save for a spinner rack at Stop & Shop and a rack at Toys R Us I haven’t seen a comic book outside of the comic store and book stores only have trade collections now) being a huge factor.
So I’ve been trying to figure out a new system, like video games, television shows, and movies have…which is when the most obvious solution possible hit me…and even then it was slow going.
We already have the right system in place!
While the MPAA ratings system still suffers from the odd problems that plagued the Comics Code Authority in the mismanagement of how a rating is sometimes implemented, the system itself is still perfect and every other media that has a rating system (namely television and video games) should just adopt this as we all understand it by now and can easily follow it. Instead parents have to try to figure out which is which and at Christmas shopping time parents can’t take five seconds to look at anything because they’re worried they’re missing some sales item for something else on the kids’ lists. A rant for another time (and possibly The Tronix Tumblr) but we know the MPAA system. It’s easy and we should adopt it.
This way parents would know that comics based on toys and cartoons they grew up with can’t be shared with the new generation of kids because they became more adult (and somehow less mature), or that even Superman is no longer kid friendly. It would probably be PG while Batman would be PG-13. Vertigo or Marvel MAX would probably be R or NC-17. Porn comics would of course be X. It’s simple, it’s easy to follow, so why not use it?
Instead DC and Marvel are policing themselves and some readers question whether they’re using that right. I’ve heard examples of Spider-Man stories that don’t quite reach “teen” level because it’s too violent but that’s what Marvel chose. This system would allow DC and Marvel to continue doing whatever they want (usually ruining their own characters and previous stories with terrible retcons or universal reboots) and parents would know that what they read as kids are no longer kid-friendly so the writers and editors can prove comics aren’t just for kids…by making them not for kids at all because #$%@ kids, they wanna see tittes and blood…or blood on titties I guess.
Parents, now aware that there is nothing for the kids from the main two, would go to the smaller publishers and somehow find a kid-friendly comic, although good luck on the superhero for kids hunt. Unless there’s a TV tie-in forget it. I find it funny that today’s comic creators seem to be going out of their way to prove Fredrick Wertham correct. Next the gamers will prove Jack Thompson right, possibly in time for the new media type for do-gooders to ruin by insisting they’re protecting the children by keeping adults from enjoying it. Well, the no-fun adults anyway.
What I’ve tried to prove in this article series is that the Comics Code as an idea wasn’t a bad one. It was the draconian rules mixed with poor or bizarre enforcement of the Code that annoyed the creators, like trying to do an anti-drug story where drugs are in a negative light, as requested by the President, but not being able to get CCA approval, but flash forward a few decades and you can stuff a dead body of a perfectly good character in a refrigerator and just ask to hide the body from the reader’s view. I like the idea of the code, but forcing stands to only carry Code-approved comics rather than not selling non-Code comics to minors (and even that might overdo it if a 15-year-old wanted one of the non-gory police story comics) and putting some of the sillier rules that may have forced creative ways around it but sometimes went into “we are helping” territory hampered comics. I understand the issues today but we may be going too far as a medium.
Using the MPAA system would be a way for any business wanting to sell comics to know what they could safely sell, allow parents to know what comics were safe to kids, and still allow older readers to enjoy good stories. It’s a win-win and this is what I would implement as a proper replacement for the Comics Code. Replacing the Comics Code authority and yes the MPAA ratings board would help, too.
And so we come to the end of this article series. I hope it was informative and interesting, and that whatever problems the Code has we do need a system to let people know what is safe for each age group to read and maybe encourage some more superhero comics for kids. If you haven’t read it, check out the full series (the first installment is at the end of the list because that’s how WordPress groups things) and decide for your self if the Comic Code was bad to the core of if there is a good reason for implementing something like it, even if what we got needed work. I prefer to have the industry self-police their work, but maybe not so close to home. I support the impartial jury when they can do their job right.