Comics / Spotlight

An open letter to comic book Fans, Retailers, Media, Creators and Publishers

By Kody Chamberlain
July 4, 2005 - 19:49

Dear Fans, Retailers, Media, Creators and Publishers,

I'm no historian, and I'm no expert on comics. But I do know that something was stolen from me in 1954.

Real diversity.

Dr. Frederick Wertham released The Seduction of the Innocent in 1954. His book was an unrealistic look at the comic book industry and made unproven claims that the industry was harmful to kids. As a result of the book and the public reaction that soon followed, The Comic Magazine Association of America Inc. was formed and gave birth to the Standards of the Comics Code Authority. 1954 was a very bad year for comic books.

Popular genres like Horror, Crime, War, Romance, Comedy, Western, and even Humor books were either killed off or had their substance completely bleached out by the Comics Code Authority. Many publishers were forced out of business by these efforts including Sterling Comics, Fiction House, United Feature, Star Publications, Eastern Color, Toby Press, and EC Comics, which happened to be a major target of the Code's efforts. Only Mad Magazine was able to survive the attack on EC Comics, mostly because it wasn't published in comic book format.

The books that survived were the squeaky clean books thought to be worthy of publication by the Code, and for their efforts, they received the Comics Code Authority badge of approval.

Diversity was stolen from comics back in 1954.

Now, I'd like to have it back.

One look at the sales chart will tell you that sales are low and comic prices keep rising. We're in a big slump. We're loosing top creators to other mediums and I'm certain we're turning away many talented new creators because we lack real diversity and the audience to sustain that diversity. I'm at a point in my life where I'm also considering other options. As a fan I tend to enjoy a wide range of comics, but as a creator, I prefer crime and horror comics. I keep asking myself, "Is it worth it? Can I make a living in this industry?" New publishers pop up constantly to try and make a difference, but sales simply don't keep them in the black.

But we didn't loose our diversity by Darwinism or supply and demand. We didn't choose this path. We got here because rules were forced upon us that changed the direction of the industry. Something was taken from all of us by the Code in 1954. Isn't it time we take it back?

We live in a new time and the Comics Code Authority is all but extinct thanks to efforts of determined creators that helped to beat it down. In 1971, Stan Lee ran a controversial drug story in Amazing Spider-Man #96 without the Code's approval. It was the first Marvel comic to make it onto newsstands without the code. Creators like Frank Miller and Alan Moore continued to chip away at the Code until it became universally rejected by the industry.

Today, only a handful of books wear the Badge of Shame, but the industry still hasn't recovered from the attack. We've grown comfortable living with the harsh rules we were given to follow. We've become content. We're still living with the type of content approved by the Code and rejecting the content the Code rejected. We're existing by habit alone and we've been conditioned to believe that Horror, Crime, War, Romance, Comedy, Western, Humor aren't 'real' comics, they're just 'indy' comics.

The reality is that the doors have been kicked wide open but we haven't had the courage to actually walk through. As a new creator in the industry, I'm peeking through that door now and I see very few people outside. The pioneers are already out there, and they're waiting for us to show up.

Marvel and DC are true wonders in comics. They maintained and rebuilt what was nearly destroyed. They also came to their senses and helped to reject the Code. They carried us through an impossible time and built amazing stories, worlds and characters in a time when the rules were nearly smothering the industry. We should cherish what they've given us and continue to support the quality books they produce. But as fans, retailers, media, creators and publishers, isn't it time that we welcome Horror, Crime, War, Romance, Comedy, Western, Humor, and other so called 'indy' books back into the mainstream of the industry?

It's time for a Comic Book Renaissance!

Kody Chamberlain

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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