Item! The Comics Code Authority and its parent organization The Comics Magazine Association of America seem to have essentially dissolved over the past week, first with DC Comics announcing it would no longer carry books with the Comics Code seal of approval on its covers or submit books for review, and second with Archie Comics announcing it would no longer carry the seal beginning in February. The history of this system of self-censorship, which allowed certain types of comics to flourish while more adult and outre work was generally stifled, is well-known among comics fans, even in Canada where a different, parallel series of events unfolded. Instigated by a collection of publishers (the CMAA) in 1954 after public outcry over the content of comics and their perceived contribution to juvenile delinquency, the Code imposed a draconian list of content restrictions on the vast majority of U.S. comic books. Although the CMAA also acted as a marketing association concerned with distribution and racking, it chiefly functioned as a censor. Dating from shortly after is founding, the Code was essentially a one-person operation. According to Amy Kiste Nyberg’s 1998 book, Seal of Approval: The History of the Comics Code, beginning in 1979, the CMAA farmed out the administration of the Code to the Kellen Company, a firm specializing “in trade association management.” The firm charged a yearly management fee based on the number of titles published, although non-member comics were eligible for review at a cost of $500 per book. For the most part, the review of books was managed by one person, serving in dual capacity as executive director of the CMAA and chief censor, approving hundreds of books per month, with only the occasional assist from other staff. For many years this person was Leonard Darvin, followed by Kellen’s Holly Munter Koenig in the 1990s and 200s. Through the years, member publishers Harvey, Gladstone and Charlton went out of business, while Marvel dropped the Code in 2001 with Bongo following in 2009. It is unknown if the non-profit CMAA, which according to one source, in 2008 declared roughly $38 thousand in revenue, still exists as a corporate entity. While still carrying the Seal, an Archie spokesman said the company’s books hadn’t been “submitted for a year or more.”
As Toronto retailer Chris Butcher notes, the DC move may be simply a recession-driven cost-saving measure, in which case the company has upheld its cowardly kow-towing to the censor system to the very end, like Spain’s national shame over letting the dictator Franco die while still in power.
Item! Canadian writers and Reporters Without Borders are backing a call for an investigation into the kidnapping of Sri Lankan cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda and a boycott of the major Sri Lanka literary festival.
Item! Good riddance to Wizard Magazine. It was ugly, humourless, and harmful to comics as an art and as a business. In related news, the Wizard company may be buying the Victoria Comic Con, according to scoop-meister kevin Boyd.
Item! A review of Fishing with Gubby. Just saw this kids book. Reads sort of like Raymond Briggs filtered through a committee. The art is wonderful, marred by some ham-fisted insertion of text and ugly fonts. The book actually taught me about salmon fishing on the Pacific Coast, so maybe a Now Your Logging for the kiddie set?
Item! Inkstuds kicks ass. This week, Colin Upton reviews Hideo Azuma’s Disappearance Diary. As well, on the podcast side, Robin McConnell interviews James Stokoe (Orc Stain) and also has a fun, wide-ranging Ho Che Anderson conversation with a surprise celebrity guest. Subjects covered: Anderson’s impending exit from comics for film, his upcoming (untitled?) 2011 release, David Collier, Steve Seagle, Scream Queen/Sand and Fury, and, inevitably, Howard Chaykin anecdotes.
Item! It’s Jeff Lemire week at CBC’s Canada Reads (the actual contest begins Feb 7). First up, Sara Quin introduces herself and the book.
Item! Stuart Immonen creates a comic that looks like a role-playing die.
Item! Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaa talks stereotypes.
Item! Writer J. Torres is going to update the long-running Archie Comics character L’il Jinx. I like the interview question about the character, featured in her own title twice and in hundreds of strips within many other Archie titles read by millions of people since 1947, that asks, “Since Jinx isn’t very well-known …” It kind of got my nerd defenses up. (It doesn’t take much!)
Item! The Drawn and Quarterly team that will be appearing at TCAF has been unveiled.
Item! Robert at The Shuster Awards blog has his regular round-up of news and links from comics retailers across Canada.