The Comics Code and the Death of EC

Anyone who has dabbled in comics likely has at least a passing familiarity with the Comics Code. The Code, which went into effect in 1954, was established by the Comics Code Authority, which was handled under the auspices of the Comics Magazine Association of America. This organization was charged with overseeing the comics industry to ensure that the vileness that had pervaded comics wouldn't continue to destroy America's youth.

If the idea that comic books could wreak such havoc seems silly to you, then you can thank Fredric Wertham for convincing Congress and the American public otherwise. Wertham, a psychologist by trade, led the charge against popular culture as a corrupting influence in the 50s. This month a new book about Wertham and the hysteria that he created hits shelves. It's titled, The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America I haven't had a chance to read all of it yet, but the New Yorker has published a very solid review that gives a fuller account of what happened in the mid-50s with respect to comics, and the effects that reverberated from there.

One of the most troubling of these reverberations was the virtual destruction of EC Comics, which published a number of genre comics with what many considered unseemly content. Most notable today among their former publications was Tales From the Crypt. Like a lot of comic readers of my generation, I had the opportunity to connect with these comics when they were re-released in the early to mid-90s. More recently though, Gemstone Publishing has been putting out hardbound collections of these seminal comics. They are wonderfully restored and beautifully presented. I can't recommend these collections enough to any genre fan or anyone with an interest in the history of comics as an art form.

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