Sunday, December 26, 2004

Good crime fiction courtesy of the Comics Code

In 1954, Congress got weak-kneed at the thought of crime spreading through America. Not real crime, of course. No, the politicos in Washington were worried about comin book crime. And thanks to some show trial theatrics (aqnd despite some brilliant truth-telling by Bill Gaines, founde of EC COmics and Mad Magazine), American comic books as an art form were dealt the crippling blow of the Comics Code. It's mostly been done away with now, which has led to some bloody good fun like the new Punisher series, and, of course, Sin City.

Want to know how to tell a story that will get the Pen hot? Break every single one of these rules:


General standards—Part A

(1) Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.

(2) No comics shall explicitly present the unique details and methods of a crime.

(3) Policemen, judges, Government officials and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.

(4) If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.

(5) Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates a desire for emulation.

(6) In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.

(7) Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gunplay, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.

(8) No unique or unusual methods of concealing weapons shall be shown.

(9) Instances of law-enforcement officers dying as a result of a criminal’s activities should be discouraged.

(10) The crime of kidnapping shall never be portrayed in any detail, nor shall any profit accrue to the abductor or kidnaper. The criminal or the kidnaper must be punished in every case.

(11) The letters of the word “crime” on a comics-magazine cover shall never be appreciably greater in dimension than the other words contained in the title. The word “crime” shall never appear alone on a cover.

(12) Restraint in the use of the word “crime” in titles or subtitles shall be exercised.


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