From the beginning of the 1950s there was in the
USA a widespread public concern over the growing examples of comic books with
increasingly more stories containing excessive violence, detailed horror scenes,
sexual innuendoes, and more. This potential bonfire was
fueled by psychiatrist and author Fredric Wertham who, in 1954, wrote his
banning book Seduction of the Innocent, in which he took upon himself to
crusade against the negative tendencies in the comic books in general and the
callous effects for young readers in specific. This, in turn, sparked the
forming of The Comics Magazine Association of America (CMAA) in the same
year, an organisation founded as a tool for the comic book industry to
self-regulate the contents of their products in a more responsible and healthy
From now on it became increasingly more difficult for the industry to publish comic books with 'questionable' content, as concerned parents rallied to help weed out inappropriate subjects.
In those revolutionary years Carl Barks was an employee at Western Publishing (with subsidiaries such as Dell and others), a company that produced countless comic book series ranging from the most fairy taleish stories to the fiercest wartime ones (see examples under Dell HERE). Western made their own version of the official comics code (see details HERE). It is commonly known as the moral code, and was on many points clarified or toned down, as some of the original paragraphs were not applicable to Western's clientele. For instance, the publishing house EC Comics made a point of distributing stories filled with death-causing ghouls, flesh-slashing werewolves, and blood-thirsty vampires.
Below you are presented to the initial comics code from 1954 - it was revised several times in the upcoming years - enabling you to understand the mass hysteria that hit the American comic book industry and a portion of the readers in those years. Surprisingly, the code is still in effect!
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.
If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.
Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.
Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates a desire for emulation.
In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
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.
No comic magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title.
All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.
All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.
Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly, nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.
Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.
Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.
Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.
Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.
Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at nor portrayed. Rape scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.
Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.
Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.
Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures shall not be permitted in the advertising of any product; clothed figures shall never be presented in such a way as to be offensive or contrary to good taste or morals.