Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Marvel Method: Why and How? Reactions from the People Who Used it:



The Marvel Method


The Marvel Method produced many of the greatest comics of the 20th century. This is a blog about the creation of these great comics, not about the wages or credits of the contributors. That is another worthwhile blog.


I had given up on “new” comics in 1978. I had never been part of “fandom.” I never had been to a convention and I had not read fanzines.  Just the comics. Entering the fold in the early part of this millennium I was surprised to discover a group of readers, the new Comics Cops, had such vitriol for the Marvel Method and the man who used it most, Stan Lee.






In the early 1960s most companies produced comics this way: An editor would either think of a story idea or get one from his writers or artists.  A writer would then be assigned to write a detailed story, describing the scenes on each page and including the dialogue.  From that script an artist would pencil the required pages of story.  A letterer, using black ink, would then letter the dialogue, narration and sound effects. Then an artist would ink the penciled figures and the stats of the pages would be given to a colorist, who determined what colors would be used and where.

Although it is now named after them, Marvel was not the first to use the Marvel Method. Companies, including Fiction House in the 1940s, had used it. With the Marvel Method, the writer and artist first collaborate on a plot and the pacing of the story.  The artist then pencils the pages, before any script or dialogue is written. When the artist is finished he turns the pages over to the writer who then writes the dialogue.  At this point Stan would often have the artist redraw some panels to better tell the story, which a few artists did not like. Kirby did not have final say on his own pencils. Roy Thomas said (Email 2017): (Stan) let a lot of things he didn’t like go through with minor changes to keep Jack and Steve (Ditko) happy, more than anything, but when he strongly wanted something changed--like the origin of Galactus in THOR--it got changed. Once the art was complete, it was then given to the letterer, inker and colorist in that order.

Jack Kirby
The Marvel Method of creating comics changed the traditional structure of writer and artist. Stan Lee described the situation at Virginia Tech in 1977:  “Initially, comic books were done just like a play. You would write a script where in a play you would write Act 1, Scene 1, the protagonist enters from stage left and does so and such. With a comic we would write Page 1, Panel 1, the super-hero enters from a doorway and leaps through a window or so… I was writing most of the stories…and I found I was having trouble keeping up with the artist. For example... I’d be writing the Fantastic Four story and the artist who does Spider-Man would come in and say, “Hey, Stan, I need a script… I finished the one I was doing.” But there I am doing the Fantastic Four and I can’t stop …so I would say to the artist, “Look, I tell you what. I don’t have time to write your script,” but he needed a script. He couldn’t wait ‘cause we have to – a production schedule, so I’d say, “I’ll tell you what the plot is. You just go home and draw anything and – as long as it follows my plot. Bring the drawings in. By then I’ll have finished this story and I’ll put the dialogue in the captions on your artwork.” Well, I found in that way I was able to keep a lot of artists busy at once.


At other comic companies the writer could not see the images yet, so he had to highlight the description in dialogue. For example, when Superman is jumping out the window the panel would show someone below saying, “Look, there is Superman jumping out the window.”  Or the description would read, “One day, as Superman jumped out of a window.” At Marvel Stan looked at the image and then did the dialogue. You saw Spider-Man jumping out the window, no need to repeat it. So Stan would have Spider-Man say, “I wonder if Aunt May is feeling better.”  Lee was able to advance the plot and the characterization. 


Looking back fifty years, the new Comic Cops resented this accepted way of production and want to retroactively be the managers, lawyers, agents and mothers to the artists, as if the artists were forced to work according to the Marvel method. Roy Thomas told me, “and nobody was a slave…nobody ever held a gun to anybody’s head.” The Comic Cops feel that the artists should have received greater compensation. And I do wish they could have seen the future and negotiated better residuals. In the early 1960s there was no live action or animated TV shows with comic book characters. There were no movies being made. There were few reprints, just occasional yearly “Annuals” for a few characters. There were no hardcover archives or softcover trade paperbacks. Comics were considered cheap entertainment and disposable even to many of their readers.




Goodman, and the other publishers, did not pay for “ideas” but for finished pages of art and script.  Jack Kirby was often asked in interviews what he did at Marvel. He didn’t say, “I draw comics.” He most often said something like, “I sell magazines.” Kirby said in a 1992 interview with Leonard Pitts, “I’m not interested in the ego trip of creating or not creating. I’m interested in selling a magazine. Rock-bottom, I sell magazines. I’m a thorough professional who does his job.”
(Examples are: Kirby with Randy Hoppe 1992; Comic book collector; 1993: Kirby Collector 1994; Kirby and Pitts: Kirby with Randy Hoppe 1992; Jack Kirby The Golden Age; Interview with Glenn Danzig, 1990)






Michael J. Vassallo is with Dick Ayers in Dick's hallway which was filled with original art.
Dick Ayers told me that he enjoyed the Marvel Method. It would allow him to properly pace the story and not be “glued” to what a writer had written.  He especially liked working with Stan and Tony Isabella, both of whom gave him a one page outline for the story, often over the telephone. Ayers mentioned that he had trouble with Gary Friedrich who often only gave him a couple of sentences. Roy Thomas, Ayers went on to add, did quite the opposite, giving him twice as many pages as Stan! Only, Once, Ayers said, was Stan stuck for a plot. Stan called him regarding issue #23 of Sgt. Fury and asked him to come up with a plot because he couldn’t think of anything. Dick was very disappointed when Stan left the series a few issues later.

Michael J. Vassallo and Tony Isabella
The Incredible Tony Isabella wrote in his blog on April 4, 2017: There is no one “Marvel Method” … I wrote comic-book stories in every way imaginable, depending on the situation at the time I wrote them. I wrote full scripts for some artists. I wrote loose page-by-page plots for others. I wrote panel-by-panel plots for others. A few times, when an artist needed work right away, I broke down the plot on index cards and read it to the artist over the phone. In desperate situations… I sat down with an artist and worked out the plot with him. 

Gene Colan
Gene Colan told me that he loved working with Stan using the method. As a reader, though, it was easy to see that Gene had a looser pacing with Stan than he would have with Roy Thomas, where the stories became more detailed. In an e-mail to Nick Caputo in 2000, Colan wrote: Stan really came up with all the ideas for the story, as minimal as they were, and I interpreted them.  I remember how free I felt. I felt total freedom. There was just one problem and that was pacing so the events wouldn’t get bunched up. [Stan gave] a rough verbal outline with no dialogue. Working with other writers like Roy Thomas and Archie Goodwin was restrictive for me, feeling like the writer had all the control and I had very little. As writers and editors, both those men treated me well. But for me, the fun was taken out of the work.
Flo Steinberg, Stan lee, Joe Sinnott and  Gene Colan

The "ME" here is Rich Buckler


Roy told me in 2019, “I usually gave Gene a synopsis of 2-3 pages, maybe occasionally more, maybe occasionally a bit less... perhaps in a few cases it was mixed, writing and telephone.  But I tended to send written synopses to most artists, even the Buscemas, Colan, etc., unless it was someone who preferred we just talk over the ideas, like Barry (Smith) or Neal (Adams).” 














John Romita also stated that he liked working this way with Stan. He joked that some old fans even called him a “company man” because he’d always say that whenever he finished drawing a story, Stan would take it and make it better.



In 2002, I spoke to Julius Schwartz and Carmine Infantino about how they produced DC comics in the 1960s. The two mentioned that they would go out to lunch and come up with an idea for a cover (and therefore a plot) and then give it to a writer. Even Schwartz was consulting with his artists for ideas. Schwartz, however, was editing about six books a month and then handing off his plots to writers. Stan was editing up to three times as books a month and writing ten of them. To expect one person to come up with a brilliant story EVERY DAY for ten years is unreasonable.

Writer Arnold Drake told me that when he wanted to write a story, he not only gave the editor the plot of approval, but layout the cover too.  No one ever suggested that the cover artist should share his money with the writer who suggested a cover.

Stan Goldberg stands between Michael J. Vassallo and Nick Caputo

At this time at Marvel, not all stories were done in the Marvel Method. Larry Lieber, Stan’s brother, was an important writer in the beginning. Larry told me that he did full scripts, including the first Thor story, and did not work with the Marvel Method. Some written plot outlines have survived.
To edit up to eighteen comics a month (this includes Summer Annuals) Stan had to delegate a lot of his authority to people he trusted. Stan Goldberg was Marvel’s colorist and was involved with the production of the comics.  Stan G. was proud of the responsibilities delegated to him at Marvel, with no one looking over his shoulder, Lee had trusted him. In Alter Ego #18, Stan G. said, “Some people weren’t happy about it, because Stan was putting work on the artist for no extra pay. Some artists resented it, but that was how it was done. I wasn’t happy about it at first, but I learned how to do it. I wanted to tell stories. So I’d start off with something big happening, so I’d get the reader caught up in the story. And I wanted to keep on working and please Stan. And Stan was pleased with what I was doing.” Stan G. explained to me that it is a far more complicated job than you might think.  He worked hard to make sure that each comic on the stands that month looked different from the other Marvel comics and at the same time each issue had to look different from the title’s last issue!  He originally wanted to make the Hulk orange, but then he would look like the Thing!  I asked him, “Did you ever get color suggestions from the artists?” He replied in a loud tone “I never listened to those prima-donnas!!!” 

This method was not for everyone. Joe Kubert, a favorite of Roy Thomas, did not work for Marvel because he did not like this method. Roy says, “Joe Kubert has been my favorite comic book artist since 1945."  Joe Orlando did three early issues of Daredevil (#2-4) and Wally Wood did six (#5-10) and then left. Neither of them was there long enough to leave a lasting impression. Tom Brevoort, (MarvelSilverAge BlogSpot, May 28, 2017) wrote that Orlando told him that he, Orlando,  would bring in pages and Stan, wanting the story to go in another direction, would have him redraw many pages for no additional pay.


We don’t know how much Wood’s alcoholism and health problems contributed to his behavior. William Gaines, publisher of EC comics and Mad Magazine for whom Wood did his best work called him “troubled.” According to Russ Jones in Alter Ego #8, Wood left Mad magazine when they rejected a project he was working on in 1962. He was being paid $50 a page but refused any contact with the publisher. He went to work at Charlton, inking for $10 a page. Stan was excited to have him and put on the cover of Daredevil #5, (street date October 1964) “Under the brilliant artistic craftsmanship of famous illustrator Wally Wood, Daredevil reaches new heights of glory!" The pairing of Lee and Wood produced only five issues.   They created just one exceptional story:  Daredevil #7, which featured the Sub-Mariner.  I am not a fan of the Matador or the Stilt-Man, but some fans really like those stories. If Wood had stayed, who knows?

Wood did redesign DD’s costume and Stan G. told me, in 2010, that he, Stan, had colored it. In issue #10 Wood wrote the first part of a two part story but Stan had to finish it stating Well, if you’ve ever seen a more complicated, mixed-up, madcap mystery yarn than this one, you’ve got US beat a mile.” Finding a more hospitable workplace at the new  T.H.U.N.D.E.R.  Agents,  Wood left after just inking issue #11, (street date: October 1965). John Romita took over Daredevil and circulation went up.





A great deal of lamentation has been made about Steve Ditko’s leaving Marvel. Steve Ditko’s leaving was not a failure of the Marvel method, but an absence of it. Lee and Ditko were no longer talking and Ditko felt isolated, perhaps abandoned. It seems, and this my observation, that Ditko and Wally Wood complained that they were doing it all. So Stan, perhaps stubbornly, told them, if they felt that way, to do it without him.  Wood gave up quickly; it took Ditko a year to leave.




Jack Kirby will always be remembered for the work he did with his partner Joe Simon on Captain America and the stories he did with Stan, using the Marvel Method, in the 1960s.






Wally Wood did say some harsh things about Lee after he left Marvel in 1965.

Jack Kirby insulted Lee by doing a malicious characterization of both him (Flunky Flashman) and Roy Thomas in Mister Miracle #6. Yet Lee took them back when they wanted, or needed, to come back.


Apparently, Stan’s weakest attribute was coming up with a plot every single day for ten years. He did heavily rely on his artists in that regard.  As an editor he succeeded and got the best out of the creative people he worked with. They often developed the plot and then he advanced the story in the dialogue, his greatest strength. 






In the early 1960s Stan, through his dialogue, gave characters uniqueness and personality. Stan put a great deal of humor into the comics.   These concepts allowed great continuity at Marvel. It would be difficult to read the Marvel comics of the 1960 out of chronological order.  But you could mix up a batch of DC comics from different years and it usually made no difference.


The Comic Cops often paint a picture, a myth, of Stan somehow trying to fool Martin Goodman and was getting away with something. Flo Steinberg, Stan’s secretary told me that when Steve Ditko delivered his artwork he gave it to Sol Brodsky, the production manager, and Sol gave it to Stan. Other artists would come in and have shut door sessions with Stan. No one was hiding anything. Everyone knew what the procedures were. In the decade of the 1960,  with Marvel’s circulation rising, from 16 million to 70 million Goodman not only knew what was going on, he saw it was working!



Thirty Years Later:
Writer J.M. DeMatteis on the Death of Harry Osborn in The Spectacular Spider-Man Vol 1 #200, 1993.
  On the final two pages, Spidey accompanies Harry into an ambulance, they drive off and Harry passes away... The sequence was small, quiet, but, on an emotional level, it was massive.
I did everything I could to communicate the power of those last pages to Sal in the plot—along with my thoughts on how the sequence would be handled in the final script. My intention was to verbally milk the pages for all they were worth, wringing out every last drop of emotion; going big and melodramatic via captions, inner monologues from Peter or dialogue between the characters. (Another benefit of "Marvel (Method)": I didn't have to decide then, I could make up my mind when the art was done.)

   Then Sal’s pages came in…The panel to panel flow was cinematic and crystal clear, the characters dramatic and achingly human. And those final two pages? Perfection! At first—locked into my original vision—I began writing captions and dialogue for the end-sequence, but it quickly became clear that everything I wanted to say had already been said, and better, by Sal. It was all there in the pictures. He had translated my plot so expertly that words would have capsized the sequence and destroyed the emotional power of the moment. So I shut my big mouth and let Harry Osborn die in silence…


That, too, is part of a writer’s work—especially in comics: deciding when to speak and when to shut up. Deciding whether to go for a barrage of machine-gun dialogue, a series of powerful captions or to surrender to equally-powerful silence. Whether we’re working full-script of plot-first, we make those decisions on every panel of every page.



Friday, June 21, 2019

John L.Goldwater on the Comics Code: Americana in Four Colors


Blogs, like mine, often have articles featuring the men who created and influenced comics, often from DC and Marvel.  Perhaps the greatest influence on comics from 1955 to 1980 was the Comics Code.

John L. Goldwater, its president, and owner of Archie Comics, wrote a small book in 1964 describing the code’s origin and, what he felt, was its achievements. It is entitled: Americana in Four Colors: A Decade of Self-Regulation by the Comics Magazine Industry. Here is the text of that book. Beneath that is an interview Goldwater gave then years later.








After finishing this article check out the point of view of the writers from an earlier blog:
Inside Comics 1974: The Comics Code: 20 Years Of Self-Strangulation?
A discussion by Leonard Darvin, Roy Thomas, Carmine Infantino, and James Warren talking about the comics code from 1974:

INTRODUCTION
TWENTY YEARS OF SELF REGULATION


THE TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY, IN OCTOBER 1974, of the formation of the Comics Magazine Association of America and the adoption of the Comics Code, represents a significant milestone in publishing history. For it marks twenty years of industry self-regulation which, notwithstanding its voluntary nature, has been remarkably successful in maintaining a high level of decency in a major segment of mass-media—comics magazines. As- these publications are vastly popular among youngsters and widely read by them, it is not an over-statement to say that the influence for good exerted by the program has had considerable social significance, reaching far beyond the industry it has regulated.
The organization of the CMAA culminated years of effort by its leaders to unite the industry into an integrated group for the purpose of advancing the standards of the comic book medium. From the beginning, membership has included 80% of the industry, consisting not only of publishers but national distributors, printers and engravers as well. The Code adopted as the cornerstone of its program was, and remains; the most stringent for any media. And immediately upon its adoption, the Comics Code Authority, an agency of the association but independent in its operation, was established to insure strict enforcement of Code provisions.
Each publisher, as a condition of membership, is pledged to support the Code, publish no editorial or advertising material prohibited by it, and adhere to the rulings of the Code Administrator on the material submitted to him for review before publication.
          The self-regulation program has resulted in the elimination of much that is undesirable from the industry, but it has also done much more. It has provided a stimulus for creative and responsible thinking and activity among publishers and editors, writers and artists. It brought with it a challenge to create magazines and stories that are interesting, exciting, colorful within the framework of the Code. It stimulated the inclusion of additional educational and character-building material in many comics magazines, not the least of which has been the inclusion of stories dealing with contemporary social problems, such as, race relations, pollution, women’s rights, the dangers of drug addiction. The net result has been that comics magazines compare most favorably with all other media competing for the attention of young people.
The publishers, distributors, printers and engravers who, through membership in the CMAA, support it have demonstrated in the most practical terms a sense of responsibility to their readers that is truly without parallel. They have proved that industry self-regulation, described as “the assumption of personal ethical responsibilities by vigorously competing private businessmen,” can work far more effectively than any other force to maintain standards of decency in the communications field, and to raise these standards to increasingly higher levels.


 THE COMICS MAGAZINE INDUSTRY
WHAT AT ARE COMICS MAGAZINES?
COMICS MAGAZINES-OR COMIC BOOKS, AS they are more often called—are publications consisting of fictional or factual narrative, told by means of a sequence of
II cartoon drawings in four colors, plus lettered captions and dialogue. A marked characteristic of the comics technique is the enclosure of dialogue in “balloons” pointed towards the speaker. This device, along with the expressive drawings and effective use of color, has been found by students of the medium to be an element contributing to the immense popularity of the medium, as it makes comics pleasant to the eye and easy to read and understand.
This cartoon technique is the one single characteristic that identifies the comics magazine as a medium. In all other respects, categories and individual titles differ from one another—in subject-matter, treatment, the style and quality of the writing and art-work—to the same degree that newspapers or books or other types of magazines differ within their classifications.
Many are humorous, as the appellation “comic” indicates, but a number lean towards the dramatic rather than humor. The term, “comic” in comic book is a carry-over from the cartoon strip from which it developed. The original strips being humorous in character, were naturally labeled comic strips. Although it was not long before strips appeared that featured adventure rather than humor, then went on to include a wide range of subject-matter—family life, romance, fantasy, western, detective—the name remained.

The term, “comic book,” or “comics magazine,” is therefore descriptive of the format, not necessarily of the editorial content. At the present time, approximately 300 titles are published on a periodical basis (which makes the reference to them as “magazines” rather than “books” more appropriate) in monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly or annual editions. These cover all interests and all age-groups. There are animated cartoon comics, exciting adventure, teen, space, fantasy, humor, western, romance, sports, war titles. Some are geared to the very young, others to the teenagers’ and older groups’ interests and sense of humor; some for female audiences, featuring women heroines or with heavy emphasis on woman’s interests or romance; many are directed at a boy’s love of action and adventure.
The subject matter may be tentatively divided into the following categories:
Adventure                                 Romance
Animated-cartoon                     Science Fiction
Detective                                   Space
Fantasy-Mystery                       Sports
Humor                                       Teen Age
Religion                                     War   Western
While the heaviest readership of comics is in the 7 to 14 age group, broad readership extends from pre-school age through high school, and exists among many thousands of adults. In recent years, broad readership has developed among college students. Comics Fan Clubs exist on many campuses. Current sales of comics magazines average about 300 million annually. The fact that there is a “pass-on” readership of at least three of each copy sold indicates the scope and immense popularity of the medium.
          Why such popularity? There are many reasons. As indicated, ease of readership is a major one. Youngsters, and adults as well, enjoy comics because their colorful characters, scenes and dialogue are visual, and find quick comprehension in their minds. The ready absorption of one panel leads to a suspenseful interest in what will occur in the following panels. Identification with the characters and the goals, which are clearly defined, is another. The bright, lively colors, the expressive cartoon drawings; the crisply written captions and dialogue, all excite reader interest. Fast-moving plot development t provides undelayed fulfillment and satisfaction. “Children crave adventure, excitement, action. They find these in abundance in the comics,” explains Professor Paul Witty, of Northwestern University, who has made extensive studies of comics readership.
The attraction comic books have for children was well explained by the mother of two boys, Mrs. Neal Gilkyson , a graduate of Smith College, in an article in The Readers’ Digest titled: “We Let Our Kids Read Comic Books”  Many comics, Mrs. Stuart wrote, “do several things creative literature can do. They offer the reader a host , memorable friends ... They take a child to a fully landscaped world where there are cliffs of fall and mountains of surprise, cultural cities and plains of loneliness. It is a vastly wider world than the manicured suburban lawn of too many contemporary children’s books.”
Analyzing further the “world” of comic books, Mrs. Stuart continues:
“It would take a Ph.D thesis to document their world properly, but perhaps it helps to point out that it is in high relief to the ‘readers’ children are handed at school. ‘In our readers,’ my oldest child once snorted, ‘all the little boys wear short pants and their names all end in ‘y’ and they’re cute.’ My son recognizes such material as implausible. Real fiction must touch somewhere on the world we are all troubled by.
“In the comic-book world there are, curiously, no mothers and fathers to speak of. Each character is on his own, absolutely indestructible, necessarily tough-minded, resourceful, wary of the world’s bag of tricks. There is not a stuffed shirt among them. Some of them seem to be the offspring in self-reliance of Huck Finn and Penrod, except they are as modern as our children’s actual world.”

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
The comics magazine is a uniquely American product, and a comparative newcomer to the publishing world—just forty years old, but its forerunners date back to ancient times. 3,000 years ago the Egyptians drew cartoons on papyrus and Ion the walls of tombs. Cartoons have been used ever since, to tell a story, to dramatize an idea, to make people laugh or
ink or act. As employed by such greats as Daumier, Hoarth, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Nast, the cartoon influenced the course of history, and has proved itself a powerful political and social force to this day.
In the 17th century, Punch was introduced into England  published in pamphlet form, making it the precursor of the comic books. Max and Maurice, ancestors of The Katzenjammer Kids, were imported into the United States from Germany in 1870 and presented in a booklet. But the true introduction of comics into every-day American life occurred en a strip called The Yellow- Kid, created by Richard Outcault, made its appearance in the Sunday pages of the New York World in 1896.
The Yellow Kid, so named because the central character ore a nightgown printed in a bright yellow color, won mediate popularity, and was thereafter repeated as a regular feature in the World. Competing newspapers picked up idea, and other strips soon followed. Buster Brown, The Katzenjammer Kids, Happy Hooligan, Alphonse and Gaston arrived within a year, with numerous additions tumbling after m. Comic strips and comics supplements became, and became an indispensable part of the American newspaper—its is widely read feature, by far.
The comics magazine, as has been noted, developed directly from the newspaper comic strip, but it took a surprisingly long time in arriving. In 1911, the Chicago American reprinteda group of its old Mutt & Jeff plates and bound the pages together in a book. There were a few other similar newspaper-size comic collections put together in later years. But it was not until 1933 that the first comic book in its current sent form made its appearance. It was called Funnies on coracle, and while it also consisted of re-runs of Sunday Newspaper comics, the plates were new and reduced to standard magazine size.
Funnies on Parade was not for sale to the public, but was used as a premium by a number of firms to promote the sale of their products. (Many firms today use specially prepared comics for this purpose, as will be seen later.) The instant success of Funnies on Parade induced the publisher to produceother premium comic books, including one called Famous Funnies. As an experiment, some copies of this title .. were labeled with a 10 cent price-tag and placed on a few newsstands. They were sold out over a single weekend.
Thus, in 1933, Famous Funnies became the first modern comic book to be placed on public sale. In the following year, with the publication of its May 1934 issue, it began its
career as a regularly issued comics magazine, specifically intended to be sold, not to be offered primarily as a premium. The appearance of this issue marked the inception of the comics magazine industry although Famous Funnies, at this point, was still made up of material which had appeared in the comics sections of newspapers.
The first comic book to use original material made its appearance in 1935, when another publisher brought out New Fun. Other publishers soon entered the field, with such titles as Popular Comics, Tip-Top Comics, King Comics. Some used original material, some not, during these early stages. All books, however, followed the pattern of Sunday newspaper comics by presenting in each issue a diversity of themes and characters. A significant step towards breaking away from the newspaper format and launching the comic book as a separate, unique medium, occurred in January 1937, with the publication of Detective Comics. This was the first comic book devoted in its entirety to a single theme or predominant character, which is the format generally followed today.
While having definitely established itself as a type of publication, the progress of the comic book in terms of the number of its publishers, titles issued and overall circulation, was quite moderate. But that was all changed with the appearance of a fellow named Superman, who “flew” into the pages of the first issue of Action Comics in 1938. Coulton Waugh, in his book, The Comics, graphically describes the impact of Superman: “He could literally be said to have turned the comic book world upside down.” He also brought into being a vigorous industry.
The astonishing success of Action Comics, featuring this first of the super heroes, quickly brought a number of additional publishers into the comics field, each with a string of titles. “The top of the comic-book volcano had blown off,” wrote Waugh. “The books shot up into the air and landed on the newsstands by the hundred. The actual figures are: in 1939-40, sixty; in 1941, one hundred and sixty-eight.” World War II brought further impetus to the industry. Comics magazines proved tremendously popular among G.I.’s outselling such magazines as Life and Reader’s Digest by a ratio of 10 to 1. The armed Forces, taking cognizance of this appeal, had  the industry prepare training manuals in comic book form.
Substantial further growth was achieved in the post-war years. At one time, there were more than forty publishers, producing upward of 600 titles. Circulation reached 60 million copies a month. The industry attracted many of the country’s most creative writers and artists, and provided employment to many thousands of persons, engaged in the manifold process of production, printing and distribution. It perfected la technique that proved vastly entertaining and instructive, as its product became the most popular type of magazine ever published.
After forty years, the comics magazine remains an immensely popular medium. The impact of television and the emergence of the paper-back book, has had its effect, as it had on other types of magazines. But the readership is large and indeed broader in scope than ever, and it is worldwide numbering well over 100 million people in all age groups.

THE COMICS CODE AUTHORITY  


THE COMICS CODE AUTHORITY FUNCTIONS
under the direction of an administrator, who has no other connection with the industry, and who is empowered to exercise independent judgment in interpreting and enforcing the association’s Code. The present administrator is Leonard Darvin, an attorney. Mr. Darvin has been associated with the code enforcement process since 1955, when he joined the CMAA as its executive secretary. He was delegated full responsibility for the administration of the Code some ten years later.
The Code covers both the editorial content—that is, the entire text and art-work—and the advertisements, in a comics magazine. As stated, every member of the CMAA is pledged, as a condition of membership, to adhere to its terms, and to submit to the Authority for advance review and judgment all material intended for publication in a comics magazine, to insure code compliance.
The Code (see pages 39-47) consists of specific regulations, governing material which leading members of the industry, and many public figures and organizations con cerned with the matter, have found through experience to be in the “problem area” when used in comic books. Since its original adoption in 1954, the Code has been revised just once, in 1971, to meet contemporary standards of conduct. It remains, however, the most stringent set of principles for any communications media in use today.
In addition, the Code contains a “catch-all” provision, which reads:
“All elements or techniques not specifically mentioned herein, but which are contrary to the spirit and intent of the Code, and considered violations of good taste or decency, shall be prohibited.”
This provides the authority to order the correction or elimination of any material which in the administrator’s opinion is “contrary to the spirit and intent” of the Code, even though the material at hand may not clearly fall within any of the prohibitions set forth in the specific sections. The great variety of story situations, and the constantly changing concepts of community standards, which none can possibly anticipate or project into the future when framing a code, is thus taken care of by the “catch-all” provision. It attests, more than any other single act, to the sincerity of the publishers’ acceptance of supervision over the contents of their publications.
The first set of specific regulations, Part A, applies to detective, adventure and action type stories. Since some of these, in the development of their themes, logically and linecessarily involve some display of violence, the Code lays down limitations on the exposition of such activity. Excessive violence, torture, sadism and gore are eliminated.
No unique details or methods of a crime may be presented, to avoid any possibility of emulation by the reader. No criminal may be glamorized; no criminal act may be glorified; law-enforcement officers are to be respected, and “in every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal be punished for his misdeeds.”
Section B eliminates “horror” or “terror” titles. Mystery, the macabre, suspense, always a popular area, has in recent years become even more popular through its exposure on movie and television screens and in paperback novels. As a result, youngsters; as well as adults, having become familiar with them can enjoy the thrilling impact of such themes without the alleged trauma, attributed to such exposure at the time the Code was originally adopted. Therefore, in its revisions in 1971, the Code permitted the use of vampires or werewolves, when handled in the classic tradition such as Frankenstein and Dracula.
Section C, in addition to containing the “catch-all” provision previously discussed, deals with matter of propriety and good taste in the use of language, prohibiting profanity and obscenity, discouraging excessive use of slang, and encouraging the use of good grammar. The section prohibits attack or ridicule of any religious or racial group. It also prevents the exploitation of the human figure sexually. Nudity is prohibited; there may be no salacious illustration or suggestive posture, and females must be drawn without undue emphasis on any physical quality.
The final portion of this section, headed “Marriage and Sex,” goes far beyond any similar standards in vogue today in other media in its prohibitions and requirements. Illicit sex relations or seduction may not be portrayed. Rape may not be shown or suggested. Sex perversion or any inference to it is strictly forbidden. The Code calls for emphasis on the sanctity of marriage and the home, and fosters respect for the moral code, and the protection of children. The close adherence to these standards in the “romance” category of Code-approved comics, as well as in all other categories, has been an outstanding example of industry responsibility, particularly since competing media has relaxed such standards markedly during this period in recent times.
The final section of the Code regulates advertising matter in comics magazines. It prohibits advertising of products that may be objectionable for use by youngsters.
No liquor or tobacco advertising is permitted, nor sex books, pin-up pictures or any such materials, nor knives or concealable weapons or realistic gun facsimiles, operating
s or rifles capable of firing live ammunition, nor gambling devices, nor questionable toilet products. Advertisements must be in good taste, and the prohibitions against nudity or salacious posture contained in the editorial sections of the Code are repeated in the Code For Advertising Matter.


HOW THE CODE AUTHORITY OPERATES
          The basic principle underlying the operation of the Code Authority is: the review of the entire contents of a comics magazine before it is printed, by an agency (the Code Authority) which operates apart from the individual publisher, and which exercises independent judgment on whether or not the material meets the standards of morality and decency as enunciated in the industry’s Code.
It is the duty of the Code Administrator and the staff of qualified reviewers to examine carefully the contents of every issue of a comics magazine to be published by a CMAA member, prior to its publication, and pass upon each phase ofit in the light of the Code.    
The material is submitted by the publisher to the office of the Code Authority several months before the publication date, in its original form—that is, copies of the artist’s black and white drawings and lettering, no engravings or printing plates having as yet been made. Text material and advertising are submitted in script form or on preliminary printer’s proofs. Thus, revisions and corrections as ordered by the administrator may be made before the material is printed in final form.
The propriety of the story as a whole receives basic consideration and may be rejected in its entirety if it is contrary to the overall principle and spirit of the code. Once the story or the advertisement meets this underlying requirement, the pages are studied in detail. The action portrayed, the physical appearance of the characters depicted, the language used, are all given painstaking consideration. Should any such detail require correction, in the opinion of the Code Authority, the material is returned to the publisher with the required changes noted on the accompanying work-sheet. Frequently, the reviewer or the administrator will speak to the editor, further explaining the reasons for the decision, or in an attempt to find an acceptable solution. Sometimes the artist comes to the office of the Code Authority, where drawing facilities and materials are available, and makes the necessary corrections on the spot.
Each individual page, including covers and advertisements, must receive an official stamp of approval, signed by the administrator. In the event changes are ordered, this stamp is not affixed until the copy has been resubmitted in acceptable form. Pages requiring correction are photocopied before and after revision, so that the corrected copy, and finally the printed book when it appears, may be checked to insure that it conforms to the revisions ordered.
Being an industry self-regulation program, the publisher may appeal the decision of the Administrator to the CMAA’s Board of Directors, but in two decades of operation, this privilege has been rarely used. In almost every instance, the decision of the Administrator has prevailed.
The Code Authority’s seal on the upper right hand corner of the approved publication may be used by the publisher only after the above-described procedure has taken place. Its presence on the comics magazine thus provides an assurance to parents that the contents adhere to the tenets of the Code and constitute acceptable reading matter for young people. The importance of ascertaining that the Code Authority’s seal is on the cover of the comics magazine cannot be over-emphasized. Its presence is not only a guarantee against
the infiltration of objectionable material in that particular book, but insistence upon it by the public is the ultimate insurance for the perpetuation of the high standards which the seal represents. The United States Senate Committee on Juvenile Delinquency put it plainly:
“The public must be sold this idea of restricting purchases of comics to those carrying the seal of approval. This, of course, becomes difficult if numerous publishers do not subscribe to the code and particularly, if some of the non-subscribers are major publishers of good, clean comic books. Such a course of action permits the unscrupulous publisher, who is unwilling to meet the standards of the code, to hide behind the skirts, so to speak, of the reputable publisher who does not display the seal for other reasons. If those who are not adherents to the code are numerous enough, then the adherence or non-adherence is meaningless in the public eye and enforcement machinery breaks down.”
The Code procedure is a painstaking one, requiring principled and assiduous application by both the Comics Code Authority and everyone connected with the production of a Code-approved comic—the editor, writer, artist, publisher, engraver, printer and distributor. Each is an essential element in maintaining the Code structure. Frequently this involves great inconvenience—anyone who has had to meet a deadline knows what we mean—and expense and even competitive disadvantage. Yet, throughout the years of its operation, publisher cooperation has been truly remarkable. The firths who are members of the CMAA have demonstrated beyond doubt their sincerity of purpose, and have provided dramatic proof of the strength and validity of the principle of industry regulation.

Educational Values In Code Approved Comics Magazines
          MANY EDUCATORS HAVE RECOGNIZED
the educational values inherent in comics magazines and are using them in the classroom. The medium itself, because of its tremendous popular appeal and ease of reading is recognized as an effective means of conveying knowledge, as well as entertainment. The average Code-approved comics magazine, while designed primarily for entertainment, contains a number of educational elements, some implicit, others specifically featured in it.
The acceptance of the comics magazine as an educational resource has grown remarkably since the Code was adopted. Many colleges and high schools today give courses on comics, and industry people are frequently invited to lecture at institutions of learning. Comics art has won broad recognition, and some of the leading art galleries in the country have held exhibitions devoted to it. The Library of Congress, which has the largest collection of comics magazines in the world, has similarly exhibited comics, as did Yale University.
The use of the comic book technique in booklets sponsored by governmental and private agencies and by leading industrial firms to instruct, to dramatize a principle, or to explain a service or product or even an abstruse scientific discovery, is perhaps the best evidence of its quality as a communicative medium.
A few examples of this type of comic book: Alcoholics Anonymous on the evils of alcohol addiction; the American Cancer Society on the dangers of smoking, and the American Dental Association on the importance of dental care. Electric power companies on “The Atom, Electricity and You”, and B.F. Goodrich Co. on the wonders of rubber. And there are numerous other special comics of this type.
Religious publishers and organizations are producing comics, many of which are sold in book stores and have proved to be very popular. A leading publisher has issued a six volume edition of the bible in comic book form.
A great many regularly issued comics magazine titles contain instructional material as part of the fictional content or separately.
          Accurate historical or geographical background, scientific discoveries as well as ethical concepts, are frequently woven into the fictional portions of many comics magazines. The late Dr. Irving D. Lorge of the Teachers College of Columbia University, who headed a team of researchers analyzing the comics medium, stated: “In terms of our researches, comics can make a fruitful appeal to the interest of children. Comics can give children a very sound and thorough orientation into the facts of biography, the appreciation of the outdoors, understanding of science, enjoyment of a plot, or the appreciation of humor. The amount of incidental information youngsters are likely to pick up is considerable.”


COMICS AS READING AIDS
The most striking phenomenon has been the truly enormous number of teachers who have found that comics help children develop reading skills and the reading habit—currently a formidable problem throughout the country. Literally thousands of communications from teachers have been received by the CMAA office, indicating their use of comics in the classroom, many for remedial reading.
Leading educators have recognized their value in this respect almost from the inception of the comics medium. One of the most outstanding, Dr. Robert L. Thorndike, made a thorough study of the comics medium. He found that the average book contained 5,000 words, and that the vocabulary used was extensive. Dr. Thorndike wrote:
“We have here an educational resource which (1) provides many thousands of words of reading experience; (2) introduces the child to a wide range of vocabulary, including many useful words which stand in need of additional practice by the typical child in grades four to eight; (3) provides interest appeal and picture context to make reading and vocabulary experience of a fairly advanced level attractive even to the retarded reader. The teacher and librarian should be aware of the positive contribution of these materials as an out-of-school supplement to the child’s reading experience.”
Dr. Katherine H. Hutchinson of the University of Pittsburgh conducted broad experiments in the use of comics as instructional material, enlisting the aid of hundreds of teachers throughout the country. Her conclusions were similar to those of Dr. Thorndike. She reported that the participating teachers “generally agreed that based on the comics in which the children already had interest, reading and language activities had greater zest and were entered on with increased interest.”
Here we have the essence of why comics materially assist in teaching a child to read—interest. Kids are interested in comics—they want to read them—they don’t have to be forced to concentrate on them. Dr. David Goodman explains it this way:
“Children have strong emotions, strong imaginations, a strong craving for excitement. The comic books satisfy these needs.
“School readers, unfortunately, don’t. They are built around word-score lists and are-frequently repetitive and dull, unfulfilling to the eager minds of children.
No wonder the kids find them hard going and so develop slowly in their reading skills.
“Given the right reading material—right meaning interest—children devour books and acquire a high order of reading ability in the process.”
Once a child has learned to read well, and discovered through comics that reading can be an extremely enjoyable experience, not a chore, he will naturally gravitate towards other types of reading matter as well, and so a life-long reading habit is developed. Dr. Goodman quotes a parent, who said that his boy’s early “training” was comic books,
“but now he is a voracious reader of all kinds of books and the best theme writer in his senior high English class.” That avid comic book readers go on to other forms of literature is a fact confirmed by many parents and educators, including the recognized authority on children’s reading, Dr. Nancy Larrick. The author, Jim Bishop, in his column, pointed out that he developed the love for good books among his children by first heaping comic books upon them. Mrs. Neal G. Stuart, in her previously mentioned Readers’ Digest article, said: “One other thing the little books do, and it is no mean trick—they give a child the habit of reading.”
Nor does heavy comic book reading by a school child interfere with his application to or attainments in general school work. Dr. Paul A. Witty of Northwestern University has reported that his investigations over a period of years have repeatedly proved this to be true. He states:
“We found that the average educational attainment of pupils who were in the upper fourth in the amount of comic book reading was almost identical with the average for those who were in the lower fourth. Teachers were interviewed and generally corroborated these results. Similarly, the teachers reported little difference between these groups in the frequency of behavior problems.”
An article in Publisher’s World of Bombay, India, well summarized the nature of comics magazines in relation to children:
“The comics are the first step in a child’s onward march to richer reading fare. These colorfully illustrated picture stories have an attraction for the child because they are fashioned to his abilities. The story interest is kept up and he learns to read on to find out what happens next as much as a hiker yearns to find out what is on the other side of the hill. In that sense comics fill a void in a child’s reading fare. Then again comics provide for him a window on his world.
“He is living in a technological world that is progressing at a fantastic rate and he keeps pace with that world through these fascinating tales. He thrills to them as much as you and I thrilled at the gallantry of D’Artagnan or the antics of Don Quixote.
“The fear that he will stop with his comics is vastly unfounded. Which of us is there who did not want to become a fireman or a sailor who ultimately wound up with some professional chair or a staid company director? The dreams of youth rarely get translated into reality and we grow apace with the world around us . . .”


SELF-REGULATION THE PROVED SOLUTION
THE SELF-REGULATION PROGRAM OF THE comics magazine industry has proved to be one of the most constructive achievements in publishing history. Its remarkable success in maintaining high standards of decency in comics for two decades—attested to by many commendations received from governmental and private agencies concerned with the welfare of children—has amounted to an extraordinary demonstration of public responsibility by the members of CMAA, as well as a confirmation of the strength of the principle of self-regulation.
Besides establishing and enforcing standards more stringent than any restrictive legislation legally enforceable under the constitutional guarantees of a free press, voluntary self-regulation is effective because it brings about willing cooperation rather than the reluctant, often inadequate or belated “compliance” given to coercive laws. As its standards are set by the very people who have agreed to operate in accordance with them, and reflect their own sense of values and responsibility, such cooperation is implicit in the structure. It is regulation at the source—it is locking the door against the infiltration of objectionable elements, before, not after, the damage is done.
Of course, the best evidence of how effective the program has been is in the contents of code-approved comics magazines themselves. We are aware that there can be no unanimous agreement on the interpretation of code provisions in relation to all stories or all details in a story. That is why we set up an independent administrator to make the judgment, and were not content with simply adopting a code and permitting each individual publisher or each editor to make his own judgment. However well intentioned, pride of authorship, competitive forces, or other personal interest, often interfere with the creator’s critical sense, as is quite obvious to anyone familiar with the creative process. Nor is any code administrator infallible. Changing community attitudes or experience in the code operation may cause some changes in code provisions, as was done in 1971, or variation in the interpretation of a particular provision, but these have not been of a fundamental character.
We are also aware that there are some critics of comics who will never be convinced no matter how affirmative the evidence. Some people take exception to any comic book situation or character that is not of the bland or strictly humorous variety. The aim of any code administration, to paraphrase a statement by Mr. Geoffry Shurlock, former director of the Motion Picture Production Code, prior to the adoption of the “rating” system, is to make certain that comics are reasonably acceptable, morally, to reasonable people. This aim, we believe, has been eminently accomplished.
Testimonial to this fact may be found in the many commendations the CMAA has received from governmental agencies, such as the United States Senate Committee on Juvenile Delinquency, The White House Conference on Children and Youth, and the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography; from groups concerned with the welfare of children, such as the National Federation of Women’s Clubs and the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, and, for many years prior to its dissolution, the National Office for Decent Literature, a Catholic agency, which maintained a continuing study of newsstand literature. It listed no Code-Approved comics magazines as objectionable reading for young people.
The CMAA has been the recipient of two of the top awards granted to trade associations in this country, for the dedicated and successful operation of its industry’s self-regulation program.
The Chamber of Commerce of the United States granted its National Recognition Award “for outstanding achievement in the business and public interest and the American Society of Association Executives presented its Grand Award `for having rendered outstanding service to the industry which it represents as well as to the American Public.” The citation accompanying the latter award further commended the CMAA ‘for its success toward achieving one of the most difficult objectives of any industry—a workable self-regulation program.” The stature of the award may be gauged by the prominence of the men who comprised the Awards jury. It included the Secretary of Commerce of the United States, the President of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States and of the National Association of Manufacturers, the Dean of the College of Education of the University of Georgia and the President of St. Louis University. These commendations offer substantial proof that the comics magazine industry’s program of self-regulation has well accomplished its purpose of providing an effective and practical means of eliminating undesirable material from comics magazines, of raising their standards to increasingly higher levels, of making comics magazines a constructive force in the development of the millions of children who enjoy reading them.



Comic Feature 1974


JOHN GOLDWATER
President of the Comics Code
Owner of Archie Comics

For the record, what is the Comics Magazine Association and how does it function?
The Comics Magazine Association consists of publishers, national distributors, engravers and printers who are concerned with the handling of comic magazines. The Association is headed by an independent authority, the Code administrator. He is in charge of screening all comic magazines published and the Code seal is put on a magazine only after it is approved by the administrator. He is completely independent of any publisher.
There is a published Code of Ethics which the administrator abides by. Now, from time to time, there may be some questions of borderline material, both in editorial and in advertising. This is thrashed out between the administrator and the publisher. The publisher has the right of appeal, but in no case that I can remember in the twenty years that the Code has been in existence has anybody appealed.
So the Code administrator is practically the czar of the industry.
The Code is the most stringent of any code in the media. We don’t have anything like the motion pictures have, R, X, anything like that, you know, because we appeal to a different segment of the population and each publisher is conscious of the responsibility that he has to the readers, who range in age, I would say, from seven to fourteen or fifteen. This is the age which comprises the greatest reading group. We do have some readership in colleges, we have some readership among adults, but the bulk of the readership is between seven and fifteen.
And the view is that this group’s reading material requires a regulatory authority.
Definitely, definitely. We’re very conscious of that.
The Code was devised for a specific set of circumstances at a specific period of time. A number of publishers went out of business as a direct result of the Code, which, considering some of their material, was probably just as well...
Well, it’s just like any other business. You know, for example...let me take the dress business. you know? When a manufacturer gets a hot number out, all of his competitors copy it in all different-price ranges. For example, he may put a dress out, say, for forty-nine ninety-five. His competitors, you know, copy it and they put it out for thirty-nine, twenty-nine, all the way down maybe to nine ninety-five. And the same thing happened in that period in the comic book business. For example, if Archie was successful, which it was, we had fifty competitors. Superman was successful. He had a hundred competitors. Then people said, we want to get into something different, and they started to get into this horror and terror thing, you see.
And the trouble was, in those days you could into business on a shoestring. A fellow with a couple of thousand dollars would go to a printer and get credit and go to the paper people and get credit and he’d start a publication. And because of the great success of the comic book business a lot of people went into it who had no more idea how to publish a comic book than I had of, uh, being a shoemaker, you know?
So this was the reason for the fallout when the Code was established. These fellows just couldn’t comply with the Code, the distributors wouldn’t handle their magazines because they wouldn’t comply with the Code, so therefore they had to go out of business. Which was a very helpful thing to the industry.
Of course there were broad implications. The Code put the shoestring publishers out of business but it also put E. C. out of business.
Well, let me tell you something. I made E.C. a millionaire. E.C. had a magazine called Mad, and Gaines, Bill Gaines, who was part of the Association at that time, felt that he couldn’t go along with the Code of Ethics. Therefore he left the Association, enlarged the size of his magazine and became very successful. So the Code did him a wonderful turn. Justice was served in his case. I think he’s very thankful. As a matter of fact he calls me from time to time and says to me, Goldwater, you’re the guy who made me rich.
Yeah, he must be very grateful.
He’s a brilliant fellow, I must say.
One publisher in particular has always refused to have anything to do with the Code. I wonder what the Association’s feeling toward the Gold Key Line is today.
Well, they’re not much of a factor any more, and I think the reason they’re not much of a factor is that they don’t belong to the Association, therefore they don’t know what goes on in the Association. They are not privy to information the Association gets from advertisers or from other sources that bring them revenue. For example, foreign revenue, reprint revenue. So I think it’s their own fault. We feel that they didn’t have enough concern for the public good to join the Association, and I condemn them for that.
Their expressed attitude has always been, well, all our material is above reproach to begin with, we consider a personal affront to be required to submit our...
That’s precisely the reason they should have joined the Association. Because Archie is just as wholesome as they are. And from time to time we’ve looked at their books and we’ve found some things that the Code wouldn’t accept.
   This is a very false and phony argument, that they’re above and beyond the rest of the public. You know, this is ridiculous. If they had the public good in mind, if they were conscious of their responsibilities, they would have joined us. And if they felt we were doing something wrong they could come to our meetings and say well look fellas, here, we don’t go along with this kind of stuff, why don’t we change it. But they didn’t have the sense of responsibility and I condemn them for that very severely.
How did it come to pass that the strictures of the Code were let down somewhat a few years ago?
I...this is not an easy question to answer. Frankly, I was opposed to the change. When you say a let-down...I don’t know that that’s a good phrase to use.
The Code was revised, amended.
Yes, it was revised. I must say this, I go along with the revisions. Kids today are much more sophisticated today than they were when I was a kid. The general mores of the entire country are changed. Our thinking has changed. Look what’s on television today. You know. We have the most sensitive subjects brought to us in the family living room. I think that the slight revisions that we made in the Code was just a general attitude concerning the mores that are prevalent in the country today. Wouldn’t you agree with that?
Sure I would. The next question would be, considering this sophistication and permisiveness, is it conceivable that the Code would be relaxed any further?
Well, no, I don’t think so. Not a single publisher has asked for any further relaxation. They seem to be very satisfied with it. And let me make this point, and make it particularly so: the Code really has influenced artists and publishers to do a much better job, because they have to do their work within the confines of the Code. Therefore, what has happened is they do a lot more thinking about it, you know? They’ve become a great deal more creative. Today I think you’ll find in a great many of the comic books subjects which are in the general news every day. For example, drugs, you know, narcotics. Everything except sex. That’s out. That’s out. But we can talk about drugs and we can talk about them in a very constructive manner.
For example, I personally did two stories on drugs. But the way I did it, I did it in a semi-humorous manner. Where Archie and Jughead saw somebody throw a package into a trash can and out of curiosity they picked it up and as they picked it up two plainclothesmen picked THEM up and said haha, we gotcha, boys, took them to the stationhouse and they found the packages were heroin. But they explained the situation and in the course of the story itself the sergeant, or the lieutenant, I don’t recall explained the dangers of drugs, you see, so that’s how we did the story. And of course Archie’s father came along and so forth and so on and the whole thing turned out to be a lesson in why teenagers shouldn’t bother with drugs. We got a lot of letters from parents.
We also took a position on the Vietnam war, for example. I don’t know if you read that story.
‘uh, must have missed that one.
The story concerned the fact that Archie and Jughead were drafted. And as they were walking into the center there are a lot of these hippies outside saying, hey you guys, don’t go in there, burn up your draft cards. So Archie and Jughead turn around and say, well! Look, we were ordered by our government to report and we’re going to report. Look, we don’t care about this war any more than you do. But! We’re going to work within the law to see if we can change it. And that was the whole point, these fellows say to them, oh, you’re these guys who say our country right or wrong. You believe that sort of thing. So Archie says, well, he says, when our country’s right it’s right, when it’s wrong it’s wrong, he says. Let me tell you something, after we go in and we’re inducted and so forth...when we come out, we’re going to lead a peace march!! You see? So that the whole point of the story was that when the government orders you to do something, don’t defy the government, but go in and do it and then try to change the law in the way you think it ought to be changed, you see?
Right. Getting back to the Code... is it your feeling that currently some of the publishers are pushing those confines you mentioned just about as far as they can go?
I would go along with that. There’s fierce competition among the publishers...I don’t think we have any competition, you know, Archie itself, but some of the other publishers, I’ll agree to the fact that they do push and go to the borderline. But I must say that the Code administrator is very adamant on that subject and he’s very careful to see to it that the material that he considers borderline shouldn’t be published. He refuses to accept it.
The administrator, I note, has been permitting profanity to go through lately.
Oh, has he. I didn’t know that. I wasn’t aware of...would you give me some examples?
    Miscellaneous damns and hells, principally.
Oh...are you opposed to that?
          Nah.
Because I hear that on television. I wouldn’t be opposed to that. But one thing we do talk about in our meetings and that’s grammar. We try to, in sentence construction, have proper grammar. In some stories, I don’t know, maybe they have a hillbilly or something, but most publishers, I think, adhere to the fact that good grammar is used.
           What is likely to occur at a typical association meeting?
Well, the Code administrator many times talks about the type of thing you just mentioned. The fact that sometimes one or two publishers may be pushing a little too hard. And he cautions them and warns them that this kind of material will be refused. We also discuss various aspects of distribution. Distribution is a tremendous problem, not only in the comic book business but in the entire magazine industry, because each town, each big city, has a monopoly. You know, there’s one wholesaler in that city and he has no competition. And sometimes it’s difficult to get, your magazine on sale. And how do you handle it? For example, if you send the wholesaler a thousand copies we would hope that he would put out a thousand copies. Some of them only put out seven hundred and you have three hundred returns that never see the light of day. This is a very common and very difficult problem.
Could you assess for me, given your position as president of the Association, to what extent do you control the comic book industry?
The only thing I control is my own company.
You wield no sphere of presidential influence?
Not at all. The publishers have been through twenty years of this and I think they’re fully cognizant and conscious of what should and what shouldn’t be in their magazines. In the early days I used to go around speaking at various associations and explaining our position. I don’t think it’s necessary any more. Each publisher has a responsibility which is up to him to fulfill.
In terms, then, of quote unquote power, that belongs to Mr. Garvin and not to yourself.
Definitely. He has the power.
Let’s talk about the Archie line. You’ve always been fond of describing Archie as the world’s biggest square: obviously his is his appeal. I think circulation figures year after year effect that Archie remains the top selling title in America. ‘o what do you attribute the continuing success of this material?
think it has to do with believability. I created these characters by myself and they live within me, you know what I mean? As far as I’m concerned they actually exist. And we get at least a hundred phone calls each week from people who ant to meet Archie or meet Betty or meet Veronica or Jughead, where can we see them, are they present...
That probably has a lot to do with their being on TV.
That probably has a lot to do with their being on TV. Possibly. But I think it’s a question of believability of relationship. Most kids today hang out...uh, when I say hang out I mean enjoy going to...the soda shop. And that’s where Archie and his pals go, they meet in the soda shop. So there’s a definite identification between the reader and the characters, because they know that some of the problems Archie has in school happen to them. The things that happen to Archie happen to the readers.
We’re talking, of course, in terms of the fact that your audience is a younger audience.
Well, we have some college audience but I would say that our average audience ranges eleven and a half, twelve. That is the major market.
Historically the Archie line hasn’t been terribly successful whenever it has strayed from the overtly teenage material into other areas.
That is correct.
Recently you introduced your red circle line and I wonder how successful that has been for you.
It’s a little too early to assess that, but I agree with you wholeheartedly that...I guess the thinking stems from the top and my thinking has always been along the clean wholesome sort of thing, and whenever we try to get into the adventure stuff we just don’t seem to be able to hit it off too well. I don’t know whether this Red Circle line will be successful or not.
How are the early returns?
Well, the early returns look like we’re just about breaking even. We may introduce one or two new magazines in that field to see if we can introduce some innovative ideas. Whether or not we’ll be able to do it, I don’t know.
I guess the bottom line is how seriously interested you are in developing markets other than the overtly teenage market.
 I think we’re very interested. We really started a digest line...that seems to be extremely successful, but of course these are the Archie characters...we’re thinking of doing some magazine types, adventure stuff.
Black and White Stuff ?
Yes, this seems to be a trend and we may put our foot in the water there. But actually what we’re really expanding in is education. We’re going into the remedial education field. That’s where our next step is going to be.
How do you respond to criticisms that Archie is an anachronism and that, you know, most of today’s kids have no idea what a choklit shop is?
We really haven’t had any criticism along those lines. I might tell you that we have two Archie restaurants now...
Interview by 
Jay Maeder