Lurid, Unsavory, Gruesome Illustrations...
The Comics Code as seen through the UMBC Comics Collection
Listen up, true believers!
We’ve talked about superheroes and we’ve talked about Nick Fury. But comics aren’t all fun and games! Since the first modern comic book was
published around the turn of the 20th century, they have been
attacked by the powers-that-be for their content, their quality, and their
artistic value. In 1954, faced with the possibility
of government censorship after heated Senate hearings on the impact of comics
on juvenile delinquency, publishers adopted the Comics Code, a self-censorship mechanism modeled after the film industry’s restrictive Hays Code. The comics industry was forever changed.
The exhibit “All Lurid, Unsavory, Gruesome Illustrations
Shall Be Eliminated: The Comics Code as seen through the UMBC Comics Collection,” currently on display in the Special Collections Department of the Albin O. Kuhn Library isn’t just about looking at some cool rare comics. It’s a chance to see the ways in which the
industry has changed over the past 70 years, from pushing the envelope of taste
in order to sell comics, to wilting under restrictions on its creativity, and
back to pushing the envelope. We see how
rare pre-Code, Silver Age and underground titles led to non-Code magazines and
today’s graphic novels.
This exhibit is also an opportunity to see some fantastic
original comic art from the 1970s, from legendary artists such as Jack Kirby,
John Romita Sr. and Joe Sinnott. Straight
out of the Special Collections vault, these pieces have almost never been seen
in public! Paired with the finished published books, they are great examples of
the process of the comic book artists of the time.
So come on down, superfans!
This exhibit will be on display until May 16th, so you’ve got
plenty of time. Special Collections,
located inside the library’s first floor gallery, is open Monday, Tuesday,
Wednesday and Friday from 1-4 pm, and Thursdays from 1-8 pm. Other hours are available by
appointment. Please provide advance
notice if you will be arriving via invisible jet.
To browse all of the comics available at Special Collections, enter “comic books” in the “Collection” field in the following search; or put in more specific search terms to find the exact comic you’re looking for: http://umbc.pastperfect-online.com/37467cgi/mweb.exe?request=advform
by Steve Ammidown, Special Collections Student Assistant
Image from Planet Comics #30, May 1944