Friday, December 31, 2010


I could feel the rain in the air from inside the bus. My Dad could smell rain days ahead of time and had told me we were due soon. I never could smell rain until it was right on top of me with rumbling clouds and sheet lightning like it was on the ride home from school. When Ms. Judy let me off the bus I scrambled to my door, leaving my sister to cross the street on her own.

When I got inside I dumped my backpack on the floor by the door before racing upstairs as my mother’s voice called after me. I ignored her and slammed the door to my room as an answer. If she realized I’d ripped a hole in another pair of jeans I’d be locked inside without my books at least for tonight if not the rest of the week. So I hid them at the bottom of my hand painted dresser under old gymnastic uniforms and riding pants from failed athletic attempts. I pulled neon bike shorts and one of my Dad’s college t-shirts out of the top drawer. All his old school clothes fit me now, I wondered if he ate anything while he was at college.

I didn’t bother putting my shoes back on. It was only April and my feet were still tender, but a storm is no fun in shoes. My room was in shambles but if I hurried, my mother probably wouldn’t notice in time to stop me from leaving. There was a huge crash of thunder as I raced down the stairs. After the skies had said their piece I yelled some sort of explanation towards the kitchen. My mother was too busy tiling the backsplash to really care anyway.

Outside the first raindrops had just begun to stain the concrete. I leapt off the porch and ran across the yard, marveling in the cold thick grass under my feet. My Dad said when he was young he wanted to grow up and have a house with a white picket fence and rich people grass. Even though our house was modest, and our fence tall and unpainted, the grass was thick and even. He’d spend hours fertilizing and weeding it on the weekends. It was rich people grass.

I reached the edge of the yard and continued my flight down the street. I could feel raindrops beginning to splatter in my hair and on my shoulders. Two houses down the hot asphalt gave way to gravel that made my feet yelp and ache. I dealt with it. The pain was worth it. In a month I’d be able to step on the broken glass and nails that littered the half built houses I explored in the summer without feeling a thing. The road dead ended at Danielle’s house. I didn’t bother going to the door, instead I went around to her tiny basement window. I lay on my belly and stuck my head in the window. The wind blew my shirt up my back and let cold, tingly raindrops fall on my spine. Surprisingly, she wasn’t there. Something touched the back of my neck and I jumped, banging my head in the process. I hoped it wasn’t a spider, with their shiny eyes and crackling legs. It was Danielle. She stood over me with the rest of the gang: the Tongeus sisters, Thomas, Katie, and my sister.

“Well are you coming?” She asked

I nodded and began to stand up as they all began to run around the side of Danielle’s house. When I rounded the corner they had all disappeared into the mist surrounding her lake. It was stiff and dense like my mother’s meringue. The rain began pounding down on me, making my hair dark and slick and my clothes stick to me. I wiggled my toes in the mud that was beginning to form and chased after my friends.

This is a highly fictionalize memory from my childhood.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Three Types of Science-Fiction or Why Jon Scalzi’s Science-Fiction Novels Don’t Work for Me

I was thinking about why I enjoy Science-Fiction the other day and it occurred to me that most Fiction fits into one of two categories: Character based or Story based. Science-Fiction introduces a third option, Concept based. To be truly enjoyable, a Sci-fi story must contain elements of all three but I think most stories have one as their focus.

My favorite Sci-Fi stories are Concept based with a very strong Character basis as well. Sci-Fi lets you ask the “What if?” questions. Some authors pose these “What if?”s to their readers, but I prefer to watch the people within the “What if?” grapple with living in that world. That’s why I prefer Asimov’s novel version of “Nightfall” over his short story, “Nightfall”. They tell the exact same story—a Concept story—but in the novel I’m able to connect with the characters and feel their complete terror. After reading the short story I couldn’t recall any character’s name. The short story was thought provoking but I couldn’t connect on an emotional level.

Which brings me to an author I’ve been fangirling lately, Jon Scalzi. He’s probably best known for writing “Old Man’s War” and for taping bacon to his cat and posting it to the interwebs. “Old Man’s War” is an absolutely mind blowing book that won lots of great awards that it totally deserved. I picked it out of the bargain bin and figured that after three months of cyber-stalking Scalzi’s blog, “Whatever”, I should probably try reading something he wrote. “Old Man’s War” is a concept novel. It builds a world that I felt like I could be living in, in the far off future. Jon Scalzi is amazing at world-building. It was the best part of “The Android’s Dream” and is also showcased in his short story “An Election”. Where Scalzi fails, at least for me, is in making characters I care about. In “Old Man’s War” the main character reads like Prince Charming from “Sleeping Beauty”. People are willing to die for him more or less because he’s the main character. He’s abnormally bright, abnormally charismatic, abnormally attractive to women, abnormally suited to alien negotiations, if it’s a positive trait, he probably has it. When I read “Old Man’s War” these things didn’t bother me. “Old Man’s War” is a straight up concept story, the main character exists to illustrate the concept—he doesn’t need to be more than a cardboard cutout. My problem arose when I picked up another of Scalzi’s novels, “The Android’s Dream”. The title is a clever nod to my favorite book, Phillip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” (better known as “Blade Runner”). I was disappointed to read a book about yet another Prince Charming (this time from the FBI/CIA agent with a heart of gold mold) who gets the girl with even less character. As the book dragged on, I found myself thinking something I hadn’t thought since reading Dan Brown’s “Digital Fortress”, Why won’t the main characters die? In “Digital Fortress”, I believe they survived bombs, submarines that were sinking/out of air, and an open wound in shark-infested waters. The protagonists of “The Android’s Dream” were even less likely to make it out alive, and even less likable. However, like I said above, “The Android’s Dream” also featured some really great moments in between the plot where glimpses of this amazing future peaked in. Aliens in Washington D.C. live in neighborhoods similar to the ones immigrants set up in New York City with their own unique culture that is part alien and part human. For example, one particular race of aliens has a remarkable affinity for dogs, above and beyond what is ever seen between humans and dogs, despite dogs being an (obviously) Earth exclusive species.

Yesterday I downloaded “Agent to the Stars”, Scalzi’s first novel (though published after “Old Man’s War”) and read the entire thing on my shiny new kindle. And that was when I felt like I had had enough and needed to talk things out with the interwebs. Because it featured the same cookie-cutter hero with the same vaguely sassy romantic interest in a concept story that had a dull, dragging plot, and a concept that I didn’t really care for.

So that seemed a little bit like a huge rant. It kind of was. But honestly, Scalzi is a really good writer. He just doesn’t write the kind of novels I find enjoyable. I want a healthy dose of character with my concepts while he prefers to give you plot (which I can take or leave). I’ve found all of his short stories extremely enjoyable (especially the one where yogurt rules Earth) because in the short story you only get to pick one of the three elements and when push comes to shove I’ll take concept stories any day. I would strongly advise anyone who hasn’t, to read one of his short stories—several are floating around the ‘net. And if you find them enjoyable then read “Old Man’s War” because it really is a good, solid, concept novel that won a Hugo. I’d also encourage you to check out his blog, “Whatever”. It covers everything from the velvet painting of Wesley Crusher that he sent to Wil Wheaton to some remarkably sensible views on politics and budgeting. Also, bacon taped to cats.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Movie Reviews

I've seen a lot of movies lately and they all probably merit pages of discussion but I'm kinda busy these days.

Cyrus: Your typical indie romance/comdey. It's a very sparse movie. Five actors and a hand full of extras in the whole thing. The most moving moments are without dialog. The ending is a tad too perfect for a movie like this.

Inception: What? You haven't seen this yet? Well it's mind boggling to understand but delightful to follow. My favorite bit involves Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a vest wearing action hero in variable gravity. I think between this and Avatar, we've learned that when a good director has a pet project, it pays to go along with it.

Twilight: Eclipse: I can't stop watching these train wrecks. The first one was straight up awful. The second one seemed to be making fun of how awful it was. The third one was passable if you could ignore how horrible the casting for anyone but Jacob was.

The Kids Are Alright: Everyone else in the theater was 35+ and (almost certainly) straight. Which doesn't really make sense until you see the movie. This isn't really a movie about lesbian mothers. It's a movie about a family, the kids deal with kid stuff like shitty friends and unrequited crushes while their parents deal with varying ambitions and adultery. This movie could've just as easily featured a straight couple. The thing that most struck me was how much this movie felt like real life. When Jules was gardening, her hair was slightly frizzy and she was (apparently) makeup-less. All the little touches reminded me that this movie was the pet project of someone who actually understood what she was writing about.

The Other Guys: Will Ferrel was awesome in this movie. He just knocked it out of the park. Mark Walburg was pretty meh in my humble opinion but other people in our group disagreed. It was certainly better than the last buddy cop movie I saw, Cop Out.

Salt: Through no fault of this movie I fell asleep several times. As far as I can tell, this is like if Tomb Raider wasn't sexualized and was McGyver.

Scott Pilgrim VS. The World: Totally awesome. I have yet to read the last volume, so I dunno if the slightly lame bit at the end about Ramona going back to her ex is to blame on the movie or the comic. But if you liked the comics you'll love the movie. It was a subvertly nerdy movie. No Star Wars jokes, but the non-nerds in the audience where rather put off.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How Do We Judge Statements Based on the Speaker

Lately I've been thinking about perceptions a lot. The way we see people obviously changes how we view their words and actions. For example, I have believed that religious beliefs should have no bearing on politics. When I identified myself as someone who was extremely religious, this view was taken with a lot of weight. My opinion counted. Now I still have the same view, but people say "Well of course you think that. You don't understand what it means to have the law challenge your morals". And even more often they don't say that, they just think it.

If you were previously in a position of privilege and move to one without it do your thoughts and opinions become worth less? What about your actions, previous and present, do they count differently? In some ways it seems like they shouldn't, but it is much easier for an atheist to say that religion is irrelevant to the way we govern ourselves than a theist. It doesn't feel right to give more weight to one than the other. Yet it does make sense in some ways.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

How To: Look Like a Douchebag, Starbucks Edition

After 2 months, I've decided there are three reasons people go to Starbucks:
  1. They like our coffee/beverages/food
  2. They like wifi and couches but hate the imposed quiet of libraries
  3. They like to feel cool
Those are all fine reasons, but a lot of times that third one gets annoying to baristas. So if you feel like looking like a douchebag, order this:
  • Upside Down Caramel Macchiato: This is a vanilla latte with caramel drizzle. If you want to look like an idiot who doesn't know what they're ordering, this is your drink
  • No Foam Caramel Macchiato: THIS IS NOT POSSIBLE
  • No Espresso Mocha: If you order this, I'll ring you up for a Mocha not a Hot Chocolate. It's only a 15 cent difference but it makes me feel better about you being a dumbass
  • Double Shot: Here's the problem with the double shot, it's not on the menu and it's not in the recipe cards. And this goes for anything not on the menu, you shouldn't expect me to just know how to make it. If you wanna tell me how to make the drink, I'll do it. I'll even pretend to be happy about it if you're polite. But if you don't know how to make it then I can't really help you.
  • Venti Iced Triple Latte: An iced venti comes with three shots. How many extra would you like me to ring up?
  • Skinny Americano: What is this? I don't even...
  • Lite Non-Fat Sugar-Free Frappuccino: A lite Frappuccino is all of those things by default.
  • Ordering something then changing your order while I'm making it: Seriously guys. No matter what you do, I'll smile and act like it's no big deal but if you ask for your drink iced as I'm slipping the sleeve on your extra hot Skinny Vanilla Latte, I'm gonna be pissed. I just spent 2-3 minutes of my life making your $5 coffee so that you can simper about it not being what you wanted. I'm sorry that you thought a Dark Cherry Mocha didn't have espresso in it, but it would've taken about 15 seconds to ask me and find out that it does.
Um, so now that I've bitched about people who don't know what they're ordering I have something else to say: I love when people ask me questions. I spent a week and a half learning about every single drink on the menu. If you wanna know what goes into a drink, what "skinny" means, or want a suggestion, I'd love to help. When I get to help people have a happier day, it brightens my life too. So don't order blindly, "ask and ye shall receive".

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Wonders of China

I'm still on my parent's health insurance. Which unfortunately has the worst optical coverage ever. Basically if you buy super expensive glasses they might knock off $20. If you buy glasses at Walmart like I do, you pay full price. I have a normal prescription, nothing special but my glasses ran about $160 at Walmart. That's a lot of money for a college student. So when my roommate was looking at $8 prescription glasses, I was all over that. Well sort of. Because I was a lazy, broke college student, I lost the link and forgot about it til almost a year later when another friend mentioned that he used the site to get his snazzy new glasses. So I got on the interwebs and ordered two pairs of glasses (cause for $8 why not get a little crazy?) I didn't bother getting any of the upgrades, which was a mistake. The anti-glare stuff would've been worth the like $4 they wanted. I was also surprised by how cheap shipping was. As best I can tell, the glasses are made in China, but the shipping was less than the $8 I was paying for my prescription glasses. Here's the two I picked:

Well today they finally came in. And they are fabulous. I could not be happier. With the exception of a slight increase in glare, they wear just as well as my Walmart glasses. I've been wearing them all day and haven't had a headache yet. Which means they probably got my prescription right. I've certainly been able to see fine. They actually fit better than my Walmart glasses too. Would definitely buy again.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Feeling Like a Dork in Comic Book Shops

Yesterday I got into a conversation about comic book stores with my co-worker and he suggested a shop just up the road from where I work. Since I haven't made it to a store in over a month so I was pretty muddled about what had/would be out when I went in. So when I went in I had no clue where to start looking. Going into new comic book stores is always slightly intimidating to me. They're all laid out mostly the same but every store has its quirks. Most stores have a wall with the new comics from this week or month and then bins for older comics. But some stores will keep a few previous issues behind the new ones or will have separate bins based on qualifiers I can't identify. To top it off, I'm a chick in a comic book store. On top of my crazy paranoia about personally looking like an idiot who reads shitty comics is the added paranoia that I'm making all women look like idiots who read shitty comics.

My paranoia is kept at manageable levels when I'm in stores like A+ Comics and Collectables in Lexington or The Great Escape in Louisville. The people behind the counter say hi and then go back to what they were doing. The stores feel crowded and slightly intimate like a used book store, only brighter. And you're never the only customer in the store. When I walked into the store my coworker recommended, there were two middle age men behind the counter who mumbled some sort of greeting and then watched me walk across a huge empty room the racks on the side wall. I couldn't help but wonder if they were watching me, trying to guess what girly comics I'd be buying. I couldn't find the issues I was looking for on the wall. I turned around and considered trying to look in the bins for what I wanted but even when I'm at ease I can rarely find what I'm looking for in those. I decided the easiest course of action would be to just ask. Again I wonder if it's my paranoia, but I'm pretty sure they both gave me the dumbass look as I asked them questions. I did ask one genuinely dumb question. I'll be honest. But I also asked to very legit ones. And they did give me polite answers. But the paranoia sits in the back of my head, telling me they wrote me off the moment the saw my boobs come through the door. I wonder if they would've been more verbose if I was a guy. Actually tell me when more of American Vampire was coming in or make a weak attempt to actually help me find something I wanted to buy. Flustered, I turned to leave. With one foot out the door I do a double take and remember my final question, "Do you know when Batwoman's getting her ongoing?" A very visible change came over them. Because I was asking about a lesbian character, I must be a lesbian! Thereby explaining why me and my boobs could actually enjoy comics. They still gave me a terse and useless answer.

Like I said, I've got crazy paranoia. These guys could just be deadbeats who were kinda bummed anyone walked into their store. They could've actually been being nice and my paranoia was twisting it. I have this sort of paranoia for many things (calling delivery people, going into clothing stores for the first time, etc) but it's not nearly as strong as my comic book store paranoia. I think that unlike most of my worries, this one has some basis in fact. Comic book nerds do judge you by what you read/look at/buy. And though I have had no overt references made to my womanliness being a barrier to reading comics, it has been implied. Like many male dominated hobbies, women who attempt to join are ostracized and have to jump through many hoops before they can even consider being involved. No wonder girls don't read comics.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Justified Revisited

I wasn't happy last time I blogged about Justified. I felt empty and let down. However, I've adjusted my expectations of the show and I must say I've been enjoying it. This might not be the Kentucky I know and love but I've come to enjoy it. I think it's a bit like someone gave Captain Kirk a southern accent and let him loose with a gun. Sounds a bit silly but roll with me. He has a chick begging to have sex with him (not that he tried to resist too hard). He would rather follow his own personal morals than the rules of the government. While he is under investigation for one of the people he shot in the past 8 episodes, he's shot a lot of other people too. I feel like there were more similarities but they're not really springing to mind. My only lingering issue with Justified is I'm still not sure what US Marshalls do.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How to Treat People in the Service Industries

I have worked in a few different occupations commonly know as "the service industry". I've buttered popcorn, served burgers, and made $5 coffee. And as a result, most of my days include being treated like shit by at least one person. Sunday was an especially bad day at Starbucks as it was a Sunday and rainy on top of that. Customers were being abnormally bitchy and it made me think of the things I didn't realize before I got a shitty job serving food to jackasses. So here's my guide to how to treat people who work in the service industry, i.e. preforming a service for you, just in case that wasn't clear.

1. Assume the Best of People

Sometimes I have bad days. Which means I still get your drink to you as fast as ever but I might not be feeling chatty, or might forget that I'm supposed to thank you for letting me serve you. It might not have occurred to you but today might've been the day my childhood pet died, my boyfriend broke up with me, or my best friend cut me out of their life. Shit happens to you. Shit happens to me. Unless I go out of my way to be mean, it's probably nothing personal against you,.

2. Don't Blame Me, Blame the Man

I am the person who delivers the product to you. I'm sure you are just trying to make conversation, but it sounds a lot like you're trying to get me to lower a price that I don't set and can't alter. I have rules I have to follow. I can only make one pot of coffee at a time, if it runs out in the middle of your cup, it's not cause I'm trying to fuck you over, it's cause that's the way I'm supposed to do it. You can either accept that or take your anger out on me. I'd really rather the former over the later.
3. When Tipping is Appropriate, Tip At Least 15%
The service was shitty. Then again, there was an unexpected rush at 2 am and your waitress was dealing with 7 or 8 tables instead of the usual 3 or 4. You're thinking about skimping on the tip. I mean, she only took your order, fixed the order when the bus boy brought you the wrong food, and refilled your drink once. 5% or 10% is totally cool, right? Nope. Waiters and waitresses make around $4 an hour because they get to accept your tips. And like I said before, shit happens. And sometimes they might fuck up your order. You should remember rule #1 when you consider under-tipping. Did the waiter/ress go out of their way to be a jackass? Were they actively avoiding you? Then assume the best of them and tip 15%. Cause that job is not fun, it is not easy, and pretending they couldn't be happier to serve you isn't what they want to be doing on a Friday night.

4. Not Sure if You Should Tip? Do It Anyway
Sometimes it's hard to know if tipping is appropriate. The easiest way to tell? Credit card receipts will have a space to write in a tip. However, there are some places tips are not put on receipts. For example, if you are a regular at a coffee shop, tips will go a long way in getting your coffee ready ASAP, exactly how you like it. Generally if someone is providing a personal service, tipping is expected and should be at least $2. When you aren't sure, offer the tip. If they aren't allowed or generally don't get tips, 90% of the time they'll say as much. Also: We remember when you don't tip.

5. Remember Fight Club

It never occurred to me that waiters could fuck with my food until I read Fight Club, wherein a waiter sticks his dick in someone's soup. I'm making your popcorn, your soda, your latte. Who knows if I buttered in the middle or gave you caffeine free, or made it extra hot? Not you until long after you can complain. People in the service industries quickly become bitter and if you're a jackass to us, we'll be more than willing to fuck up whatever service we're supposed to be giving to you.

In conclusion, remember that everyone is a person just like you who just wants to make a living even if it's not as noble or well paying of a pursuit as your own career.

Things I Would've Tweeted During My Little Brother's Confirmation

  • The Bishop just fell asleep. What a douche.
  • Apparently this is a bilingual mass. All the singing bits have different tunes. coincidence? #probably
  • Mom just made fun of Catholics
  • The kid from my sister's math class just knocked the Bishop's hat off with the incense swinger.
  • Mom made fun of Catholics. Again.
  • The choir director just gestured wildly with her arms and knocked over three microphones.
  • Mom refused to kneel during the kneeling parts of mass. And then made fun of Catholics.
  • My sister was making faces at the toddler in front of her but the Bishop thought she was sticking her tongue out at him.
  • Bishop gave a 30 minute homily. And then read it again in Spanish off a piece of paper.
  • My mother is complaining about the bilingual parts of the service. Oh, and also making fun of Catholics.
  • At a reception where 90% of people are over 45.
  • My brother just lent me his iPhone. TTYL, bitches.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Twitter: Why Trending Topics Are No Longer Relevant

Movie Review: Kick-Ass

I wasn't crazy about Kick-Ass the comic. In my mind it had all the right pieces to be totally amazing but they didn't work together for me. I imagine if I read it a few more times I might have a different opinion but the comic had more violence than I care to see again.

Still, I'd heard nothing but good things about it so I went in pretty optimistic. And it was pretty epic. Mark Millar always pitches Kick-Ass as "What if real people were super heroes?" and that's kinda what the comic is about but it's really what the movie was about. Maybe it was Aaron Johnson's jew-fro, maybe it was the writing, but I could connect with movie!Dave (the main character) when I couldn't with comic!Dave. I think the humor came across much better in the movie than the comic. Comics are weird in that they're somewhere in between books and movies. You still supply the emotion and much of the delivery but you're still given a visual starting point. In the movie you can just feel the crazy rolling off Nicholas Cage (Big Daddy) and the joy Hit Girl has in what she sees as the best game ever. I just couldn't project that onto the characters in the comic.

I mostly know Nicholas Cage from roles like the horribly over the top treasure hunter in National Treasure.

However, Cage was absolutely stunning as in Kick-Ass. When I got out of the movie, I told my friend how shocked I was at his preformance she turned and said "Nicolas Cage was in that?". If super heroes were real, this is who Batman would be. He is completely batshit insane.

The other star here is Chloe Moretz (Hit Girl). She's a fucking bad ass. And she's 11. There's something kind of awesome about that. In my mind she seems like a more lovable Damien. Born and raised to kill. It's also nice to see a female super hero who isn't sexualized. Obviously at 11 it'd be super creepy but I think it bears mentioning. I cannot think of any other female super (or even action) heroine who has avoided that. It was also nice that Kick-Ass didn't feature any "kidnap the girlfriend" bullshit.

The Bottom Line: A funny movie that just happens to have absurd amounts of comic book violence.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Voluntary Censorship in the Comic Book Industry

Like most industries, the comic book industry has a form of voluntary censorship. Unlike organizations such as the MPAA film rating system or ESRB, the regulating body in comics does not rate content. The Comics Code Authority has guidelines about what is and is not appropriate, if something doesn’t meet those guidelines it can’t be published with the Comics Code Authority’s approval. For a period of almost thirty years the Comics Code Authority had carte blanche over what was and was not published in mainstream comics.

Dr. Fredric Wertham was a psychologist who specialized in the causes for violence.(seal of approval 88)/ He is best known for his book “Seduction of the Innocent” which triggered a series of events leading to the formation of the Comics Code Authority and beginning of the Silver Age of comics. In “Seduction of the Innocent” Wertham argued that comics were corrupting children, driving them to drugs, violence, homosexuality, and other “sexual pervasions”. He argued that the violence in crime comics and the neutral or positive depiction of criminals was leading to increased juvenile delinquency. The implied homosexual relationship between Batman and Robin was creating homosexual tendencies in what would otherwise be heterosexual children. Wonder Woman’s, intentional according to her creator, bondage subtext was creating a generation of “sexual deviants”. All the scientific research done on these topics has failed to show a link between comics and any of Wertham’s claims (Comic Books).

Despite being a pop science book, “Seduction of the Innocent” created uproar among concerned parents. The controversy quickly grew and gave way to calls for comics to be regulated in some way. In response, Congress formed The United States Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency which was technically formed to look into juvenile delinquency, however in reality it was disproportionately focused on comic books. The committee was chaired by a senator who was a seeking presidential nomination and hoped to use the uncontroversial committee to gain support. The hearings were purposely held in a manner that placed proponents of crime and horror comics at a disadvantage. Main witnesses in defense of the comic industry where often shuffled and questioned in a far more aggressive manner. (79) The evidence and witnesses themselves were carefully selected and edited to put comics in the worst light possible. In one case, a story about racial violence had the narrator’s captions removed so that it appeared to be condoning the violence instead of the original intent, condemning racism and violence.

The comics industry’s blunders resulted in a lot of bad publicity. The New York Times covered the hearings and even gave an article where in a publisher stated that a cover featuring a severed head was in good taste space on the front page. At the end of the hearing, the chairman said “[a] competent job of self-policing within the industry will achieve much”. The report published by the committee came to the same conclusion. It stated that it is the publisher’s responsibility to make sure what was being published was appropriate for its audiences. After all the poor publicity, the comics publishers knew they had to take some sort of action. So they took the advice of the committee and the majority of comic publishers began adhering to something known as the Comics Code. The Comics Code is a set of guidelines that has changed over the years as American values have shifted. Publishers can submit comics for approval to the Comics Code Authority. If the Comics Code Authority found anything that violated the Comics Code, they would mark what changes needed to be made to bring it into compliance. Among other things, the code banned any mention of words associated with horror stories to the extent that for a long time writer, Marv Wolfman, could not be credited. Not all publishers choose to submit their comics to the Comics Code Authority, however, most distributors wouldn’t sell comics that lacked the Comics Code Authority’s stamp of approval.

Prior to the Comics Code Authority, comic books had a wider variety of genres than are currently common in mainstream comics. After the formation of the Comics Code Authority, most horror or supernaturally themed books were cancelled as well as many crime, science fiction, and romance books. Several publishers went out of business because they choose not to comply with the Comics Code. More publishers were pushed out by decreased demand due to the negative connotations the senate hearings had tacked onto comics. The result was the beginning of what is known as the Silver Age of Comics.

Silver Age comics are known for their nonsensical plots, harmless villains, and the reemergence of the superhero genre, all of which developed because of Wertham’s accusations and the Comics Code Authority. Many artists disliked the restrictions of the Comics Code Authority and choose to write “underground comix” that had not be approved by the Comics Code Authority. Some comic book historians are of the opinion that underground comix are the only thing worth studying from the Silver Age. These comics were usually self published and only sold in specialty shops. As a result, the comics were almost exclusively aimed at adults.

Not much changed legally or stylistically in the comic book industry after the Comics Code Authority was created until 1971. In 1971 Stan Lee, one of the most influential people in the comic book industry, was asked by the United States government to write a story about the horrors of drug use. Lee wrote a relatively mild story about how Spider-Man’s friend’s drug addiction. The drug use was portrayed as dehabilitating. However, the three issue arc was turned down by the Comics Code Authority because it featured drugs. Instead of altering the story, Lee took a risk and asked Marvel to publish it sans Comics Code Authority approval. Marvel published the Spider-Man story unchanged and it sold well despite not having the Comics Code Authority seal on its cover.

In response to all the public support for the Spider-Man, the Comics Code Authority loosened many of its rules to allow monsters in the “classic literary tradition” and the negative portrayal of drugs, more violent crime, and racism as well as hint at sexual acts. Despite this, the Spider-Man arc caused the publishers who were still in business to begin questioning their committal to the Comics Code Authority. In the late seventies and early eighties, the sale of comic books began shifting from drug stores and newsstands to comic book stores. This trend moved underground comix from head shops into comic book stores where they reached a larger, more interested audience. As a result, independent comics flourished at the expense of becoming more mainstream and sanitized. Unlike the underground comix of the 60’s and 70’s, the independent comics that began popping up at comic book stores competed for audiences with comic books from the mainstream publishers. Mainstream comics were facing dual pressures to become edgier like the independent comics while still adhering to the Comics Code Authority’s puritan regulations.

Under increasing pressure from changing social norms, the Comics Code Authority once again began revising its guidelines in 1989. The result was a radically different document than the two previous editions. The first two comic codes were lists of things that could not be depicted, the new code was actually a description of things that could not be shown or mentioned so that it would be adaptable to new social conventions that would undoubtedly develop. However, during the nineties some mainstream comics began publishing regardless of whether or not they gained approval from the Comics Code Authority. Many comic books were no longer aimed at children. Comics made for adults audiences had more adult elements by nature and sold well despite lacking the Comics Code Authority’s seal. In 2001, Marvel choose to stop submitting their comics to the Comics Code Authority all together, opting for an in-house rating system. DC, the other of the “Big Two” publishers, still submits comics to the Comics Code Authority. However, the seal is often displayed in a very subtle way and can easily be overlooked.

The efforts of one man in the right place at the right time completely changed an entire industry. If Wertham had not pushed for the creation of the Comics Code Authority the Silver Age of Comics would have been completely different. The superhero genre would not have dominated the medium, instead a wide variety of comics would probably still be in existence. MAD Magazine wouldn’t have been forced to become a magazine, it was driven out of its comic book format by the Comics Code Authority. We could have seen household names like Batman struggle with the themes found in the more radical underground comix. Even fewer creator-owned projects, like Kick-Ass or Spawn, would exist without the pressure exerted by the Comics Code Authority. Wertham placed fear into people’s hearts and that fear made the public demand some sort of regulation. It forced the comic industry to put together a regulatory system in less than a month and then live by that for several decades. Today most of the Comics Code Authority’s power is gone, but publishers still submit comics to be approved. As long as children exist there will be parents worried about what their child is being exposed to. And as long as worried parents exist, the comic industry will continue to censor itself regardless of the power of a little stamp.


Haugen, David M. Comic Books: Examining Pop Culture. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2005. Print.

Kahan, Jeffrey, and Stanley Stewart. "The Comic Book Code and American F-agg." Caped Crusaders 101: Composition through Comic Books. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland &, 2006. Print.

Nyberg, Amy Kiste. Seal of Approval: the History of the Comics Code. Jackson [Miss.: University of Mississippi, 1998. Print.

Jacobs, Will, and Gerard Jones. The Comic Book Heroes: from the Silver Age to the Present. New York: Crown, 1985. Print.

Wertham, Fredric. Seduction of the Innocent. New York: Rinehart, 1954. Print.