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With The Author Dead…
Well not exactly dead. I do think intent matters, but not nearly so much as the audience’s reception of the communication. We all see and hear communication, including art, through the lenses we build up through our lives. I was raised in a small Wisconsin town long ago, I joined the Army and met the love of my life. All that and everything that happens after necessarily impacts how I view everything including movies, books, or music. I used to think Bobby Darrin’s Beyond the Sea was a fun little karaoke bait tune I’d make a try at if I had a couple. Now, I hear the most crushingly sad song ever written about loss and the promise or hope of reuniting in another time and place. Neither interpretation is wrong, they are the result of life experience and changing perspective.
So, I won’t always see the same message in comics as the next reader. That’s fine. Doesn’t make either one of us wrong.
Next, relax it’s just literary analysis….AND….sometimes they mean it.
Question: Andrea mentioned that the code was updated after first being released, do you know if this was a yearly update or every few years?
Looking at the code now things like
-no sympathy for villians
-no wolves, vampires, zombies etc
-divorce should not be shown as desirable
-The letters of the word “crime” on a comics-magazine cover shall never be appreciably greater in dimension than the other words contained in the title.
(From the code above)
-The treatment of live-romance stories shall emphasize the value of the home and the sanctity of marriage. (Scode above)
Kind of blows my mind. Not to mention that Andrea said DC kept with the code until 2011, thats seems crazy to me (I’ve only been reading comics since I joined the dcu little over 1 ish year ago)
Edit: is it ok to post discussion things jn this thread?
Most important question first: Though I run on and on, of course post what you will. At some point when this is all over we’re going to post a clean thread with just the profiles. My understanding is the code was updated in the late '60’s early 70s, and you saw some drug depiction. The code against anything LGTB was gone in '89. And the code was further modified, but by then DC and the other publishers just weren’t putting the code on comics they didn’t want to put it on. So, DC may have had it on some comics till 2011, but it also published comics without it. I think it stopped having a real impact by '89. And, the code above that was original 1954 code, so that’s the strictest it was.
And, don’t we want to take a class from this professor? She’s pretty cool.
Ah ok very cool because after I posted i started thinking about Todd’s death
unsure when that originally happened but im assuming it was violent/gory so I was wondering if they even followed the code then. Thanks for answering/clarifying.
Also yes that would be cool, I think comics are a great way to tell powerful stories with beautiful art, I had 1 professor back in the day who did teach Watchmen.
Pride Profile: The Marstons. William Moulton Marston is credited with creating Wonder Woman but, like much of what Marston gave himself credit for, that is only a partial truth at best. Olive Byrne, all but legally Marston’s second wife, wrote an article for Family Circle magazine about her “visit” with the famous psychologist William Marston where he lauded the educational potential of comic books. This made him known in the offices of DC, who eventually offered him the chance to write a comic book. From this, he developed Wonder Woman with suggestions from his first and legal wife Elizabeth Holloway to make the hero a woman, using her knowledge of ancient Greek and modern feminist literature, a shared experience among the three with lie detectors, and their personal history with the feminist movement. Marston’s Wonder Woman stories are infused with the ideas of early feminism from literally breaking the bonds that held women captive to an island or a future ruled by women. And, critics of Wonder Woman, including Seduction of the Innocent author Wertham, were not entirely off base identifying a lesbian undertone with the idea of Paradise Island. The contributions of his wives, particularly Elizabeth, went far beyond ‘inspired by.’
As for this unconventional household, while the 2017 movie Professor Marston and the Wonder Women depicted an intimate relationship between Elizabeth and Olive there is no available evidence to support this and the family has steadfastly denied it. And really, in the end it is beside the point. Both women, and Marston himself, came of age fully immersed in what was then the radical fringe of early 20th Century feminism challenging ideas of women’s place in society and the family. The relationship and roles these women developed were also essential in supporting the family with Marston’s continual career instability. We do know the women loved one another and stayed together as a family until their deaths decades after Marston’s. What we can say, is that this family in more than one way made major contributions to Pride representation in comics.
Coding: Relax It’s Just Literary Analysis.
Upset because you think somewhen seeing Gay Coding is wrong, or upset because someone else doesn’t see the coding? It’s just another form of literary analysis. The reader is looking at a written work from a certain perspective and seeing what it may tell them or how it could be interpreted differently. We do this all the time from other perspectives. Superman’s origin story can easily be examined from either a Judaic or a Christian faith perspective. You can filter early Silver Age comics from a Cold War or emerging science perspective. I was in a grad course on military leadership that ended up spending a day examining Star Trek for lessons in command and sacrifice because one student said the "needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.”
Taking on any of these perspectives doesn’t mean the results are the definitive answer, just a possible interpretation, or the answer for that person.
Except of course, when they really did mean it….
Pride Profile: Jeffrey Catherine Jones. There are artists who you simply cannot do justice to in a short prolife, Jones is one of those. Jones graduated with a degree in geology in 1967, but then moved to New York with wife Louise (who would go on to marry Walt Simonson and cement her own place in comics history) to pursue work as an artist. The work came quickly from comic companies including DC. But it was drawing beautiful strong female characters that earned Jones’ reputation, particularly for Vampirella . After years with magazines like Heavy Metal and National Lampoon, Jones eventually stopped working for hire to produce more intimate meaningful art. Jones’ personal life was a struggle falling into heavy drinking trying to deal with gender identity issues. Eventually in 1998, after years of conflict, Jones added Catherine to her name and began living fully as a woman, and returned to some more commercial work, including DC again. Unfortunately, Jones passed away in 2011 from a combination of medical issues.
For more on the Marstons, Golden Age Wonder Woman check out two of my favorite topic threads we’ve done here. When we talk about coding and how we look at these books through out personal lenses, I think these discussions are a great illustration. Plus, they’re just plain fun.
Pride Profile: Element Lad & Shvaughn Erin. Fans reading comics and detecting something unwritten about their favorite characters sexuality or identity is not a recent phenomenon. Legion of Superhero fans were so convinced that Element Lad was gay the question was asked of a DC panel at a 1976 convention. As early as 1964, stories suggested that Element Lad was either uncomfortable or uninterested in romantic entanglements with women. Writer Jim Shooter admitted that he assumed Jan Arrah was gay. Later writers would seemingly backtrack on this by involving Jan with Science Police Officer Shvaughn Erin. Eventually, even this was squared with the original belief in Element Lad’s sexuality when Tom and Mary Bierbuam revealed that Shvaughn was actually a transgender woman who had transitioned in the hope of attracting Jan. When the drug that transformed Shvaughn was no longer available and he reverted back to Sean, Jan said that whatever they shared was in spite of the drug, not because of it. Sure it’s convoluted, but sometimes so is love.
Pride Profile: Shrinking Violet and Lightning Lass. Vi and Lightning Lass are a prime example of a time in comics when two women could be a couple, without being officially coupled. Salu ‘Vi’ Digby, a Jerry Siegel and Jim Mooney creation, dates from 1961’s Action Comics #276, while Ayla Ranzz, the twin sister of Lightning Lad, came along in ’63 thanks to Edmond Hamilton and John Forte. Both spent years as part of the Legion family saving the universe, falling in love with one of the guys, and going through traumatic personal events. By the mid-1980s, this shared history of trauma brought them closer in books first written by Paul Levitz. Through different series and multiple writers, the pair were often drawn in close physical contact, confiding in one another, and professing their admiration and affection. But, an unseen line was never crossed, there’s no confession of love, no kiss, no true romantic moment. And yet, most of their writers and many of their fans considered Vi and Ayla to be a loving couple.
Coding: And, sometimes they mean it…
The two examples from the Legion of Superheroes of Element Lad & Shvaughn Erin, and Shrinking Violet & Lightning Lass show sometimes that coding is not entirely in the eye of the reader. In the case of Element Lad, some readers had detected something in the character that suggested he was gay. Whether this was the original intent or not, it certainly became incorporated into his depiction by writer’s in the '70s and 80s. The example of Shinking Violet & Lightning Lass comes from a little later in the '80s, but several writings of the series have stated that they wrote the two women as a couple. Now, until it turned explicit with Element Lad and Shvaughn a reader could have understood these relationships differently, but the writers were attempting to portray LGBT relationships and identity through coding.
Then of course there’s baiting, but that’s a whole other topic
Those Wonder Woman covers are AMAZING!!!
I have read her story on a few sites and I have to mention how sad it is. The artwork posted here makes me wonder if it reflects the inner turmoil that Jeffery Catherine Jones had.
Thank you for doing all of these wonderful profiles!
Thanks. For most profiles we kept images to a minimum, but with Jones those creations are the story
Pride Profile: Danny the Street. Introduced, once again by Grant Morrison, in Doom Patrol #35 Danny the Street was originally described by the now outdated term as being a transvestite. But, with his brilliant inclusion into the Doom Patrol television series Danny was depicted as genderqueer. We would tell you all about Danny, but we there’s no way we can do better than Rosie Knight in her DC article ‘5 Reasons We Love DOOM PATROL’s Danny the Street.’ Spoilers, it’s because Danny is kind, genderqueer, a former Teen Titan, unfathomably powerful, and totally unique. And, we couldn’t agree more as Danny proved that a sentient, transporting, genderqueer street makes for compelling storytelling and a great loyal friend to have.
Pride Profile: Rebis. When Grant Morrison writes a title, you never quite know what you’re going to get. In his first issue of Doom Patrol with #19, Morrison created what may have been the first gender non-binary character in comics. Separated from one another, Patrol member Larry Trainor and the Negative force reunited in a flash of energy that also pulled in Doctor Eleanor Poole creating a new, unique person that was simultaneously male and female. Referring to themselves using plural pronouns, Rebis confused their fellow Patrol members, particularly Cliff, but was ultimately accepted. Rebis also helped create another history breaking hero when they had sex with prostitute Kate Godwin, passing power to her and creating transgender Patrol member Cougula.
Pride Profile, Rachel Pollack. Rachel Pollack had the unenviable task of following Grant Morrison on Doom Patrol #64. But, the transgender writer rose to the occasion with her own contributions to the team and DC history. Perhaps most memorably, she created the short-lived character of Kate Godwin, aka Coagula, one of comics first transgender characters. Pollack is now best known for authoring books on Tarot Cards.
Pride Profile: Coagula. Created by transgender writer Rachel Pollack and given the name Kate Godwin after two of Pollacks transgender friends, Coagula is arguably the first true transgender superhero published by DC Comics. Coagula gained her ability to turn solids into liquids, and the reverse, after sleeping with Doom Patrol member Rebis (who you could argue is non-binary). She eventually joins the Patrol and adds a relationship with Robotman to her previous interest in women. The series also depicts Robotman dealing with the idea that his girlfriend is transgender. Although she was fridged by Doom Patrol’s next writer, Coagula deserves recognition as a truly ground breaking character.
These are great videos @msgtv, I totally want to take a class with her, and in a way we all have thanks to you! I’ve wanted to get a hold of a copy of “The Seduction of the Innocents,” for years, and they are available on Ebay, I just haven’t found one in my price range, but I want it my collection and want to read it, very badly.
Stan Lee, when asked about Whertham, would always say, paraphrasing Stan, that Whertham would point out 90% of kids in juvenile detention read comics, but they also drank milk, though he didn’t go after the dairy industry. Lol!
@stefanie.m as @msgtv points out, the code did have periods of revision, the first was in 1971, the famous Harry Osborn drug story in “Amazing Spider-Man 96-98.” Where the government ask Stan to do an anti-drug issue, so they did, then the code wouldn’t let Marvel print it, which was ridiculous, since it was against drug use.
From the Wikipedia about these issues:
Lee recalled in a 1998 interview:
I could understand them; they were like lawyers, people who take things literally and technically. The Code mentioned that you mustn’t mention drugs and, according to their rules, they were right. So I didn’t even get mad at them then. I said, ‘Screw it’ and just took the Code seal off for those three issues. Then we went back to the Code again. I never thought about the Code when I was writing a story, because basically I never wanted to do anything that was to my mind too violent or too sexy. I was aware that young people were reading these books, and had there not been a Code, I don’t think that I would have done the stories any differently.
This lead to a loosing of restrictions in the '70’s, which is why you see all the horror titles from Marvel and DC in the Bronze age, and as has been pointed out, by '89 it was pretty much watered down. So that Northstar from “Alpha Flight,” could come out in the '90’s as one of the first, if not the first, openly gay superheros.
@discordia57 bringing it strong there. Never thought of Seduction as a collectors item but that would be a cool conversation starter. On Whertham, I just feel compelled to keep pointing out that he was lying. That’s not what his 2 gay young men patients said, but I guess he didn’t want to kill off Tarzan movies.