Pride History: Comics Code.
Members of the industry must see to it that gains made in this medium are not lost and that violations of standards of good taste, which might tend toward corruption of the comic book as an instructive and wholesome form of entertainment, will be eliminated.
Critics of early comic books, including Catholic bishops, mother’s groups and others latched on to what they saw as a sense of immorality. This ‘outrage’ exploded with the introduction William Moulton Marston’s Wonder Woman. Psychiatrist Fredic Wertham, was particularly incensed. Of Diana he said “she is a frightening figure for boys…undesirable ideal for girls.” Of female superheroes ”They are not homemakers. They do not bring up a family.” He also thought Wonder Woman’s stories were “plainly lesbian.” And it’s that fear of even hints of homosexuality, that became along with the supernatural and crime the centerpieces of Wertham’s anti-comics screed Seduction of the Innocent and subsequent senate testimony. Wertham presented ‘research’ that young male patients of his were attracted to pro-gay messages presented by Batman and Robin. It would take 60 years before an examination of Wertham’s notes found that he was lying about the two patients he based these broad pronouncements on. The boys described liking the father-son supportive family dynamic of Batman and Robin, but were physically attracted to real life actors like Johnny Weissmuller the former Olympic swimmer who played Tarzan in films.
In reaction to public pressure, the comics industry adopted a ‘voluntary’ code to rein in the more ‘harmful’ aspects of their books. Under the marriage and sex portion of the code, three rules effectively banned the depiction of homosexuality in any form:
(2) Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at nor portrayed.
(4) The treatment of live-romance stories shall emphasize the value of the home and the sanctity of marriage.
(7) Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.
While the code would be revised over the years concerning such things as drug use, the ban on the depiction of gay and lesbian characters remained until 1989. During the interval, writers worked around the rules to some extent creating characters that were LGBT in all but name. Joining Element Lad, Shrinking Violet and Lightening Lass from the Legion of Superheroes was John Byrne’s “Maggie Sawyer who lived with a woman and later admitted that she had spent years trying to deny feelings “a proper Catholic girl didn’t even want to consider.” DC also published books, such as Camelot 3000 outside the umbrella of the code, allowing the book to present Sir Tristan as a transgender woman in love with Isolde. The altering and eventual disappearance of the code has allowed for a blossoming of characters depicting the entire range of humanity.
The Comics Code Authority (1954)
How the “Code Authority Kept LGBT Characters out of Comics (History.com)
Comics Code Authority (Encyclopedia.com)