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December 8, 2011

Look up at that cover. See anything missing? Anything? Bueller?

We’ll come back to that in a moment. First, a word about ‘Mazing Man. This was a title that was a bit over my head as a youngster, but it was certainly one that developed a loyal fan following. It chronicled the minor escapades of one Sigfried Horatio Hunch III, a little fella with a cobbled together costume who did good deeds around his apartment complex. Sigfried and his delusions of grandeur (and his Galactusy tuning forks) were kind of sad and pulled at your heartstrings — I’ve long thought that Arnold Stang would have made a hell of a ‘Mazing Man. One of the major characters was an anthropomorphic dog (kind of limited the vérité) who wrote comics (okay, I take that back about the vérité), and many of the ne’er-do-well neighbors and friends that formed his tiny world can be glimpsed on that cover.

Ah yes. The cover.

As you may have seen, it lacks that little stamp that was the kiss of respectability and wholesomeness, that told worried parents that THIS COMIC DOES NOT HAVE WORDS OR IMAGES THAT WILL TURN YOUR CHILD INTO A DERANGED PERVERT BEATNIK RAPIST COMMIE SERIAL KILLER. Yes, the comic about the sad little man who wore a bucket on his head and polka-dotted underwear over his pants ran afoul of the Comics Code Authority. YOU WANT THEM ON THAT WALL.

There have been countless articles railing against the bureaucratic stupidity of the CCA and the senseless ossification of its strictures, and more than enough Molotov cocktails tossed through its windows. This shan’t be a diatribe, nor will it be a soapbox to relitigate the case against it. Yeah, the Code was stupid, an industry overreaction to 1950s hysteria about innocents being seduced. It was dumb, and it got dumber as time rolled along. But there’s nothing to be gained by kicking a dead horse.

Well, maybe a little kick. That the harmless little ‘Mazing Man had a comic that ran afoul of its dictates fills me…it fills me with something. I don’t know what. Maybe bemusement.

What drove little Siegfried into the Forbidden Zone? In this issue (scripted by Stephen DeStefano and Bob Rozakis), Denton Fix, the walking, talking, comics-writing dog, is having a bad case of writer’s block, hence the giant stone letters crushing him on the cover. His well-meaning if infuriating neighbors traipse in and out of his apartment, keeping him from working through his difficulties and offering their own terrible story ideas to kickstart his creative juices. Most of the tales are self-serving, casting the teller as the dashing or beset lead. ‘Mazing Man tells a touching one about a ‘Mazing Manish hero, with the subtext of his story really being how much he likes his friend. Cute. But the one that concerns us (and the censors of old) is an EC inspired (and, appropriately enough, Joe Orlando-pencilled) bit about, well:



(Puts back of hand to forehead as if about to faint.)

This swamp-infused interlude — with its muted colors and ghoulish fiends — would make William Gaines proud. But not the CCA. The tone of my reaction to this lingering stupidity, which left these few innocuous “horror” parody pages out in the unsanctioned wilderness (as if that mattered, but still…), is something akin to Triumph the Insult Comic Dog’s take on Hawaiians and bad weather. That’s where we’ll let the matter rest.

Anyway, the Code is dead (DING DONG). That it survived into this century(!) is a testament to inertia. And this comic is a fine example of how foolish it became.

One Comment leave one →
  1. bluekatt permalink
    November 9, 2012 1:17 am

    the code is dead dead dead colder then haagen dasz the last company that carried the code’s seal was archie comics and they phased it out as well ( there is no seal of the code on my recent sonic comics yes i read sonic the hedgehog )
    so the code which was already neuterd and lost all relevance when marvel left it followed by dc a few years later is finally dead

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