Alter Ego #105 October 2011 (magazine review).

It’s hard to believe that it was ten years ago that Alter Ego # 105 explored the Comics Code Authority. As Richard J. Amdt explains in the opening article, the CCA wasn’t the first but the third time some attempt to make some order of censorship into the American comicbook industry. Rather crazily, literacy was better before the CCA because comics encouraged people to read. It was also interesting to read that there was also levels of reading back then.

We had parallels to this in the UK, where we would start off with junior comics and, in the 1960s, move up to American comics. In the USA, the comicbook burnings actually did the reverse and Amdt’s comparison to Nazism is also rather telling where the minority controlled the tastes of the majority.

This is by far the biggest article in ‘Alter Ego’ but it shows the odd credibility of the CCA and not given enough time for the publishers to find a correction and in some places the criticised areas end up just being whited out. There were very few of the comicbooks shown that I actually read or had access to in the UK when it first came out. Like a lot of teen readers and I suspect in older readers as well, there is an acceptance of what you see in print is what the publishers intend you to see in print. As an editor myself, apart from grammar, I tend to focus on clarity of information given but the remit varies from publisher to publisher.

This article on American comicbooks self-imposed censorship will make you think about how it was dealt with in the past. With our present day Internet world and no CCA, comicbook sales have dropped but more to do with other interests flourishing. Although not really part of its brief for this review, I do wonder how long it will be before some author addresses the different versions of films shown in the USA are compared to the rest of the world and why. For all of American’s alleged ‘freedoms, the country vastly censors what can be seen over there.

Looking up comicbook artist and jazz pianist Cal Massey (1926-2019) reveals more than one person with that name so go by his age if you’re looking him up. Jim Amash interviewed him around 2011 and for his work in the 1950s, he was the only other black artist next to Matt Baker in comicbooks and finally glad to see an interview with him. Where better to get his career than from the man himself as he puts the record straight. His insight into Stan Lee illustrates (sic) the latter’s preference was to give his artists even back then a chance to draw a story with less restraint from a full script.

Michael T. Gilbert continues his exploration of Will Eisner’s prime letterer on ‘The Spirit’, Abe Kanegson, by interviewing his relatives and discovering he also inked and drew as well.

Under the Fawcett by-line, P.C. Hamerlinck starts his brief questions of comicbook artist/writer Marc Swayze on how he did his early work there. Shaun Clancy has his second part of an interview with editor/writer Roy Ald, giving some insight into the company. Compared to more recent issues, the Fawcett Collectors Of America didn’t get as many pages it got nearer our time.

Obviously, the biggest nugget here is the look at the CCA. Although I agree that there should be a level of violence that should be kept out of young children’s hands although I would have thought the consequences, especially that it hurts, should have been at the forefront. The CCA was there to shore things up than suggest what we have today with labels of ‘For Mature Readers Only’. One doesn’t have to imagine the destruction it did to the comicbook industry at the time.

GF Willmetts

January 2021

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 82 page illustrated magazine. Price: I managed to pull a paper copy for, I dunno, about £10.00 (UK). ISSN: 1932-6890. Direct from them, you can get a digital copy for $ 4.95 (US))

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