Now, if you were born last year, har har, you may not have a clue what the CCA was. Seriously. It was only repealed a little over a year ago. For nearly 60 years, the likes of people like Joseph McCarthy, and to a lesser extent Tipper Gore, tried to label what they (in their Puritanical minds) thought was best for the morality and decency of the American people. In the rush to toe the line with McCarthy's Anti-Communist propaganda and eye for lewd behavior in publications, the Comic Code Authority was born in 1954 by the proud parents of New York Magistrate Charles F. Murphy, a specialist in juvenile delinquency, and Fredric Wertham, whose 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent had rallied opposition to this type of material in comics, arguing that it was harmful to the children who made up a large segment of the comic book audience because of traumatizing gore, horror, and violence. Granted these where probably the type of people with high public moral standings, who secretly whipped themselves like the albino monk in The Da Vinci Code. A similar comic code was created about a decade before but was much more like the parents who let their kids and their friends drink if it's only in the house and everyone stays the night...we'll look the other way. Once the CCA came into effect, it was downhill for many a publisher. Especially the likes of William Gaines, Publisher of EC Comics, which released titles like Vault of Horror, Crime SuspenStories, and the grandaddy of them all, Tales from the Crypt.
Now, you may be asking yourself, "Pappy J.C. (or, if you're a girl, nay, a woman of 18 plus years, you may call me Love Magnet), why are you giving me this AWESOME history lesson?" It's because, up until a little over a year ago, if you wanted to do something "artistic: aka extreme violence, sexuality, or lewdness," you had to go through a more underground or less well known publisher. The CCA had you on lockdown. That's why you never saw Wonder Woman changing in the Invisible Plane or hear Capt. America tell Bucky to STFU because there was a Hydra agent nearby. Something not nearly as obvious is that you never saw the fallout of Super-Hero/Super-Villain disputes. No matter how populated the area where a battle took place, you never saw an innocent bystander get taken out by debris due to a pumpkin bomb. You would have the occasional death or injury, but more than likely it went on to serve the purpose of the story, as opposed to showing how these altercations affected the average Joe on the street. Like any senseless violence, there is always a degree of public harm. Be it hero or hoodlum, there is always the chance that some poor soul will be torn asunder from his or her family. Only in the past (and in the last year or so), do we see how these brutalities actually affect those in the vicinity, from witnesses to heinous acts to members of a ripped apart family due to crime. For it may pay briefly, but the toll it takes is much greater.
Which bring us to the treasure trove of pulp fiction, Crime Does Not Pay. Books like this were churned out in droves. The word "CRIME" plastered on one-third of the front cover, drawing in America's youth, with a disclaimer of "Does Not Pay" so small it may as well have an asterisk next to it. Much like the pamphlets in high school that screamed, "SEX!" in bold red lettering, only to meekly squeak out "and how venereal diseases affect the mind and body." Crime Does Not Pay was first published in 1932. A year rife with uncertainty and children playing cops and robbers much like the previous generation would play cowboys and Indians or today's young'uns play the lipstick game. It's a sign of the times. Apparently, kids grow up a lot faster these days. Either way you look at it, this collection of crime stories is intriguing for a myriad of reasons. Granted, the writers may have taken some liberties to beef up the stories, but for the most part, they are historically, if not gorily, accurate. To see a robber shoot a baby in its mother's arms just to warn the police that he wasn't going to be a pushover is rather drastic, even by today's torture porn ambivalence. Historically, it encapsulates the stories of America's most talked about criminals of the time, from Dillinger to "Baby Face" Nelson. It boggles my mind to think that they could get away with this artistically, but as far as prose is concerned, profanity never hit the page. What a bunch of bull$#!%, I say! Nuts to that.
Speaking of which, the colloquialisms of the time are off the charts. Things we hear in pop culture references of the past are way more accurate that I expected. Bully, I say! Amscray, boys! The Fuzz is here! Da' jig is up! Not only is the gangster speak hysterical, but so poignant to the time it was written. Who could believe that people once spoke like that. It's totally radical. Tubular even. While we're on the subject of language, you can also note that these were written in a time well before political correctness and social stereotyping. This is why you don't see the Cookie Cop or Cookie Crook anymore or Mayor McCheese. Because they glorified food products into positions of power. Same goes for a friend not regularly seen anymore in new Warner Bros. cartoons, Speedy Gonzales. Because he is a racial stereotype with a tail and Mexican pimp hat. He's been phased out. But, much like the dialogue of an Irvine Welsh novel, they wrote it like it sounds. Pancho Villa for example would say something like, "Dis eez wrong, Senor! My Fahder haz dee money for dee taxeez!" As far as the Asian community is represented in these books, it's pretty well restricted to Evil Doctor Ching Chang Chong with buck teeth bigger than a beaver's or a laundry attendant.
The artwork deviates from year to year, depending on who's drawing that season. Sometimes, it's reminiscent of Jack Kirby, other times it may as well be Bill Keene drawing Billy, including the path marks following from where he was, only this time Billy's holding a Tommy gun in one hand and some dame offa da street as a hostage in da udder. Either way it was consistent and graphic enough to grab the attention of a child and "teach them that crime was wrong," or extremely glamourous if you want to live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse.
All in all I can say this. Crime definitely doesn't pay, but documentation of it in such a form teaches us how far we've come over the past 80 years as not just a society, but a world, living and learning together. It gives hope to how we can better ourselves beyond the petty crimes that ran rampant and still do to this day. How racial stereotypes can hurt and how dumb some lingo becomes over just the course of a year or two. I ain't no Holla back girl, if ya know hut I'm sayin'. That being said, you can get off your Ol' Pappy J.C's lap. (I am getting up there in age; 31 is a pain in the ^$$!" unless you're a lady over 18, and we can have a talk about something else. Do you like sushi?)