Comic Art, Creativity and the Law

Comic Art, Creativity and the Law

Elgar Law and Entrepreneurship series

Marc H. Greenberg

The creation of works of comic art, including graphic novels, comic books, cartoons and comic strips, and political cartoons, is affected, and at times limited, by a diverse array of laws, ranging from copyright law to free speech laws. This book examines how this intersection affects the creative process, and proposes approaches that encourage, rather than limit, that process in the comic art genre. Attention to the role comic art occupies in popular culture, and how the law responds to that role, is also analyzed.

Chapter 9: Censoring creativity, the Comics Code Authority and the birth of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

Marc H. Greenberg

Subjects: law - academic, information and media law, intellectual property law


The first comic books published in the United States were reprints of Sunday newspaper comic strips re-formatted into a soft cover book presentation, and bore names like Funnies on Parade, and Famous Funnies. The popularity of the books led publishers to seek original material, and detective stories were the next iteration of comic books, along with mystery stories and adventure tales, with titles like Henri Duval of France, Famed Soldier of Fortune and Dr. Occult, the Ghost Detective. In June 1938, Detective Comics published the first superhero comic, in Action Comics #1, which featured a character named Superman, written by Jerome Siegel and illustrated by Joseph Shuster, two young men from Cleveland. The superhero age had arrived, and DC Comics added, in quick order, hero comics featuring Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman and many others. Comic books became immensely popular with all ages, and many readers were young children. Superhero books were not the only type of books published. Comics’ subject matter covered a wide range, from Westerns to romances, from detective stories to fantasy and horror. William Gaines’ company, Entertaining Comics (E.C.), launched in 1950 one of the most successful lines of horror comics, with titles like Crypt of Terror, Haunt of Fear and Vault of Horror.This success was copied quickly, and by 1954 there were more than 40 horror titles, from a variety of companies, published every month. Sales in the early 1950s, a time before the widespread distribution of televisions, were between 80 and 100 million comic books per week.

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