Temporary Space Closure

Olin Library Level 2 is temporarily closed from May 24 until mid-August. Please request needed materials through Interlibrary Loan during this time. See the Carpet Replacement in Level 2 of Olin Library article for more information.

A portion of the Archie's Girls Betty and Veronica series, no 138 (June) cover. The art shows Betty and Veronica on the floor playing records with Veronica saying "Daddy promised to get me a special container for my rock'n'roll collection!" as her father walks into the room with a bow-wrapped garbage pail.
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John M. Olin Library, Level 1, Newman Tower of Collections and Exploration

An Art of Authority: Self-Censorship and the Comics Code 1954-2011

In the early 1950s, American social critics argued without evidence that children were being harmed by reading violent “True Crime” and “Detective” comic books. The resulting public hysteria led to Senate Hearings concerning the supposed antisocial effects of comics. In response, industry publishers organized a self-censorship regime under the Comics Code Authority.

Designed to head off threatened government regulation, the Authority enforced its Seal of Approval, a set of self-imposed guidelines used to judge comics as appropriate for all ages. Publishers and distributors followed the code for over 50 years for fear of losing sales and going out of business. Archie Comics was the last remaining subscriber to the code and stopped using it in 2011, ending this period of censorship and regulation.

The Washington University Libraries acquired the Archie Comics Collection in 2022. The Archie Comics Collection features materials related to the franchise’s creation and its inventor, John Goldwater, who was also instrumental in creating and enforcing the Comics Code Authority. This exhibition highlights materials from the Archie Comics Collection and examples of other pre-code comics in our collections that inspired the backlash, including Superman and books published by EC Comics.

Professor Douglas B. Dowd and Dowd Illustration Research Archive Curator Skye Lacerte curated An Art of Authority exhibition.

Header Image Credit: Archie’s Girls Betty & Veronica #138 (June 1967)