The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) is an organization fully pledged to helping comics creators, collectors, and sellers defend their First Amendment (U.S.) rights to enjoy comics in its many forms. The donation-driven group can typically be found nosing through tangled legal cases involving consumers or retailers caught in a web of court cases, helping raise finances for legal advisers to consult in an expert function.
Originally designed to mimic the appearance of a U.S. stamp, the Seal of Approval was the materialization of the regulatory arm of the Comics Magazine Association of America (itself a hastily assembled, mid-century, industry body for self-regulation).
Understandably, taking ownership of this dated censorship device is more of a symbolic move than a pragmatic one. The CBLDF now plans to positively monitor the licensing of apparel and products bearing the Seal. The paradox will certainly not be lost on those culturally sensitive to such practices. Naturally, the non-profit organization will use the proceeds to continue funding the education and assistance of book business professionals and their inquiry into the merit of comics and graphic novels as substantive literature.
The Seal of Approval, a logo developed in the 1950s, meant that a comic was reviewed and approved by a pre-publication board of censors with abstruse opinions of juvenile literature. The Comics Code itself was a reaction to increased pressure from book critics, developmental psychologists, and politicians.
Although no short synopsis will do justice to the lengthy and informational history of The Code's creation, revision, and eventual muzzling of free speech, it is nevertheless worth noting that The Comics Code Authority was born of fear, and had pinned down talented writers and artists for decades.
"As we reflect upon the challenges facing intellectual freedom during Banned Books Week, the Comics Code Seal is a reminder that it's possible for an entire creative field to have those rights curtailed because of government, public, and market pressures," Charles Brownstein, CBLDF Executive Director, commented on the rights acquisition. "Fortunately, today comics are no longer constrained as they were in the days of the Code, but that's not something we can take for granted."
As a quick refresher, consider that The Comics Code Authority had once placed substantial restrictions not only on visual and editorial content, but also relegated decision-based authority to an independent coalition whose intentions were far apart from that of the creators of the comics themselves. The Code, for example, originally prohibited any remote challenge of, or to, authority, while additionally prohibiting profanity, "suggestive and salacious illustration[s]," and any editorial detailing of crime, horror, or the supernatural. Depictions of religion and race, regardless of context, were heavily regulated as well.
"Comics Code History: The Seal of Approval" by Amy Kiste Nyberg, Seton Hall University