Learn how Stan Lee ushered in an era of censorship-free comic books

The name of Stan Lee Resonates as one of the giants in the comic book universe, being one of the minds behind icons such as X-Men, Black Panther, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. His ability to bring compelling superheroes to life and create unforgettable stories is legendary.

However, one of the most impactful moments of his career did not unfold in the colorful pages of comics, but rather behind the scenes, when he dared to challenge the authority of the Comics Code Authority (CCA). This was an organization that exerted its control over the comics industry for decades, from the 1950s to the 2000s.

Stan Lee’s courage in defying censorship in comics

Image: Reproduction/Marvel Comics/Heritage Comics

Established in the 1950s, the Comics Code Authority had the mission of “approving” comic books, applying censorship to content considered inappropriate for young readers.

Although Stan Lee and the Marvel generally avoided themes that went beyond the boundaries stipulated by the organization, such as drug use, graphic violence, sexuality and disrespect for authority, there was a crucial moment when Stan Lee decided to challenge such limits.

In 1971, the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare requested the creation of an educational narrative on the dangers of drugs. The result was a series of stories published in issues number 96 to 98 of “The Amazing Spider-Man”, with illustrations by Gil Kane.

In this storyline, Spider-Man faces Green Goblin while trying to rescue a man on the verge of falling from a building due to drug addiction. As the plot unfolds, it turns out that this is Harry Osborn, who has become an addict.

Image: Marvel Comics

However, the Comics Code Authority rejected the story, claiming that the justification provided was not in line with the organization’s values. In this point, Stan Lee took a bold step. He chose to publish both editions without the CCA seal of approval, something unheard of in that era of the industry.

Surprisingly, these editions achieved sales success, even without the seal of approval, and received praise both from the parents of young readers and from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare itself.

Stan Lee’s act of disobedience had a lasting impact on the comic book industry. The CCA’s refusal led to a reevaluation of regulations and questioned established standards. In the 2000s, several publishers began to move away from the CCA label, which ended up being officially discontinued in 2011. All the details of this story are shown in the documentary “Stan Lee”, available on Disney+.

In relation :  Keanu Reeves talks about his dream of playing a famous comic book character