The direct and newsstand versions of Marvel's X-Force #116 hit the street today.  The newsstand version included the first example of Marvel's new three-tiered rating system, 'Parental Guidance: Contains Mature Content,' while the direct market version featured a very flip 'Look Kids, No Comics Code' on the cover in the very spot that Marvel used to place their Comics Code Seal of Approval.  The fact that ICv2 was able to obtain a newsstand copy of the book demonstrates that Marvel has been able to get newsstand distribution for books with its new rating system (though we don't know if they were able to get into as many locations as they did with the Comics Code seal, see 'Newsstands May OK Marvel Code').  As for the direct market edition with the Lettermanesque, 'Look Kids, No Comics Code,' the best take we've heard on this example of dime store sarcasm comes from veteran retailer Jim Hanley, who opined, 'With judgment like this, they could be Wizard editors.'


Direct version


Newsweek on the scent

The May 28th issue of Newsweek includes a story on page ten about Marvel dropping the Comics Code.  The tone of the article is lighthearted and the title is punctuated with the onomatopoeic sounds of comic book violence -- Bam! Kapow! -- words with which the 1960s Batman TV series has tarred the entire world of comic books forever, at least in the minds of magazine editors it appears. While noting that Marvel couched its change in terms of freedom of expression for writers and artists, Newsweek is hardly singling out Marvel President Bill Jemas for a 'Profile in Courage' award stating that: 'Only the newsstand market cares about code approval, and 90 percent of Marvel's sales come from niche comic-book stores.  So Marvel stands up to the Man and starts a new line of 'mature' titles with very little to lose.'    The article ends with an even more cynical appraisal of Marvel's actions, 'They (Marvel) may publish the X-Men, but the plan sounds worthy of Magneto.'


Asking for it 

The Newsweek article is accompanied by an illustration from New X-Men #114 with a caption that reads, 'X-Men still for kids?' This question gets to the real heart of the controversy over the code, the stereotype of the typical comic reader as some kind of thumbsucking ten-year-old, who needs protection from all sorts of  'adult' content. Certainly the exposure in Newsweek means that even the most out-of-touch politician will have at least one staffer who is aware of what Marvel is doing.   The 'Look Kids, No Comics Code' appears to be a much riskier sort of challenge to the 'cultural warrior' class of politicians than the substitution of Marvel's in-house code for the one created by the CMAA (see 'Marvel Dumps the Comic Code').  Was 'Look Kids...' just a bit of youthful exuberance on the part of the newly unshackled Marvel editorial staff or was it an attempt to stir up controversy and get comic books back on the front page?  Does Jemas want to explode the myth of 'child comic book reader' once and for all, with Marvel getting the bulk of the free publicity?  If so, why address your readers as 'Kids?' Does anyone remember the clich? about 'playing with fire?'