Association of Comics Magazine Publishers

The Association of Comics Magazine Publishers (ACMP) was an American industry trade group formed in May 1947[1] and publicly announced on July 1, 1948,[2] to regulate the content of comic books in the face of public criticism during this time. Founding members included publishers Phil Keenan of Hillman Periodicals, Leverett Gleason of Lev Gleason Publications, Bill Gaines of EC Comics, Harold Moore (publisher of Famous Funnies) and Rae Herman of Orbit Publications, as well as distributors Frank Armer and Irving Manheimer.[2] George T. Delacorte, Jr., founder of Dell Publishing, which included Dell Comics, served as president,[1] and Manhattan attorney Henry E. Schultz, president of the board of Queens College and a member of the New York City Board of Higher Education, as executive director.[3]

Photo of men and women burning boxes of comics in a bin as a crowd of children watch.
Comic book burning, c. 1950

The ACMP was formed after "accusations from several fronts charged comic books with contributing to the rising rates of juvenile delinquency",[1] and city and county ordinances had banned some publications[4] though these were effectively overturned with a March 29, 1948, United States Supreme Court ruling that a 64-year-old New York State law outlawing publications with "pictures and stories of deeds of bloodshed, lust or crime" was unconstitutional.[5] Regardless, the uproar increased upon the publication of two articles "Horror in the Nursery", by Judith Crist, in the March 25, 1948, issue Collier's Weekly,[1] based upon the symposium "Psychopathology of Comic Books" held a week earlier[1] by psychiatrist[6] Fredric Wertham; and Wertham's own features "The Comics ... Very Funny!" in the May 29, 1948, issue of The Saturday Review of Literature.[7] and “The Psychopathology of Comic Books” in the American Journal of Psychotherapy, which stated that comic books were "abnormally sexually aggressive" and led to crime. Spencer, West Virginia held a comic-book burning on October 26, 1948;[8] after the Associated Press reported on this, copycat comic-book burnings followed around the country, particularity in Catholic parishes.[9][10]

In 1948, the association released their "Publishers Code," drawing on the Hollywood Production Code (better known as the "Hays Code"), which had also been drafted to stave off external regulation. Like the Production Code, it forbid portrayals of crime that might "throw sympathy against the law" or "weaken respect for established authority," and prohibited "ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group." "Sexy, wanton comics" were not to be published, and divorce was not to be "treated humorously or represented as glamorous or alluring."

Comics that complied with the code were offered a "Seal of Approval." The code, however, was not a success, ignored by both large and small publishers. Some publishers, such as Dell Comics, refused to join the organization. Others, such as founding member EC Comics, terminated their participation. Those who continued as members made use of the ACMP seal of approval without any formal process of review. Describing the situation in 1950, Director Schultz said: "The association, I would say, is out of business and so is the code." [11] Nevertheless, comics continued to be printed with the association's seal right up until the 1990s, although by then, many of the code's regulations were being completely ignored. Marvel Comics was the first to publish without it, with no loss in sales or public outcry.

In 1954, a mounting tide of criticism, including a new book by Wertham (Seduction of the Innocent) and congressional hearings, spurred the formation of the ACMP's successor, the Comics Magazine Association of America (CMAA). The ACMP Publishers Code served as the template for a more detailed set of rules enforced by the CMAA's Comics Code Authority.

EC comics and Mad magazine publisher, William M. Gaines, in his 1983 interview with The Comics Journal revealed: "After the Senate Subcommittee hearings, and this isn’t very well known, but I can prove it again, I sent a letter to every comics publisher, invited them to a meeting and footed the bill for the hall. We took a big place somewhere, and all these people showed up and I tried to convince them that we should form an association and hire the Gleuks of Harvard or anybody else we could find who could do some sort of independent, honest research into whether comic books in truth were the horrendous things that people said they were. And since I really didn’t think they were, I figured, such a study would exonerate us. None of these guys wanted to do that, and right away the whole thing was taken away from me, and they turned it into a situation where they wrote a Code, and the Code forbade the use of the words horror, terror, or crime — this was all my books — and weird, even weird, [laughter] so that would wipe me out. So I didn’t join the association. But then I decided to drop all those books anyway and put out the New Direction stuff. I put out the six first issues, six b-imonthlies, and they sold 10, 15 percent. You can’t believe how horrendous the sales were. And I later found out that it was because the word was passed by the wholesalers, “Get ‘im!” So they got me."

ACMP Publishers Code of 1948

  1. Sexy, wanton comics should not be published. No drawing should show a female indecently or unduly exposed, and in no event more nude than in a bathing suit commonly worn in the United States of America.
  2. Crime should not be presented in such a way as to throw sympathy against the law and justice or to inspire others with the desire for imitation. No comics shall show the details and methods of a crime committed by a youth. Policemen, judges, Government officials, and respected institutions should not be portrayed as stupid, ineffective, or represented in such a way to weaken respect for established authority.
  3. No scenes of sadistic torture should be shown.
  4. Vulgar and obscene language should never be used. Slang should be kept to a minimum and used only when essential to the story.
  5. Divorce should not be treated humorously or represented as glamorous or alluring.
  6. Ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group is never permissible. [12]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Vassallo, Michael J., “The History of Atlas Horror/Fantasy: The Comics Code 1955” (introduction), ‘’Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Journey into Mystery Vol. 3 ‘’ (Marvel Worldwide, 2010), p. vi (unnumbered)
  2. 1 2 Hajdu, David. The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008), p. 128. ISBN 0-374-18767-3, ISBN 978-0-374-18767-5
  3. Hajdu, p. 129
  4. For example, Bellingham, Washington in August 1948 passed a binding prohibition against the sale of 50 specific comic-book series (Hajdu, p. 106); the County of Los Angeles on September 23, 1948, outlawed the sale of crime comics to minors (Hajdu, p. 107); and that same year the American Municipal Association reported that nearly 50 municipalities had "banned the sale of certain comic books". (Hajdu, p. 108)
  5. Hajdu, p. 95
  6. Hajdu, p. 98
  7. Hajdu, p. 113
  8. Hajdu, p. 116
  9. Hajdu, p. 119
  10. Coville, Jamie (n.d.). "Seduction of the Innocents and the Attack on Comic Books: The Comic Book Villain, Dr. Fredric Wertham, M.D.". Integrative Arts 10. Penn State University. Archived from the original on February 24, 2009. Retrieved January 25, 2009.. Note: article erroneously refers to Wertham as a "psychologist". .
  11. 83rd United States Congress; Committee on the Judiciary (Harley M. Kilgore, Chairman) (March 14, 1955). "Comic Books and Juvenile Delinquency: Interim Report of the Committee on the judiciary pursuant to S. Res. 89 and S. Res. 190". Congressional Record. United States Congress. Archived from the original on May 10, 2007. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
  12. Hajdu, p. 128
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