August 7, 2019

Censoring Art (part 1 of 3)

Only 4 months ago I wrote a post about the magnificent edition of Conan the Barbarian: The Original Marvel Years Omnibus, which is far superior to the trade paperbacks published by Dark Horse almost 20 years ago. The quality of Marvel’s Omnibus editions is always impressive, and with this Conan volume we get to see all the covers (which were never included in Dark Horse’s edition), the original coloring (instead of the artificial recoloring Dark Horse did) and, best of all, many pages of extra content, including, of course, Barry Windsor-Smith’s original art.

I have read Conan in many different editions: the Mexican Novaro editions from the 70s, which would often eliminate entire pages so that they could fit 2 entire comic books in one single standard 32 page edition; the Spanish Forum editions (which were by far the best edition in Spanish of Conan comics), the Dark Horse reprints (with all its flaws), and now this extraordinary Omnibus. And after going through all the additional material I had the idea of writing a post about censoring art, which was a common practice in the comic book industry, especially back in the 70s. 

The central organism for censorship was the Comics Code Authority, which started in 1954 and was still used by Marvel almost half a century later (until 2001) and even longer by DC Comics (until 2010), in Conan the Barbarian # 12, which I reviewed on this blog 8 years ago (gasp!), “the Comics Code required art and content changes for [The Dweller in the Dark] to receive their requisite approval”.

In Windsor-Smith’s original version we see how more revealing queen Fatima’s outfit was, as well as the scene between the slave Yaila and Conan. Conan’s summary execution of queen Fatima has always been one of my favorite scenes in The Dweller in the Dark, and now that I feel lucky for having the opportunity to see the original version (which includes a partial glimpse of the queen’s nipples, something that even today would be censored by Marvel or DC, unless it appeared under a ‘mature content’ label). 

Hace apenas 4 meses escribí sobre la magnífica edición de Conan the Barbarian: The Original Marvel Years Omnibus, que es muy superior a los tomos recopilatorios editados por Dark Horse hace casi 20 años. La calidad de las ediciones Omnibus de Marvel siempre es impresionante, y con este volumen de Conan podemos ver todas las portadas (que nunca se incluyeron en la edición de Dark Horse), el color original (en lugar del recoloreado artificial de Dark Horse) y, lo mejor de todo, muchas páginas de contenido adicional, incluidos, por supuesto, el arte original de Barry Windsor-Smith.

He leído Conan en muchas ediciones diferentes: las ediciones mexicanas de Novaro de los 70s, que a menudo eliminaban páginas enteras para que pudieran caber 2 cómics completos en una sola edición estándar de 32 páginas; las ediciones españolas de Forum (que fueron, con mucho, la mejor edición en español de los cómics de Conan), las reimpresiones de Dark Horse (con todos sus defectos), y ahora este extraordinario Omnibus. Y después de revisar todo el material adicional, tuve la idea de escribir sobre el arte censurado, una práctica común en la industria del cómic, especialmente en los 70s.

El organismo central para la censura fue la Autoridad del Código de Comics (Comics Code Authority), que comenzó en 1954 y fue utilizada por Marvel casi medio siglo después (hasta el 2001) e incluso más tiempo por DC Comics (hasta el 2010), en Conan the Barbarian # 12, que reseñé en este blog hace 8 años (¡vaya!), "el Código de Comics requería cambios de arte y contenido para que [The Dweller in the Dark] recibiera la aprobación requerida".

En la versión original de Windsor-Smith vemos cuán reveladora era la vestimenta de la reina Fátima, así como la escena entre la esclava Yaila y Conan. La manera en la que Conan ejecuta a la reina Fátima siempre ha sido una de mis escenas favoritas en "El que mora en la oscuridad", y ahora me siento afortunado de tener la oportunidad de ver la versión original (que incluye un imagen parcial de los pezones de la reina, algo que incluso hoy sería censurado por Marvel o DC, a menos que apareciera bajo la etiqueta de 'contenido para adultos').


  1. On a History Channel documentary Stan Lee told a story about how the CCA wouldn't approve a story about Harry Osborne doing drugs so they put out the issue without the CCA seal and...nothing happened. So you have to wonder why publishers kowtowed to the CCA for so long.

    In the same documentary Jim Starlin talked about an issue of Nick Fury where they changed a nude scene to a close up of Furys gun and how symbolic that was. Kind of like in TV shows or movies where they cut to stock footage of a train going through a tunnel during a sex scene.

    I don't like censorship but I'll admit sometimes I don't mind so much. Censoring nipples or Batman's penis doesn't seem like a huge loss to me.

    1. Yeah, I saw the same documentary! And it's true, publishers didn't really need the CCA but seems like they weren't brave enough!