Chicago Spanking Review

The Effects of the Comics Code on Spanking in Comics, Part 3:  1960 - 1979

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By Web-Ed


cover of Fantastic Four #1

The cover of Fantastic Four #1 (November 1961) - the Marvel Age of Comics begins! Pencils by Jack Kirby, inker unknown. © Marvel Characters Inc.

Let's move on now to the swingin' sixties and see what's shakin', sweetie! As you might be able to tell from my attempt to copt Stan Lee's lingo, the most significant trend in this decade was the new approach to super-heroes pioneered at Marvel primarily by Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and Don Heck. This was so even though it was DC that had started the Silver Age by revamping The Flash and following up with new versions of Atom, Green Lantern, and other heroes from the Golden Age. The reason was that while DC had some good talent working for them, they did not have Jack Kirby, nor did they have anyone in management who possessed anything remotely like Lee's editorial vision, and after more than twenty years in the business he was ready to do something completely different. With artists Heck, Ditko, and most of all Kirby at his disposal, and with publisher Martin Goodman's desire to have Marvel do a superhero team book, the stage was set for what came to be known as the Marvel Age of Comics.

It began in November 1961 with the publication of Fantastic Four #1. Much more character-driven than anything DC was doing, the FF became an instant hit and other superhero titles quickly followed. Marvel stories were far more dynamic than DC's, and we might suspect from this fact alone that Marvel would have been more likely to run into trouble with the Code Office. While there aren't any official figures, many instances of the Code insisting on changes in Marvel books have been documented (for some details, see the references at the end of Part 4 of this article). We'll concern ourselves with only two here.

Although ten years had passed since the Code's inception in 1954, violent images were still very much in its sights. At left, we have the original cover of Tales of Suspense #55 (July 1964), on which a symbolically giant-sized Mandarin menaces Iron Man with a clenched fist. The Code Office rejected the cover, apparently believing the fist was too violent, and also insisted on trimming The Mandarin's long fingernails (final version, right).

original cover of tales of suspense #55 final cover of tales of suspense #55

The Mandarin gets his fingernails clipped on the cover of Tales of Suspense #55 to please the Code Office. Art by Jack Kirby. © Marvel Characters Inc.


spanking panel from FR #1

The superhero spanking the Code quashed: Ben takes Sue across his knee in Fantastic Four #38 (May 1965). Art by Jack Kirby and Chic Stone. © Marvel Characters Inc.

Now that we have an understanding of the situation in the early 1960's, let's take a look at the one case during that time in which we can be almost certain that a spanking was suppressed by order of the Code Office: Fantastic Four #38 (May 1965). When I first saw this, I thought it was just an awkwardly-posed scene of non-spanking horseplay and I put it into my "Marvel Spankings That Didn't Quite Come Off" series, but JimC maintained that he thought it was a true spanking, and the more I looked at it the more it seemed he was right. While researching Marvel books of this period, Barry Pearl came to the same conclusion.

The main problem is Ben's (The Thing's) left arm - I couldn't understand why Kirby would have positioned it that way if he had intended Ben to be spanking Sue. The obvious answer, which escaped me at the time, was:  he didn't. Looking at it more closely, you can see that Ben's left shoulder looks wrong somehow. It's that funny hatching-effect where the arm joins the shoulder - it appears that the arm has been repositioned to prevent it from holding Sue in place over Ben's knee the way she would normally be held while being spanked. Inker Chic Stone probably redrew it at the Code's insistence.

Nor is that all:  the dialogue balloons appear to have been altered as well. "Hey Rubber Head! Ya want" looks different than "I should catch her for ya?", while in Sue's dialogue balloon measuring the two lines "If you don't get out...this instant" against "Speak to you again!" I found a 1 mm. difference (including the space between lines). It may not sound like much, but it's perceptible if you look closely, and it's hard to believe that Sam Rosen, an experienced letterer, would have lettered it that way originally.

Was Ben's line "Ya want I should spank her for ya?"  Or perhaps "I'm gonna turn her over my knee!"?  Did Sue reply, "If you don't stop spanking me this instant.."?  Unfortunately, we'll probably never know for sure since I believe Lee's scripts were thrown away once the letterer was done with them. It should be noted that this was supposed to be a fun scene with characters who are part of a family and who care very much for each other. This was neither a serious disciplinary spanking nor an intentionally "erotic" one; Kirby was an old-fashioned guy (by modern standards) who envisioned M/F spanking as somthing that might reasonably occur between "vanilla" adults. In fact Kirby once mock-threatened to spank a young female artist at a comics convention! There was nothing at all salacious in it, nor was he really serious, but it shows that he didn't see anything necessarily erotic in spanking, perhaps especially in the case of a somewhat older man spanking a younger woman. (Note: Ben and Reed are a little older than Sue and Johnny). To him the situation with Ben and Sue was probably very much like a birthday spanking. And yet the Code Office came down hard on this playful, innocent scene.


1960 - 1964 4
1965 - 1969 7

We may wonder then if any non-parental M/F spankings would have made it past the code. The figures for 1960 - 1964 are interesting:  4 spankings come up in the Data Base, but two are clearly parental (Professor Lang/Lana Lang and Superman/Super-Tots, both in 1961). The third is that goofy Superman Robot/Lois Lane scene in 1960. Perhaps this one passed because with a robot, it couldn't possibly be seen as erotic, although when you come to think about it, a spanking robot is even more kinky in a way. That leaves only Charlton's Career Girl Romances #45.

spanking panel from career girl romances #45

This is not a particularly distinguished spanking - it's a slightly cold, M/F husband/wife disciplinary scene - and yet somehow it made it past the Code! Since it involves a married couple, it would seem to have more potential to be taken as "erotic" than the Ben/Sue pairing. I can see nothing so special about it that it should deserve to be the sole non-parental, non-robot M/F spanking to be approved by the Code for the entire five-year period from 1960 through 1964, but there it is. In fact, it was the only spanking that had been approved since True Brides Experiences #16 in early 1956!

Now let's take a look at the second half of the 60's:

1966 Brave and the Bold #64
1967 Just Married #53
1968 Just Married #58
1968 Teen-Age Love #57
1968 Teen Confessions #49
1969 Our Army At War #208
1969 Date With Debbi #3
mrs guy percy trulock in new york times


The second half of the 60's was clearly less strict with seven M/F spankings (hooray!), none of them parental. By spanko standards they were for the most part good scenes, too, but they didn't begin until 1966. Let's see if we can figure out why.

One might guess from these numbers that something had happened in 1966, and in fact, something did: there was a new Code Administrator in town. As we mentioned in Part 2, there was only one non-parental M/F spanking in the five years after the Code was implemented, and it took place in 1956 when Judge Charles Murphy was still administrator. He was replaced that year by the socially-prominent Mrs. Guy Percy Trulock, who had been President of the New York City Federation of Women's Clubs.

I had heard it said that the Code ladies, Mrs. Trulock and her mostly female staff, insisted that references to "erotic" spanking (to use Wertham's adjective) be eliminated, but until I researched this article I had not realized how severe they truly were: during her entire ten-year term in office, only one non-parental, non-robot spanking was permitted - Career Girl Romances #45! This is an astounding revelation. One has to suspect that perhaps this one exception was some kind of error, or that Mrs. Trulock had been on vacation when the original art came in to the Code Office for approval. It would certainly explain why I have never found any other Charlton Romance comics spankings during this period, despite searching through many of their books from the latter half of the 50's as I related in Part 2. In fact, the single greatest loss during this time is probably from the Romance genre, which was still going pretty strong. How many spanking scenes we might have had in Romance comics from 1956 - 66 without Mrs. Trulock's interference is anyone's guess, but I have to think it might have been something like one per year.

mrs guy percy trulock and female code staffer

Mrs. Guy Percy Trulock and unidentified CCA staff member, date unknown. Photo from

Lest it seem that I'm singling out Mrs. Trulock for special disapprobation, I will say that in many ways she was probably an improvement over her predecessor, Judge Murphy. At least she seems to have had no problem with racial minorities. (There was an infamous incident in which Murphy attempted to pressure Feldstein and Gaines into removing a black ambassador from the reprinted story "Judgment Day" in EC's Incredible Science Fiction #33, but it's too long to relate here). The problem for comics as an art form was always the Code itself, not the Code Administrator, but it is certainly unfortunate for us spankos that Mrs. Trulock was so dead-set against spanking.

In any case, when Mrs. Trulock retired, her place was taken by Leonard Darvin, a lawyer who for some time had worked for the Code's parent body, the CMAA, in a legal capacity. By all accounts, Darvin could be a stickler for some things, but thankfully he seems to have been more broad-minded than Mrs. Trulock when it came to spanking, for hardly had he taken office when Batman was turning Marcia Monroe over his knee in Brave and the Bold #64, a sizzling scene that most definitely did have erotic overtones!


1970 - 1974 6
1975 - 1979 4

The trend set during the second half of the 60's continued during the 70's with another ten non-parental M/F spankings taking place (see chart above). Interestingly, DC's only contribution was to reprint the 1966 Batman/Marcia story in 1976. Marvel, Charlton, and Archie each contributed 3. This tells us more about the editorial tendencies of each company than it does about the Code, however, so I won't wander any further afield here than I already have. The point is that the Code Office under Darvin seemed to have had no problem with M/F spanking. Anyone interested in the relative dearth of spanking at DC from 1970 to the present is invited to consult my article "What Happened to DC Spanking During the Bronze Age?".

The Comics Code was revised in 1971. Vampires and Werewolves were now allowed; Zombies, for some reason, were not (they should have sued for unfair discrimination). The provisions against nudity, overt sexual acts, and "sex perversion" remained, however, so the fact that M/F spankings continued at the same rate they had from 1966 - 1970 must be attributed to Darvin's continuing tenure as Code Administrator and his presumed conclusion that spanking was not necessarily "sex perversion" within the meaning of the Code.

vampire werewolf

Vampires and Werewolves made a comeback in 70's comics, while Zombies were left behind to rot in the swamp. © Marvel Characters, Inc.


That doesn't mean that Darvin was lying down on the job: while Beverly Switzler got spanked in the Howard the Duck Treasury Edition, a panel in the HTD comic of Howard and Beverly in bed together had to be redrawn so that Howard was outside the covers.

Next time in Part 4 we'll see that comic-book spanking declined in the 80's, but was the Code responsible? Then we'll summarize the Modern Age as the Code itself declines in importance and is finally abandoned.

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