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Welcome to the two-hundred and seventeenth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and sixteen.
Comic Book Legends Revealed is now part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com. I’d especially recommend this week’s Architecture Legends Revealed, which examines the strange cloak and dagger race in 1930 to see who would be the tallest building in the world!
Warning – some profanity ahead!
COMIC LEGEND: The Comics Code Authority’s Comics Code banned the word “flick” from usage.
Here’s Jonathan Ross, from the BBC show, QI (thanks to TV Tropes for the quote):
Comics were investigated after a certain Doctor Fredric Wertham brought out a book called Seduction of the Innocent in 1954, calling for the introduction of a self-regulating body known as the Comic Code Authority, that had such ridiculous rules as, you could not use the word “flick” in a comic for fear that the “l” would run into the “i” and Spider-Man would be saying, “Look, he’s got a fuck knife!”
That pretty much describes the legend, doesn’t it? Ross is far from the only person who has said that over the years, he’s just the easiest to source (thanks, again, to TV Tropes).
The belief is that the Comics Code banned the word “flick” because, since comics were all printed in upper case letters, FLICK could easily look like the word FUCK.
By the same token, CLINT could look like CUNT.
Well, this one can be solved easily enough, let’s just look at the Comics Code, as instituted in 1954!
(Just imagine me looking through the Code)
Nope, nothing in there about the word “flick”!
There IS a section that states that there is a ban on:
1. Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
And I suppose you could argue that “flick” is a word that has acquired undesirable meaning.
That would be a stretch, though, and since this is the same Code that specifically stated:
1. No comics magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title.
5. Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism and werewolfism are prohibited.
11. The letter of the word “crime” on a comics magazine shall never be appreciably greater than the other words contained in the title. The word “crime” shall never appear alone on a cover.
then I think it is safe to say that they were quite precise and specific about what they wanted banned, and the word “flick” was not it.
In fact, while Irving Donenfield has said that DC had a specific rule against the use of the word “flick,” I think he is just misremembering, as I have not seen anyone else at DC mention any sort of codified rule on the topic.
I think it was just a matter of common sense, the letters L and I very easily COULD blend together, and no one wanted some mother picking up a comic and thinking that the comic is saying that a villain will “fuck him like a bug,” as I assure you, said mother in 1955 will not get past the word “fuck” to judge the context of the usage.
But as far as an official Comics Code ban?
Note that in 1969, Marvel also gave us the Comics Code approved introduction of Hawkeye’s real name…
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