Instrument Lights Made the Beads of Sweat Twinkle on His Dark Skin
September 24, 2013 6:16 PM   Subscribe

In 1956 EC Comics attempted to re-publish the pre-Code comic Judgement Day, originally published in 1953 in Weird Fantasy #18, prior to the founding of the Comics Code Authority. The CCA "objected to" the story because of "the central character being black.".
posted by exogenous (13 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I slipped and posted this early, but here is a synopsis of the comic via George Hartman's Facebook:
In the distant future when humankind has traveled beyond the stars, a representative from earth travels to check out how a colony of robots are coming along. He notices that the red robots don't have as many priviliges as the blue robots and use separate facilities for maintenance, etc. He informs them that he doesn't believe they're ready to join the federation.In the last panel, seen below, the astronaut removes his helmet."Judgment Day', published by EC Comics almost didn't see the light of day because censors said that a Black man couldn't be portrayed as an astronaut.
posted by exogenous at 6:23 PM on September 24, 2013


The CCA always struck me as the comics industry equivalent of the TSA: spiteful bullies who claim authority to fight the good fight while improving nothing whatsoever.
posted by griphus at 6:30 PM on September 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


When I started reading this I thought the objection was going to be that the black man didn't appear early enough in the comic. Then I realized since he only gets one panel where he is exposed that the concern wasn't that he got too much screen time, but that he had any.

When I was in college I wrote a story about a generation ship that was filled with white colonists that were fleeing Earth to reach a planet of racial purity and make it into the Eden they knew it could be if only they could finally leave behind all the brown people. So they are traveling as fast as they can, near light speed, but when they finally get to the planet they wanted to colonize they are greeted by a flourishing society of every race but white. Seems "near light speed" wasn't quite good enough, and it only took a few hundred more years to break that barrier, so they got passed a few hundred years earlier.

I learned two things from writing this: 1. Precious trick endings have to be earned. 2. I knew nothing about science and really shouldn't be writing anything that pretends to it.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:33 PM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


c.f. Asimov's Segregationist.
posted by Pinback at 6:48 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or "The Other Foot" by Bradbury
posted by stevil at 7:13 PM on September 24, 2013


The CCA "objected to" the story because of "the central character being black."

But one imagines that the story being a thinly veiled (some might say ham-handed) critique of segregation also might have had something to do with it.
posted by straight at 7:41 PM on September 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


...Or Arthur C. Clark's Reunion.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 8:23 PM on September 24, 2013


Something I've found... When a person says 'well, you see, that thing is going to upset the racists/homophobes, so we can't/shouldn't do it' two things are true: 1 - the person who says such a thing wants to make it clear they themselves are not a racist/homophobe, 2 - the person who says such a thing is probably a racist/homophobe.

I'm not sure that's the conversation that was associated with this act of cowardice, but it wouldn't surprise me if that's pretty much how it went down.

If you want to avoid being perceived a racist/homophobe, I would mildly suggest this approach: "that thing is going to upset the racists/homophobes, so we should sure as hell go ahead and do that thing".
posted by el io at 9:30 PM on September 24, 2013


In fairness it wasn't the Code proper, it was the administrator, Judge Charles Murphy, acting autocratically:
Keep in mind that there were no Code violations anywhere in this story, and it even adhered to the Code’s admonition to decry race hatred. So what was Murphy’s response?

“You can’t have a Negro.”
From here, which makes great reading.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:00 PM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Conservatives gonna conserve.
posted by acb at 5:05 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder if Deep Space Nine got the idea for "Far Beyond the Stars" from that story.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 6:08 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


el io: "If you want to avoid being perceived a racist/homophobe, I would mildly suggest this approach: "that thing is going to upset the racists/homophobes, so we should sure as hell go ahead and do that thing"."

I think you're applying a very not-1950s sentiment to the decision process.

It's perfectly believable that the actual instigator (Judge Charles Murphy) would have had no qualms at all going on public television and defending his decision on the nightly news, broadcasting into 10 million family homes at dinnertime.

He might have even assumed most 'colored people' would even agree with him.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:36 PM on September 25, 2013


IIRC, the actual publicly stated objection was to the sweat on the man's face, since Negro sweat(/smell) was part of a racist complex (includes: sense of rhythm, fear of ghosts, love of watermelon, etc.) But that may have been an attempt to (ahem) whitewash the incident.
The story that was supposed to appear until the Code said No was "An Eye for an Eye", which you can read here. That story was not published until 1971 in an EC collection done by Nostalgia Press. Link has contrary info about the story.)
posted by CCBC at 4:08 PM on September 25, 2013


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