Welcome to the two-hundred and fifty-eighth 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 fifty-seven.
Comic Book Legends Revealed is 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 you check out this installment of Basketball Legends Revealed to learn about a felon who asked for a LONGER prison sentence to honor his favorite basketball player!
COMIC LEGEND: An Alabama printer refused to print Alias #1 because of "offensive material."
A couple of weeks ago, in an installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed, I noted that Marvel decided to change Black Panther's costume so that his face was not visible on the cover of his first appearance, Fantastic Four #52.
And I noted that while I do not know definitively WHY the change was made, the odds lean pretty heavily towards it being some concern on the part of either Marvel upper management (or even Stan Lee) that having a readily identifiable black superhero might cause too much controversy for Marvel at the time (1966).
I noted that such fears (whether they were well-founded or not) likely would have revolved around the distribution system of the day, as distribution of comics, while coordinated on a national level, was carried out on a local level. So Marvel might have worried about a Southern distributor. However, I also noted that a reader suggested that Marvel was worried about the PRINTER side of things.
And in response to that, a number of readers wrote in to note that there might have been cause for Marvel to be worried, at least in relation to a fairly recent situation involving a printer and Marvel Comics...
First, Jay Potts (writer/artist of the awesome World of Hurt web comic, which you can - and should - check out here) wrote in to say:
Although I don't dispute that distributors in the 1960s may have had concerns about moving books that featured Black characters, as recently as 2001, there was one high-profile incident of suspected racism on the part of a printer. The first issue of Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos' "Alias" had to change printers from American Color Graphics in Sylacauga, Alabama to Quebecor Printing after American Color Graphics refused to print the issue due to what it alleged was "offensive" content. The printer didn't indicate what part of the issue he found offensive, but bear in mind that this was the issue that featured the much-discussed interracial sex scene between Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. I hate to ascribe ACG's reluctance to print the book to some lingering prejudice, but I shook the Magic 8-Ball and it said "All Signs Point To Yes."
Jay is correct, and it's something I've been meaning to feature in Comic Book Legends Revealed for awhile, so now is as good of a time as any!
As Jay noted, American Color Graphics refused to print Alias #1.
Alias #1 had the following labeling on the cover...
So here is the aforementioned "offensive" scene (WARNING - As this is the scene that has the "explicit content," you might not want to keep reading if you don't like seeing, you know, explicit content)...
Now, when Jay notes that the scene includes interracial sex, obviously he is correct. But the scene also highly suggests that the characters are engaging in anal sex.
And as reader Jim Stamford wrote in to note that Alabama has very strict rules when it comes to content involving sodomy.
Heck, they were one of the states where sodomy was illegal (before the United States Supreme Court overruled all of those laws in 2003)!!
So it very well could have been the type of sex itself that made the printer wary and not the interracial aspect of the scene.
Thanks to Jay Potts and Jim Stamford (and also Andrew Collins) for writing in about this one! Here's Bendis being interviewed on the topic (he doesn't make a guess as to why the content was deemed "offensive").