When Did Marvel Ban Smoking in Their Comic Books?

Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at brianc@cbr.com).

Reader Carlito B. wrote in to ask, "Would you happen to know when guys like The Thing, Wolverine, Gambit, The Punisher and Nick Fury stopped smoking?

Because back in the late eighties and early nineties they used to smoke all the time and when I got back to reading comic books in the mid 2000s it's like they all dropped the habit. I mean, I'm not a fan of smoking and all that, I'm just curious. Thanks."

Interestingly, Carlito, the move to drop smoking started (as I pointed out in an old Comic Book Legends Revealed) even during the 1990s, but it started outside the comic books.

You see, Marvel used to have a series of popular trading card collections during the 1990s and since these cards were designed to look as similar to the actual comic books as possible, that led to stuff like Johnny Blaze (who was then starring alongside the then-new Ghost Rider, Dan Ketch, in a team-up series called Spirits of Vengeance) being drawn with a cigarette in his mouth on his trading card...

One of the "problems" with these trading cards is that it was a lot easier for parents to flip through cards to find something that offended them rather than flipping through a comic book (quotes because I'm not saying that their concerns weren't legitimate here) and so very often, stuff would be brought to Marvel's attention directly because of a trading card.

For instance, it was a Red Skull trading card from 1990...

that led to Marvel banning the use of the swastika in their comics for a few years.

However, in this particular instance, it was a kid rather than a parent, as a little kid wrote in to the New England Journal of Medicine to complain about Marvel having heroes smoking on their Marvel Masterpieces trading cards, like this Johnny Blaze one. So Marvel agreed to ban the use of smoking on all of their trading cards.

Their comics, though, continued to have characters smoke in them.

That changed when Joe Quesada became the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics.

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