If you watch NBC's "The West Wing," you know how floating a trial balloon works. The president's administration (both on television and in real life) leaks something to the press about something they're considering, gauges public reaction to the leak, and are able to back away from the position if reaction is negative, since it's something they've never officially espoused.
Someone at Marvel Comics may well be a big fan of "The West Wing," as they've floated trial balloons a number of times through the Your Man @ Marvel news column.
This week, the column takes on the venerable Comics Code Authority, the parent-friendly seal of approval first established in the 1950s as a way of self-regulating a comic book industry then under increasing public scrutiny for its sometimes excessive content.
"At the time, it was a smart move. At the time," Wednesday's YM@M column reads in part, "But as we've seen in other entertainment industries, ratings systems must evolve to allow more creative freedom and provide consumers with more information."
While the company has been somewhat schizophrenic in recent years in their deference to the Comics Code Authority -- which essentially looks for G-rated comics with only the most cartoonish violence and with a very black and white view of morality and ethics -- approving adult-oriented comics, then suddenly canceling or dramatically revamping them to meet CCA standards, the company is taking their first major step away from the authority in years, with their newly announced mature readers line.
But is Marvel intending to dump the CCA entirely? It sure sounds like it, according to YM@M
"Right now, a comic book either sports that little Comics Code seal of approval or it doesn't. But if it doesn't, what does that mean? What exactly does the Code find offensive? Does the issue contain pages of decapitations and full frontal nudity, or does it contain a single word the Code deems taboo? Readers -- and if they're young enough, their guardians -- should be told exactly what the comic book contains ... just like they're told by the TV, music, video-game and movie industries.
"This is the thought process that may lead us to step away from the Comics Code -- and develop our own, more modern and informative ratings system."
While the column never officially establishes that Marvel will definitively move in this direction, YM@M does get editors -- Mike Marts, Tom Brevoort, Andrew Lis, Mark Powers and Stuart Moore -- on record about the issue.
All of them endorse the idea that Marvel should abandon the Comics Code Authority system.