Friday, March 10, 2017

Two Questions: Video Game Priorities and Comic Code Authorities!

Martinex1:  There have been a couple of things on my mind, so here are two questions to ponder...

QUESTION 1:  Do you have a favorite video game from back in the day, a memorable gaming story, or a particular arcade that you enjoyed frequenting?

QUESTION 2:  Was the Comic Code Authority a good thing, a bad thing, or somewhere in between?  Explain.

Feel free to answer one or both questions; we are curious what you have to say.   Cheers!


William said...

1. I was never the world's biggest video gamer when I was a kid. I usually didn't have the patience (or the money) to play any game for too long.

But since I was a huge Star Wars fan back then, I used to enjoy playing around with games like Defender and Galaga. There were a few video game machines (including Defender and Galaga) at a local pizza place in my neighborhood that I would hang out at on occasion. I remember my best friend and I spending an entire Saturday once walking around collecting old soda bottles to trade in for the 10 cent deposit (remember those days?) We actually managed to scrape together around $10 (which was a small fortune to a 13 year old in 1978). So we headed to the pizza place and we figured we'd be playing Galaga and Defender for hours on that hard earned money. Well, about 30 minutes later we were broke. Hey, I told you I wasn't the world's greatest gamer. LOL

2. The Comic's Code is a tricky one. On the one hand I don't like the way it came about. (With one man on a witch hunt that actually succeeded to some extent).

But on the other hand I think comics (especially superhero comics) were actually much better when they were produced under the code. In fact, I actually said to my wife the other night that I missed the comics code days of comics.

These days they've become much too dark, gory, ultra-violent, and really just down right depressing, IMO. When I was a kid, if comics were like they are today I would never have gotten into them at all. Now, I'm no prude by any stretch. I like my adult fare in some books and movies as much as the next guy, but when it comes to my superhero comics, I prefer them a little more fun, bright, and hopeful.

Unknown said...

1. GORF!!! It was the only video game within walking distance. It was in the corner of an old deli. I would do what ever lawn work, trash removal etc to get enough to play Golf and eat pizza. (the pizza from the day before was usually wrapped in saran wrap and was $.25 a piece) $5 went a long way. No comics at the deli though. So, I'd grab a hostess fruit pie for the trek home.

2. I agree with William. I enjoyed comics much more during the code years. That icon to this day raises my adrenaline! It made comics seem "official".

david_b said...

1) Yep, Defender and Asteroids were my two main challenges.. Landing the lunar lander was always the coolest, but I typically crashed it (grrrrrr.....). More quarters.

2) I agree the Code was successful/integral in establishing the comic media into the respected art-form it was for many decades. For one, it made the comic form accepted with other trade mags, allowing the optimal distribution and product placement, hence driving sales in order for it to be more acceptable to consumers, and thus, artists. It essentially built the industry, early on.

Secondly, it gave writers/artists/editors a good moral benchmark to tell stories, dipping into the provocative at times for excitement, but like the Cinema it allowed for good story-telling to be focused on, rather than exploitation.

William said...

Speaking of exploitation in movies, has anyone seen the "Logan" movie? I only bring it up because that is what got me thinking about the comics code era the other day.

This movie is getting pretty rave reviews but the words I've seen used to describe it are things like ultra-violent, gory, dystopian, dark, and even depressing. Wow!! That sounds like a good time at the movies! I've also heard reviewers call it the best "superhero" movie ever. Really? I remember when the word "superhero" used to be associated with fun, adventure, and hope. Have we become so cynical as a society today that the "heroes" we look up to now are no better than psychotic mass murderers?

I haven't seen it myself, but it ticks me off that they are portraying Wolverine in this way. He was never Captain America, but he also wasn't a spree killer. He was a tough, no nonsense kind of guy, but he was still rational and a hero. I believe it's things like this movie that is a direct result of all responsibility and morality being eliminated from comics and other media (movies, video games, etc.)

Martinex1 said...

William you hit on some key questions around my question. I have not seen "Logan" yet but in general I liked Wolverine better in comics when he was under the code -whether that was the impetus or not, he seemed more balanced. I disagree with the authoritarian nature of the code and generally don't like the intrusion - philosophically or in practice, but strangely some of the dictates led to things I really enjoyed about comic books. I am definitely not enamored with some of the heavy handed direction like no werewolves or vampires, but on the other hand the "heroes are heroes and criminals are depicted as 'bad' people" did possibly shape some of what I am nostalgic for. I believe creativity within clear parameters really shapes a good product. But I also firmly believe this direction coming from editorial rather than some outside body would have been bettter. As Archie Comics claimed - they didn't need the code because "we aren't about to start stuffing bodies in refrigerators". And at the time they were right but some of the modern Archie variations are pushing some of these envelopes -aren't they? It is weird that I have to preview a Spide-Man or Jughead comic before giving it to my nine year old. Less exploitation as david_b said. More enjoyment as Luther Manning said. Am I just getting old or is there some strange value therein?

Again, I don't like the extremist witch hunt as was mentioned, but was there something worthwhile in the code?

Charlie Horse 47 said...

I agree with all above and grateful no one is talking bout censorship! To me the worst thing to happen to comics in the 50s was Fawcett losing the infringement law suit to D.C. and the demise of Captain Marvel and The Marvel Family! So bad...

Redartz said...

Great comments today, crew! Love your bottle story William.

1. Galaga, always Galaga. One college summer I worked as an attendant in an arcade; side benefit: unlimited play with endless tokens after your shift. Hence I got pretty good at joining my ships and getting through the Challenge stages.

2. I wasn't a big fan of the code, but I feel it was beneficial. The limits William and Marti mentioned were integral to the emergence of better scripting. If there is no envelope, how can you push it? Total freedom can lead to self- indulgence, weak stories and unfocused art.

Mike Wilson said...

Hmmm, two rather disparate topics today.

1) We had a few local arcades over the years, and spent a fair amount of time in them. In high school (late 80s) we went downtown at noon every day to play video games. The place we frequented most often had numerous games over the years: Defender, Centipede, Turbo, Asteroids, Missile Command, Ms. Pac Man, and Gorf. Later it had newer games (i.e. Double Dragon); there was a game called Rastan that my friends played obsessively (I was terrible at it) ... I don't know how much money they spent, but they finally made it all the way through and killed the dragon at the end. There was a sports game we used to play, similar to Track and Field but I think it had an Olympic theme and four people could play at once. There was also a game called Bank Panic that I liked ... one of the few I was really good at.

2) I think the Code helped save comics from oblivion back in the 50s--instead of letting the government or whoever police them, they decided to police themselves. But the restrictions were so severe, they hampered storytelling later on; I'm glad the Code is basically defunct now (or optional, or whatever).

ColinBray said...

1. I was never the video game guy save a dalliance with 'Double Dragon' at University.

2. In retrospect the Comics Code appears an accidental blessing. It cleared the comic ecosystem for the Rise of the Superheroes, and later on, gave parents the illusion that their offspring were definately not being subverted by Gerber, Starlin and Englehart. None of which could have been predicted by the oppressive energy behind it's inception.

As to why comics have only got worse since the Code ended, I'm undecided as to whether the two are connected. After all, comics were bad in the 90s under the Code so perhaps there isn't a causal link.

All told, the Code was one part of the magical brew that gave us 25 years of comic joy. Quite how big a part is a tough question to answer. But one thing is for sure - I still wag my tail prettily whenever I see that symbol on a comic cover, and I think I always will.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

OK, I'm rethinking myself...

We had superheroes in the 40s, then horror and western in the late 40s and 50s, then superheroes from the 60s onward. (Though I suspect that with with Harvey and Archie having an entire spinner rack dedicated to themselves, at our corner store, they must have been selling a LOT of comics too!)

And in general, comics sales have been on a downward trajectory since their hay day of WW II.

Was sex/violence in comics or the code responsible for that? Seems doubtful. Or as Colin wrote, "there does not seem to be a causal link."

By the way, my absolute favorite "inappropriate for kids" cover is Lev Gleason's Daredevil #27. The scantily clad lass, being whipped by the cat of nine tails by a hooded, topless man, while strapped to a chair with large metal boots on her feet while another hooded, topless man pours molten metal... This thing is soooo, soooo, soooo over the top! Really, if you have never seen it, google it! Circa 1943?

Humanbelly said...

Wow, that's a wholllllllle lotta arcade-game memories you've got pictured there! Man, ASTEROIDS-- the B&W one in the middle-- that was, like, the grand-daddy of ALL directly-controllable video games! Our local paper had a big article (Entertainment section/column) about this huge leap forward in arcade-game technology and that, believe it or not, this might someday challenge the supremacy of pinball machines. . .

Myself? I rather sucked at nearly every game you see here (hmm--including the un-pictured FROGGER), except one. . . TAPPER (or sometimes KEGGER), the root-beer servin' game, up there. And for some unfathomable reason, I completely ruled on that one. Oddly enough, it was in the arcade room of a tavern I waited tables at during grad school. Before we opened, or after my shift, sometimes I'd pop in and play for a bit. There was one morning where the manager volunteered to cover my first table after we'd opened because I simply wasn't losing on the first quarter I'd put in about 20 minutes earlier, and was annihilating the previous (my own) high score. No shooting, no fighting, no chasing-- just servin' root beers. . .

Q-Bert was also a big favorite, but I could only get middling-good at that at best.

Comics Code-- agh-- gonna have to run to help with dinner-- can't be expansive. I get it, and I don't disagree with its overall goal-- but quantifying and legislating that kind of subjective morality is ALWAYS fraught with problems, because the most conservative perspectives seem to be the most strident, and tend to go overboard in successfully, well yes, censoring content that may or may not be objectionable at all. The problem seems to be creators are so often more concerned about their creations than they are about the audience they are creating them FOR. . . which I've never felt was an imposition on any creative artist. Do I want kids to see this? Would I want my Mom to see this? Or just 14 to 18 year old boys? And is that who my audience actually is at the moment?

If comics weren't dying as a published medium, I wouldn't have been surprised if we'd seen a code-resurgence in some form before long. Don't think it's ever gonna happen, tho.


Martinex1 said...

I tend to think there is a somewhat cyclical cause and effect but that a significant spark to both the Comics Code Authority and the Silver Age was WWII. I am probably seriously over-simplifying and would need more than a quick comment to make my case. But I think the real-life horror of that war drove not only the artists and creators who lived through it to develop reflective archetypes of good vs evil but it drove some ill-advised real-life fights of supposed-good vs imagined-evil.

I am not certain if the ruler-villain existed much prior, but the megalomaniacal villain bent on conquest in comics seems to emerge dramatically in the Silver Age (Dr. Doom, Kang the Conqueror, even Starro). So I believe that was a natural response and artistic reaction/outlet to the war by men and women who now had WWII in their rear view mirror by 15 years but could not forget it.

I theorize that the actions in the 50s with the CCA were also related in a similar fashion. The EC Comics of that time were gory even by today's standards. Aside from the "twilight zone" like twists and suspense, I believe those stories revealed the horrible things that man was capable of. There was a pretty obvious gallows humor aspect to those books. I am sure some people -maybe even most people- did not get the artistic meaning as it was depicted in the "common" comics. In an admittedly misguided way I think Wertham was reflectively trying to bury the "horror". I think history has shown that he had no scientific proof for what he claimed was the impact of such comics, but I do think the movement was guided by a drive to suppress and hide any glimmer of the horrors of man. I do not think the means were justified by the supposed ends, but it is somewhat understandable if there was a general zeitgeist-reaction to try to forget. Heck, the 50s in America were homogenized and sanitized in so many ways from the vision of the suburbs to the television shows to the pop culture. Was this movement so unexpected? Wertham is blamed, but a lot of people bought in.

So maybe the CCA wasn't the initial cause but it was caused itself somewhat simultaneously. Just a thought.

As far as did the removal of the CCA result in "bad" comics - I think badly written comics are always possible. But I do believe having no rules makes it easier to be self-indulgent and less consistent. Conversely ill conceived rules or extraordinarily stringent rules make us all less intelligent.

I just wish there was some code that could have removed the over-sized muscles from the heroes in the 90s. "No wrists bigger than the hero's head. No bomber jackets. No embossed covers with holograms". That should have gone to Congress.

Re: Video Games - I was horrible at them but I liked Galaga and Centipede. My friends could play for hours and I was done in minutes. Standing idly by watching over their shoulders as they easily put their initials onto the leader boards.

Rip Jagger said...

1. I was only ever good at one video arcade game -- Time Pilot. Used to play instead of going to class in college...very smart.

2. The Comics Code is a complicated thing. I see value in it since its strictures really fanned the creativity of the talent who were left in comics after the crash. The simple blood and guts formula had to get arguably cleverer to make a story work, though admittedly it got a bit ludicrous in war books and such. Comic book creators like any seem to me more creative when they have boundaries to push. That said, I much appreciated the relaxation of the Code in the 70's which made the horror boom possible and allowed comics to discuss relevant issues of the day in a more adult manner. The Code was put together for a host of complicated and not necessarily straightforward perhaps even nefarious reasons (one was to drive EC right out of business) but the result was some pretty interesting comics in its wake.

Rip Off

The Groovy Agent said...

Like Redartz, t'was Galaga for me, as well. I enjoyed Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man, but I could leave my name in the high-score list (sometimes several times in a visit) on the ol' Galaga board. Gimme two ships at once and stand back, baby!

While I didn't appreciate the Comics Code growing up, I really miss it now. I have three grandkids (and one on the way) ages 2-4, and I'd love to take 'em to a comics shop and turn them loose, but the way comics are now, I'd feel like I was taking them to a porn shop. Yeah, there are a few "kid-friendly" comics, but not enough for today's kids to be allowed to dive in and swim through every comic there is, like it was when I was little. Times change, I know, but imho, these are not changes for the better. Which leads me to...

LOGAN. Blecch. Gag. And yuck. I described it as a "super-hero slasher movie." Heads sliced off and flying through the air. Depressing, hopeless tone (think "Walking Dead" hopeless and bleak). I don't wanna spoil things, but that was NOT the Wolverine (and definitely not the Professor X) I read about in the comics. And I think the writer got paid by the "F"-bomb. Go See Kong: Skull Island instead.

ColinBray said...

I very much agree with your post-war cultural theory Marti. The 50s were more culturally interesting than given credit for, precisely because of this dynamic - a powerful mainstream dealing with war (and atomic fear) by creating a sanitised unthreatening world. And a subculture dealing with war by saying (consciously or unconsciously) 'life is hard, the system failed and we demand to be heard.'

In comics we had EC and the gang. In the UK we had the early satire boom and 'angry young' playwrights. We can add Lenny Bruce, James Dean, the beatniks and the jazz heads to the mix. And rock and roll, obviously, which was the final breakout to the mainstream.

Wertham was definately part of that psychological and cultural process, just as EC was on the other side.

Still a theory I guess, but a strong and fun one :)

Charlie Horse 47 said...

I'm not expert in social-psychology. Given the limitations of this space, I am going to ask a dense question and am not challenging anything above. Just hope you come back to "yesterdays" blog and give me some thoughts.

This whole "existential threat" book / movie did not exist until the 50s / 60s and was likely due to WWII, the atomic bomb, and space exploration? At the same time, given the USA stood on top from a military, economic, political, social, and religious measurements, we wanted happy shows like "Leave it to Beaver?"

I've obviously made a lot of assumptions and such but space / time being what it is... CHeers all!

Martinex1 said...

Good morning CH47. I may not be interpreting your questions correctly but here is my response. Some form of fictional "existential threats" must have existed prior to WWII though I don't know the particular impetus. I can point to examples like Fritz Lang's film "Metropolis" in 1927 or H.G. Wells' novels particularly "The War of the Worlds" in 1898 and also Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" in 1931. But I would say that the theme became quite frequent even pervasive in the years following the war, with everything from "Godzilla" to the various radioactive and science generated monsters to 1951's "When Worlds Collide" and "The Day The Earth Stood Still" in the theatres, George Orwell's "Nineteen-Eighty-Four" published in 1949, and the emergence of a science fiction golden age (?) in the 50s and 60s, and of course comics. Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, and Albert Camus (The Plague -1947) contributed to the "feeling" along the way.

Regarding your second question, I theorize television programs like "The Donna Reed Show," "Leave it to Beaver," "Father Knows Best" were cultural safe places and were a secondary result to the same fears from the war. It was like saying, "Everything is okay. Everything is right with the world. No worries". That was also supported by economic growth at the time, relative peace, the general feeling that good conquered evil.

It was (and is) a very interesting time because some cultural conflicts also started to emerge (or perhaps became more prevelant) such as: television itself becoming a common household item and how that changed news and entertainment and family life, science shaking belief systems, and very importantly the civil rights movement,

I am sure we can continue this conversation. I hope I understood your questions.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Marti - this is sooo cool and you are spot on, with what I am pinging around in my noggin.

After typing what I did, I was thinking of Camus (let's be honest, I can't imagine 10% of the US has heard of him?) and talking with my wife about him and The Plague. (She is french so it follows she knows him, THe Plague, The Stranger (as titled in the USA.))

Good point on the other existential books. The pre-WW II Atomic Bomb stuff is interesting indeed.

But now, it's like a recurring theme.

Anyhow, got to run errands before the shops close, off to your neck of the woods (sort of). GOt to pick up some car matts at Weather Tek in Bolingbrook.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

one thought that comes to mind, pre WW2, was industrialization which was a huge societal disruptor. Though folks our age just read about it as a historical phase, the more i read about that time frame the more i realize it truly disrupted the order of things in place for hundreds of years. Last year i read the Magnificent Ambersons written in 1900. It really helped me understand the impact of industrialization that i would NEVER have grasped growing up in the steel mills of Gary, Indiana.

Martinex1 said...

Booth Tarkington's novel was quite good. I never really enjoyed Orson Welles' adaptation of "The Magnificent Ambersons" but admittedly it has been many many years since I have seen it and it was a very chopped up version. I would like to hear Welles' radio show version of the novel. There was a mini-series in the early 2000s (I believe on A&E???) but I did not see it.

I think you are correct about the impact of industrialization, and I would say that much early science fiction particularly that of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne were greatly influenced by the eras of industrial revolution. And surely Hugo Gernsback was both influenced and influential in those times - his science fiction magazines, his 80 patents, his influence in fledgling radio, etc (I won't comment on his ethics).

The amount of advancement in science, technology, industry, and military, along with population growth over the past 200 years has surely fueled much of the fictional creativity and output during that time. And it continues to be the coal in the fire with AI, genetic modification, social tech, further space exploration, pollution, super-bugs, etc.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Never heard of Gernsback (as far as I know). I'll have to read up!

Tarkington: quite a prolific writer. Somewhere I saw him billed as "America's greatest writer that no one has ever heard of!" I enjoyed the "Gentleman from Indiana" his first effort quite a lot too! It just seemed to put me into the setting quite well and invoked a lot of my earlier life living in Indiana, going to Purdue and being around Lafayette, Indiana in the early 80s when it was still kind of just "blah" and not hustling / bustling like today.

I've never seen the movie(s?) though I've heard of them. I'm trying to finish up Welles' "The Third Man" on Netflix. Love the post-WW2 Vienna setting, the theme song, the B&W, film-noir atmosphere!!!

Redartz said...

Charlie and Marti- I'm greatly enjoying your discussion! Well done, fascinating. And Marti, you touched on a point that occurred to me: the effect of rapidly advancing technology on society today. It's doubtful we've seen more than the tip of the iceberg in terms of the ultimate consequences of digital technology and miniaturization. And A.I., and genetic engineering? I'm no Luddite, but the tales (of atomic researchers who weren't sure the Bomb wouldn't ignite a global chain reaction) of unchecked, blind experimention are deeply concerning...

Charlie Horse 47 said...

We should be very, very concerned... It's just a matter of time before something goes awry with some many billions on the planet. Which brings us back to all the existentialism in todays world. Best to go to C2E2 and forget about our worries!

Anonymous said...

Just 2 quick comments - Galaxian and Comics Code was in between!

- Mike from Trinidad & Tobago.

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