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|Print List Price:||£13.14|
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Seal of Approval: The History of the Comics Code (Studies in Popular Culture) Kindle Edition
|Length: 224 pages|
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Unlike Hadju's book, "Seal of Approval" is written by an academic (Nyberg is a professor at Seton Hall) and it shows. It's a very balanced historical overview coupled with an analysis of the Code and its various iterations over time. It speaks to the cultural context to the original Code but also to the way the companies governed by the Code adapted themselves over time, as well as the fact that not all publishers were governed by the Code and yet some managed to stay in business (Dell being the most significant). It's very well-researched (15 pages of bibliography) and it's definitely worth picking up.
The strongest part of this book is the way that it puts the crusaders in their social, cultural, and professional context. Fredric Wertham, who seems to have been the Jack Thompson or Carrie Nation of this issue, is often caricatured as... well... just like Jack Thompson or Carrie Nation. In Nyberg's presentation we learn that Wertham was a social scientist of some note before he got to this issue. He may well have gone off the deep end when he got to comics but it's interesting to see how he got there and explains why he got the exposure he did
The most cogent criticism I'd give of the book is one that's common to books written by academics: except for social scientists who are used to doing interviews most academics don't like to get out and deal with people in their work and so they end up relying on source materials where source interviews might be more helpful. I don't know whether Nyberg did do interviews or not, but the sections on how the review process actually worked over time and still work today read like they're assembled from materials. They could have used some perspective on how the business actually is done. As the guy who often does content review for Microsoft games, I know that a policy manual is tough to work with because of the edge cases and the subjective nature of reviewing, and if you went only from written documents you'd miss the flavor of the exercise.
But seriously, this is a good book on its own merits.
As a source for consideration about whether and how the games business might develop "Seal of Approval" is also helpful. Although not perfect for the reasons I mention, the sections dealing with life under the Code and the changes to the Code over time have been instructive. Nyberg isn't Niall Ferguson either but I'll be recommending this book to colleagues anyway.