A professor at Seton Hall University earned their PhD with a dissertation investigated the industry standard and history of comic censorship.
Amy Nyberg’s office is located in the basement of Fahy Hall, home of Seton Hall University’s College of Communication and the Arts. She sits behind her red desk, reviewing paperwork for student advising. The scratching of her pen on paper is the only sound for a few seconds, but then her story begins.
“Growing up boys read comics,” Nyberg said. She did not read comics as a child, and also admitted she doesn’t read contemporary comics. However, Nyberg did become a fan of crime and horror comics from the 1940s and 1950s.
The idea for her dissertation was inspired by her husband, John Nyberg’s work as a comic book inker. He has worked on 120 comic books as an inker, according to the Comic Book Database. “It was a tough way to make a living,” she said.
Nyberg would often attend comic conventions with her husband. Watching his work with the comic book industry, along with her knowledge as a journalist, intertwined as she researched comic book censorship.
As she recounts the earlier years of comic censorship, Nyberg rearranges paperwork on her desk. Beyond the normal office supplies, there is a statue of Hagrid from Harry Potter placed on a filing cabinet and assorted pins from the Lord of the Rings series displayed on her desk. Here, in her office, Nyberg surrounds herself with odds and ends from fantasy novels.
Nyberg continued to explain the mentality of the censorship. She said at the cost of 10 cents for a comic book in the 1930s, children could buy what they wanted, so parents, teachers, and librarians, lost the control they were used to.
The code forced comics to be suitable for all ages, but by the 1980s publishers learned how to bypass it, Nyberg said. The first comic book store in the U.S. was opened in 1967, according to an article by the New York Times. “Special distribution allowed comics to be sold without the code certification,” Nyberg said.
The comic book censorship code lasted from 1954 to 2011. Nyberg’s dissertation was published as a book in 1998, titled “Seal of Approval: The History of the Comics Code.”