Why Marvel Really Released Spider-Man’s Seminal Anti-Drug Comic


In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, find out if it was the US government that gave Stan Lee the idea to make a Marvel comic book about drugs.

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the eight hundred and seventeenth episode where we take a look at three comic book legends and determine if they are right or wrong. As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the three captions. Click here for the first part of this episode’s captions.

NOTE: if my twitter page reached 5,000 subscribers, I will be doing a bonus edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed that week. Good deal, right? So will follow my Twitter page, Brian_Cronin!


The US government gave Stan Lee the idea to do an anti-drug issue of a Marvel comic book.



One of the fascinating things about Stan Lee was that he generally believed in having a certain standard for the type of comic book story Marvel should publish. What I mean is that the implementation of the Comics Code Authority really didn’t have a huge impact on Marvel (or DC) as both companies had already come to the conclusion on their own that it made sense for everyone to avoid that sort of thing. reprehensible stories. And yet, even though Lee was already pretty much in agreement with the idea of ​​what the Comics Code believed in, vis-à-vis what was appropriate, he still didn’t like the IDEA of the Comics Code.

For example, Stan Lee did a series of editorials in response to Fredric Wertham’s anti-comedy rhetoric of the late 1940s / early 1950s, and it’s interesting how well Lee’s commentary is ” Okay, yes, SOME comics are bad, but not us “…

In general, however, Lee seemed to have a general feeling that he didn’t like being told what to do by someone he felt didn’t understand how things worked. This is perhaps best illustrated in the famous Lee story of 1953 in the last issue of Suspense (# 29). Written by Lee and drawn by then-Marvel superstar artist Joe Mannely, the story sees Lee getting written into the comic book where he essentially talks directly to Wertham, via a replacement character of Wertham and Lee Comes. of TEARS IN Wertham’s surrogate. .

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So that was Lee’s position. He felt like there were “bad” comics, but he didn’t feel like anyone should tell him what to do, because he could be trusted to make “good” comics. That said, once the Comics Code Authority was in place, Lee mostly hit it off, because, again, it wasn’t like it put too much pressure on Marvel’s style.

In an excellent interview in TwoMorrows’ Cartoon artist # 2, Roy Thomas asked Lee about the comic book code …

Roy: Did you strongly believe at that time that the Code needed to be changed?

Stan: As far back as I can remember – and I’ve said this to so many people, maybe it’s even true – I never thought the Code was really a problem. The only problem we ever had with the Code was with some stupid stuff, like the time in a western where we had a puff of smoke coming out of a gun and they said it was too violent. So we had to reduce the puff of smoke. Foolery. But when it comes to the story ideas or character ideas that we got, I hardly ever had a problem, so that didn’t bother me. I think the biggest nuisance was that sometimes I had to go downstairs and attend a meeting of the [CMAA] Board of Directors. I felt like I was killing an entire afternoon.

Roy: Do you think there were any bad feelings about the Code about Spider-Man’s drug issues?

Stan: It was the only big problem we had. I could understand them; they were like lawyers, people who take things literally and technically. The Code said that drugs should not be mentioned, and by their rules they were right. So I didn’t even get mad at them. I said, “Go screw it” and just removed the Code seal for those three problems. Then we came back to the Code. I never thought about the Code when I was writing a story, because deep down I never wanted to do anything that I thought was too violent or too sexy. I knew young people read these books, and if it hadn’t been for the Code, I don’t think I would have done the stories any differently.

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So, in 1971, Marvel made comic book history when Stan Lee wrote an issue of Amazing Spider-Man that was released without the Comics Code Authority seal of approval.

It was actually printed at the behest of the Nixon administration, who believed that an anti-drug problem would be a good way to get the anti-drug message out to young people.

However, the Nixon administration asking Lee to do an anti-drug story was just Lee’s EXCUSE for making the problem. See, Lee had wanted to make a drug problem for years before the Nixon administration came to see him.

In the penultimate issue of Ron Liberman’s Marvel fanzine, The Marvel Tribune, Liberman interviewed Lee …

and Lee explained a problem he had with the Code: “What bothers me is I desperately wanted to do a drug story. to make a story that the whole world should become drug-driven, I just want to mention them, base a story on them. They wouldn’t allow it. “

So it’s clear that the inspiration for making a Marvel anti-drug comic predates the involvement of the Nixon administration.


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Check back soon for Part 3 of this episode’s Legends!

Please feel free to send me any suggestions for future comic book legends at [email protected] or [email protected]

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