We at Comic Book Zen understand that people, parents, and the public have questions about the content a comic book(s) / magazine(s) can have and what it represents. Much like movie ratings ('G' - 'R') this page offers a key and history to the language that has been used to rate the comic book industry since the 1950's to Modern Day. We invite you to read and educate yourself about the terms that are used in relation to content across this website.
This stamp reads 'Approved by the Comic Code Authority' This was the first widely used rating that started in 1954 and you will see this stamp on a lot of mainstream comic books up until the early 2000's. To recieve this stamp on the front cover of a comic book that publisher had to submit to the comics code authority for review. Here are the guidelines set forth in 1954.
Original 1954 Code criteria
Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.
If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.
Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.
Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates a desire for emulation.
In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gunplay, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.
No comic magazine shall use the words "horror" or "terror" in its title.
All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.
All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.
Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly, nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.
Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.
Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.
Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.
Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.
Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at nor portrayed. Rape scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.
Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.
Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.
Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures shall not be permitted in the advertising of any product; clothed figures shall never be presented in such a way as to be offensive or contrary to good taste or morals.
For a full history of the comics code and why it is NOT being used today please visit. http://cbldf.org/comics-code-history-the-seal-of-approval/
Though the Comics Code was changed slightly over the decades to reflect the changing times, you can rest assured that if that stamp of approval is on the front cover it will conform to the guidelines set forth above.
Comic Book Regulation Today
The impact of the 1989 code eroded as comic books disappeared from the shelves of general retailers. Comic book specialty stores willingly carried comics without the Seal of Approval, and even members of the CMAA created imprints for the direct market, bypassing the review process.
Marvel struck a major blow to the viability of the CMAA’s self-regulatory code in 2001 when it withdrew from the Comics Code Authority in favor of an in-house rating system. By 2011, only two publishers printed the Seal of Approval on the cover of their comics, Archie and DC. DC comics announced in January 2011 it was dropping the Seal of Approval, and Archie soon followed.
Today, publishers regulate the content of their own comics. The demise of the Comics Code Authority and its symbol, the Seal of Approval, marks elimination of industry-wide self-regulation, against which there is little legal recourse. Now, the comic book community can answer its critics by invoking its First Amendment rights, assisted by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, whose mission is to protect those rights through legal referrals, representation, advice, assistance, and education.
Comic Book Grading
Our grading standards are based on the standards laid out in the Overstreet Grading Guide with additional experience gained from our 20 years in the comic industry. We closely monitor and calibrate our staff to maintain adherence to our established standards. However, grading is an inherently subjective process and there will always be small differences in opinion.
Comics listed for sale on comicbookzen.com are listed with the following grades:
The basic grading scale, also known as letter grades, uses the grades from Near Mint (highest) to Poor (lowest):
NM Near Mint
VF Very Fine
VG Very Good
Very few comics are returned to us due to grading, but should you receive a comic that you believe is not properly graded, please contact us using the contact us page and we will gladly work out a solution that meets your needs and concerns. Thank you
When reviewing the possible defects a comic may have as shown below for the various grades, please keep in mind that while a single defect may not reduce a comic's grade, that defect if repeated and/or combined with other accumulated defects, may push the grade down by one or more grades.
Near Mint (NM) condition
Near Mint/Mint NM/M 9.8
Near Mint+ NM+ 9.6
Near Mint NM 9.4
Near Mint- NM- 9.2
A nearly perfect copy that looks brand new with only a few very minor defects. Acceptable minor defects on a NM copy include: A very small amount of spine stresses without color breaks, very minor instances of denting (two or three at most), slight corner blunting, and minor (less than 1/8") bends without color breaks.
On the ten-point grading scale, a lower grade like 9.2 will allow these defects in a greater quantity and degree than a higher grade like 9.8, which sometimes may have no discernible defects at all. We do not assign the grades 9.9 and 10.0 to any unslabbed "raw" comics. You will only see these ultra-high grades on comics slabbed by one of the grading services. There is such a small degree of separation between the grades 9.8, 9.9, and 10.0 that even the most experienced comic graders may disagree on which of these three grades to assign to an apparently flawless comic, so the highest grade we will assign to a comic is 9.8.
In some cases it is possible for a comic shipped brand new from the publisher, or purchased new from a comic store's shelves, to already be in less than near mint condition due to the way the comic was produced, shipped, stored, or handled prior to purchase.
Very Fine (VF) condition
Very Fine/Near Mint VF/NM 9.0
Very Fine+ VF+ 8.5
Very Fine VF 8.0
Very Fine- VF- 7.5
A VF copy has minor defects, but is in overall excellent condition. Most well-kept modern comics (especially if they have been read) fall into this grade. Acceptable defects on a VF are minor and include: Minor corner wear, a light accumulation of spine stress that may include color-break, a light accumulation of dents, and bends or folds less than 1/4" (note that on a VF copy, some color-break is allowed in a bend/fold).
Fine (FN) condition
Fine/Very Fine FN/VF 7.0
Fine+ FN+ 6.5
Fine FN 6.0
Fine- FN- 5.5
A comic in FN condition is considered "above average" but still displays some wear. In general, the eye appeal is somewhat reduced due to either an accumulation of minor defects or one or two moderate defects. Acceptable defects on a FN copy include: Slight spine roll, a moderate accumulation of spine stresses that may break color, a spine split of less than 1/2", minor water spotting or residue (less than the size of a dime), an impacted corner, and moderate foxing.
Very Good (VG) condition
Very Good/Fine VG/FN 5.0
Very Good+ VG+ 4.5
Very Good VG 4.0
Very Good- VG- 3.5
A comic in VG condition shows some significant wear, but has not accumulated enough total defects to reduce eye appeal to the point that it is not a desirable copy. A VG copy may have an accumulation of minor defects or one or two major ones. Acceptable defects on a VG copy include: Spine roll, 1/2" to 1" spine splits or other tears, a cover or centerfold that is detached at one staple, discoloration due to oxidation, and a moderate accumulation of water damage or staining.
Good (GD) condition
Good/Very Good GD/VG 3.0
Good+ GD+ 2.5
Good GD 2.0
Good- GD- 1.8
A GD copy has major defects, but is still complete and readable. A GD copy will have a significant amount of damage, usually an accumulation of smaller defects punctuated with some major defects. Acceptable defects on a GD copy include: A vertical book-length crease, 1.5"-2" spine split, cover or centerfold completely detached, major tears, heavy discoloration/brittleness due to oxidation, heavy amounts of staining, residue, and water damage.
Fair (FR) condition
Fair/Good FR/GD 1.5
Fair FR 1.0
A FR is the lowest grade a comic book can receive as long as the story and art are complete. A FR copy will have virtually no eye appeal and will display major damage. A comic book in FR condition may have non-story elements such as coupons, ad pages, or Marvel Value Stamps cut or torn out of the book. Types of damage that place a comic in FR range include: A spine split of up to 2/3 the length of the book, a missing back cover provided the front cover is still attached, severe water damage or residue damage, mold, and paper deterioration due to oxidation.
Poor (PR) condition
Poor PR 0.5
Comic books in PR condition may be missing up to 4 pages (two spreads) of story pages or display severe damage that affects the readability of the book.