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Thursday, September 13, 2012 

When did Marvel lift the restrictions on smoking in their pages?

Back in 2001, when Joe Quesada made his unwelcome takeover of Marvel, one of his first acts was to prohibit smoking by all the heroes in all their output, a short time before Michael Bloomberg began doing things like that in NYC, including the Thing, Wolverine and She-Hulk, who've certainly had their share of smoking. It was a pretty hypocritical move on his part (and just a short time after they dropped the Comics Code), because while smoking cigarettes is bad for one's health, physical violence and gore is much worse, and those kind of horrors continued unabated, even in series and stories where it didn't fit.

But as this picture of Spider-Woman Jessica Drew holding a cigarette suggests, he may have quietly dropped the whole ban on smoking in the pages of Marvel a couple years later. I think this picture comes either from the Avengers or Ms. Marvel's second solo book, possibly circa 2006. I don't like smoking myself, but I don't see the point in just censoring it altogether. What they could do is find a way to depict it negatively without having to make such a fuss over its very existence in any book, story or scene.

And then again, who knows if even a year or so after Quesada left and Axel Alonso took over, they really quit that forced censoring of cigarettes in their output? If Wolverine, She-Hulk and the Thing haven't been seen smoking cigarettes (or in Ben Grimm's case, big cigars) in at least a decade, then one could assume they're still going on with it when there's plenty of better alternatives they could try instead.

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The problem is one of self respect of the authors, which leads them to trivialise things that are important and to overemphasize the trivial.

Exaggerated pandering to minorities- often teeny tiny minorities such as homosexuals - is another example of this ego mass inspired trivialisation.

We can have a year of stories about deviant lifestyles being kewl, but an honest examination, Will Eisner style, of a real topic- you will look in vain.

Bob Layton went off on Marvel on FB recently because they refused a trading card he drew based on the cover of IM #128 -- "Demon in a Bottle." Why? The "message" of alcohol or some other such nonsense. Yet, in Europe, Marvel recently released an omnibus edition of his and David Michelinie's early IM run, including ... the "Demon in a Bottle" story.


I agree, Hube. I wonder if Marvel forgets the story showed the NEGATIVE effects of alcoholism? I haven't been able to find the "Demon in the Bottle" storyline at any bookstores in my area, probably because of those reasons.

I think the move should have been continued. It promotes cleaner and smoke-free zones in the country even in comic books. Anyway, with the advent of e-cigs, smoking is not that at all bad these days.

I think Marvel or other comics removal of their cigarette smoking ban could be brilliant, if done right.

If Marvel or any other comic medium with good coverage was looking for some extra cash, they could potentially approach the agents of Bid Tobacco to see if they would like to fund a particular character smoking.

The classic case is the 1978-1980 Superman Movies where not only did Lois Lane Smoke Marlboros, but the Marlboro brand was EVERYWHERE in the movie from signs to cigarette trucks. I know Superman is DC, not Marvel, but still, its a text book example of product placement in movies. The Lois Lane as a smoker motif even somehow carried over into the 2006 Superman movie, even though her comic character was not principally known as a smoker previously.

Why shouldn't comic companies look to product placement in Comic books or Videogames that they may be marketing the rights to?

Being open to product placement by cigarette companies could be a great indirect revenue source for comic companies.

Moreover, given that many comic books have recently increased in price, it seems like they could probably benifit from the extra revenue.

Of course, there are now big barriers from Big Tobacco being allowed to overtly advertise with cartoon characters, like how "joe Camel was banned because people thought he encouraged children to smoke. But perhaps somewhere there are some creative legal thinkers who could find a loophole around that and facilitate comic companies selling off the smoking rights of their characters.

Who knows, maybe this is evidence that they already have? If there are restrictions on big tobacco directly purchasing these advertisements, perhaps the solution would be for them to act through an agent like a consulting group, acting as a defacto lobbist. For instance, Comic book companies could hire an outside consultant group to solicit business for finding out which big tobacco companies would like to have certian characters smoke. Big Tobacco could in turn "hire" these same consultant to facilitate. Im sure there is a great deal more legal complexities to how exactly that type of deal could be structured, but at least in theory there seems to be a way that big tobacco could help fund the comics.

Finding such a way to sell smoking in comic books, whether the male smoking hero like a wolverine type or a female smoking character like a lois lane type; it really seems like a win-win for both the comic industry and cigarette industry to do this.

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