Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Superman and Batman (Part 2) and the Conclusion

In this part, I'd like to show and explain some of the more bizarre aspects of propaganda in comic books, as found in Superman and Batman. Certainly, we've seen violence against the "enemy":

We've also seen some pretty serious racism:
I realize the racism comic is not by Superman or Batman, but I found it just too shocking to pass up. But my point is, the main two types of comics books regarding the war were acts of violence against the "enemy" or displaying the "enemy" in some sort of villainous, horrible caricature. However, there was a third type of comic used that did not incite fear or direct hatred, but one of duty. These are, of course, the "War Savings Bonds and Stamps" comic type. Yes, certainly, many cartoonists used these racist images to encourage buying of war savings bonds and stamps, but other techniques included an approach that filled one with a sense of pride. However, why would children be buying war savings bonds and stamps? Well, they weren't. The whole reason these war loans and war savings bonds and stamps made it to comic book covers was to encourage children to get their parents to buy these bonds and stamps to to help fund the loans. It was an ingenious way to instill this sense of pride and duty to children and families. There is no better ploy than to tell naive children that in order for these superheroes to pull through and to win this war against the "monsters", that they need to fund these loans and savings bonds somehow. And of course, adults reading these comic books were also filled with the sense of urgency of how to finish the war quickly. Comic books have always been a sort of news median, mixing reality with the fantastic world of comic book heroes. Seeing Batman giving a soldier a new gun and saying how he can pretty much now win the war and go home, all thanks to people back in the States funding a war loan gives the reader a glimpse of how the money was being used and how they can affect the outcome. Here are a series of the odd comic book covers that were used to encourage children and adults to participate by buying and investing.

So really, some of these comics are just silly.

In conclusion, comic books were used as a huge source of propaganda during WWII, usually to incite rage, fear, or general dislike of the "enemy". In the examples I have provided, the US focused more so on portraying the Japanese as some sort of monster. Of course the Nazis were too, but it is through my own speculation that it was because many US citizens were of German ancestry and also because this was a time when Japan and other countries in Asia were so unknown, it was easy to make them into creatures or horrible caricatures. It is rather clear that propaganda's existence during WWII went beyond the tyical median, such as newspapers, movies, radio shows, flyers and songs. It even went beyond politcal cartoons and went directly into tapping a market thought to be untouched by war-children. They used tactics that made children think a certain way, believe certain things and instill truths some may still even believe today. A plethora could be written about this topic, and there are stacks upon stacks of comics from this era that remain hidden from today. Indeed, these comics did their purpose, to incite the beliefs of "pride" and "honor" and "duty", and they did so in a very clever fashion. It begs the question, will comic books be ever used again as a propaganda tool in the US?

..."America’s future has become an Orwellian nightmare of ultra-liberalism. Beginning with the Gore Presidency, the government has become increasingly dominated by liberal extremists.

In 2004, Muslim terrorists stopped viewing the weakened American government as a threat; instead they set their sights on their true enemies, vocal American conservatives. On one dark day, in 2006, many conservative voices were forever silenced by terrorist assassins. Those which survived joined forces and formed a powerful covert conservative organization called “The Freedom of Information League”, aka F.O.I.L. It is 2021, tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of 9/11 It is up to an underground group of bio-mechanically enhanced conservatives led by Sean Hannity, G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North to thwart Ambassador Usama Bin Laden's plans to nuke New York City."





...oh my god...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Other Countries

In this brief post, I would like to just share a few examples I have of other countries' propaganda during WWII. I had difficulty finding these, due to language barriers and simply not knowing what to look for. First, I'd like to share a picture in which Japan used manga to illustrate and dehumanize the enemy- U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Special thanks to Steven Palumbo for providing the picture.
Unfortunately, this manga was under glass so I currently do not know anything about this particular piece, other than F.D.R. being some sort of monster.

Another very facinating picture is from Russia. Special thanks to Valentina Udovika for translating:
"1. Is this all you are capable of? -or able to do
2. I offered you friendship, but you preferred to start a war. now I came to destroy you
3. (left) Caucasian (meaning from Caucasis mountains - hope I spell it right) untermensh (no idea what that is, probably german).
(right) now I'm on the peak of power."

This is a panel from a full comic about Stalin and his enemy, Hitler having super powers and facing off. A very interesting take on propaganda- That is, showing the might and strength of the fearless leader, and how the opponent is also strong, but it is certain that he shall fall.

In a few hours, I will put up Part 2 of Superman and Batman.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Some of the Other Heroes...

Welcome Back, true believers!

For whatever reason, Supes and Bats weren't enough to satiate the comic book world's hunger for propaganda covers. Plenty of other superheroes rose to the "call of duty" to throw cream pies at the Axis leaders, or sometimes threaten them with pointy pins.

It should be noted, however, that perhaps because they weren't as popular or well known, these new, or lesser known heroes were able to do more dastardly or racist deeds to their opponents. As opposed to the "multistep" theoretical model, these comics used the "hypodermic" approcach (Media Now). Instead of "dehumanizing" the enemy, these comics often seek to"demonize" the enemy. Here are some examples:
This first example shows how even slurs were permitted on lesser known comics:
The following examples speak for themselves in just how offensive they are today and can be done without much comment. I would like to point out, however, that no one protested these images back then, and to do so meant you were unpatriotic. So enjoy the following images, or be horrified. Either way, these images were the norm during the war...
This is just a small example of the many, many portrayals of the Axis powers as demons, monsters, or some racist version of themselves. Yes, I realize Captain America isn't a "lesser" hero, but he WAS created during WWII as a "super soldier". It can be argued, then, that this was a form of "cultivation theory", as it is conditioning its readers into believing this was the "reality"(Media Now). Children, are, after all, scared of the boogie man, or the thing hiding under their bed. So it would make sense for comic books artists to combine this fear with Nazis or the Japanese. (I realize Mussolini was part of the Axis, but I haven't really found any pictures of him). So now the boogie man became a Nazi boogie man and the thing hiding under the bed became a half Japanese, half tentacled monster. It served to instill in these children that they had to then "kill" these monsters, or help "kill" them by joining the military when they were older, or by encouraging their parents to help out, and to buy war bonds.
I just wanted to post this one because not only is it racist of the Japanese, but look at that African -American kid there. Can you guess his name? That's right!!!! Whitewash. I really wish I were joking about that...

Next time I have a small post about Russian and Japanese propaganda examples. Due to the fact that it is difficult to find such propaganda (translation problems, etc), I will only have a few examples, but I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Superman and Batman (Part 1)

Perhaps two of the most iconic figures in comic book history are Superman and Batman. These caped crusaders fought off heists, over the top villains like Lex Luthor and the Joker, and during WWII, the Axis powers. There are a plethora of covers depicting Superman, Batman, and sometimes both of them, doing things to the Axis leaders. Sometimes these comics were violent, sometimes they were just silly, but during the war, these superheroes spent most of their time portraying the United States as a very strong nation, ready to take on the "villains" by any way possible. Including encouraging children to buy war bonds and stamps.

The violence done by the superheros is always justified in some way. In this comic cover, Superman is about to punch a very racist portrayal of a Japanese fighter pilot that was going to attack an Allied warship. Even though to us, it seems like overkill for Superman to punch someone in the face, considering his strength, but during WWII, it was completely acceptable. In today's world, a suggestive picture of the prophet Mohamed having a bomb for a turban is cause for international alarm, and yet, back during the 40's, this racist portrayal of the "enemy" was okay.

Superman and Batman are clearly supposed to represent the "American people", and how much they despised Japanese people, even by dehumanizing them. This is done subtlely, but any comic book fan would know that Batman has a code against killing people, and in this comic book cover, though not shown, he is definiately breaking this code. What does that mean? Well, using the theoretical multistep model (Media Now), the comic book industry, as part of the mass media, is influencing the way readers viewed the war. In this case, the media is conditioning people to believe that the Japanese are not people, and are therefore okay to kill. They are doing this by showing Batman off screen killing Japanese people, and because Batman is a "good guy", he wouldn't kill people. This techinique is extremely crafty and underhanded, but executed well.

Next time I will talk about how lesser known comic book characters
were usually more extreme with what they published.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Just before and during World War II, the Axis and Allied powers needed to instill a sense of "pride", "duty" and "honor" among its populace. Indeed, patriotic war songs, posters, slogans, movies and radio shows stirred the masses for a war in which they felt proud to rally behind. But the question soon became: How does one rally the younger generations? The answer was simple. Comic books, providing illustrated entertainment to old and young alike at a cheap price told stories of superheros fighting the enemy, of enlisting for service, and buying war bonds. Back then, they were a tool for children to learn who the "bad guys" were, and were used as an outlet for people's frustrations about the war. Today, however, they are a source of unintentionally hilarious, sometimes quite racist, pictures and strips. Although we may laugh now, it is also somewhat frightening to realize that this is what people thought and believed, or at least...what their governments wanted them to believe.