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.

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