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Saturday, March 15, 2014

WW II American Comics Versus Japan - 1


Just look at that comic book cover and you realize that someone is in for a beating… and in this case, it appears to be Tokyo (Tokio).

The year is 1942, and you are looking at issue #3 of the hyperbole-fueled America's Greatest Comics, which lasted a grand total of eight issues, published by Fawcett Publications between 1941-1943.

Drawn by Mac Raboy, an artist of whom I personally only have one comic featuring his work (Ibis The Invincible Mighty Midget Comic), America's Greatest Comics features (from left) Bulletman, Captain Marvel and Spy Smasher rolling up their sleeve preparing to give a right sound thrashing to those 'dirty little Japs' who so recently bombed their Pearl Harbor navy yard in Hawaii officially dragging the U.S. into WWII.

The US seventh fleet is also steaming in behind them to mop up the stragglers. It's not a peace-loving comic book cover, that's for sure.

Hopefully you at least recognize Captain Marvel. Known affectionately as the 'big red cheese', Cap is the world's mightiest mortal - a boy named Billy Batson who says the magic word 'SHAZAM' - and holy moley, he's a huge powerhouse with slits for eyes wearing a beach towel for a cape.Though, when Raboy draws him, he actually looks less comical and more like a super hero.

His original name before publication, was Captain Thunder... which is strange, because even then he had a lightning bolt on his costume. 

You might not realize it, but Captain Marvel was, during the 1940s, the number one selling comic book around, outselling Superman, with some one million copies sold each month, which really pissed off the publishers off the man from Krypton, National Periodicals (DC Comics).

Nowadays in 2014, if you sell over 100,000 comics a month, you have a hit.

Citing copyright infringement. DC took Fawcett to court, sued and won causing Fawcett to cease publishing their biggest comic book hero (appearing in Captain Marvel Adventures, Whiz Comics and a host of others, while also inspiring Captain Marvel Jr. (a rather more serious looking book) and Mary Marvel et al.

Due to a copyright snafu (someone forgot to re-register it), Marvel Comics snapped up the name Captain Marvel in the mid-1960s.

And, while DC Comics now owned the rights to Captain Marvel, it could call the character by that name, but not publish a title with that name, which was why in the early 1970s some of you might have heard of the comic book and television show SHAZAM!

Anyhow… in a scene highly reminiscent of any Godzilla movie, we see the 'larger-than-life' superheroes walking through Tokyo Bay while Japanese citizens run in terror away from the unsmiling gaijin.

Obviously a form of pro-US and anti-Japanese propaganda, I used to wonder why these superheroes didn't win the war single handily?

DC Comics stated that Hitler had some sort of mystic spear that kept the superheroes out (the spear that pierced Jesus Christ's side) - so that's brilliant.

Marvel (Timely) - I'm not sure… but I do know they battled the axis of evil all the time.

Fawcett? Damn. You see those three guys - and granted they are not that huge.. they are supposed to be about the same size as you and I - but the war against Japan should have been over in the same amount of time it has taken you to read this article!

Anyhow… this square-bound 100-page comic book cost $0.15, when most 52-page comic books cost $0.10. While the value was excellent, the cost high for kid's with a limited income. And then there were paper shortages owing to the war… though I'm still not sure who was building airplanes and ammunition out of paper.Comics today are about $3.00 and are around 22 pages plus four for the inside/outside cover. Then again, writer's and artists now get a fair wage.

I found this Fine condition comic over at Heritage Auctions ( It is currently up for sale at around $115, not including a buyer's premium. According to the 2013 Overstreet Price Guide, it's valued at about $330.

I have not yet bought from this company, but that's only because of my own financial constraints, but I am always amazed at the quality of books and paper ephemera they have for auction. Check'em out.

Andrew Joseph
Comic books and Japan. Two things I know a fair bit about - historically speaking… so maybe I'll take a look back at some old comics from time to time. Oh… and me using the term "dirty little Japs" is merely me using the common vernacular of the era. It certainly does not represent my view on any person on this planet or off it.

1 comment:

  1. Heh, I've seen a British comic from around the same time in which the Japanese were setting up anti-aircraft guns on the sea bed and "shooting down" allied ships. Then there was a battle in diving suits XD