Search This Blog & Get A Rife

Saturday, March 29, 2014

WW II American Comics Versus Japan - 3

The above is the cover for Marvel Mystery Comics #31, cover dated May 1942, but perhaps hit the newstands a month earlier. It is published by Timely Comics, the forerunner to Marvel Comics.

As you can see, this cover by Al Gabriele shows a flaming superhero who goes by the name of The Human Torch. This is NOT the same Human Torch that appears in Marvel's The Fantastic Four.

This Human Torch isn't even human... he's a synthetic android in the form of man who becomes enflamed when exposed to oxygen.

You've seen him before if you caught the first big-budget Captain America movie a few years ago... created by Professor Phineas Horton, you can see - very briefly - an advert at the World's Fair visited by a still puny Steve Rogers. It's one of those Easter Eggs comic book nerds like myself love (Watch Arrow on television nowadays, and you'll see upwards of five such Easter Eggs per episode - if you know what your are listening for).  
The Human Torch cameo in the first Captain America movie.
Anyhow, along with the Human Torch and Captain America, The Human Torch was part of Timely Comics triumvirate of classic heroes - all of whom led the way against the World War II fight against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Propaganda for the kids.

In the cover above, the most striking feature I see is that the Japanese enemy are all drawn exactly alike... a swipe at the old racist stereotype that the Orientals (Chinese, Japanese Koreans et al) all look the same.

As well, the visage on the face is that of a howling, ugly creature... another unique way of vilifying the enemy so that the western youth understand that the enemy is ugly. Propaganda, of course.

Tied up to a gun on the Japanese boat is the captive superhero teen sidekick named Toro... a mutant boy with the same flaming powers as the strangely named android Human Torch. I have always wondered what happened to Toro in the years after the war, as he never seemed to make it into Marvel Comics as a big deal. Back in the 1940s, however, the teen sidekick was a very popular story key, after the introduction of Robin to Batman.

But look at poor Toro... make a move the Japanese don't like and their canon will blow a hole in the tied up, helpless young boy. Who would do such an evil thing to a young American boy? The evil Japs, that's who. Propaganda. It's why all Americans should want the Japanese to die... before they kill the youth of today.

This issue contains quite afew stories, though not all of them are related to World War II and the Japanese. I'm just going to mention the ones that are related, though.

The main story, "Scuttle The Japs" was written and penciled by Carl Burgos involves the Human Torch and Toro hearing that after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, that the Japanese are sending bombers to attack San Francisco. The destroy all the bombers, but one, following it to a Japanese battleship  where they destroy the plane and then attack the ship.

Fighting off some sailors, the Human Torch sends Toro down to the hull of the ship while he clashes with the rest of the crew including their leader, Japanese Admiral Nodope. This isn't as racist a name as I expected. No dope, implies he he smart.

Later the heroes attack the Japanese forces and free some captive American soldiers. Admiral Nodope tries to stop them to no avail.

Before leading the American soldiers to a ship, the Human Torch leaves a huge flaming "V" for victory saying 'that a free people will always fight for freedom.'

The second story is by Bill Everett, the creator of the Sub-Mariner, who leads the underwater star in a tale called "The Case Of The Jilted Japs". Subby leads members of his own peoples against the Japanese forces in the Pacific, battling Japanese ships and bombers.

A third tale, this time by a young Stan Lee (if you don't know who that is... well... he essentially created the Marvel Universe as we know it today) who is perhaps just 21 years of age at the time this story saw print. (Real name is Stan Leiber, by the way). His tale is "The Plague Of The Jelly Men" and involves a Japanese zeppelin dropping a biological weapon known as the Jelly Man that eats everything in its path. Not one of his best, but it sure sounds a lot like The Blob that would make it in movie theaters 15 years later. Does someone owe Stan a tip of the hat? This story was penciled by Vince Alascia and inked by David Walters.

Lastly, in "Cargo of Death" penciled by Al Fagaly (no other credits available) starring The Angel... a non-super powered hero who wore the superhero garb a la Batman. After spotting a huge fire in California that is apparently a signal to spies. Clues lead him to a funeral parlor and after he attends a funeral for a fallen American soldier he is surprised when a Japanese soldier spy pops out. Nazi's are using coffins to smuggle in Japanese spies!

After almost being buried alive himself, The Angel escapes and captures all the Japanese spies.

With the heat of Pearl Harbor fresh in American minds, comic books were quick to jump on the bandwagon. I'll continue presenting a look at some American propaganda via comic books versus Japan of World War II.

Again... it's not to point any fingers... merely a chance to point out some history... and perhaps also to show why some of the older generation still harbor some distrust or hatred for Japan. 

Factual data for this blog entry was spotted on Marvel Wikia, a very good historical resource for this kind of stuff.    

Timely Comics, by the way, was heavily, heavily involved in the US patriotic propaganda of World War II.
Fawcett Comics (Captain Marvel) did get involved a bit, but DC Comics pretty much stayed out of it. Having said that, next week I'll look at DC Comics (National Periodical Publications)...

Sorry Marvel... I was a DC boy first... though now it's 1A and 1B.

Andrew Joseph


  1. And you wonder why the American government interred Americans whose only crime was that their grandparents immigrated from Japan 50 years earlier. Where were the internment camps for decendants of German immigrants?
    (Oh yes, on the Isle of Man)
    Also interesting how the numbers of Americans of Japanese ancestry who joined up is forgotten whereas you never seem to see a WW2 film without an American GI with a German surname.

    1. The best example I can think of of a Japanese-American soldier from WWII was Detective Yamada from the TV show Barney Miller! I recall one of the older cops making an issue of it, but it was good that they played up his participation in the war for the Allies.
      According to Wikipedia, however...
      During the Second World War, 850 German Canadians were accused of being spies for the Nazis, as well as subversives and saboteurs. The internees were given a chance by authorities to defend themselves; according to the transcripts of the appeal tribunals, internees and state officials debated conflicting concepts of citizenship.

      Many German Canadians interned in Camp Petawawa were from a nineteenth-century migration in 1876. They had arrived in a small area a year after a Polish migration landed in Wilno, Ontario. Their hamlet, made up of farmers primarily, was called Germanicus, and is in the bush less than 10 miles from Eganville, Ontario. Their farms (homesteads originally) were expropriated by the federal government for no compensation, and the men were imprisoned behind barbed wire in the AOAT camp. (The Foymount Air Force Base near Cormac and Eganville was built on this expropriated land.) Notable was that not one of these homesteaders from 1876 or their descendants had ever visited Germany again after 1876, yet they were accused of being German Nazi agents.
      I'm not sure what happened in the US, though...