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Saturday, April 12, 2014

World War II American Comics Versus Japan - 5

Let's take a look at Superman, and the role this American icon played in disseminating propaganda against Japan during WWII.

It's okay… it's war… if there was no propaganda, I would be worried.

I'm thinking the military guys wish Superman was Lois Lane, while I'm sure Supes wishes one was Lois Lane and the other was one of his Superman robots dressed up as Lois Lane. F(R)FM.
Perhaps the most patriotic Superman cover ever. But Superman isn't anything but an illegal alien living in the U.S.
Owned by National Periodicals, but better know as DC Comics (after the iconic Detective Comics… ergo, it's the highly redundant Detective Comics Comics), Superman was/is an alien from the planet Krypton… so I'm saying regardless of his alter ego of Clark Kent and being raised in the heartland of Smallville, Kansas… Kal-El (his true Kryptonian name) is an illegal alien, and not a citizen of the United States of America.

These are all basic facts, that I am sure everyone knew back in the 1930s and 1940s and 1950s et al… but one that readers everywhere conveniently put aside, as they quite smartly realized that Superman is indeed a fictional character… created by an American and a Canadian… and heavens! Was someone Jewish? Oy gevalt!

Regardless of how stupid it sounds to me now, wide swatches of people hated the Jews, or at the very least didn't trust them…and I'm not just talking about the Nazis.
Slap a Jap? As a Canadian and a newspaper man, even I am offended. But that's just 2014 moral outrage.
Anyhow… DC Comics, as mentioned in a previous blog did not want its super-heroes becoming engaged in the actual World War going around… rarely having its super-hero characters engaging the Italians, Germans or Japanese in comic book battle.

The reason was simply that these were superheroes who could, theoretically end the war in minutes… so why was the real war still going on killing the brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers of its readers?
Okay... this Superman looks really pissed off... like he's not going to put up with any more kamikaze attacks... but seriously... he's Superman... couldn't he have just flown through the airplane or used his heat vision to wipe out every Japanese aircraft in existence in a mere 47 seconds? Sure he could. So why Japan one pilot at a time? They don't care. This was a suicide run long before Superman finally flew into the Pacific Theater.
As well, DC Comics surmised that the real heroes were the men and women fighting the war, and saw no need to diminish their actual efforts by having fictional characters swoop in and grab undeserved glory.

This isn't to knock Fawcett Comics or Timely Comics (the foreigner to Marvel) who had their characters doing epic battle with the enemy… it was just a different way of being patriotic.

Now… as mentioned… rare was the time when a super-hero directly confronted the enemy in DC Comics.
Really Superman... you have to punch the motorcycle to stop these guys? Why didn't you just stand there and let them run into your invulnerable body? Or use your super bad breath to blow them away? Or... since we all know it's true, simply poke them with your pinkie finger to stop them. Smashing them with that left hook? Hell... I thought Superman didn't kill anyone... ever... Oh yeah... what happens in Saipan stays in Saipan.
To explain why DC Comics heroes weren't battling in Europe et al, they created a scenario where Hitler found the Spear Of Destiny (that spear that was used by a Roman soldier to pierce the side of Jesus Christ as he was crucified on the cross)… this spear gave the user the ability to warp people's will to his own - because it was an evil instrument… therefore.. if Superman came flying in to anywhere in Europe, Hitler via the Spear's influence could corrupt Superman into fighting on the side of the Axis… this is why you never see stories where the good guy super heroes of DC battle the Germans, Italians or Japanese - except on the cover of the comic books.

DC Comics did put out inspirational covers… sometimes showing its heroes smashing the enemy… but these comic book covers did NOT translate into stories inside. Some do exist… but it's rare… and I'll get to those eventually (if there is a Japanese correlation).
Does Batman want peace or $2 for the stamps? I always detested the contrived nature of the Batman and Superman team-ups. Superman works in the day time and Batman at night... when did they meet? At Dawn or Dusk?No... never at dusk.
Waydago, Robin! Right in der Fueher's face! Batman and Robin... no super-powers... but Superman... throwing a baseball at Tojo... he'd be drummed out of the Boys Scouts for murder.
DC Comics using its three Superman books: Action Comics, Superman and World's Finest Comics (which starred Superman and Batman in a team-up) would provide Superman (and Batman) with an opportunity to kick enemy ass... 

But usually, they were on the comic book covers to drum up support for War Bonds and War Stamps which provided financial relief to help keep the war drums beating in the Allied nation's fight against tyranny.That's what these covers are all about... most of them, anyway.

Top of the world, Ma Kent! Superman if he just shook them a little, could have killed the enemy leaders and saved millions of lives. Instead... just buy War Bonds. War is good for the economy.

Major Kong aka Superman riding a bomb down... maybe onto the Nazis... maybe onto the Japanese.
Basically… like the image at the very top of this blog for Action Comics 86… DC Comics wanted everyone to know that the reader... the American people were the ones helping defeat the Japanese (and the Germans and Italians)…

… that this cover shows the war being won through paper drives also will inform the casual comic book collector just why comic books from the WWII era and earlier are so rare despite books like Superman, Batman, Donald Duck and Captain Marvel (that SHAZAM! guy) being in the 1-million a month seller range.

Many were printed and read and shared with other kids, but most went their patriotic way into the paper drives. As a collector, that hurts.

On the World's Finest Comics' covers and Superman 18, we can see the word "Japanazi's"… I'm pretty sure it's not a comic book invention, but regardless… it's a pretty clever play on words.

That's all for now.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph
PS: F(R)FM... that stands for Female-(Robot) Female-Male... aka the fun type of threesome.

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