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Sunday, January 18, 2015

American Comic Book Propaganda Versus Japan - 12

The October, 1942 issue of Champ Comics #23 published by Harvey is a semi-classic comic book cover in that it features American superheroes smashing members of the Axis of Evil during WWII - in this case the Japanese.

The first thing anyone should notice about the depiction of the Japanese in any comic book up until the 1960s was that they always looked somewhat grotesque - wild or even alien-like.

This one isn't so bad, but it still touches upon typical stereotypical expectations of White audiences on how the Japanese should be depicted.

While this cover by the legendary artist and co-creator of Captain America amongst others does feature the standard 'Nip' in myopic glasses and his a soldier typically mouth-open to show his yellow-teeth, and has the typical yellow skin—just in case you weren't sure that this was a battle against a yellow menace, the image does NOT typically show the Japanese soldier with over-sized buckteeth.

Either that's progress, or perhaps the artist forgot.

The story features the Liberty Lads, and if you are like me, you are going Who da fug are they?!

The issue's lead story is actually one of The Human Meteor, with the Liberty Lads coming in second, with other tales featuring such forgotten characters as The Champ, Slim Jim & The Force, Twinkle Twins, a Beetle Baily-like Daffy Drafty, The Adventures Of Padlock Homes, Snooky The Mayor (Do NOT Give her any ideas!!!), Dr. Miracle (Master of Magic) — the art wasn't bad! In fact, overall, it was better than average! ALL of the stories were!

In this one, "A challenging menace to democracy, the Nazi Serpent would belch its poisonous flames upon a free America, but Skip and Chuck, two young sons of liberty, fight 'tooth and nail' against the would be conquerors."

What? The story doesn't match the cover! In fact… the cover is of the Liberty Lads attacking the Japanese, while the story description above and the first image of their own story shows them attacking the Germans.

Could this be a mistake by the cover artist? Or, was this planned all the time - to show the Liberty Lads taking on all comers?

It looks planned, as there is a two-page spread within the book containing a typed story - no pictures - that has the Liberty Lads defending America - or rather the Aleutian Islands "nevertheless they were American territory, part of North America") as the writer mentions… describing how the Japanese have dared to invade this American soil, disembarking from their beetle boats and tearing up and stepping on the American flag the Lads (who were hiding) had recently planted.

I love this little descriptor of the Japanese: "little, brown men of the Rising Sun."

To the writer's credit, he did not call them 'little yellow' anything… someone actually got the color right, though they are not as dark a brown as say - myself.

Now… unlike the cover depicts, the Liberty Lads begin a covert operation "stalking down hill, Indian fashion, taking advantage of of every shadow and every undulation of the slope."

Wait… undulation? In a comic book? Nice. I also was not aware that Indians were very good at sneaking, as no one in my family has… what?…. oh… those types of Indians… feather, not the dot. Gotcha. I assume that's a stereotype, as well, but I'm unsure if it's a negative one or not.

What is interesting, is that the comic story does employ the term Jap - I know that's something the Japanese don't like, but in fairness, every country's soldiers was given a nickname - Krauts for the Germans; Limeys for the Brits; Yanks for the Americans; Yanks for the Canadians, which really pissed off and still pisses off Canadians… we're bloody Johnny Canucks, though we may also nowadays answer to the term 'snowback'. Not. There are many other terrible names, but generally speaking, Jap isn't as bad as the name given to the Vietnamese in later years - Gook.

I would imagine that unless one was a southerner, one might be offended by the term Yank… unless it became "Yankers" when the enemy countries applied it. Whatever.

The Liberty Lads do take out a lone sentry and then find a tank… find some paint - because one always brings paint along when one is invading another country, right? Riiiiight. They then decide to paint the American flag using the red, white and blue paints, on the tank's body to "scare (the) daylights out of these Nips."

"Nips". That is short for Nippon or Nihon, which are both applied to 'Japan'… but it is a well-known nasty term of endearment, still used by many and unappreciated by most.

So… let me see… I'm a Japanese invading army landing on the Aleutian Islands…. and I have paint with me - possible, I have no idea… but why the hell would I have red, white and blue paint? What could I possibly be painting? Blue isn't even part of the Japanese flag… it stands out too much when trying to conceal… Oh well…

Skip is driving the tank, and Chuck handles the machine gun - yup… that's them in position on the cover image at the very top.

After the Lads smash and shoot their way into the 'Nipponese' camp, causing the Japanese to run away, a Japanese officer of no descriptor ranks yells out: "Stop, sons of the Rising Sun! They're only two American boys. What a disgrace to our honorable regiment! Capture the tank or the wrath of the Emperor will be upon you, and disgrace will be the lot of your unworthy ancestors."

Well… at least the paint job made the Japanese realize they weren't Canadian boys.

No… key here is that the rallying cry made could have been quite realistic… I mean… "disgrace to your team" "wrath of Emperor/God" "disgrace to your family for generations ever more" - that's pretty much something Japan takes quite seriously.

Then again… so would any fighting military from any country, but the descriptors are good here.

Anyhow… Chuck here's the rallying cry and fires the machine gun at the Japanese, to "mow down the Nips like a scythe mows ripe wheat."

I might have said "ripe rice" to be wittier, but no one reading that comic book in 1942 would have a visual of that. I'm also not sure if a scythe 'mows' anything, but I'll let it go.

Soon, with the remaining Japanese troops fleeing for the boats, the Liberty Lads fire the tank's 370mm cannon at them - it ain't pretty, so thank goodness this is a word story and not a graphic one. Still, a few of the beetle bats do make it back to their transport ship to make their getaway.

But fear not, or fear - if you are rooting for the Japanese here - the racket from the tank exploding its shells into the Japanese beetle boats (and machine guns) was heard by American troops on a nearby island, who dispatch a bunch of B-25 bombers…. oh geez… dropping bombs on the Japanese.

"The transports became cauldrons of seething smoke, bursting fire, and explosions that leveled their superstructure."

Later when the U.S. Marines land on the island and spot the Liberty Lads sitting beside the replaced American flag having a smoke, drinking a beer and looking at porno magazines from the Netherlands… okay, I'm kidding… the Lads were just sitting around near the flag… an impressed officer says to them:

"You're just the kind of Americans our country needs… you're too young to enlist, but when you are old enough let me know if you want to join the Marines. You've been fighting in true Marine spirit."

Sadly, Chuck and Skip were never seen again, #2 of Champ Comics… but these kids were Tom Fenwick and Will Meredith, two boy heroes active in Virginia during the Revolutionary War.

So… the same kids, never aging, but changing their name to avoid being cast as witches? Or a simple re-write to make the kids more palatable as heroes of WWII with America joint in back in December of 1941.

American propaganda against Japan... start'em young, as this ad placed on the inside front cover of Champ Comics #23 will attest:

Click image to enlarge. It should work with EVERY image you come across on the Internet, though some will just be so small it won't make a hill of beans and Japanese rice. This one will enlarge.
By the way... generally speaking, the artwork on most comic books from the 1930s and 1940s has always been kind of crappy in my opinion - with notable exceptions, of course... but over all, blech.

If you would like to read this story, you should check out (I've placed the actual link to the comic here).

I've never even heard of this comic title before, but it's not that bad. It's certainly not as complex as the modern stories we have today, but dammit, a lot happens in the these pages and I think you certainly get more BANG for the buck... or in this case, for the $0.10. Certainly the 64 pages of art, not including the covers, is well worth the price of admission.

While I freely admit that the price of comic books is so high that it has effectively stopped kids en masse from beginning their own comic book habit, and that the price is derived from better paper used, better printing processes and of course much needed better pay for the letters, colorists, inkers, pencilers, writers and editors... aside of maybe the covers, no one (almost ) advertises in comic books anymore.

That was where I purchased my first ever Price List (as an eight-year-old) and learned that I could purchase such books as Action Comics #1 for $300, but I didn't have the money, of course. It was also where I agreed that by gambling a stamp, that Mac could indeed become the Hero of the Beach and maintain his bitch of a girlfriend.

I really wanted a switchblade comb. I sold a switchblade given to me by a ex-girlfriend who was and escort, and then bought a real switchblade comb (and other stuff), and then lost it a few days later. I probably still have the other stuff.

Ahh, comic books and propaganda.

Andrew Joseph

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