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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

American Comic Book Propaganda Versus Japan - 13

Let's look at comic books as a whole, and by that, I mean the American comic book, because, let's face it, it WAS the main publishing domain of comic books during the 1940s thanks to Superman, Batman and Captain America... not to mention Donald Duck and Captain Marvel (Shazam) and others.

It was during the time the U.S. was dragged kicking and screaming into WWII on December 7, 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, however, when the production and reading of comic books reached its peak... one that has never been matched in the succeeding 70 years, unfortunately.

It was between 1941 and 1944 that comic book sales went from 10-million to 20-million sold per MONTH. Nowadays, a very popular book might do 100,000 copies.

It was a time when Walt Disney's Comics & Stories and Captain Marvel each hit the 1-million sales per month mark.

Did you know that between 1940-1945, at the military post exchanges, comic books outsold Life and Reader's Digest magazines by a 10 to one ratio.Give the people what they want!

As such, the U.S. government was watching, and realized this industry was not only a good way to maybe make a dime, but also was a genuine way to get its own view across about what it was doing in WWII.

Call it what you will, it was still propaganda.

Let's take a look at United States Marines #3: A Leatherneck Flamethrower, published by Government Enterprises, of which next to nothing is known. Sorry. Perhaps it really was a faction of the U.S. government making these comic books for public consumption.

This book and all issues in the run of 11 comics spread out even past the end of WWII, describe U.S. Marine Corp. action against the Japanese.

The cover of #3 is a beaut! We have, in my mind, the most fearsome handheld weapon ever devised by mankind (an oxymoron, if I ever heard one). Here we have a U.S. Marine with a flamethrower!

Yes, I know it was initially meant to eliminate plant life to reveal or remove possible enemy hidey-holes, but we all know that it was used to toast human beings.

The cover shows a smugly smiling soldier toasting the hideous octopus form of General Tojo Hideki (surname first), the essential leader of Japan's war machine. Wow. Great cover. Horrible, 70 years removed, but if I was a kid and saw that cover, I would buy the book.

Strange then how a mere 10 years later in the 1950s, various government commissions abounded to eradicate excessive violence in comic books, because it was poisoning the minds of young children.

I have presented below a mostly text story from United States Marines #3: A Leatherneck Flamethrower, with some choice descriptive language in the panel on the bottom right. Just click on the image to increase its size to something more readable. It's only one page from the story, but it is Page 8 from the comic book, not including covers.

This is why I call this comic book--despite real and honest (I guess) depictions of the war in other stories a propaganda initiative for the U.S. Government.

"Simian face"????

While thee term simian does indeed include the higher primates such as monkey as and apes, and even us humans, clearly the comic book was meant to imply the Japanese were ape-like.

For fun, here is the next page of the story, which tells how Japan bullied Korea in the 1890s into being friends with it, or being destroyed by it.
Why did I want to show this page? Well... there's some hypocrisy at work here. It seems as though the United States Government has completely forgotten how it once sailed into Japan's ports with these black ships and bullied Japan into opening up its borders for trade, or to be destroyed by its naval firepower.

Propaganda is about what you say as much as it is about what you don't say.

And yes... I actually own a copy of this issue. It was part of some comics I picked up at a garage sale 35 years ago for about $3. This one comic is now valued at around $250, in its current meh condition.

Scans were actually taken from the VERY cool website Check'em out and read - for free - hundreds of the old comic books they have there!

Andrew Joseph

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