AHIS 255g Section 11888
Dr. Catherine. E. Anderson
TA: Rika Hiro
Comics propaganda during WWII
During wartime, especially World War II, comics are frequently used to propagate certain ideology, either patriotism or anti-war movement. For countries preparing to fight, propaganda could boost morale, arouse hatred for enemy and encourage people to support the government and contribute to the army. For countries devastated by war, however, propaganda could remind people of the honorable aftermath of the war, blame militarism and promote truce and peace. But why is comics such an efficient tool to disseminate propaganda? Is it because comics have an almost magical way of catching and keeping the reader’s attention? Or is it because comics can carry out artists’ subjective views directly and make them convincing? Probably both! To make certain idea pervasive, propaganda needs readers, the more the better. Comics certainly have such quality. Surveys have shown that the comics section is the most well-read part of almost every daily newspaper (Strömberg 8). There are many ways to explain why comics has such a power to keep the readers enthralled: the organic combination of words and pictures, such as speech balloons, captions and onomatopoetic words, gives spirit and meaning to the still images which might otherwise seem lifeless; several images form a sequence which leads the readers’ eyes across the paper and never gives them a chance to stop; the iconic, simplified way to display images is inherent in the way we view the world and thus speaks very directly to the readers. Also, comic books, like other literary forms, can tell the truth or lie. This art form allows the artists to depict images and tell stories the way they want to. Thus, comic is a direct way for the author to convey their subjective ideas and, with the help of engaging graphs, to convince the readers with those ideas. With a large potential audience and the power to fascinate, comic becomes a perfect way to transmitting propaganda, especially during World War II. War is not all about governments with conflicts or armies firing in the front line, but also depends greatly on people’s will. On one hand, to win a war, the government needs to seek support from the people; on the quite opposite hand, to stop a war, pacifists need to bring awareness to people who are powerful enough to protest against militarism. Both of the processes require a large amount of propaganda. In that sense, propaganda is a very, if not the most, powerful non-physical weapon during wartime. Comics, as a popular visual medium that can efficiently convey certain viewpoints, was used again and again to propagate war-themed ideas and made itself an important place in modern wars. Propaganda in comics can promote militarism. The stereotype of this kind of comics is to show the supremacy of one’s army or to show the evilness of the enemy. Such bias is almost inevitable in every comic art related to war since the cartoonists who create comics about wars are usually belonging to either party in the war and mostly tell stories from their subjective viewpoint. In America, soon after the invention of comics book format in the late 1930s, artists began to create comics based solely on stories about war and, during World War II, influenced by overwhelming patriotism, most comics were based on themes of war. Most of those comics depicted American soldiers as heroic, superior and victorious while the enemy as despicable cowards, almost sub-human (Strömberg 38). This bias might seem natural during wartime but are highly propagandistic when viewed today. At that time, the newborn superhero culture definitely provided the government a perfect tool to propagate patriotism. In the comics, these red-and-blue American superhero figures boost readers’ confidence by doing exactly what their readers wished they could do: flying through the enemy lines, destroying the cannons, tearing down the...
Cited: Strömberg, Fredrik. Comic Art Propaganda: A Graphic History. New York: St. Martin 's
Nakazawa, Keiji. Silence to Light: Japan and the Shadows of War. Vol. 13. Honolulu:
University of Hawaií, 2001.
Dittmer, Jason. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. Vol. 95. N.p.: Taylor &
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