Comic Books as American Propaganda During World War II
Stam, Kathryn; Thesis Advisor
Lizardi, Ryan; Second Reader
Kahn, Russell; Instructor
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SubjectComic Books; Comics; WWII; World War II; National Allied Publications; All American Publications; DC Comics; Propaganda; American Propaganda; Media; Justice Society; JSA; Justice Society of America; Max Gaines; Marvel Comics; Jack Kirby; Joe Simon; Superman; Captain America; Batman; Detective Comics; Nazis; Pearl Harbor; Comics as Propaganda; Frederic Wertham; Seduction of the Innocent; Bob Rozakis; Tom Peyer; Dave Dellecese; Homefront; American Media; Newsstands; Action Comics; The Flash; Green Lantern; Wonder Woman; Hawkman; Social Crusaders; Early superheroes; Golden Age of Comics; Hitler; War Writers Board; WWB; Office of War Information; Wartime PSA; Public Service Announcement; racism; sexism
American comic books were a relatively, but quite popular form of media during the years of World War II. Amid a limited media landscape that otherwise consisted of radio, film, newspaper, and magazines, comics served as a useful tool in engaging readers of all ages to get behind the war effort. The aims of this research was to examine a sampling of messages put forth by comic book publishers before and after American involvement in World War II in the form of fictional comic book stories. In this research, it is found that comic book storytelling/messaging reflected a theme of American isolation prior to U.S. involvement in the war, but changed its tone to become a strong proponent for American involvement post-the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This came in numerous forms, from vilification of America’s enemies in the stories of super heroics, the use of scrap, rubber, paper, or bond drives back on the homefront to provide resources on the frontlines, to a general sense of patriotism. This research looks to the motivations behind such storytelling in the background of comic book writers and artists as well as involvement from government agencies such as the War Writer’s Board. It’s also important to note that while comics often vilified the enemies of America through the use of terrible stereotypes and caricature, within those same pages were messages promoting solidarity among religion, race, and background for the purpose of winning the war. These mixed messages often make for very contradictory presentations, especially when looked at retroactively and allow comic books from this time period to be looked at as media artifacts, providing insight into cultural and societal ways of thinking during this period, with appropriate historical context. I have created a website supplement to this thesis where many examples of the types of images discussed have been collected and organized for viewing: https://comicsgotowar.weebly.com/
A Master's Project submitted to the College of Arts and Sciences at SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Utica NY in partial fulfillment of the Master's of Science Degree.
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