Monday, April 11, 2011

Anti-Racist Propaganda in Comics: True Comics 39 - "There Are No Master Races!"

During the 1940s, True Comics, of what might be called a true life, factual, or educational genre, promoted the humanist viewpoint of publisher George J. Hecht. A nice article about the series can be found on the Virginia Commonwealth University website. Quite a number of complete issues can be read in the Digital Comic Museum. Hecht used the comic to disseminate anti-racist propaganda that flew in the face of Nazi claims of racial superiority and inferiority, and of Aryan supremacy. True Comics 39 (Sept-Oct 1944) featured an overtly anti-racist piece entitled "There Are No Master Races", which presents practical reasons in support of racial equality. This story (and the whole issue) is available in the Digital Comics Museum, but the scans presented below are of higher resolution and are 'cleaned up'/edited with image editing software.

This story was also distributed as a propaganda pamphlet - I've seen one for sale on eBay for a considerable sum. I like this issue of True Comics because it shows that, while segregation was still a reality in American society at the time, there were people working to change things, and Hecht was one of those people. Little by little things did change, and comics played their part in the emergence of a more civilized world.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Crossing the Divide: Jesse Owens

Some time back (Feb 17, 2011) Out Of This World featured a Jack Kirby Losers story where Kirby introduced an African American soldier, Mile-a-Minute Jones, who was based on the real life African American athlete Jesse Owens. The Catholic comic book Treasure Chest vol. 7, #20 (June 5, 1952) featured a biography of Jesse Owens in which his undermining of Aryan supremacy in Hitler's Germany at the Berlin Olympics of 1936 is recounted, as is his subsequent recognition by post-Nazi Germany. The scans here are low resolution:

The Ziff-Davis title, Bill Stern's Sports Book Vol. 2 #2, doesn't have a sequential art story about Jess Owens, but does have a 2 page illustrated text feature that is an interesting read:

Of all American sports personalities, Jesse Owens and Joe Louis, by virtue of their direct confrontation with, and victory over, Aryan supremacists, were at the forefront of the intellectual challenge to the racist philosophies of the Nazis.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Crossing the Divide: The Harlem Globetrotters (2)

The Hanna-Barbera TV cartoon series of the Harlem Globetrotters aired from Sept 1970 through Oct 1971. In July 1971 Gold Key published Hanna-Barbera Fun-In 8 featuring an adaptation of the cartoon show. The Globetrotters were again featured in issue 10 of Fun-In. The Harlem Globetrotters cartoon show then had its own 12-issue Gold Key comic book series that ran from April 1972 through January 1975. Here's issue 7, from October 1973. Some of the early issues were actually adapted straight from a cartoon story, but I don't know whether this is one of those. It certainly reads like it could be a kids' cartoon. The artwork is rather nice, but the artist is not credited. The Globetrotters cartoon show was the first to feature predominantly African American main characters, and the comic book was one of the earliest also. It would be interesting to know what the thinking was behind giving the Globetrotters a white granny as a manager. It speaks to the Globetrotters incredible appeal as entertainers that they ended up being used as characters in a kids' cartoon show and comic book series.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Crossing the Divide: Joe Louis (2)

This comparative look at the peaks of the respective careers of Joe Louis and Jack Dempsey in Bill Stern's Sports Book Vol.2 #2 is interesting, not least because it doesn't mention race. In 1952 when this comic was published by Ziff-Davis in a still-segregated America, it was remarkable in that it features an African American, and still more remarkable that Joe Louis is not billed as representing his race. It's refreshing to read a comic from that time that simply presents Louis as a normal, if accomplished, member of the human race. This was one approach to racial integration in comics used by some writers of Silver Age comic books later on, presenting diversity as if racial harmony was a reality in society. Interestingly, the art on this story is by famed inker Frank Giacoia.