Tag Archives: Japanese Canadians

Discrimination Against Minority Groups in Commando Comics No. 16

© Copyright 2018 Amber Saini, Ryerson University

Introduction

After World War II, the media, specifically in the form of television and film, newspapers, and comics played a large role in contributing to Canadian society’s perception of minority races. Commando Comics, a war comic series, attempts to provide historically accurate information to readers on World War II from the perspective of Canadian soldiers. The sixteenth issue of Commando Comics (1945) contains negative representations of minority races and depicts the Canadian heroes and soldiers as superior. I will be analyzing the negative portrayal of Japanese individuals and touch on the representation of German individuals in Commando Comics by observing the impact of this representation on minority races and how this affected Canadian society’s treatment of them. Furthermore, I will analyze how the comic and other forms of Canadian media degraded other races to promote Canadians as superior. The sixteenth issue of Commando Comics “promotes nationalism” (Montgomery 19), as the Canadian heroes are not only presented as the “right side”, but minority races are degraded and portrayed as the “enemy”. The constant use of stereotypes in this comic, as well as other forms of media during and after the war, contributed to society’s negative and unjust outlook on individuals of Japanese descent.

Constant Use of Stereotypes

Fig. 1. ‘Illustrations of Japanese soldiers’. Thomson. From “Ace Bradley Again!” Commando Comics No. 16, March 1945, p. 18. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Commando Comics heavily discriminates and stereotypes Japanese and German individuals based on physical attributes and language. The comic’s use of stereotypes contributed to the unjust prejudice that the media already held against minority races. A pilot story in the issue, “Ace Bradley Again!”, contains problematic illustrations of Japanese soldiers. As seen in Fig. 1, the soldiers are drawn with slanted eyes and protruding teeth, which are stereotypes that were and still are made about individuals of Japanese descent. These stereotypes were heavily used in other anti-Japanese stories in the comic, as well as other forms of media at the time.

The sixteenth issue also uses stereotypes in terms of language. In “Wings Over the Atlantic”, the dialogue of the German soldier is written in broken English and the character is given a stereotypical accent; for example, “I vill be safe and den ha-ha-ha, ve vill see if dey vill catch him,” (Andre 27). In this dialogue, the “w” is replaced with a “v” and the “th” is replaced with a “d” to give the character a stereotypical German accent. There is also an issue with the way that the Japanese language is represented. In “Lank The Yank”, a soldier says “Have bombs ready yesss?” (Brunt 24). This was done deliberately, to make it seem like the character is speaking in broken English once again. Furthermore, the dialogue of the Japanese soldiers is written in Japanese characters. In Fig 2, the word “censored” is under the soldier’s dialogue, to show that the soldier is cursing. The Japanese letters and soldier’s broken English are used to create a language barrier between the Canadian and Japanese individuals, in an attempt from the Canadians to try and differentiate themselves from the Japanese soldiers. In addition to this, the comic gives the Japanese language a negative connotation, as each time the Japanese letters are used, the soldiers are supposed to be swearing or insulting the Canadian soldiers.

Fig. 2. ‘Use of Japanese language’. Harry Brunt. Panel from “Lank The Yank.” Commando Comics No. 16, March 1945, p. 25. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

During my research, I found that many of the characters in the Canadian Whites comics are given stereotypes; not only classics such as Johnny Canuck and Nelvana of the Northern Lights, but in Commando Comics as well. The Canadian characters are stereotyped, however, the stereotypes seem to be  positive and based off of well-known “Canadian stereotypes”, in contrast to the negative stereotypes that the comic uses for characters of minority races. The Canadian soldiers are given traits such as striving for peace and avoiding violence; for example, in “The Young Commandos”, a soldier says, “it only goes to show how brave the lads in our armed forces are,” (Lazare 15) to enforce the idea of the brave Canadian hero. However, the Japanese soldiers are given traits, such as being dangerous or violent and are portrayed as the antagonists. The use of stereotypes is a theme throughout Canadian comics and characters, however, there is a clear difference in how the stereotypes are used; this difference is clearly based off of race. The idea that the Canadian soldiers are brave and fighting for justice is constantly reinforced, as is that Japan is “the enemy”.

Discrimination and Use of Derogatory Words

As war topics and violent content “dominated the mass media” (Montgomery 20) during the war, Commando Comics also contains racial slurs and explicit violence against minority races, specifically Japanese individuals.

Throughout the entire issue, the Japanese soldiers are referred to as “nips” or “Japs”  by the Canadian soldiers, which are derogatory terms. In “Clift Steele and the Island of Floating Death”, Clift says, “those nips’ll blow us to bits in a minute!” (Dariam 6). In “Lank The Yank”, Lank refers to the soldiers as “these Jap jerks” (Brunt 25). These are just a few of the numerous times that racial slurs are used against Japanese soldiers in the comic. These terms are extremely offensive, as they are derogatory abbreviations being used as an insult and are a sign of disrespect.

Fig. 3. ‘Racial slur’. Thomson. Panel from “Ace Bradley Again!” Commando Comics No. 16, March 1945, p. 20. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

In addition to racial slurs, the sixteenth issue of Commando Comics also discriminates against the Japanese soldiers in terms of skin colour. In “Ace Bradley Again!”, a soldier refers to the Japanese soldiers as “little yellow rats” (Thomson 20), which is extremely offensive. Furthermore, in “The Young Commandos”, Chuck, a Canadian soldier, does not want to fight and is called a coward by his fellow soldiers. His superior says, “You can’t turn yellow on me now!” (Lazare 13), which is a clear reference to skin colour once again. Moreover, the Canadian soldiers are using the phrase “turning yellow” (Lazare 13) to call Chuck a coward, which means they are referring to the Japanese soldiers as cowards.

Impact on Japanese Individuals

As a result of the unjust representation of Japanese individuals in the media and following World War II, Japanese families in British Columbia, many of which were Japanese Canadians, were forced into internment camps by the Canadian government. There was heavy racism expressed against Japanese individuals at the time, between 1942 and 1949, and they were unfairly denied of their rights. A substantial amount of Japanese families lost their homes and finances to the government, and were forced to move to the unpopulated areas of British Columbia. Although racism against Japanese individuals was mostly occurring in the west coast, it was present all throughout Canada. This racism was fuelled by World War II, as well as the news of the Pearl Harbour attack. The Japanese Canadians that tried to protest for their rights were sent to prisons. As a result of Canada’s actions towards the Japanese Canadians, the idea that individuals of Japanese descent were dangerous was promoted, therefore causing many people in society to be fearful and untrusting of them. Approximately forty years later, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau apologized for the unjustified treatment of Japanese individuals that occurred during the wartime period (Marsh 1), however, it truly could not compensate for the suffering that Japanese Canadians endured.

Fig. 4. ‘Internment camp’. James Marsh. Picture from “Japanese Internment: Banished and Beyond Tears.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, February 2012. Library and Archives Canada.

An accurate representation of what Japanese Canadians experienced can be interpreted from Joy Kogawa’s novel Obasan, which tells her story of being forced into an internment camp and being “separated from her family” (Davis 60). The most interesting aspect of this novel is that it depicts a side of Canada that many readers might not be accustomed to, as Canada is often known as a multicultural society that is accepting of everyone. This novel provides insight on what Canada was like during and after World War II and analyzes how the transition to a multicultural society has allowed individuals to be ignorant of the fact that racism still exists in Canada to this day.

Impact on Minority Races

During and after the war, the treatment of minority races was influenced by the way they were portrayed in the media. During this time, different forms of media, including comics, were promoting the idea that individuals of minority races were dangerous. This negatively impacted many aspects of their lives, such as employment opportunities and exclusion from jobs, and immigration restrictions. Many Canadians believed that minority groups were “undeserving” (Partias 10) of certain rights, such as voting. As there was constant “suspicion of foreigners” (Partias 15), many employers and workplaces’ racist views were accepted by those in higher power because society, as a whole, had an inaccurate outlook on minority groups. After the second war, many Canadians displayed uneasiness towards Japanese individuals, which resulted in unfair treatment and scrutiny. Although a vast majority of these individuals were Japanese Canadians, this factor was overlooked as the public was persuaded by the media’s representations, making them untrusting towards other races. The media played a large role in this as television, newspapers and comics constantly labelled Japan as the “enemy”. According to Partias’ observation, individuals of minority groups were only hired for jobs that were short of workers and that most Canadians avoided; in most cases, these jobs were low-paying and required hard labour.

Conclusion

The negative portrayal and representation of minority races in this comic as well as other forms of media were used to uplift Canadian heroes and promote the Canadian race as superior. In “Representations of War and Peace in High School History Textbooks”, Montgomery discusses his analysis on how Canadian textbooks promote nationalism and present the information in textbooks as fact and truth. Similar to Montgomery’s theory, the comic promotes Canadian soldiers as the right side who are “fighting for a better world” (Montgomery 20) and portrays Japanese individuals as the antagonists; the comic presents these ideas as if they are facts and the truth. This strategy that many forms of Canadian texts seem to use can shape the reader’s perspective of minority races and overall, Canada’s outlook on minority races.

Throughout the comic, there is clear prejudice against minority races, and these representations in the comic and other forms of media attempt to portray these races as inferior. Although individuals in society held their own misconceptions about individuals of other races, the media, Commando Comics included, also promoted these negative ideas about minority races. The sixteenth issue of Commando Comics not only heavily stereotypes Japanese individuals, but also degrades them in order to portray Canadians as superior.


Works Cited

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.

Active Comics Collective Tactic of Warning Children

     Propaganda regarding foreign powers and its assumptions with stereotypical criminal behaviours is a result of prejudice. This paper will discuss the eighth issue of Active Comics (1942), focusing on illegal drugs in conjunction with propaganda in Canada during World War II. In Active Comics No. 8, the stories have caricatures of stereotypical Indigenous and Japanese people, in relation to drugs and other criminal behaviours. The racist undertones in comics during World War II regarding cultures untypical to  “white-European” Canadians and involving the issue of drugs (specifically cannabis and opium) should be addressed.

     The first story in the issue, “The Dixon of the Mounted,” is about a criminal investigation surrounding the illegal distribution and abuse of cannabis. As well, “Captain Red Thornton,” features Japanese caricatures in association with other forms of crime. In addition to the topic of crime, on page 16, there is a “funny page” glorifying a criminal activity. To contrast, the regular displays of prejudice, one of the stories, “ The Misadventures of Mild Will,” is the opposite of the other stereotypical stories. The story has Indigenous caricatures that could be deemed rational, are not inflicting violence, and are victims of senseless violence. The placement of this comic is used for ironic comedy. This comedy uses the opposite of what is stereotypically done in order to create humor.  

     In Active Comics No. 8, possessing illegal drugs and criminal activities, such as murder and arson, is in clear affiliation with figures of Japanese and Indigenous backgrounds. This reveals the writer’s intentions of propaganda and wartime subliminal messages. The purposeful connections insinuate that the reason for criminal activity is the characters being from foreign powers, giving the readers a preconceived political wartime stance. The objective of this research paper is to determine why these propagandistic messages were placed in children’s comics during World War II. Ultimately, the the writers’ tactics enforce the idea that drugs and foreigners were bad in a collective manner.                     

The Association of Drugs to Certain People

     “Dixon of the Mounted” by Ted Steel, reveals the highest level of stereotyping and criminalizing “foreign” peoples. In this comic, the Dixon travels to a lifeless and grim snowy landscape to find an Indigenous criminal. The illustrated Indigenous caricature that wears exaggerated traditional native clothing is being sought out because he smokes and sells marijuana – “marihuana” as its called in the story. The aboriginal man also commits other crimes due to the consumption of the drug, such as setting the cabin on fire in hopes of murdering the Dixon before being caught. Henceforth, visualization of the correspondence of marijuana with a man of a foreign background was displayed to children. The story, “Dixon of the Mounted,” are collectively meant to scare children into not smoking marijuana, due to the irrational and criminal behaviour it creates. Additionally, the comic persuades the reader to believe that Indigenous people are the influencers and the primary sources of this substance abuse.

The Stance of Canada with Native and Japanese Citizens

     Japanese and Aboriginal cultures faced much oppression during their years in Canada following World War II. Japanese immigration was brought into Canada for cheap labour, which caused opium distribution to arise as a societal issue (Boyd 26). The belief that Japanese people are the reason for drug distribution could be routed to the historical event of The Opium war between China and the British Empire (839 – 1860.) Therefore, the assumption that opium is connected to Japanese people will be derived from this historical event. Also, Canada in the 19th (and continuing shortly into the 20th century) is known to have made a negative impact on  Indigenous people due to the conditions and difficult circumstances they were put through. More specifically, during the years before World War II (roughly 1934-1943), Indigenous people in Canada were put under much supervision and isolation. This can be noted from viewing a 1936 news article titled “Canada’s Indians. The article title itself reveals the possessive approach that Canada’s government took towards Indigenous cultures; they were under “general supervision,” were “minors under the law,” and additionally, a government department called Department of Indian Affairs existed (48). Found in the National Museum of Canada, the archival book Canada’s Indian Problem, by Janness Diamond, states that “. . . to encourage any merging of the protected races with their protectors, because white people, particularly those of Anglo-Saxon . . . have strong prejudices against intermarriage with coloured peoples. (Japan, we may notice in passing, likewise discourages the intermarriage of her nationals with the Ainu)” (Diamond 379). When Active Comics No. 8 displays these cultures in a manipulative way, it caused these prejudices to influence the reader and allow the future generation of adults to have the same destructive beliefs.

Opinions with Drugs in Combination with Crime

     The legalization of marijuana in Canada took years of persuasion and debates. It has come to reality with multiple precautions and procedures in 2018. Opinions and debates dated back to the early 19th century reveal Canada’s foundation of formulating the new legalization. From this, misconceptions of drug association may arise due to miscommunication brought from fear of an unknown substance; much like the fear of unknown and foreign cultures to Canada.

     One misconception in Active Comics No. 8  is that criminal behaviour arises from smoking marijuana. Nonetheless, that belief has been statistically proven to be false in the sociological article Cannabis and Crime: Findings From a Longitudinal Study by Willy Pedersen. He proves that the use of cannabis does not lead to any continued action of criminal behaviour. Conversely, the use of cannabis-related crimes is highly apparent (Pedersen 116). It is also apparent that there is not much research surrounding the use of cannabis and non-cannabis related crimes. This implies that avoiding this research was done purposely so that it is automatically assumed that smoking marijuana was the leading cause of all crimes and not just marijuana-related offenses. The collection of the comics, also known as The Canadian Whites, represented the effects of marijuana as the causes of the comic book characters criminal commitments. To feature this, falsehoods and false evidence are presented multiple times through; action-packed, war hero and comedic stories. Active Comics has done this to display to a young audience that drugs, crime, and foreign powers, collectively and separately, are things to be afraid of. A newspaper article, “Dope Stimulation and Hot Jazz,written in 1943 by J.V McAree, said that “Crooks of various kinds are fond of [marijuana]” (McAree 8).  Also, the 1948 National Film Board documentary Drug Addict follows an inmate in jail who becomes interested in drugs. These past World War II mediums purposely highlighted criminals with marijuana and always correlate them with each other. In order for the Canadian Whites to display this as well, it is evident that extreme literary misrepresentations have to be used to stronger convey the same message.

The Reason for the Correlation
Fig. 1. Cartoon Drawing, Japanese Gentlemen Hullee Home Pleez! Canadians Here!!! 20000034-018. 1939-1945 Canadian War Museum. https://www.warmuseum.ca/collections/artifact/1361339/?q=cartoon+drawing&page_num=1&item_num=17&media_irn=3141295

     Figure 1 displays two Japanese men running from Canadians. The description to the image is: “This is a poster we had when entertaining some Canadian boys. Maple leaf is a little bit of ‘home’ you kindly sent me” (Canadian War Museum).  

    The description reveals how a source of entertainment for “Canadian boys” was another representation of Japanese caricatures being stereotypically manipulated. Figure 1 is also manipulated to sound like a Japanese accent, which further adds to the racism. The same racist illustration is also visible in the story “The Misadventures of Mild Will.” The comic manipulates the dialogue to make the caricatures emphasize their accents which insinuate their lack of intelligence. An example of the same verbiage in the comic is, “[w]hat’sa idear, buttin’in? Ah’, supposed to be the hero in this hyar comic strip!” (Steel 31). Along with in “Captain Red Thorton,” by Al Cooper, the Japanese enemies are illustrated much like in the war artifact; they both have farfetched stereotypical features (Cooper 49). The illustrations and verbiage are placed to create humor for the intended audience.

Humour is displayed in false, fabricated cliches of foreign characters

     In the war adventure story,  “Captain Red Thorton,” the “predators”, or antagonists, are Japanese characters against  ”white-European” characters. An interesting illustration from this story on the front cover of the comic is a close-up shot of a Japanese “predator.” The Japanese caricatures expression is angry; which is evident from the exaggerated lines along his face to make him seem more aggressive.

     The article “This is Our Enemy” by Paul Hirsch focuses on the comic titled All Star Comics. Hirsch talks about how the demographic and perception of the comics were race-themed mediums that were cheap sources of entertainment. Also, the article goes into detail about how choosing the medium as a source of portraying propaganda stereotypes is a universal and complex method. All Stars Comics is American, and the article was published in California. By looking at this American artifact in comparison to the Canadian comic, it is interesting to note the similarities between them. They both portray representations of the race to persuade a person to think intended messages of government manipulated messages. The reasons for North American tactics in communicating propaganda messages to children are apparent. Adults during this period would most likely be aware of the political news happening around the world and the implications of this to their home country. Children, on the other hand, would not know as much. By hinting at these political views from the country they currently reside in, they can educate the children on what to believe through comics (although it may be factual or not).

Children’s Media as a way of Communicating Propaganda
Fig. 2. Dave Fleischer (d). Max Fleischer (p). With Cab Calloway. Minnie the Moocher, 1932,Talkartoons.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7VUU_VPI1E

     The 1940s messages of propaganda are displayed in many multimedia forms. The article “Anglo-American Anti-fascist Film Propaganda in a Time of Neutrality” explains Charlie Chaplin’s film, The Great Dictator, to be an example of a manipulation of media to display wartime messages. The article also goes into to detail about what makes a propaganda film (“predator vs. prey,” “hero vs. villain”) create “mass persuasion” (Cole).

     Messages of drug use are also apparent in children’s motion pictures. In Max Fleischer’s, Minnie the Moocher, the animated characters undergo a chaotic-dreamlike scenario in which inanimate objects come to life and appear as a sort of hallucination. That movie experience creates a correlation with the sensation one may get from being under the influence drugs (fig. 2).

     After studying both of these motion pictures, one can understand why Active Comics would use a children’s medium to incorporate drugs and wartime messages as a tactic. Although this comic was on a smaller scale of popularity then these Hollywood entertainments, it still portrays the exact techniques to emphasize the message trying to be installed into youth’s minds. Minnie the Moocher displays Hollywood’s creation of the fascination of substance use in a way that is appealing to children (by using cartoons, comedy, and catchy music). The same question of why Max Fleischer decided to create Minnie the Moocher is similar to the question of why The Canadian Whites created certain stories in Active Comics. Both children targeting mediums display content that seems to be confidential to children, giving much insight into the creator’s intentions of the audience.

        The government’s way of trying to communicate with the youth of WWII is proven to be useful in current studies. This is because using comic books helps children explore their creativity, be entranced in the comic book character’s adventures, and stimulate visual senses according to the article, “The Native Comic Book Project: Native Youth Making Comics and Healthy Decisions. This article discusses the positive impact that comic books have on Indigenous children who may suffer consequences of substance abuse or other mentally harming encounters.

Manipulation of Children for Wartime Efforts

     After examining all of Active Comics No. 8 and cross-referencing adult mediums of WWII (newspapers, films, articles) to the content found in the comic, Canadian government intentions become clear. By collectively showing drugs, negative displays of foreign figures and actions of hate in crime fighting and adventure stores, a child may be manipulated to believe that all of these fabrications are believable. From this, that child may now be more heavily interested and inclined to participate in wartime activities, whether it be by becoming physically involved in the war or sharing the message that war is good. Youth become more involved and informed stance in political behaviours. Active Comics displayed content to children that were intended to create humor and action while simultaneously warning them of crimes by manipulating Canada’s oppressed races, and ergo, creating both motive and bias in children’s effort in the war.

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Works Cited

Boyd, Neil. “Anti- Asiatic riots led to Canada’s first anti-drug laws in 1908.” Canadian           Speeches, July 2001, p. 26. Academic OneFile ,       http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A79352921/ZONE?u=rpu_main&sid=ZONE xid=5dd3c4e6

Cartoon Drawing, Japanese Gentlemen  Hullee Home Pleez! Canadians Here!!! Canadian    War Museum, 1939-1945. www.warmuseum.ca/collections/artifact/1361339/?q=cartoon drawing&page_num=1&item_num=17&media_irn=3141295.

Cole, Robert. “Anglo-American Anti-Fascist Film Propaganda in a Time of Neutrality: The Great Dictator, 1940.” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 21, no. 2, June 2001, pp.  137–52. https://doi.org/10.1080/014396801200 51488 .

Fleischer, Max, and Willard Bowsky. “Minnie the Moocher.Youtube, Talkertoons, 11 Mar 1932,          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaZOXF83zBg

Hirsch, Paul. “‘This Is Our Enemy’: The Writers 2019; War Board and Representations of Race in Comic Books, 1945.” Pacific Historical Review 83, no. 3, 2014, pp.  448–86.

Malleck, Dan. When Good Drugs Go Bad: Opium, Medicine, and the Origins of Canada’s Drug Laws. Vancouver, CANADA: UBC Press, 2015. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ryerson/detail.action?docID=3440661

Legault, E.T. (w) and M. Karn (a). “Dixon of the Mountain.” Active Comics , no. 8, March 1942, pp. 1-9. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

Legault, E.T. (w) and M. Karn (a). “The Misadventures of Mild Will.” Active Comics , no. 8, March, 1942, pp. 1-9. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

Montgomery, Michelle, Brenda Manuelito, Carrie Nass, Tami Chock, and Dedra Buchwald. “The Native Comic Book Project: Native Youth Making Comics and Health Decisions.” Journal of Cancer Education 27,  2012, pp. 41–46. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13187-012-0311-x .

Pedersen, Willy, and Torbjà ̧rn Skardhamar. “Cannabis and Crime: Findings from a LongitudinalStudy: Cannabis and Crime.” Addiction 105, 2010 pp. 109–18.https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2009.02719.x .

Writer, Linton Burkett Post Staff. “Marihuana Dangerous, Agents Say: Drug Loses Urge                 Leading to Crime; Results Worse Than Opium Derivatives.” The Washington Post (1923-1954); Washington, D.C. July 13, 1943.

 

 

 

 

Commando Comic No.13: Representation of Women and Japanese as supporting characters.

@ Copyright 2017 Puebla Ponciano, Alicia, Ryerson University

Introduction

In this exhibit I will examine the representation of women and Japanese figures separately through several of the stories in the entire thirteenth issue of Commando Comics (1942). The last story in the issue, “Invisible Commando,” has the only woman to take action and fight throughout the comic but was still only as an helper to the men. I will compare the representation of women through the story to the way women were treated within society at the same time to see what societal stereotypes there were for women and why they were used in the comic and what they were used to do.  I also relate this to the racist representation of the Japanese in the first story of the issue “Clift Steele” and compare the minorities in the comics to the way they were perceived in society. Studying these two portrayals of women and Japanese figures in reality in the 1940’s, will give insight to why the comics depicted them in ways that made them secondary to a white male hero. While going through the comic and studying the way these two figures are represented it rises the question of why the illustrators depict these groups in ways that suppress them. By targeting the white male demographic authors were able to market to the patriarchical ideology of society and capitalize on fear and machoism to encourage the white male to join the war and buy comics. They used women as tools that could support them and make it possible to leave the home front and manipulated the fear of the Japanese to create a hatred and encourage them to fight in the front lines. 

How women were depicted.

In the storyline for  “Invisible Commando” there is an interesting portrayal of women as the

L, Bachle. from “The Invisible Commando ”Commando Comics, No. 13, 1944, p. 45. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada

only woman featured within the story was a woman who helped the Invisible Commando as she was able to throw a knife across a yard and hit the evil Japanese scientist. This is the only storyline to have a female actually make any productive actions or given any sort of power. By studying this storyline I have noticed that the women representation was powerful and great since she stopped the man trying to take the knowledge of what makes the invisible man invisible but overall she did not save the story, she did not save the day but rather was a helper for the Invisible Commando being able to save the day. She did not save the story but rather enabled the hero so he could save the day which shows the ideology about women being inferior that the illustrator is trying to represent. The portrayal of women in the comic showed that women mattered but not as much as men did.

 

Women on the home front.

By doing some more research I found that women on the home front where being used in a similar manner to the woman in the Invisible Commando story. Many women during the second world war were asked to leave their duties as a house wife and rather work on the home front making ammunition or taking the jobs that they could that would allow the men to leave their stations and join the fighting front in Europe. Once the war was close to an ending the government began to have a problem as women did better than expected on the field (Globe and Mail 1942) and many of them did not want to go back to work, as 91% of women were open to find employment after the war  (Stephen, 129). They were given the opportunity for more freedom and independence in the work field and many women did not want to give it up. This is relevant because the government had planned to put men back to work once they returned from the war. This shows the value of women in the eyes of the government and how they were expected to be accessories that could be used while the men where out in the field and placed back home once the war finished.

Hubert Rogers. Attack on All Fronts.1943.Canadian War Museum Archive. Public Domain

By analyzing propaganda distributed at the time audiences can see how women were portrayed as important enough to be valued but not as important as the male. Men were the protectors and women needed protecting but while they were away women were left to do the work on the home front in a time where there was no other option. This poster that encourages women to join the fight on the home front while visually suppressing them to the bottom of the ranks. This portrays the ideology that society had about women at the time and proves that they were looked at as secondary to men despite their efforts to contribute to the war.

Overall by analyzing the social stance of women at the time of the publication of the comic I have noticed that the characters are representations of the reality of women at the time. The creators where trying to replicate the way women were expected to be in a white mans ideology. At the time the government was not done trying to recruit for the war. This acts as a subtle hint to the white man demographic that was needed to convince the men that the women would be there to support them while they were needed to stop the real enemy, similar to the comic where the female was strong enough to help out but only as a supporting role.

The depiction of Japanese characters in the comic.

By studying the first story of the issue called “Clift Steele”, where the Japanese enemies

J, Darian. from “Clift Steele ”Commando Comics, No. 13, 1944, p. 5. two panels. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada

were characterized in a racist manner and the “heroes” of the story used derogatory terms towards them. I noticed that although it made sense to create a negative connotation around the enemy the creators instead used the physical attributes of the Japanese to degrade which acts as an insult to not only the Japanese axis that the allies were actually fighting but to the Japanese -Canadians who where not involved in the war at all. In the comic the “heroes”  regard the Japanese as the “Yellow Boys” and “Nips” and this creates a physical mockery of the characters. I believe these were used in order to create a hatred of Japanese people in the mind of the readers . The illustrators also depict the Japanese characters in a manner that is negative as they have more curved spines and walk with a hunch that makes them look smaller and like less than the heroes to creates an image of an enemy.

 

Japanese-Canadians on the home front.

Upon more research into the reality of the Japanese Canadians there has been records of Japanese Canadians being forced to live in internment camps so they could not pose a threat to Canadians within Canada. Many and most of these people were Canadian citizens and many had never even been to Japan (McAllister, 137). The conditions in the internment camps were terrible and they were treated as less than human(McAllister, 143) as they were expected to leave behind their whole life because they were a threat based on their physical attributes. The government claimed that it was an act to keep the people safe but there is a possibility that it was because they wanted to maintain the idea of us versus them in order to encourage the radicalness that would get more people to join the war, if Japanese Canadians were joining the war the white male dominated community would act out of fear and hatred because of who they are supposed to be fighting and end up hurting or killing their own neighbours. At the time the white male liked fighting in one unit that all looked the same because they believed that they could trust each other so in order to keep this unity the government segregated the Japanese Canadians and claimed it was for protection.

Overall the Japanese -Canadians were depicted in a manner that created a negative connotation around their physical attributes which created a fear and hatred towards all being who shared those attributes. In order to create unity within the nation the government pushed out all those who could be seen as the enemy into internment camps to protect their “own” and make them believe they needed to be the heroes like in the storyline and fight off the “evil” Japanese. 

 

The ideology of the white male dominated society during the second world war

At the time of the second world war the world was not as open as it is today in 2018, society saw things in a much more slanted view and had a supreme ideology about the white man as they were the only ones with full rights. Women had barely just earned the right to vote and Japanese Canadians were being locked away. The ideology at the time was that the white men held all the possibility in the world and controlled all the decisions. They decided if there would be a war, who would be in that war and how they could help and luckily in the second world war the boundaries opened up a bit in regards to gender and race but the white man still held the most power in the world. This relates to the comic as during the war the targeted audience was the white male and in order to reach that demographic they follow their ideologies, like the degrading of the Japanese and the use of women in order to hit their market. If they can hit their market then they can make more money and encourage more of the white men to join the war as they were who was wanted to fight the axis .

How the comics creators used methods to pull on the ideology of the targeted demographic

By playing on the white males ideologies they were able to use their own techniques in order to appeal to the market and get them to read more. They capitalized on their fear of the Japanese to create an enemy that they could defeat in the comic and make them feel more secure. They also capitalized on their dependability on women to ensure the men that they could leave and the women would take care of the home front until they get back. They drew the Japanese specifically to look weaker then the “heroes” of the story intentionally to add to their egos and make them more confident in themselves and their capabilities . While they also drew the female in the “Invisible Commando” in a demeaning form as she was essentially wearing a bra and a mini skirt on a battle field, they did this to create intrigue with the character and make the market more comfortable with her character as she was beautiful and works well as assisting them with their needs.

 

Works Cited

Bachle, Leo. “The invisible Commando.” Commando Comics, no. 2, March, 1942, pp. 43-48. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

Darian, Jon. “Clift Steele.” Commando Comics, no. 2, March, 1942, pp. 1-7. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

Hallowell, Gerald. “Cartoonist.” The Oxford Companion to Canadian History, Oxford University press, 2004. http://www.oxfordreference.com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/view/10.1093/acref/9780195415599001.0001/acref-9780195415599-e-304? rskey=xrnhlt&result=2

Hallowell, Gerald. “Wartime Internment.” The Oxford Companion to Canadian History, Oxford University press, 2004. http://www.oxfordreference.com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/view/10.1093/acref/978019541559.001.0001/acref-9780195415599-e-1636? rskey=QOBJag&result=1

“Huge Increase in Gun Output Here, Women Workers’ Skill Amaze M.P.’s.” Globe and Mail, 11 June 1942.

McAllister, Kirsten. “Photographs of a Japanese Canadian Internment Camp: Mourning Loss and Invoking a Future.” Visual Studies, vol. 21, no. 2, 2006, pp. 133–56.

Rogers, Hubert. Attack on All Fronts. 1943, https://www.warmuseum.ca/collections/arti fact/1019736/q=&page_num=1&item_num=0&media_irn=5399483&mode=artifact. Canadian War Museum.

Stephen, Jennifer A. “Balancing Equality for the Post-War Woman: Demobilising Canada’s Women Workers After World War Two.” Atlantis, vol. 32, no. 1, 2007, pp. 125–35.


Images in this online exhibition are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.

Japanese Representation in World War II Comics -The Funny Comics With Dizzy Don no.17.

© Copyright 2017 Francesca Jamshidy Student, Ryerson University

Japanese Representation in World War II Comics

Introduction

This digital exhibit intends to analyze the historical conflicts between Canada and Japan During World War II, specifically when it came to the media. The rivalry between Japan and Canada is not discussed often when it comes to World War II, but in this exhibit, I want to shine light on how the unflattering portrayal of Japanese characters in “In the Human Rocket” in the series The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, is connected to the historical context of the conflict between Japan and Canada during World War II. The tension between Canada and Japan is depicted through Easson’s writing style, the way setting is represented in panels surrounding Japanese people and the Japanese characters physical appearance.

Writing Style in World War II Comics

The introduction to the comic is free of tension. There is a quick introduction to all the characters. This is done in order to familiarize new readers with the who is going to be in the story and what their relationship is to one another, from main characters to supporting characters. Unfortunately, after reading through the comic, it is apparent that there is one character which is excluded from the introduction, and that character is Japanese. Not only is this character not introduced, but he is also referred to as “Tokyo Joe” (13), once he is a named, or noted, character. By being referred to as Tokyo Joe, it is made apparent that his character is being “othered” as this distinction separates him from the other generic Canadian characters. In the 1940’s “younger children were preoccupied with many projects” however, “there was a fear that teenagers might be corrupted by the lack of supervision during the war” (Stranger Ross, et at.). By slipping casual racism into remarks that teenagers read, the creators of these comics were exploiting the impressionable minds of teenagers. This implied that it was okay to grow up believing and repeating racist remarks. An example of this is on page 13 when the only Japanese character is referred to as the “Stooges of Japan”, which was another form of calling him stupid. During the Second World War “Canadian policies emerged from the war… [exemplifying] long- standing racism” (Stranger-Ross, et al.), which later reflected upon not only comics but other forms of media as well. Within Easson’s work, it is evident that racism is encouraged. Tokyo Joe is only given the chance to speak once during the entire comic and the one time he speaks he is grammatically incorrect. Rather than saying “It’s not so easy my friend” instead he says “No so easy, my friend” (13), insinuating that Tokyo Joe is the only character with an accent or an inability to speak without grammatical errors. These details used to write the comic are ultimately meant to show the difference between Japan and Canada. What many Canadians didn’t know according to the article “Government Propaganda Machine Is Now in High Gear” (1940), is that during the time period that the comic issue was made there was pressed censorship. People carefully looked through work from articles to books and continued to do that during the war, in order to make sure nothing was written to comfort the enemy. This showed how controlled the media was during this time period. This also included comics, with this information it now makes sense as to why the only Japanese character was portrayed unfairly by Manny Easson. Japan was considered the enemy that the Canadian Government wanted to scare.

Background Settings

When reading a comic, a character’s physical appearance stands out right away, what many do not realize is that the background and setting of an image can subconsciously manipulate and infer/alter things into a certain perspective. When looking at “In the Human Rocket”, and analyzing the background setting within images, there is an automatic and clear switch between the backgrounds of characters depending on where they are from. Since this essay is examining the relationship between Japan and Canada, the first thing that was automatically analyzed was the background setting behind the only character that was not Canadian. When looking at the background setting of the only character not from Canada within the comic it is quite evident that his ethnicity is overly expressed through his surrounding in order to alienate him from every other character in the comic. Looking at the picture on the

Fig.1. Manny, Easson. Panel from “In the Human Rocket.” The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, No. 17, April 1945, Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada, p.13. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/ e011166608.pdf

left (Figure 1) taken from Manny Easson comic “In the Human Rocket” in the series The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don (13), right away one can see that “Tokyo Joe” has a picture of a sun symbolizing the Japanese flag and a dragon on his table cloth, both details placed in the background automatically let readers know that he is from Japan and not like the other character. On the same page in the 4th panel Easson zooms into Tokyo Joe with only the sun beams from the image behind him
showing, nothing more, as if to infer the only attribute and supporting information to him is his ethnicity, leaving readers with only two things, he is the villain in this comic and he is Japanese. What aids this theory that background, and settings are purposely placed and drawn in images in order to support the negative portrayal and alienation of Japanese people in this time period, is that it is an on-going trend, the portrayal in this comic is not an isolated incident, it happened throughout many forms of media. Below on the left there is a propaganda poster found on “Canadian Propaganda Posters” Mystery in History, published online in 2014 this website had posters from Canada during the second World War. Automatically when comparing the comic to this poster (Figure 2)

Fig.2. “This Is the Enemy”, “Canadian Propaganda Posters.” Mystery in History, June 2014, collected at https://mysteryinhistory.wordpress.com/2
014/06/10/canadian-propaganda-posters/
Fig.3. Manny, Easson. Panel from “In the Human Rocket.” The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, No. 17, April 1945, Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada, p.35. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e44
7/e011166608.pdf

it is glaring to note that they were created by different artists yet they both have the same things in common, the sun rays signifying that this person is of Japanese descent and a negative portrayal of the character/person of Japanese descent. This was clearly not a coincidence but rather a tool to ensure Canadians feared Japanese people. This fear turned into a hatred because during the Second World War since Japanese people were considered the enemy “22,000 Japanese Canadians were uprooted from their homes, separated from their families, and sent away to camps” (Government Apologizes, 1988). Sadly, these people were being punished for simply being of Japanese descent although they were Canadian citizens, and many were even born and raised in Canada that was still not enough. When comparing this to Manny Easson’s illustrations, attention can quickly be brought to the only other image drawn of Tokyo Joe (Figure 3). In this image Tokyo Joe is behind bars (35). He could have been placed in any setting, perhaps at the police station or an interrogation room but instead he is last seen in jail. His imprisonment is a direct correlation to Japanese Canadians being sent to camps because that was a form of their own torture and jail. This is relevant because the jail setting showed a negative portrayal of the only Japanese character within the comic. By having the last image of Tokyo Joe being behind bars it is also arguably a comforting image as he is seen as less of a threat, providing a sense of closure to the previously established impressionable minds, since the enemy is depicted to be “contained”. This ultimately proves through background and setting, Japanese people were being targeted in many forms of media, this comic included, due to the tension between Canada and Japan during World War II.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Physical Characteristics

Unfortunately, things did not simply end with settings and backgrounds but rather got worse when it came to physical characteristics of Japanese people. When looking at “In the Human Rocket” the physical appearance of Tokyo Joe in comparison to everyone else is significantly different, not just in terms of historically accurate physical differences. According to the “Canadian Propaganda Posters,” Mystery in History (2014), stereo-types were exaggerated in the propaganda posters and in the media when it came to Japanese people.

Fig.4. “Tokio Kid”, “Canadian Propaganda Posters.” Mystery in History, June 2014, collected at https://mysteryinhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/
10/canadian-propaganda-posters/

This exaggeration can be seen from teeth to eyes, even their ears were made fun of. In the poster above (Figure 4) published by “Canadian Propaganda Posters” (2014), the man shown is by far the most terrifying thing at first sight. When analyzing he does not look anything like a human but instead he is portrayed as an animal. He has sharp pointy fangs, small eyes that need glasses, extremely pointy ears and claws. In addition, once again this poster shows the man has a hat with sun ray beams in order to let everyone who sees this poster know that the terrifying man within this image is Japanese. When analyzing the Tokyo Joe in the comic, differences were noted in comparison to other characters. Examples of this are that out of the two villains in the comic Tokyo Joe is dressed in all black signifying darkness just like all the other portrayals of Japanese people. His mouth if looked at closely can be seen in an upside-down position rather than smiling. If given the chance to smile it could have shown a different outlook on him because people tend to be more appealing and inviting when they smile. But due to his constant frowning Easson was solely able to create a negative atmosphere for his character. Just like the poster he isn’t given a specific age but with the over exaggerated wrinkles one could assume he is prehistoric, lastly, he is the only character in the entire comic given glasses, supporting the stereotype of an inability to see. These physical characteristics are not only disgusting and incorrect, they are also a deliberate way to show that the portrayal of the Japanese culture and beauty is not celebrated but rather mocked.

Conclusion the “So What”

In conclusion, this exhibit intended to analyze how the unflattering portrayal of Japanese characters in “In the Human Rocket” in the series The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, was due to the tension between Canada and Japan during World War II. The war and the comic connected to one another because they were created during the same time period. It was also intended to analyze how the tension was deep rooted and how due to the negative portrayal of Japanese people, Canada’s fear had quickly turned into prejudice and anger, leading to the horrible events that occurred and affected many Japanese-Canadians. This was shown by many artists in many forms of media during the 1940’s, including Manny Easson’s work. Through his writing style, the way he drew the settings around those of Japanese descent and the overall illustration of Japanese characters, with specific detailing to their physical appearances, his work as well as many others proved my theory that the comic was used in combinations with other media platforms intending to encourage a prejudice against people of Japanese descent. It is also quite evident after analyzing different media forms that Japanese people were villainized whether through animalistic representations to being made the enemy which needed to be put behind bars to ensure a feeling of safety during the hard times when Canada was at war.

 


 Works Cited

“Canadian Propaganda Posters.” Mystery In History, June 2014, mysteryinhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/canadian-propaganda-posters/.

Cook, Tim. “Canadian Children and The Second World War.” Historica Canada, December 2016, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/canadian-children-and-wwii/.

Easson, M. “In the Human Rocket.” The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, no. 17, April, 1945, pp.1-35. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

“Governments Propaganda Machine Is Now in High Gear.” The Toronto Telegram, Canadian War Museum, July 1940, http://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/newspapers/information_e.shtml

Stranger-Ross, Jordan., & Landscapes of Injustice Research Collective. “Suspect Properties: The Vancouver Origins of the Forced Sale of Japanese-Canadian-owned Property, WWII.” Journal of Planning History, vol. 15, no. 4, February 2016, pp. 271-89. https://doi- org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1177%2F1538513215627837

“Tokio Kid”, “Canadian Propaganda Posters.” Mystery In History, June 2014,  mysteryinhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/canadian-propaganda-posters/.

“This Is the Enemy”, “Canadian Propaganda Posters.” Mystery In History, June 2014, mysteryinhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/canadian-propaganda-posters/.

“1988: Government Apologizes to Japanese Canadians – CBC Archives.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, March 2017, www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/1988-government-apologizes-to- japanese-canadians.

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.

Japanese Representation as a Reflection of Canadian Culture in Dime Comics No.18

©Copyright 2017, Graham Payne, Ryerson University

Introduction:

The art, stories, and media that a culture produces are integral parts of understanding that culture. “Canadian Whites” is a blanket term referring to a comic book movement which started in response to the Wartime Exchange Conservation Act which was enacted when Canada joined the Allies against the Axis powers during the Second World War. The Wartime Measures Act restricted the flow of non-essential goods across the border between Canada and the United States of America. This created a dearth of many leisure products, including comic books. The Whites were completely Canadian productions, as they were comics created by Canadians for Canadians. Reading through the Canadian Whites makes it obvious that they are products of their time, and heavily influenced by the war. But as you continue to read through the stories, troubling patterns emerge, patterns which echo one of the darker and often repressed parts of Canadian history, the treatment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. Examining the creative media of a culture can provide us with a reflection of its values, beliefs, and morality. Dime Comics No.18 (December 1944) provides a useful lens to examine and understand this aspect of Canadian history. The stories within this comic provide an unfettered look at the widely held and socially accepted bigotry of the time, which targeted people of Japanese descent.

Bigotry as normality:

When examining the Canadian Whites, it’s important to understand the cultural context in which they were made. Even before the Second World War broke out, there had been long standing resentment against people of Asian descent in Canada. According to Ann Gomer Sunahara in her book “The Politics of Racism: The Uprooting of Japanese Canadians During the Second World War”, people of Asian descent were considered inferior to people of European descent. Sunahara describes this as a “passive, unconscious racism” (3). Passive, not in the sense that it wasn’t harmful, but rather that it was the prevailing ideology of the time and it promoted negative stereotypes of those of Asian descent within Canada. Citizens of European descent would not have considered themselves as racist, as they were adhering to the social conditioning which led them to believe in inherent differences between themselves and their Asian counterparts. European Canadians had been born and raised in a culture that perpetuated this narrative, which was of their supposed superiority over those of different ethnicities. These beliefs can be seen in exemplified in several stories within Dime Comics No.18.

H. Brunt. Panel from “Lank the Yank” Dime Comics, No. 18, December 1944, Bell Features, p. 43. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

One of the stories within Dime Comics No.18 is an episode in the continuing series “Lank The Yank”, a comic series created by Harry Brunt. In this episode, the titular Lank encounters a group of Japanese soldiers. When Lank retreats into a nearby body of water, the Japanese soldiers pursue him and foolishly end up drowning like lemmings. The comic portrays the Japanese as being too stupid to not walk into danger. It also portrays them as not having the ability to swim. Finally, they are mocked for being short as they drown in water which Lank strides through easily (pg 9). Lank in contrast, is smart enough to lure them to their doom. The message from this comic is that the Europeans are biologically and mentally superior. This comic makes the Japanese objects of ridicule and makes the death of three human beings an ethnic joke. “Lank the Yank” summarizes the culturally systemic prejudice of Canada in the 1930’s-40’s.  

A. Dingle. Panel from “Rex Baxter and Xalanta’s Secret” Dime Comics, No. 18, December 1944, Bell Features, p. 43. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

In the essay “Henri Tajfel’s ‘Cognitive Aspects of Prejudice’ and Psychology of Bigotry” Michael Billig examines the work of past articles regarding the social psychology of prejudice. According to Billig, as humans we have an innate need to organize and categorize both physical and social information about the world that we inhabit. Humans, he suggests, create cognitive shortcuts which allow our minds to make sense of the vast swaths of information around us. These cognitive shortcuts help us to make sense of this information. However, these categorizations can distort our understanding of reality, especially when this leads to defining people as members of a larger social group, rather than as a collection of individuals. Individual human beings of any culture are infinitely more complex and varied than any characterization of race or ethnicity could allow. Broad characterization, suggests Billig, leads to exaggeration and the presumption of stereotypes. In this way, prejudice can be defined as as a “cognitive interpretation of the social world” (178), a false understanding of people based on misinformation gained from one culture about another. An example of such exaggeration can be seen in the first story of Dime Comics No.18, “Rex Baxter and Xalantana’s Secret”. In this episode of the comic series “Rex Baxter”, the main antagonist, a Japanese general, is little more than a racist caricature with exaggerated physical and behavioral features, depicting Japanese people as physically ugly and violently sadistic. The general has huge buck teeth, while all other Japanese have eyes so slanted they appear to be closed. They speak in broken, grammatically incorrect English, and talk of taking women as prizes of war, which is clearly meant to imply some inherent savagery. In the study “Teaching About Racism: Pernicious Implications of the Standard Portrayal” by Glenn Adams, Vanessa Edkins, Dominika Lacka, Kate M. Pickett and Sapna Cheryan, racism is understood less as a personal problem and more of a cultural one. It’s easy to understand racism as the problem of individual minds, but that does little to address the root issues. While there are certainly individuals who hold racist ideals, the true danger in racism lies in ingrained socio-cultural bigotry, or as they call it “the essence of racism” (350).

A. Dingle. Panel from “Rex Baxter and Xalanta’s Secret” Dime Comics, No. 18, December 1944, Bell Features, p. 43. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Racism over time becomes embedded in collective rhetoric, which is then in turn used to justify itself. The representations of the Japanese soldiers matters, as these caricatures add to the rhetoric of the time. One particularly poignant line in “Rex Baxter” is delivered by Rex Baxter after his companion Gail expresses trauma after taking the life of a Japanese soldier. Rex responds by saying “No Dear, not a man, a rat!” effectively reducing those of Japanese descent to vermin, to be killed indiscriminately (5). This bigotry and devaluing of the lives of people of Japanese descent became common within Canadian culture, and was present at the highest levels of the Canadian government at the time. Sunahara references the now infamous quote from Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King personal diaries, “It is fortunate … that the use of the bomb should be used on the Japanese rather than upon the white races of Europe” (15). The Prime Minister is of course referring to the atomic bombs launched by the Americans on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, clearly valuing the lives of European civilians over those of Japanese heritage.

What was happening on the home front:

When discussing the Canadian Whites and their representation of people of Japanese descent, it’s important to remember for whom they were made. The Whites weren’t created for those soldiers actually fighting against Japan and the other Axis Powers during the Second World War, but rather for those on the home front. Canada in the 1930’s to 40’s was an increasingly paranoid country. As the war dragged on, the public became more and more irrationally concerned that those of Japanese descent were waiting for an opportunity to harm Canada. As Ann Gomer Sunahara reports, particularly in British Columbia, the general consensus was suspicion and a lack of trust for those of Japanese racial origin, and a mistaken belief that their continued presence in Canadian society was a threat to public safety. Sunahara notes that astoundingly, both the Canadian Military and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were firmly of the opinion that those of Japanese descent within Canada were not any kind of liability, “at no point were Japanese Canadians ever a threat to Canadian society” (3). One of the most colourful ways of understanding the phenomenon comes from essay “The Canadian Japanese and World War Two” by Forrest E La Violette, which describes popular public opinion as a crescendo of demands to remove the Japanese from Canadian society.

L. Bachle. Panel from “Johnny Canuck.” Dime Comics, No. 18, December 1944, Bell Features, p. 43. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

The Canadian public, in their fear, stopped seeing those of Japanese heritage as individual human beings, but rather as a part of some great amorphous “other” with which their country was currently at war. The depictions of Japanese people in the Canadian Whites were symptomatic of the culture they were produced in. In the episode “Johnny Canuck” in Dime Comics No.18, by Leo Bachle, the titular Canadian spy Johnny Canuck is deceived and betrayed by a Japanese man masquerading as a Chinese official. Even before the betrayal, Johnny Canuck says that the spy looks “like a jappy”, implying some inherent untrustworthiness based on his appearance (43). According to Audrey Kobayashi in her paper “The Japanese-Canadian Redress Settlement and its Implications for “Race Relations”, she suggests that there had always been discrimination by European Canadians against those of Asian descent. However as the war kept going, and the Japanese were more and more vilified, the war became a perfect excuse for more bigoted voices within Canada to call for the ejection of the Japanese Canadian population. The so called “Jap problem” (38) was based in little more than hateful rumors and speculation that those of Japanese ancestry were waiting for a signal to betray and attack Canada from within. This, of course, resulted in one of the darker chapters in Canadian history, the forced internment of Japanese Canadians by the Canadian government. “Between 8 December 1941 and 31 March 1949, Japanese Canadians were uprooted from their homes, deprived of property, possessions, dignity and civil rights, including the rights to work freely, to vote, and in the case of those who were subsequently ‘deported’ to Japan, to their status as Canadians” (Kobayashi 2). According to Sunahara, in February of 1942, just one month after the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor, the Federal Cabinet of Canada ordered the expulsion of Japanese Canadians living from within 160 kilometers of the Pacific coast. It just so happened to be where the majority of Japanese Canadians lived and 22,000 Japanese people were displaced. The Japanese population of Canada was scattered across the country, spread across internment camps and long abandoned ghost towns, robbed of both their physical possessions and their dignity in retribution for the actions of a country they had few ties to. These motifs of dehumanization and vilification can seen throughout Dime Comics No18, which reflect the attitude toward of Japanese Canadians, which resulted in the mass displacement, internment, and violation of their basic human rights. By vilifying the Japanese to a cartoonish degree, the Canadians of the 1940’s justified these unjust actions.  

To conclude:

The Canadian Whites, especially the stories within Dime Comics No18, are reflective of Canadian culture at large. The depictions within the Whites of the Japanese people as vile subhuman, unintelligent savages, whom characters kill with the same guilt as one has for killing a rodent, shows us the exact attitude which existed within Canadian culture at the time. Bearing in mind that the majority of those who read the Whites were civilians who were locked in a state of paranoia about a war half a world away, it’s no surprise that their prejudice would turn on landed Japanese immigrants and second generation Japanese Canadians. The Whites reflect this theme of hate, bigotry, and dehumanization, which permeated Canadian culture and lead to one of the most shameful episodes in Canadian history.

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.


Work Cited & Bibliography:

Kobayashi, Audrey. “The Japanese-Canadian Redress Settlement and its Implications for “Race Relations”.” Canadian Ethnic Studies = Etudes Ethniques au Canada, vol. 24, no. 1, 1992, pp. 1-19. Periodicals Archive Online, http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1293139767?accountid=13631.

Billig, Michael. “Henri Tajfel’s ‘Cognitive Aspects of Prejudice’ and Psychology of Bigotry.” The British Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 41, 2002, pp. 171-88, Nursing & Allied Health Database; ProQuest Sociology Collection; Science Database, http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/219174061?accountid=13631.

Davis, Laura K. “Joy Kogawa’s Obasan: Canadian multiculturalism and Japanese-Canadian internment”. British Journal of Canadian Studies, Vol 25, Issue 1, May 2012, pp 57-76. Ryerson University Library and Archives,http://online.liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/doi/pdf/10.3828/bjcs.2012.04

Sunahara, Ann Gomer. The Politics of Racism: The Uprooting of Japanese Canadians During the Second World War. Toronto, Ontario, James Lorimer & Company 1981.

La Violette, Forrest E. The Canadian Japanese and World War II: A Sociological and Psychological Account. Toronto, Ont, University of Toronto Press, 1948.

“World War Two & Interment.” Www.sedai.ca, SEDAI: The Japanese Canadian Legacy Project, www.sedai.ca/for-students/history-of-japanese-canadians/world-war-ii-internment/. Accessed 28 Mar. 2017.

Dingle, Adrian (w, a). “Rex Baxter and Xalanta’s Secret.” Dime Comics, no.18, December, 1944, pp. 2-7. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

Brunt, Harry (w, a). “Lank the Yank.” Dime Comics, no.18, December, 1944, pp. 8-9. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

Bachle, Leo (w, a). “Johnny Canuck.” Dime Comics, no. 18, December, 1944, pp. 41-47. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

 

Social Redemption and Elevation during World War II in WOW Comics Issue #4.

© 2017 Hallett-Hale, Thomas,  Ryerson University

 

Introduction

The Second World War was an event that sparked tremendous social upheaval in the western world, and entire societies were bent on achieving military victory. Such a focus on military service came to elevate it to the top of the social ladder. Soldiers in the service were praised for their bravery, sacrifice, and loyalty; being a part of the military effort during World War Two represented serious social elevation for all, making heroes of ordinary citizens. The status military service offered freely, regardless of ethnicity, represented for minorities and marginalized groups social redemption. Social Redemption here means an elevation of social status for groups who endured repression and discrimination in peacetime society. Media such as Issue #4 of WOW Comics offer a fascinating window into how wide audiences were fed this idea of wartime heroism. The characters of Lorraine and Elaine in WOW Issue #4, as well as women on the wartime homefront, are all excellent examples of how combat heroism and redemption was extended to a priorly marginalized group.

 

Figure 1. E.T. Legault. Panel from “Whiz Wallace.” WOW Comics, No. 4, January 1942, p. 42. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

 

Heroic Redemption for Female Characters

The largest marginalized group who found opportunity and redemption in the Second World War were Canadian women. Opportunities for work at factories, in the Royal Air Force, and in the Army brought women into the limelight. In contrast, the female lead of “Whiz Wallace” is treated with a spectacular lack of respect, and thus tackles social redemption more directly. Her name is Elaine, and in Issue #4 she becomes deeply distressed that other women are fawning over her dearest- the protagonist Whiz. She becomes overcome with despair in her rooms, despair that’s narrated with stark disrespect.“Lying across her bed, Elaine Kenyon, like a foolish child crying for no reason at all, sobs her heart out” (Legault, 36). These words make clear the esteem that the reader is intended to hold Elaine in. On the counter side, our protagonist is portrayed as an earnest hero being snubbed; “Wearied of trying to get an audience with his sweetheart, Whiz goes back to the gathering honouring him, to apologize for Elaine’s action”(Legault, 36). Later, as a seeming punishment for her behaviour, Elaine’s request to join in a combat expedition is rebuffed – and she is left behind. This immense collection of “flaws” that the writer amasses against her only serves to highlight her redemption, as she stows away and fights with the men. Elaine manages to save the life of her companion, despite her perceived weakness. After taking the initiative, Whiz goes from demeaning her to; “Good girl Elaine, I don’t know how you happened to be here, but you’re mighty welcome!” (Legault, 43). This stands as the perfect example of redemption through military action, even from a group so marginalized as to be scorned and left behind for petty misbehaviours. Elaine therefore serves as a figure who, by taking action to aid the military cause of her friends, becomes a heroic figure in her own right; one whose prior misdeeds are erased by bravery.

 

A New Kind of Wartime Character

A reflection of women’s new status is found in my WOW issue, in the character of Loraine. She inhabits the story of “Dart Daring,” as the love interest to the titular protagonist. My issue opens to her brave rescue of Dart from a tribe of angry natives, in which she scales a sheer cliff by herself, sneaks by a hostile camp, and unties our indisposed hero. This is a far greater display of agency than other female characters throughout wartime comics; who often find themselves the victim of unfortunate circumstances rather than the solution. The writer does, however, portray her exploits in language far less heroic than applied to Dart. “Her heart misses a beat,” “Loraine, fear gripping her heart…” (Legault, 5). Her fear is emphasized, and she does not exhibit the cool courage of her male counterpart. And yet, the fact remains that Loraine indisputably clambers up a towering cliff, and braves a camp full of enemies to untie her friend. These feats far exceed being tied to various objects to be used as bait- a fate that inordinately befalls other female characters in many wartime comics. In a time where love interests were often portrayed as kidnapped, threatened, or helpless to create tension, Lorraine’s agency is a heroic new tone. That a heroine could perform heroic deeds in a similar league as a male character is a new brand of story, a portrayal of new, redeemed women, capable of playing stronger roles in w society.

 

Homefront Heroines

Beyond the world of comic books, the concept of women engaged in the war effort blossomed into the idea of wartime Heroines. These women stepped up to aid the war effort, and were acclaimed for doing so. The acclaim was built into the image of women as selfless, patriotic individuals who stepped up to aid their country in its time of need. The wartime service changed the concepts of men and women’s work; instead lauding women for accepting jobs that they could only dream of a decade before. “The war effort and patriotism are presented as the artimcentral motivators for women’s work and the progressive national narrative is strongly endorsed” (Wakewich & Smith, 59), meaning that women’s jobs had become emblematic of patriotic service. The social redemption lay in this recasting of working women as noble heroines aiding their country, simply because the jobs they took were supporting the military effort. This massive shift in thought was so powerful that, even after the war, official wartime record favours the stories of exceptional heroines rather than the everyday exploits of ordinary wartime women (Wakewich & Smith, 59). Thus, the wartime saw women rising from the marginalized social dynamic of women in the 1930s, to be given both greater access to jobs and greater social standing. This social redemption was the prime example of the power the war effort had to elevate and even glamourize marginalized groups.

Figure 2, 1947 painting.”Parachute Riggers,” Paraskeva Clark. Canadian War Museum, http://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/artwar/artworks/19710261-5679_parachute-riggers_e.shtml

 

The Unredeemed First Nations in Issue #4

However, the forth issue of WOW comics is not entirely generous with this idea of redemption. While women benefit from redemption in combat, the same cannot be said for the Native Americans depicted in the story of “Dart Daring.” These faceless foes are heaped with cultural stereotypes, but with none of the redemption experienced by Elaine. They are termed both as “Howling Redskins,” (20) and “A pack of blood thirsty savages,” (19). Both of these terms are meant to demean and demonize the Natives- a common practice for wartime comics that wished to display their enemies as inferior. Despite Natives being Canadian minority, the writer pulled no punches, as seen when Lorraine is told; “If your friend is wise, he will easily outsmart those varmints! They’ve been drinkin’ the fire-water given to them by some unknown renegade, and they’re on the rampage!” (17). What makes this stereotyping relevant is that Native Canadians, like women, were a minority whom where actively engaged in the war effort on the Allied side. In theory, the principle of redemption that applied to women should have aided them, however this was not the case. Native Americans were welcomed into the Armed Forces, distinguishing themselves there; “[Charles Byce] won the Military Medal in the Netherlands and the Distinguished Conduct Medal in the Rhineland Campaign. His citation for the latter was impressive: “His gallant stand, without adequate weapons and with a bare handful of men against hopeless odds will remain, for all time, an outstanding example to all ranks of the Regiment”(“Indigenous People”). Native American men were accepted and honoured for their service, same as any others. Furthermore, many in the Native community found social “redemption” of their own, a chance to be validated as true Canadians the same as anyone else; “We’re proud of the word volunteer. Nobody forced us. We were good Canadians—patriots—we fought for our country.” – Syd Moore” (“Indigenous People”). Thus, the failure of Issue #4 to portray the heroism that the Natives earned overseas appears to be the inherent preference of Comic writers to stereotype and simplify their villains for children to grasp easily. When contrasted to the respect that real First Nations individuals won through wartime service, the cruel portrayal in Issue #4 does not refute the theory of social redemption.

Japanese Canadians in the Military

A strong example of this idea of redemption through military service lies outside my comic, in the stories of the Japanese Canadians during World War Two. Japanese Canadians, unlike the prior two marginalized groups, belonged to a minority whose former country was actively opposed to Canada and the Allied cause. This caused deep suspicion to fall on an already maligned group. The majority of Japanese Canadians lived on the coast of British Columbia, where they were viewed with deep suspicion and distrust by English Canadians. Eventually, through a mixture of distrust, racism, and a desire to eliminate fishing competition, the Japanese Canadians were relocated all over the country, a great many ending up in internment camps (Sugiman). This kind of widespread social distrust perpetuated appalling conditions that this group were forced to suffer, their homes, possessions, and lives stripped from them. The awful conditions makes the “social redemption” that many young Japanese-Canadian men experienced by joining the Armed Services even more marked, perhaps more so than that attained by Natives and women. These men did not hesitate to join the Forces, since “For [Japanese Canadian] men, a symbolic demonstration of both loyalty to the nation and confirmation of manhood was enlistment in the armed forces” (Sugiman, 195). This show of loyalty was rewarded largely by an escape from internment camps, and a form of social approval. A young Japanese Canadian at the time, by the name of Akio, detailed in an interview the results of joining the Forces; “In almost every reference to his decision to join the army, Akio introduced two related themes: his father’s support of this decision, and his belonging in Canada as opposed to Japan” (Sugiman, 196). It seemed that joining the forces switched the social standing of Japanese Canadians from that of possible enemy agents to loyal, patriotic Canadians. This change is a drastic example of how the redemption process not only exists, but how powerful it was during the war time years. Akio goes on to detail how his military status served as a protection against the racism and discrimination of every day life; “In almost every memory story, Akio juxtaposed the harshness of such discriminatory acts with the loyalty and support of Hakujin [White Canadian] men in the army. Akio believes that his military status in some ways shielded him from the impact of the racism that Japanese Canadians encountered in daily life” (Sugiman, 207). Even the depths of suspicion that an entire ethnic group had fallen to could be redeemed by service in the military, and all that it represented- the patriotism and dedication to one’s country that endowed a social standing all of it’s own, above the stereotypes and judgements of ordinary society.

Conclusion

To conclude, the characters within my issue- Loraine and Elaine- provide an abstract portrait of how the wider society of World War II was taught that military and combat engagement meant social elevation, and in some cases, redemption. The Native Americans, portrayal adds more nuance to the idea, contesting the reality of this social redemption with what the widespread, propaganda-like media spread. What the oral and archival evidence shows is that the social elevation of military service was profound to many minorities and marginalized groups, despite the castigation the Natives receive in my issue. In the end, the drive to win World War II was great enough to defy even the cast iron social standards of pre-wartime society.

 

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Works Cited

Brcak, N. and Pavia, J. R. (1994), “Racism in Japanese and U.S. Wartime Propaganda.” Historian, 56. 671–684. Retrieved from doi:10.1111/j.1540-6563.1994.tb00926.x

Walker W. St. G. James. “Race and Recruitment in World War I: Enlistment of Visible Minorities In the Canadian Expeditionary Force.” Canadian Historical Review 1989 vol. 70, 1-26. Retrieved from http://www.utpjournals.press/doi/pdf/10.3138/CHR-070-01-01

Wakewich, Pamela, and Helen Smith. “The Politics of ‘Selective’ Memory: Re-Visioning Canadian Women’s Wartime Work in the Public Record.” Oral History, vol. 34(2), 2006, pp. 56-68. Retrieved from www.jstor.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/stable/pdf/40179897.pdf

Sugiman, Pamela. ‘“Life Is Sweet”: Vulnerability and Composure in the Wartime Narratives of Japanese Canadians’. Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’études canadiennes 43(1) (2009): 186–218. Print. Retrieved from https://muse.jhu.edu/article/367058

Dittmer, Jason, and Soren Larsen. “Aboriginality and the Arctic North in Canadian Nationalist Superhero Comics, 1940-2004.” Historical Geography, vol. 38(1), 2010, pp. 52-69. Retrieved from ejournals.unm.edu/index.php/historicalgeography/article/view/2864/2342

Legault , E T. “WOW Comics.” WOW Comics [Toronto, ON], vol. 1, Commercial Signs of Canada, 1942. No. 4, pp. 1–42.

Clark, Paraskeva. “Parachute Riggers.” Exhibition Theme – Work. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, 1947. Canadian War Museum, http://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/artwar/artworks/19710261-5679_parachute-riggers_e.shtml

“Indigenous People in the Second World War.” Veterans Affairs Canada, Government of Canada, 29 Nov. 2016, www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/historical-sheets/aborigin. Accessed 23 Mar. 2017.