Tag Archives: Propaganda

Cover of Wow Comics No. 8, part of the Canadian Whites collection.

The Everyman Hero in Canadian WWII Comics (Wow Comics No. 8)

© 2018 Kelley Doan, Ryerson University

When Canadians think about comic book heroes, most of us refer to characters that are American: they were created in America, they represent American ideas and ideals, and most of the stories are set in American cities or places that, if fictional, are easily recognized as intended to be American. However, while entertainment in Canada does tend to be overwhelmed by American influence, there was a golden age of Canadian comics during which artists and writers took advantage of a pause in access to American content to create Canadian heroes.

Cover of Wow Comics No. 8, part of the Canadian Whites collection.
Title: Wow Comics No. 8
Creator: Bell Features and Publishing Company
Source: http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166671.pdf

In examining Bell Features’ Wow Comics No. 8, I realized that something seemed different about the main characters. These Canadian comic book heroes, in contrast to their American counterparts, were without superhuman powers or superscientific weapons, and this was true of largely all Canadian comic book heroes of the time. For example, in Wow Comics No. 8, heroes Dart Daring, Jeff Waring, Crash Carson, and Whiz Wallace were all simple adventurers (Legault et al.). Most of them were everyman heroes – the average citizen with a passion to set things right and an exceptional dose of courage – with whom readers could identify rather than idolize. Two major contributing factors brought about this new class of comic book hero. Cultural differences in Canada were reflected in their character, particularly a differing notion of what is heroic. More relevant, though, is the impact of propaganda which was used to muster support for the Canadian war effort and was found in all forms of media at this time, including those directed at children. An exploration of the more prominent Canadian comic book heroes as purveyors of the message of unity and call for support sheds some light not only on the origin of future Canadian comic book heroes, but also indicates reasons – beyond a fraught publishing industry – that those later heroes struggled to find more than a niche audience.

Canadian Comics: The Origin Story

Comic books made their debut in the late 1920’s, rising from the popularity of the comic strip. Comic strips were meant solely for entertainment, unlike the already established political cartoon, and the comic book followed suit. There were a number of Canadian comic strips in print, but American artists and publishers had established a foothold in the genre early on, and Canadian comics found little success in syndication beyond our borders (Bell and Viau, “Emergence of the Comic Book, 1929-1940”). Even within Canada, publishers faced financial challenges, in part due to the popularity of the American comic books flooding the market thanks to a much stronger American publishing industry (Edwardson 184).

The Daisybelle comic strip by Gene Byrnes from The Funnies No. 2, 1936.
Title: “Daisybelle”
Creator: Gene Byrnes
Source: http://digitalcomicmuseum.com/index.php?dlid=5640
Copyright: Public Domain

As the popularity of comic strips, known as “the funnies”, increased, the adventure genre strips emerged. Among the first of these was Superman. While he is frequently said to be a Canadian creation – the National Film Board included him in one of their Heritage Minutes and he was part of a collection of stamps commemorating Canadian comic book heroes – the truth is that the connection is very minimal. Superman’s creator, Joe Shuster, was born and lived in Toronto until he was eight years old. He then moved to the United States where he created Superman, who fought for “Truth, justice, and the American way” (Beaty 428). Superman was more than an adventurer, though. He was the first of the superheroes, with powers beyond those of a human being. Children on both sides of the border saw the appeal immediately (Bell and Viau, “Emergence of the Comic Book, 1929-1940”s). Canada’s own Mordecai Richler was a fan, remarking that, “They were invulnerable, all-conquering, whereas we were puny, miserable, and defeated” (Richler 80). Whatever his heritage, Superman’s popularity paved the way for an ever-increasing roster of superheroes, including Batman, Arrow, and Flash Gordon.

Many superheroes got their start in comic strips, and comic books began as compilations of the strips; but publishers rather quickly noticed that comic books had a greater potential, one which included longer-form storytelling and experimenting with elements not possible in strips. Children embraced this new medium as much as they did the superheroes that filled the comic books’ pages, and a new sector of American publishing took off like a speeding bullet. Emphasis is on the American industry, because although there were thousands of fans and a large market in Canada, those Canadians who were part of the comic book boom generally had to move to America to work (Bell and Viau, “Emergence of the Comic Book, 1929-1940”).

A child at the Children's Colony, a school for refugee children in New York, N.Y. reading a Superman comic.
Title: New York, N.Y. Children’s Colony, a school for refugee children Creator: Marjory Collins Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:N.Y._Children%27s_Colony_04108v.jpg Copyright: Public Domain

As war approached, though, this would change drastically. On the heels of Canada’s declaration of war in 1939 came the War Exchange Conservation Act (WECA), which restricted the importation of non-essential goods including comics. The embargo prompted the formation of Canada’s own publishing industry comprising a group of publishers and their works known later as The Canadian Whites, and provided an opportunity for Canadian artists to produce their own heroes (Bell and Viau, “Canadian Golden Age of Comics, 1941-1946”): heroes which better represented the Canadian audience; heroes who used Canadian cultural references; heroes who could relay messages to the audiences that felt so much more connected to them, a point which did not go unnoticed.

 

Propaganda in Comics: The Art of Persuasion

The word “propaganda” often conjures ideas of nefarious government deeds, but that is not always or even often the case. It is simply a form of communication with a cause at the heart of its agenda, and can be completely benign or even beneficial. Much like marketing, it is a form of persuasion, but propaganda is enhanced by ideology. As an integral part of a democracy (Batrasheva 8), it is not hard to understand why propaganda is used during war time, when it is of vital importance for governments to unite citizens in support of the war effort.

In 1942, the Wartime Information Board was created from the previous entity, the Bureau of Public Information, changing the mandate from simply providing war-related information to the public to using techniques of persuasion to manage Canadians’ perceptions of and feelings about the war (Young 190-91). Following on the Bureau of Public Information’s failure to rouse support in more traditional and grandiose ways, the Wartime Information Board created the idea of a “people’s war”. Canadians disliked American “brouhaha and victory parades”. They felt that patriotism was being forced upon them, but were inspired by the idea that neighbours together could fight the enemy and build a better society (Young 192-93). It was a young idea that needed a young method of relaying the message.

Among the messages necessary to impart to Canadians during World War II was the integral idea that the war effort, despite the tremendous impact on their lives, was important and good; among the motivations for that message was avoiding the need for conscription and a repeat of the 1917 crisis (English) which divided the nation because French Canada felt disconnected from the cause (“The Conscription Crisis”); in fact the Canadian government eventually avoided the need to send conscripts overseas until nearly the end of the war (Jones and Granatstein). While support had to be stirred in both the men who would go overseas to fight and the women who remained and took on the extra work of supplying the needs of the troops in addition to maintaining their families and communities, it was also important to address the children, whose fathers were suddenly absent and in many cases may never return.

Canadian WWII industrial propaganda poster
Title: Canadian WWII industrial propaganda poster
Creator: Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Company Limited
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Our_Answer_All-Out_Production,_Canada,_WWII_Propaganda_Poster.jpg
Copyright: Public Domain

Wartime propaganda is typically of the integration type, seeking to unify society to a common goal (Batrasheva 12). The transference technique, which connects the intended message to something the audience respects or reveres (Batrasheva 16), is especially useful with children as it emulates the parental role. To reach children, the most obvious choice was their current favourite: comic books. Since the favourite characters of the day were already adventure heroes, it was simple enough to send those characters off to war. Combining transference with the plain folks technique – a method aimed at connecting well known figures to activities that should be imitated (Batrasheva 18) – which appealed to both children and those who were on board with the “people’s war” ideal, one of the obvious methods of communication was through entertainment, particularly using popular figures who represented both the war effort’s message and connected with the average citizen. Comic books, with their young market, were an effective medium., particularly since the heroes in Canada’s World War II comics already differed from American heroes in one crucial way: they were not supermen, they were everymen.

Not All Heroes Are Super

The more well-known comic book heroes of the day were American, and the hero among these that best represented American nationalism and support for the war effort was Captain America, who first appeared in 1941. While Captain America began as an average citizen who passionately wanted to go to war and fight the Nazis, he was a sickly man who was not able to enlist. However, he was offered the chance to participate in a government experiment during which he received the Super-Soldier formula and was exposed to “vita-rays”, after which he had a perfect (though still human) body. His physical prowess was enhanced by a shield made of an impenetrable, indestructible, and fictional metal (“Captain America”).

While Captain America is written as a human, the level of perfection raises the character to a level unattainable in reality and carries a super-real shield thus elevating him to the level of superhero. Examining the real-life people that Americans celebrated as war heroes, I found many highly decorated people such as actor Audie Murphy, who at age 19 “manned a machine gun on a burning tank and made a desperate solo attack against German forces”, for which he won the Medal of Honor, and upon which he built his film career (Andrews). This type of hero reflects a preference for a hierarchy of supporting characters following one extraordinary leader, and supports ideals of patriotism and rarefied bravery, and the message that with the support of American citizens the government will send a hero to save the day.

Title: “Johnny Canuck”
Creator: Leo Baschle
Source: http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166581.pdf

On the other hand, Canada’s main wartime nationalistic comic book hero, Johnny Canuck – who first appeared in 1942, the same year as the Wartime Information Board – was the kind of hero that most Canadians could become. Many knew someone of similar ability, be it their family, friend, or neighbour. Johnny Canuck was an excellent athlete who regularly fought Hitler with his bare hands. Although he had no superhuman powers, weaponry, or armour (Beaty 430) he was designed to be “Canada’s answer to Nazi oppression” (Bachle et al. 1) In fact Leo Bachle was an adolescent when he created Johnny Canuck, drawing him in his own image and including friends and even his teachers in the stories. Johnny Canuck was truly an everyman hero (Plummer).

A photograph of Elsie MacGill during her CCF tenure.
Title: “Elsie MacGill during her CCF tenure.”
Creator: Elsie Gregory MacGill
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Elsie_macgill.jpg
Copyright: Public Domain

Of course, Canada had some decorated heroes as well, but given our smaller more supporting role, the everyman hero better represented Canadian ideals and mirrored the real-life heroes they venerated, such as Elsie MacGill who led the Hawker Hurricane manufacturing project that supplied fighter planes to Allied Forces and became known as Queen of the Hurricanes, and Leo Major who was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for liberating an entire city by himself, but did so by using his intelligence to trick the Germans rather than brute force (Ferreras).

Conclusion

While Canada and America were united by participation in World War II, their roles were very different. The messages relayed by propaganda to the citizenry were also dissimilar, but this is at least as much due to cultural differences, as Canadians generally saw their mostly supporting role as every bit as important as that of the American troops, not to mention that Canada was involved earlier (Young 190).

While later Canadian hero Captain Canuck – one of the few to emerge in the decades following the war – did have superpowers, he embodied many of the characteristics of Johnny Canuck, and is often confused for a later interpretation of the Canadian Whites hero (Edwardson 189-91). Canadian society had moved on, but Captain Canuck clung mostly to the everyman values that portrayed Canada as “a “peaceable kingdom”” (Edwardson 184), an idea created by the Wartime Information Board to connect to audiences. Later readers had no need for this type of character and, once again inundated with American escapist entertainment, spent their dollars in support of American superheroes.

Nevertheless, the Canadian Whites are an interesting and all too often overlooked part of our literary history. They represent the tenacity of Canadians in the face of war and in the pursuit of entertainment; our ability to band together to fight the enemy in hope of a better world; and our ability to come together and create a whole arts industry that represents Canadians more than it imitates American content, when given the space to do so.


Works Cited

Andrews, Evan. “Audie Murphy’s World War II Heroics, 70 Years Ago.” HISTORY.Com, http://www.history.com/news/audie-murphys-world-war-ii-heroics-70-years-ago. Accessed 10 Jan. 2018.

Bachle, Leo, et al. Johnny Canuck. Chapterhouse Publishing Incorporated, 2016.

Bachle, Leo. Johnny Canuck. 1945.

Batrasheva, Yeldana. Children and the Media: Propaganda Methods Aimed at Children during World War II. 2016, https://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=12&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjzrqeH2d_WAhWlx4MKHX3iBnkQFghNMAs&url=https%3A%2F%2Felearning.unyp.cz%2Fpluginfile.php%2F58141%2Fmod_data%2Fcontent%2F1862%2FBatrasheva%252C%2520Yeldana_510135_Senior%2520Project%2520Thesis.pdf&usg=AOvVaw0UPYbTLSCTXTppKgA-utKz.

Beaty, Bart. “The Fighting Civil Servant: Making Sense of the Canadian Superhero.” American Review of Canadian Studies, vol. 36, no. 3, Oct. 2006, pp. 427–39.

Bell, John, and Michel Viau. “Canadian Golden Age of Comics, 1941-1946.” Collections Canada, https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/comics/027002-8300-e.html. Accessed 7 Jan. 2018.

Bell, John, and Michel Viau. “Emergence of the Comic Book, 1929-1940.” Collections Canada, https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/comics/027002-8200-e.html. Accessed 6 Jan. 2018.

Byrnes, Gene. Daisybelle Comic on Page 32 of The Funnies. 1 Nov. 1936. http://digitalcomicmuseum.com/index.php?dlid=5640, Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Daisybelle_-_The_Funnies,_No._2_02.jpg.

“Captain America.” Marvel Directory, http://www.marveldirectory.com/individuals/c/captainamerica.htm.

Collins, Marjory. New York, N.Y. Children’s Colony, a School for Refugee Children. Oct. 1942. Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:N.Y._Children%27s_Colony_04108v.jpg.

Edwardson, Ryan. “The Many Lives of Captain Canuck: Nationalism, Culture, and the Creation of a Canadian Comic Book Superhero.” Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 184–201.

English, John R. “Wartime Information Board.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/wartime-information-board/. Accessed 6 Jan. 2018.

Ferreras, Jesse. “11 Canadian War Heroes We Can’t Forget On November 11.” HuffPost Canada, 9 Nov. 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/11/09/canadian-war-heroes-remembrance-day_n_8475820.html.

Jones, Richard, and J. L. Granatstein. “Conscription.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/conscription/. Accessed 6 Jan. 2018.

Legault, E. T., et al., editors. Wow Comics: No. 8. Bell Features and Publishing Company, 1942.

MacGill, Elsie Gregory. Elsie MacGill during Her CCF Tenure. Apr. 1938. Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Elsie_macgill.jpg.

Plummer, Kevin. “Historicist: Toronto’s Golden Age of Comic Books.” Torontoist, 20 Nov. 2010, https://torontoist.com/2010/11/historicist_torontos_golden_age_of_comic_books/.

Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Company Limited. Canadian WWII Industrial Propaganda Poster. 1940s. WWII propaganda poster (Immediate source: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/301459768779680901/), Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Our_Answer_All-Out_Production,_Canada,_WWII_Propaganda_Poster.jpg.

Richler, Mordecai. “The Great Comic Book Heroes.” Hunting Tigers Under Glass, McClelland and Stewart, 1968.

“The Conscription Crisis.” CBC Learning, http://www.cbc.ca/history/EPISCONTENTSE1EP12CH2PA3LE.html.

Young, William R. “Mobilizing English Canada for War: The Bureau of Public Information, the Wartime Information Board and a View of the Nation During the Second World War.” The Second World War as a National Experience, HyperWar Foundation, https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/Canada/Natl_Exp/NatlExp-14.html.

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.

Using Humor As A Method to Promote Propaganda with Dizzy Don No. 8

© Copyright 2017 Sahra Alikouzeh, Ryerson University

Introduction

Fig. 1. Manny Easson. Panel from “The Mystery of The Million Dollar Baby” The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, No. 8, 1943, Bell Features & Publishing Company Limited. p. 1. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166599.pdf

This post will focus on Manny Easson’s eighth comic issue, titled “The Mystery of the Million Dollar Baby”, apart of Bell Features, Great Canadian White Collection. The Great Canadian White Collection is a series of comic books published between the years 1941 to 1946. Due to the importation banning of American comics, this revolutionized an era titled the “Canadian Golden Age of Comics”. (Bell) Issued during World War two, the method of using humor in texts was a popular choice by authors as it not only provided reader’s a mere moment of distraction from the stressful times occurring, but to also allow readers to explore an alternative escapist reality. This post will also discuss the use of the main character, Dizzy Don, who is the protagonist of this comic book intended for children, and some of the influential effects this text has. Understanding how hard the toll of the war was on the Canadians at home, the easygoing nature of the comic book genre can be seen as a stress-reliever suitable for all.

Through the use of humor, authors also took the time to incorporate their own messages within their text to sway the reader’s perspective.

Canadianization

Dating back to the moment in World War 2 where Canada joined the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, Canada provided an indispensable amount of contribution to the generation of British air power. Despite the eventual success due to the tag teaming by both the Canadian air force and the British, Canada made sure to enforce the continued national identification of their personnel. The reason being that national identification allowed for the increase of Canadian political independence. Despite the mixed review received from Britain about the separation, many Canadians embraced the newfound “Canadianization” (Johnston, 2015) Going ahead with this bold move, it was one that was successful as Canadians celebrated, ensuring the importance of their national identity. National identity also increased the amount of Canadians distancing themselves from those whom were seen as non-Canadian. This distance led to the emergence of the anti-immigration perspective.

Fig. 1. Manny Easson. Panel from “The Mystery of The Million Dollar Baby” The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, No. 8, 1943, Bell Features & Publishing Company Limited, p. 5. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166599.pdf

In order to feel patriotic there is the aspect of appreciating one’s culture and then there is also the put down of other cultures, as a form of whom is to be regarded as superior. The Nazi’s are mocked in this panel due to the faux imitation of their accents. Mocking is a sign of discrediting intelligence and belittling the culture and foreign language being spoken. It provokes this feeling of alienation, humiliation, and disrespect to those of the mocked heritage. This displays how some Canadians felt about German foreigners and their own air of superiority.

Germanophobia

During the time of World War 2 as many soldiers were abroad fighting, Germans in Canada were suspicious of their fellow Canadians. There were many posters and propaganda alike, floating around in promotion of hailing Canadians at war, while at the same degrading the Germans. The method of spreading information through mediums such as texts and the media, allowed the importance of these immigrants’ presence to go unacknowledged and ignored. Instead German immigrant’s importance was replaced with the title of an “enemy alien” (Bassler, 1990) Those with German descent in Canada began to see him or herself as unwanted, to their Canadian neighbors. In comic books there was the mockery of German accents, creation of the German characters as evil and made to look angry, all endorsing these negative stereotypes.

Fig. 1. Manny Easson. Panel from “The Mystery of The Million Dollar Baby” The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, No. 8, 1943, Bell Features & Publishing Company Limited, p. 3. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166599.pdf

There is a clear binary present as the happy American family is depicted and immediately right after, there is the aggressive German Nazi’s. By illustrating this family as those whom would sacrifice their life in order to save their kin, “The ambassador and his wife huddle around Adorable in an effort to save her life” (Easson, 1943) displays the good North American family image. Something the North American readers would be proud of to relate too. Meanwhile, representing the Germans as those opposing this happy lifestyle, with adjectives such as “merciless” when drawn as attackers.

Fig. 2. Manny Easson. Panel from “The Mystery of The Million Dollar Baby” The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, No. 8, 1943, Bell Features & Publishing Company Limited, p. 5. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166599.pdf

Humor and Propaganda

Propaganda is the aggressive dissemination of a distinct point of view for a specific purpose. Using persuasive techniques, images, wording and messages to manipulate targeted audiences. By having them assume the propagandist’s perspective is the correct vantage point of view that should be adopted, believed and acted on. (McRann, 2009) Humor allows writers and artists of all kinds to attain a method of expression. Texts embedded within comedic expressions can have large impacts on its audiences, winning over hearts, wars and minds. Humor was used as an approach during the war to construct a national identity, decoding the importance of humor, especially to children during the time of war. Wartime cartoonists were big on getting children involved in the war efforts through their drawings. (Penniston-Bird & Summerfield, 2001) These cartoonists would embrace the gender roles by drawing little boys as soldiers while also promoting the theme of national identity to little girls as well, reminding them to remain patriotic and not make amends with the opposition.

Fig. 3. Manny Easson. Panel from “The Mystery of The Million Dollar Baby” The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, No. 8, 1943, Bell Features & Publishing Company Limited, p. 2. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166599.pdf

Dizzy Don is introduced as a comedic radio host, who leads the adventures in many of The Funny Comic book issues alongside his pal Canary Byrd. As the main protagonist in this children’s comic book series, his comments and actions are depicted clearly in the story, including his sentiments. Canary Byrd starts off his interaction with Dizzy on the radio saying: “Say Dizzy – when our grocer told you that domestic sardines are 15 cents and imported 25 cents which did you take?” and Dizzy’s response: “Domestic, why should I pay their way over?” (Easson, 1943) Being introduced as a comedian aids the harsh message of how Dizzy feels about foreigners from abroad coming into his homeland. Although the banter can be taken lightly due to Dizzy’s stature as a comedian, the context of the racist message is still present right at the beginning of the story. This also displays clear patriotism, as the support for domestic products over imported is not even something to be questioned by Dizzy.

Conclusion

Humor, especially the sort that is a medium for social and political commentary, plays an important role in the community of a wartime nation. Furthermore, understanding the intention behind a text can be problematic as it reveals discovery on the social impact of the audience. (Penniston-Bird, & Summerfield, 2001) This comic uses the method of humor to promote anti-immigration sentiments, due to the light hearted stance the genre takes, in which the audience is expected to put their guard down. This creates a dimmer focus on the serious aspect of the topic when being discussed, resulting in non-consequential results from its readers. Unknowingly, this targeted audience does not realize the influence Bell Features authors’ texts have on their daily interactions and perspectives, as it creates racist stereotypes and promotes exclusion of those whom are of German descent. This aids explanation as to why there was the continuous racist endorsement; especially as many German Canadians during the war were put under a lot of scrutiny. Putting this in a children’s book allows these ideologies to also exploit the future generation and further these thoughts. Through the use of the main character Dizzy Don and his interactions, he was used as a platform to spread anti-immigration sentiments embedded within humorous texts.

Works Cited

  • Twark, E. Jill. “Approaching History as Cultural Memory Through Humor, Satire, Comics, and Graphic Novels.” RULA Archives & Special Collection, Ryerson University. Toronto, Ontario. https://journals-scholarsportal-ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/pdf/09607773/v26i0001/175_ahacmthscagn.xml. Accessed 30 Nov 2017.
  • Easson, Manny. The Funny Comic and Dizzy Don No.8: The Mystery of the Million Dollar Baby. Bell Features, 1943. Print.
  • Johnston, E. Iain. “The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and the Shaping of National Identities in the Second World War.” RULA Archives & Special Collection, Ryerson University. https://journals-scholarsportalezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/pdf/03086534/v43i0005/903_tbcatpiitsww.xml. Accessed 30 Nov 2017.
  • Bassler, Gerhard P. “Silent or Silenced Co-Founders of Canada? Reflections on the History of German Canadians.” Canadian Ethnic Studies = Etudes Ethniques Au Canada; Calgary. vol. 22, no. 1, Jan.1990, pp. 38–46.
  • Penniston-Bird. C. Summerfield. P. “Hey! You’re Dead! The multiple uses of humor in representations of British national defence in the Second World War.” RULA Archives & Special Collection, Ryerson University. https://journals-scholarsportalinfo.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/pdf/00472441/v31i0123/413_ydtmuoditsww.xml. Accessed 30 Nov 2017.

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.

 

“Propagandizing the Wartime Canadian – A Study of Wartime Media in Triumph Comics No. 19”

© Copyright 2017 Dylan Gibbons, Ryerson University

Introduction

During WWII, after having print materials such as comic books and magazines restricted from other countries, Canada in turn experienced the “First Age of Canadian Comics” from Bell Features and lead artists such as Adrian Dingle (Kocmarek 148). Predicated on the need to bolster the Canadian dollar during the war, the early years of comic books in Canada are particularly interesting, being that art and story telling were never at the core of the media, as they might have been in other countries. As this paper will show, this implicitly entails an agenda. The comics were designed not only with economic prosperity in mind, but also with the explicit agenda of adding to patriotic, nationalist attitudes, the promotion of traditional British niceties and politeness, and to instill in the reader the necessity of supporting the war effort (Kocmarek 150). These tropes and underlying motivations behind the creation of this media are blatant in most comics of this time, including the primary source material of this exhibit, Triumph Comics: No.19.

Perhaps what is most significant is what the comic signifies within the broader context of the war effort: a shift from simply believing that the Allies’ enemies in WWII are bad to a collectivised message with focus on patriotism and doing one’s civil duty in supporting the war effort. This exhibit will analyze Triumph Comics: No. 19, created in 1944, with reference to other contextual sources, to show how this comic was used, similarly to other media released at the time, to propagandize the Canadian people into adhering to certain normative attitudes and into making certain economic decisions, and show how this was not at all random, but implemented by government institutions.

Manufacturing Normativity

Perhaps the most explicit implementation of propaganda the comic gives us is found in Ted Steele’s ‘Speed Savage’ story (38-46). The story follows the superhero the ‘White Mask’ and his attempt to administer justice in wartime (WWII) Canada. In the comic, the main villain is one who is trying to sabotage the war effort by shooting factory workers out of a cannon (Steele 42-45), wherein they plummet to their death, subsequently frightening the citizens and preventing them from working (Steele 39). However, what is more interesting is that the White Mask’s heroism involves, not only defeating the villain, but assaulting a frightened factory worker who no longer wants to support the war effort through the creation of missile shells (Steele 39-41).

“Speed Savage”, Pg. 40-41. 1944. Triumph Comics, No. 19.

Upon closer examination, this tells us that in wartime Canada the highest form of villainy is someone derailing the war effort and the highest form of heroism is the patriotic perpetuation of the war effort, by any means necessary. That the citizen who has lost faith in the war effort becomes criminal in the eyes of the hero suggests a propagandistic element behind the making of this comic and the attempt to manufacture a new normativity of radical nationalism. Here we find a double-sided message on the part of the comic’s creators. We see a desire to instill supreme, unwavering support of the nation by glorifying patriotism and, conversely, the threat of being removed from the group and becoming enemy if you fail to comply. The comic shows us, quite crudely, the repercussions for not engaging with the community and subscribing to the war effort narrative: beaten up by a masked ‘superhero’, while all your friends cheer your beating on. This makes explicit the agenda the government and emerging comic book industry were sending to the audience, in this case, children: assimilate, be patriotic, or face ostracization.

Upon further investigation, this turns] out to be exactly what was intended. During WWII, the Canadian Government enacted an institutional campaign to create propaganda over multiple media, including this comic, utilizing fearmongering and patriotism with the hopes that these two incentives would suffice in promoting the purchase of war time bonds (Brownell 67-74). Citizens were even recommended to rent out their spare rooms to workers so there would be more space to create armaments, as shown in an animation titled Empty Rooms Mean Idle Machines (National Film Board of Canada). In this way, even the privacy of one’s home was meant to be infiltrated and politicized. Overall, each and every media, from film to poster to comic book, was coopted, to a greater or lesser extent, in the pursuit of propagandizing the Canadian populace for various reasons, mostly economic.

“Victory Bonds Flier”, 1944. Collections Canada.

Gives Us Your Money and Do Your Patriotic Duty!

In an article titled “Building Citizenship: English Canada and Propaganda during the Second War”, William R. Young illustrates the process of Canadian propagandas shift from promoting unified hatred of an enemy to the promotion of collectivism, or ‘Canadianism’ (123) and having shared goals to promote support for the war effort during WWII. Simple hatred of an outgroup, such as what is seen in Ross Saakel’s ‘Ace Barton’ and the hostile portrayal of the Japanese, was found to be a limiting approach that failed in selling Victory Bonds (Canadian war bonds) during WWI. Simply propagandizing a nation into hating another was not sufficient in creating unity within Canada, nor did it help in the efforts to convince Canadians to invest in these bonds, thus new methodologies were conceived. The idea of shared goals was much more effective in collectivising otherwise disjointed groups, such as Indigenous Canadians, Francophones, and Anglophones (Young 124-125). Thus, the Wartime Information Board (the institute in charge for the creation of propaganda) undertook the task of convincing Canadians to make evermore sacrifices to support the war effort (Young 125-130); Prime Minister Mackenzie King signed off on all of this (Young 125). This is not to say that hatred for the enemy was discouraged in subsequent media, which nearly every story in Triumph Comics: No.19 shows to be the case. However, this is always coupled with sentiments of doing one’s duty, protectionism, ingroup preference, etc., which is very much explicit in the aforementioned ‘Speed Savage’ story.

The comic’s title story, Rene Kulbach’s ‘Tang’, also has this tactic imbedded; though, it fails dreadfully. The story is clearly a parody of the popular American television show The Lone Ranger, with a one-dimensional Indigenous sidekick and all. The story displays a meager attempt to amend race relations, despite the story, on the surface, supposedly being uninvolved with the war effort. This attempt is made through the conceptualization of ingroups and outgroups. While the protagonist’s Indigenous sidekick, Hank Steel (of course possessing a highly Westernized name), is made and dressed to appear as part of the ingroup, in the third through sixth panels Buddy Brackenbridge (the protagonist) slaughters a group of Indigenous raiders, Buddy remarking as he fires his gun, “One Redskin less…” (11). This, and that Hank Steel is only given the capacity to make observational one-liners, leads to the conclusion that Hank is being made out to be ‘one of the good ones’. This shows the incapacity of the artists to understand outgroups, unless members of those outgroups assimilate into the ingroup and take up the role of flatterer, sidekick, and tag along, incapable of expressing complex thought or emotion. Fundamentally, despite being an attempt to create a unity between races, it misses the mark of genuineness by several leagues. However, it is an attempt nonetheless, and one that likely would not have been made without the previously mentioned government initiative to create unification between Canadians. Certainly, the protagonist’s, and, potentially, the artist’s, attitudes towards Indigenous people more generally suggests this.

A Change in Gender Roles (Sort of… For now)

Another major part of government propagandizing was changing the role of women in the absence of a large male workforce; this is reflected in the conflicting consistency of presenting women in the comic. Most of the female characters are presented in their stereotypically helpless gender role; however, there is also the emergence of something quite new: a female superhero, Nelvana of the Northern Lights (Dingle 1-9). Even in this case, the female protagonist is given little action or dialogue, but it is still noteworthy in that she is portrayed as being dignified and maintaining the aspect of self-sufficiency – something that would have been reflective of a primarily female population needed for factory work. It is important to note this dualism: women are expected to play their assigned roles as perpetual ‘damsels in distress’, as seen in Ross Saakel’s ‘Captain Wonder’ (20-26), but are now having their identities affirmed so as to be dignified in the archetype of the heroine, the polar opposite of the damsel.

Perhaps one might postulate that this is not evidence of propaganda, rather evidence of the natural progression of women’s improved agency in society. However, in hindsight, nothing about this societal shift was natural, rather an explicit symptom of government campaigns to manipulate women into occupying the factory assembly lines to support the war effort. By 1944, nearly half of adult women had joined the work force (Harttman 16), which was aided by government changes in policy to allow women to serve their country in the production of military equipment and armaments. During this time, numerous government campaigns were implemented to achieve this, and women’s participation was won primarily through the amalgamation of femininity with the idea and setting of factory work to promote female friendly environments where women could see themselves working (Hartmann 17). This was evident not only within the factory, where monthly beauty competitions were held as an appeal to women’s desire not to come off as too masculine, but can be viewed in several wartime propaganda posters, particularly posters aimed at selling victory bonds. These posters were explicitly created with the intent of coercing the female populace into joining the factories, again, by appealing to a sense of patriotic duty (Halbesleben 77-78). The assault was, then, twofold: feminize the workplace to hoodwink women into desiring the monotony of factory life, and, in case this was not sufficient, guilt them into supporting the war effort with persistent talk of duty.

“War Time Propaganda Poster”, 1940-1945. Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum.

This was only to be flipped on women post-war, however, with reverse campaigns promoting the return to ‘the kitchen’, along with significant drops in the wages of women who wanted to continue factory work (Hartmann 17-18). What these factors suggest is that women’s labour was not only expendable to the Canadian government, but was actively exploited. What was, later, perhaps, falsely interpreted as societal recognition and acknowledgement of women’s capacity to fill traditionally male occupied positions was more realistically active manipulation. Furthermore, if government institutions had truly felt that women were equal to men, that they too could be superheroes and not just damsels, then they would not have been so apt to discourage female workers from factory work upon the return of the male populace. This, in part, may explain why the character of Nelvana, despite being a superheroine, still embodies stereotypes of female passivity. What this shows is the disingenuousness of the comic’s attempt to create a female protagonist that is empowering, but rather that the comic only followed trends of the Canadian wartime, helping to create the façade of recognition to facilitate women’s propagandizing.

Conclusion

Having comprehensively analyzed Triumph Comics: No. 19 and affectively contextualized the media, it is evident that the collection of comics is nested in and is an example of wartime propaganda for expressly economic purposes. What may cause the greatest disdain from this exhibit’s findings is the span of such propaganda, targeting women, children, men, and even reaching towards racialized groups. One may make certain allowances given the context, WWII, and make the case that all was a matter of necessity. However, regardless if such allowances are valid, the comic still serves as a prime example of a nations attempt to create a collectivist culture using fearmongering and nationalism. Subsequently, and rather unfortunately, this leaves the origin of Canada’s comic book industry muddied from the start, having less to do with art, and more to do with politics and propagandizing the citizenry.


Works Cited

  • Brownell, Kathryn Cramer. “‘It Is Entertainment, and It Will Sell Bonds!’: 16mm Film and the World War II War Bond Campaign.” The Moving Image, vol. 10, no. 2, Feb. 2011, pp. 60–82. Project MUSE, muse.jhu.edu/article/415434.
  • Canada, National Film Board of. Empty Rooms Mean Idle Machines, 1942. www.nfb.ca, https://www.nfb.ca/film/empty_rooms_mean_idle_machines/.
  • Dingle, Adrian, et al., editors. Triumph Comics: No. 19. Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, 1944, pp. 38-46. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.
  • Halbesleben, Jonathon R. B., et al. “‘We Can Do It!’ Recruitment and Socialization Through WWII War Effort Posters in the United States.” Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship; Sheffield, vol. 8, no. 4, Oct. 2003, pp. 68–85. Business Premium Collection, http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/203912716?accountid=13631.
  • Hartmann, Susan M. “Women, War, and the Limits of Change.” National Forum; Baton Rouge, vol. 75, no. 4, Fall 1995, pp. 15-19. Periodicals Archive Online, http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/1297782757?accountid=13631.
  • Kocmarek, Ivan. “Truth, Justice, and the Canadian Way: The War-Time Comics of Bell Features Publications.” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature / Revue Canadienne de Littérature Comparée, vol. 43, no. 1, Mar. 2016, pp. 148–65. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/crc.2016.0008.
  • Victory Bonds Flier. 1944, http://collectionscanada.gc.ca/pam_archives/index.php?fuseaction=genitem.displayEcopies&lang=eng&rec_nbr=2847132&rec_nbr_list=3635777,3635761,2847102,3635772,3665095,2846950,2847132,2846866,2847027,2847157&title=Enlist+Your+Dollars+in+Bonds+for+Victory+%3A++seventh+victory+loan+drive.&ecopy=e010695630-v8. Library and Archives Canada, MIILKAN no. 2847132.
  • Wartime Propaganda Poster. http://www.airmuseum.ca/postscan.html. Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum.
  • Young, William R. “Building Citizenship: English Canada and Propaganda during the Second War.” Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’Études Canadiennes; Peterborough, Ont., vol. 16, no. 3, Fall 1981, pp. 121–132. Periodicals Archive Online, http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/1300019791?accountid=13631.

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 educatio

The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don no.12 and WWII Propaganda

© Copyright 2017 Simon Mancuso, Ryerson University

The “Canadian Whites” and WWII Propaganda

Introduction

“The Canadian Whites” collection of comics provides a unique window into culture and the political climate during the Second World War. In the WWII era, propaganda played a vital role in contributing to the war effort and influenced the public on a mass scale. Allied governments distributed this pro-war content through a variety of media outlets including films, cartoons, posters and comic books. During the war every available media outlet was re-purposed to serve as a propaganda tool. The Funny Comics With dizzy Don and The Secret Weapon (Issue 12) is an example of a comic intend for children’s entertainment being used as a vehicle to distribute government messaging to citizens across the country. Throughout the comic there are multiple examples of this, ranging from the narrative itself to the illustration of its characters. This analysis will focus on those two aspects examining the depiction of the main antagonist “The Black Hand”, a shadowy and evil figure that although never appears as human in the comic is a symbolic representation of Nazi Germany. As well as the narrative itself which offers a variety of pro-war and pro-government themes that walk a fine line between entertainment and subliminal messaging. The purpose of this analysis is to understand how media and specifically this comic were used by the Canadian government as a distribution platform as well as cheap entertainment for children. A variety of evidence will be used to demonstrate this connection ranging from news articles about the government pressuring authors to insert pro war messaging into their work to Donald Duck and his cartoon commercials asking us to support the troops. The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don is a clear example of a deliberate attempt on behalf of the Canadian government to re-purpose mass media as propaganda tools.

What is Propaganda?

Before analyzing how The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don is being used as a propaganda tool it is important to begin by establishing a definition of the term.  The term propaganda is defined as “any information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.” (Møllegaard, 2012) This definition will be used in this study to refer to a variety of illustrations and narrative themes present in The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don as well as other secondary sources. Traditionally “propaganda” is used as a derogatory term that is often accompanied by malicious intent. However, throughout this analysis a variety of examples of propaganda will be examined, some of which is hateful whereas others are harmless. For example, depictions of women and children being used to sell war bonds is an instance of harmless propaganda. Hateful propaganda occurs when the imagery or texts resort to racism or cultural stereotyping to purposefully demean its target. Examples of both are present throughout the illustration in Secret Weapon Both styles are equally effective at stirring emotional responses from their viewers, the former empathy and the latter hate.

Throughout the Second World War propaganda was a constant presence across a variety of media outlets including posters and news articles and in film where pre-show recruitment ads have become a famous symbol of World War Two era America. It is important to preface this analysis by stating that the goal is not to critique the style and content shown within these comics and posters, but to simply examine the methods in which they are used as tools to distribute a message.

Conspiracy?

The concept of the Canadian government deliberately inserting pro-military and pro-war propaganda into independent media outlets is not beyond the realm of possibility. In fact, it occurred during the Second World War on many occasions. Multiple news articles were published on the topic stating that the Canadian government was putting pressure on local authors to push government messages. In 1940, the Hamilton Spectator published an article titled “Important Task Facing Writers of the Country”. The opening line in the article reads “Canadian writers have the clear and definite duty of keeping the democratic ideal constantly before the nation’s eye.” (Hamilton Spectator, 1940) This article focuses on the responsibility that was placed upon the nations writers to communicate to the country’s youth that they are fighting an honorable and good fight. A second article titled “The Government Propaganda Machine is now in High Gear” written in the same year for the Toronto Telegram, elaborates further on this concept. This article talks about the censorship bureaus established in Ottawa who control the output of content by various media outlets. The article states that “Canadians generally may be unaware that since the outbreak of the war something in the nature of a press bureaucracy has been established in Ottawa. First of all, there are the Press Censors whose. purpose it is to scan carefully whatever is published.” (Toronto Telegram, 1940) The article goes on to talk about a “publicity corps” whose responsibility it was to make sure government messaging is communicated to the public. “Alongside the press censors there is being built up at Ottawa a publicity corps whose job it is to get government announcements and statements of policy in the newspapers.” (Toronto Telegram, 1940)

These two articles are incredibly important when establishing the argument that the Government was manipulating media by controlling what content was published and inserting pro-war messages. The quotes in these articles make reference to specific government organizations such as the “publicity corps” and “Press Censors” tasked with the goal of inserting propaganda messaging into mass media across the country. The existence of these articles establishes a precedent by acknowledging that the government was willing to pressure these independent media organizations. If they were willing to approach newspapers and authors, it’s not irrational to believe they would so the same with comics.

What About Dizzy Don?

Easson, Manny, and Bell Features, editors. The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don: No. 12. Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, 1944.

Both the illustration and the overarching narrative of The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don and The Secret Weapon support the argument that this comic moonlights as government propaganda. The first example of propaganda within illustration comes through the depiction of the comic’s main antagonist “The Black Hand of Treason”. This character is important for many reasons. Primarily, it’s the driving force behind the story of the comic. This issue of Dizzy Don is less about the victory of its heroes and more about the demonization of its villain, who is frequently described as evil and cowardly throughout. The Black Hand of Treason is not a character in the traditional sense instead of taking the form of an individual it simply appears as a monstrous hand in the story. Because of this, the villain is not portrayed as a person but instead it exists as a symbol. The Black Hand is a symbolic representation of Nazi Germany as explained in the comic when mad scientist Mortimer Midge says, “It is a Nazi group, they want to prevent my secret weapon from being used by our armies” (Easson, 9) When German and Japanese characters are illustrated within the comic their depiction is consistent with the overtly racialized and stereotypical features found in other propaganda imagery such as large ears or buck teeth.  The portrayal of these characters throughout the comic draw direct comparison to government messaging and the illustrations are consistent with traditional propaganda.

The narrative of the comic further supports the idea of comics being re-purposed as propaganda tools. The story follows the adventures of Radio Host Dizzy Don as he gets embroiled in a top-secret plan to develop a machine that will win the war for the allies. Over the course of the story Dizzy repeatedly faces off against the The Black Hand of Treason an organization trying to steal or destroy that machine. Within the first few pages of the comic it is made clear that there isn’t going to be any thoughtful commentary on World War II era politics. Instead its predetermined that the heroes will win, and the bad guys are going to lose. Throughout the story none of the characters confront meaningful adversity and all encounters with the antagonists are quickly shrugged off without much effort. The story wraps up quickly with a perfect happy ending as the allied military put the machine into production and win the war. The comic itself reads more like a recruitment ad than a story. Overall this makes for a boring and linear narrative that presents a black and white portrayal of good and evil and a pro-government, pro-military attitude that is consistent with the propaganda of era.

But How?

The depiction of the Black Hand throughout the comic can be understood as propaganda for many reasons. The purpose of propaganda is to “to influence people’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors” (Møllegaard, 2012) and The Black Hand fulfills these requirements in several ways. The comic influences peoples attitude towards the character by establishing it as the villain. Furthermore, the comic goes out of its way to re-iterate how villainous the Black Hand is by continuously referring to it as evil and cowardly. When comparing that depiction to that of the heroes, who are described as smart, honest and loyal a clear line is drawn between the two sides. The comic is carefully constructed to make the reader hate the Black Hand as a symbol of Nazi Germany. The writers also avoid making any controversial political statements throughout the story, making it clear who the good and the bad guys are. The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don are primarily a joke comic series and “The Black Hand” is always the target of a witty one liner delivered by Dizzy. Whether or not this impacted the behavior of its readers is impossible to say, but the intention to portray them as laughable and incompetent is clear.

Odell, Gordon. “Keep Those Hands Off” Canadian War Museum. 1945

The illustration of “The Black Hand” also has direct connections with war propaganda posters. The poster shown here portrays two monstrous hands enclosing themselves around a woman and her child. This illustration is identical to the depiction of the Black Hand in the comic. Within the hands are German and Japanese symbols, this not only verifies that the Black Hand is a symbol of Nazi Germany but proves there is consistent imagery between the comic and a traditional propaganda poster.

Consistency is one of the most important factors to consider when trying to run a successful propaganda campaign. Ensuring that citizens can quickly relate images seen in posters with illustrations they see in their own living room is important. This is because it allows them to relate to what they are seeing and create emotional connections, whether they be positive or negative. These emotional connections are vital because they spur people to act on their message. For example, if someone saw an ad for war bonds that gave them a strong emotional response they would be more inclined to purchase them. More examples of this can be seen in the comic when examining the depiction of a Japanese character. Although he only appears in one frame and has no dialogue, the overly stereotyped and racially insensitive illustration is similar to the portrayal of Japanese people in World War II era propaganda. The poster below is an example of one of those depictions. The long-pointed ears and buck teeth shown in the poster on the right are features consistent with the illustration in the comic.

Unknown Author. “Tokyo Kid Say” 1945

“The Funny Comics” are not the only instance of cartoon characters being used as vehicles for government propaganda. Iconic characters such as Donald Duck have been used to try and sell war-bonds and send pro-military messages to their viewers. This video is an advertisement run in 1942 in which Donald’s devil side and angel side fight over where he should spend his hard-earned money, on himself or to buy bonds. (notice the evil Nazi mailbox) This proves that children’s cartoons are being used to sell pro-government content.

“The Canadian Whites” comics offer an illuminating view into the state of society and political ideology during the second world war. Based on the precedent established by multiple news outlets and the connections between imagery and themes within the comic to other sources it is clear that the Canadian government utilized a variety of mass media sources, including The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don as a vehicle to distribute propaganda.


Work Cited

  • Canada, National Film Board of. Shameless Propaganda. 2014. www.nfb.ca, https://www.nfb.ca/film/shameless_propaganda/.
  • Easson, Manny, and Bell Features, editors. The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don: No. 12. Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, 1944.
  • Frohardt-Lane., SARAH. “Promoting a Culture of Driving: Rationing, Car Sharing, and Propaganda in World War II.” Journal of American Studies, vol. 46, no. 2, 2012, p. 337.
  • MacKay, Robin. “49th Parallel: The Art of Propaganda.” Queen’s Quarterly, vol. 123, no. 4, 2016, p. 572.
  • Møllegaard, Kirsten. “Comic Art Propaganda: A Graphic History FredrikStrömberg. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2010.” The Journal of American Culture, vol. 35, no. 2, June 2012, p. 192
  • Odell, Gordon. “Keep Those Hands Off” Canadian War Museum. 1945, http://www.warmuseum.ca/collections/artifact/1019599/.
  • The Hamilton Spectator. WarMuseum.ca – Democracy at War – Information, Propaganda, Censorship and the Newspapers. 1940 http://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/newspapers/information_e.shtml.
  • Toronto Telegram. “Government Propaganda Machine Now in High Gear.” July 1940
  • Unknown. “Tokyo Kid Say” 1945

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.

Propaganda for Immigrants in The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don Issue 10

© Copyright 2017 Ruba Hassan, Ryerson University

Introduction:

The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don issue 10 “Double Trouble in Hollywood” was created by Manny Easson and published in 1944. The comic comes during a robust and flourishing time for Canadian comics referred to as “The Golden Age” (Bell). Like many wartime comics, the comic issue inevitably deals with war themes and World War II specific events. In this issue, a German spy network attempts to use one of its secret agents, whose day job is that of an actress, to fund their anti United States and Canada propaganda in the States. The female spy in the comic, Ula Rave, is a very peculiar character considering the time of the comic’s publication. Although she is German, she expresses displeasure with her position as a tool for the German spy network. She also shows a lack of faith in Germany wining the war against the United States. Last but not least, she struggles in the shadows and indirectly aids Dizzy Don in defeating and catching the spies. The peculiarity of this anti-German stance that Ula Rave, a German character, takes throughout the comic can be explained by looking at the comic as propaganda.

Dizzy Don issue 10 came at a time where German immigrants in Canada were facing tremendous discrimination and were under great suspicion. Yet, their contribution to the Canadian war effort would be useful. Therefore, this paper will argue that Dizzy Don’s 10th issue is a form of propaganda, aimed at German immigrants in Canada, and meant to influence them to support the war effort in Canada. The comic presents Ula Rave as a German who believes in American military power and ideals rather than German ones. Ula Rave also acts in a heroic manner by refusing to betray America for the sake of Germany no matter what it cost her. Finally, her attitude towards Germany, and her support for American nationalism, make her into an ideal example of a German immigrant in wartime Canada who helps separate nazi Germans from German immigrants.

Attitudes towards German immigrants during the war:

Although Canada and Germany were enemy nations during World War I and II, Canada was still home to many German immigrants. However, these immigrants were heavily discriminated against, treated with suspicion, and forced to assimilate so that they can coexist with Canadians during a heavily charged political climate. German immigration into Canada dates back to the 1750s. According to Bassler, during the two World Wars, despite Germany’s position as an enemy state, Canada was pressured by Britain to accept German immigrants. However, the immigrant groups who were accepted were limited in number and branded “non-preferred” immigrants (Bassler). With this history of immigration, and the fact that Canada and Germany were at war, it is easy to see that Germans in Canada belonged to a marginalized group and that being German in Canada came with many negative connotations.

German immigrants viewed with suspicion:

Germans not only belonged to a “non-preferred” immigrant group, but their rejection of nazism and want to escape Hitler’s Germany was regarded with a lot of suspicion.

A main source of suspicion is something that acts as the main plot in Dizzy Don’s 10th issue, and that is spies. Canada was in a constant fear and anxiety of German spies infiltrating the government and leaking information that might lead to Canada’s destruction in the hands of Germany. This fear can be observed in newspaper articles of the time. For example, one newspaper article from 1939 from the Globe and Mail talked about a German woman who was held in prison by immigration officials because she was suspected of being a spy (Oliver 1). The article talks about how evidence at the time was lacking to prove that she was a “romantic figure in the spy world, using her feminine wiles to extract military secrets from important and impressionable figures” (Oliver 1). This article makes the inspiration for the plot line of an undercover German spy in the issue clear, and presents a general view of the sentiment towards German immigrants during World War II.

German Immigrants Coping with their oppression:

To deal with this marginalization and suspicion, German immigrants living in Canada were forced to assimilate. To assimilate meant that Germans had to accept and cope with the oppression they lived in, as well as  to stay hidden as much as possible, and to stay clear of anything that might put them under suspicion. Massa and Weinfeld used the term “Germano-phobia” to describe the prevailing attitude towards Germans in World War I (20). German people were faced with violence from their neighbours, discriminated against in employment, and had their assets confiscated by the government in fear that it will be sent to serve nazism (Massa & Weinfeld 20). This social and economic oppression continued on in World War II, but by then, German immigrants had improved their coping mechanism with this oppression. World War I taught German immigrants “the expediency of camouflaging their ethnic identity and reinforced their already-marked tendency to assimilate rapidly” (Massa & Weinfeld 20). Germans assimilated, joined the army, and took up any chance to prove their loyalty to Canada. This, although good for the Canadian side, was not quite enough. Since Canada wanted German immigrants to not become invisible, but to show their loyalty to Canada by supporting the war effort and helping in things like exposing spy networks. This is were propaganda and fictional characters like Ula Rave in Dizzy Don come in.

Canadian propaganda influencing German immigrants:

The use of propaganda, that is, of biased information that is designed to influence an audience and support an agenda, was common during the two World Wars. During the war, propaganda was used in different forms to encourage the support for the war effort in Canada. The Canadian government created a variety of propaganda posters and films to sell victory bonds, or paint a hopeful and prideful picture of Canada.

There is evidence of propaganda being used to influence German immigrants

Government. Buy Victory Bonds (Chinese). Canada. Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-30-1378. 1941. Public Domain.

during the war. For example, the War Finance Committee released posters in 1941in different languages encouraging immigrants to buy victory bonds; one of those languages was German. Furthermore, according to Lawson, Germans being influenced by Canadian propaganda was not a new phenomena (277). Lawson observes the effects of Canadian propaganda generated by the government, and its effect on late 19th and early 20th century German literature. One narrative painted the Canadian as a “superhuman” and an “exotic specimen” while romanticizing Canada and commending its power (Lawson 280). This piece of information presents a promising chance for Dizzy Don issue 10 to have the same influence, since the comics shares the same themes with a typical World War II propaganda.

The Comic as propaganda:

The comic issue explicitly addresses propaganda early on; in fact, propaganda is a main plot point in the story. Ironically, propaganda is talked about by German spies who are trying to utilize it to interfere with the war effort in Canada and the United States (Easson 11). The more implicit use of propaganda however is the point of interest to this paper.

Ula Rave, the German actress in the comic, reaffirms the audience’s faith in Canada’s power. She  talks to another character called Hilda Gesser about German

Fig.3. Manny Easson. Panel from “Double Trouble in Hollywood”. The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, No. 10, 1944, Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, p. 20. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166601.pdf

armies being defeated in the war (Easson 20). Gesser tells Ula Rave that what American newspapers say about German soldiers retreating is all lies, upon hearing this, Ula Rave thinks to herself “ No they die before they get the chance” (Easson 20). By adding this conversation, the creator of the comic asserts the authenticity of American newspapers and does so from a point of view of none other than a German. Seeing a German character provide this affirmation has a different effect form it being a Canadian or an American one. This is because Ula Rave provides a sort of inner point of view of Germany and its situation during the war, and tells the audience that Germany has become so weak that even its own citizens have no faith left in its military power.

Ula Rave also shows her support for Canada and America in different parts of the comic. At one point specifically, she compliments American people and says “I refuse to be a traitor any longer to thees adopted country which treats me so well” (Easson 24). With this statement, Ula Rave establishes an image of Canada that could have the same effect on the comic’s audience as the one in German literature about Canada presented by Lawson. Ula Rave tells the audience that Canada is a country that would treat someone from an enemy nation with kindness. These examples show how Ula Rave’s character was a part of a wider campaign of propaganda that supports Canada and the United States. The more this helped German immigrants find Canada agreeable, the more loyalty and support for war effort the country gained. But, for Ula Rave to have this effect on the audience, she needs to be an appealing enough of a character. This means that she needs to imitate a comic book hero in more ways than one.

Ula Rave as a Comic book hero:

At first glance, the comic’s main protagonist Dizzy Don, seems like the main hero of the comic. But after reading a bit further, the reader realizes that Ula Rave is the one who takes centre stage in the comic and plays a more dramatic role than Dizzy Don. Dizzy Don fights the male spy at the end of the comic and saves the day, in this sense he is the main hero. However, by looking at the role Ula Rave plays in the story line, it can be inferred that she acts as a secondary hero. Ula Rave does one of the most important things for a comic hero in wartime to do, and that is spread nationalism.

Beaty looks in his article at how comic book heroes embodied ideas of nationalism during World War I and II. When discussing  features of a nationalist superhero he says “Central to the convention of the superhero story is the idea that superheroes will act in a clandestine, and often illegal, manner when the national interest, however that is defined, is at stake”(Beaty 428). This feature of a comic superhero can be observed in Ula Rave’s behaviour and statements in the comic. Although she is part of the German spy network,

Fig.4. Manny Easson. Panel from “Double Trouble in Hollywood”. The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, No. 10, 1944, Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, p. 16. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166601.pdf

she expresses her disgust at being used for funding the network, and establishes a degree of innocence for herself early on. This innocence is further induced by a revelation the creator offers the reader; which is that her parents were held hostage by Nazi agents, leaving her no choice but to comply (Easson 19). Ula Rave also expresses  her lack of faith in Germany throughout the comic, and goes as far as saying “Dirty Nazi” at some point (Easson 27). The resistance she shows is met with violence—two slaps from the male spy and one punch from Hilda Gesser to be exact—and yet she does not give in and do the spy networks biding (Easson 20-25. Ula Rave struggles in secret to serve American interests and stand in the way of nazi Germany getting what it desires. Although her struggle is kept secret from other characters in the story, the audience is aware of it. This helps make the audience sympathize with Ula Rave and appreciate her efforts, and increases their pride in America.

Ula Rave creating a space for German immigrants to belong:

Another way that Ula Rave’s character spreads nationalism is through establishing the “us vs. them” narrative that is common to wartime propaganda and wartime comics. Explaining this propaganda technique, McCann says “We is a powerful word in establishing identity with a group. We by very definition means us, our crowd, our side, as opposed to them, those others, those outsiders, those foreigners” (60). This narrative is one that unites a group of people and convinces them that they must act as a collective force to combat another group of people. The us vs them narrative is dangerous because it does not only unite. It also convinces people that they are definitely on the right side, and that their enemy is a force of evil that must be destroyed. In Dizzy Don issue 10, the creator uses this technique with German immigrants as his target audience. This is done through Ula Rave as Ula Rave presents Canada and America in a good light. She emphasizes how cruel nazi Germans can be by mentioning the kidnapping of her parents and by being a victim to violence from the German spies. With this, the creator displays a typical us vs them narrative with Canada or the United States being the “us” and nazi Germany the “them”.

This argument however can be taken further if the focus is moved to the fact that a German character is used to establish this narrative. By making Ula Rave a secondary hero, the creator allows for the German immigrant audience to see a chance for them to belong to the “us” and join Canadians in fighting the “them”, which is nazi Germany. With this argument in mind, Ula Rave becomes a hero created to serve as someone German immigrants can relate to. This helps in giving them a sense of belonging and creates a model for them to follow, which is something that serves the creator’s interest.

Ula Rave as the ideal German immigrant:

The fact that war comics influenced the audience even if slightly is something that was acknowledged and irrefutable. Newspapers of the time talked about how “those who follow the adventures of the comic strip characters may have their political and social views influenced in no small degree” (“The Serious-Minded ‘Funnies.’”). This is why the creator of Dizzy Don issue 10 made the effort to create a complex character like Ula Rave. Ula Rave who denounced nazism, acted as a a hero behind the curtain, and betrayed Germany for the sake of Canada and the United States, was created to act as an ideal German immigrant for the audience. By reading the comic this way, it becomes clear that the target audience was German immigrants, and the goal is to get them to follow Ula Rave’s example by helping expose spy networks and supporting the Canadian war effort.

Conclusion:

At a time of very negative attitudes towards Germans in Canada, The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don’s 10th issue brings about important ideas to the minds of German immigrants. The comic gives them a German character that directly tells them that Germany is losing the war. This same character also speaks of the kindness of Americans while facing violence from German spies. She is then allowed to be a secondary superhero to commend her efforts in protecting American interests. Finally, she creates a grey area for German immigrants to exist under the Canadian flag and shows them examples of how they had to act to belong in this area.


Works Cited

  • Bassler, Gerhard P. “German Canadians.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 27 Mar. 2017, http:// www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/article/german-canadians/.
  • Beaty, Bart. “The Fighting Civil Servant: Making Sense of the Canadian Superhero.” American Review of Canadian Studies, vol. 36, no. 3, 2006, pp. 427–39. Scholars Portal Journals, doi:10.1080/02722010609481401.
  • Bell, John, ‘Comic Books in English Canada’, The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2015 <http:// www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/article/comic-books-in-english-canada/> [accessed 4 October 2017]
  • Easson, Manny. “Double Trouble in Hollywood”. The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, no. 10, 1944. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada. http:/ data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166601.pdf.
  • Lawson, Robert. “German Representations of Canada and Canadian Soldiers: Karl Bröger’s Bunker 17, Wolfgang Borchert’s ‘Billbrook’ and Rainer Kunad’s Bill Brook.” British Journal of Canadian Studies; Liverpool, vol. 20, no. 2, Sept. 2007, pp. 276–288, Canadian Business & Current Affairs Database; International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (IBSS), http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest- com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/205013433?accountid=13631.
  • Massa, Evelyne, and Morton Weinfeld. “We Needed to Prove We Were Good Canadians: Contrasting Paradigms for Suspect Minorities.” Canadian Issues; Montreal, Spring 2009, pp. 15–28, Canadian Business & Current Affairs Database, http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/208675213?accountid=13631.
  • McCrann, Grace-Ellen. “Government Wartime Propaganda Posters: Communicators of Public Policy.” Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian, vol. 28, no. 1–2, 2009, pp. 53–73. Scholars Portal Journals, doi:10.1080/01639260902862058.
  • The National Committee Victory Loan. Buy Victory Bonds (Chinese). Government, 1941, http:// data2.archives.ca/e/e431/e010761225-v8.jpg. Library and Archives Canada, Posters and Broadsides in Canada.
  • Oliver, Charles. “IS SHE NAZI SPY? OFFICIALS CAN’T MAKE HER TALK.” The Globe and Mail, 9 Dec. 1939, pp. 1–2, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Globe and Mail, http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/1325629332?accountid=13631.
  • “The Serious-Minded ‘Funnies.’” Toronto Daily Star, 18 Jan. 1943, Canadian War Museum, Democracy at War database. http://collections.warmuseum.ca /warclip/pages/ warclip/ResultsList.php.

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 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.

Manipulation by Media

Children are easily manipulated as they are seen as innocent and naive. Children do not have the education to learn what the real reason is behind the madness that occurs every day. Events will happen all over the world and children will not be capable to grasp a proper understanding as to why it is happening. This is solely due to the lack of education on history. A major historic event that had a change in the world, was World War II in 1939. World War II made an impact on everyone all around the world especially in the media, as it was largely impacted. During this time, comics were very popular and they contained many different stories that were targeted towards war. A comic would show an example of how children were not being properly taught about an event. The use of racism, violence, and hatred was incorporated negatively in these comics. In my comic, there was an advertisement for war stamps that involved the illustration of Adolph Hitler. My comic found on page 15 of WOW Comics issue No. 10 (1945). Specifically focused on the aim for children to purchase war stamps. The purchase of war stamps was easier to persuade to children due to their age and young mentality. The sales of war stamps are one of the factors which helped fund the war, for it was important to keep the children engaged in purchasing. Depending on the perspective, this comic advertisement can be interpreted as a deeper meaning. This can be proven through the history presented, the illustrations, the vocabulary used and the dramatic events which unfolded in front of children in World War II.

Children and History: Historic Childhood Novelty

I found that the history of World War II was very effective while looking at this comic advertisement. Without looking into the history one would not be able to prove that children were very under-educated and manipulated. The media was able to target children with the use of comics and toys. Children have been targeted for many years, but it was most prominent during World War II because leaders found them to be more vulnerable (Martin Armstrong, 2014). In comparison to adults, children retain more information because they are continuously developing their own personalities and mentalities (David Machin and Theo Van Leeuwen, 2009). Children were targeted in this comic to purchase war stamps, however, they believed that by doing so they were helping fund the war for their nation. The message that they received was positive, as they were helping their families who were within the battle. At an impressionable age and with the passion to be involved, these children tried to come up with any way to make money. With whatever they earned, they would bring it to their school to purchase War Savings Stamps which they pinned into special booklets for post-war redemption. This created an appealing goal for them, by being able to fill and keep track of their unique stamps! Along with the mixed messages, there was the horrible bribery of the children that I found quite appalling. “Children learned to recycle and collect materials, such as metal, rubber, fat, and grease, which were reused to produce useful products for the war. In return for the children’s labour, different incentives were offered to the children such as free passes to the movies” (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2017). Apart from free movie screenings, children enjoyed playing with different toys in their free time. Toys were made to resemble the war; even today I still see these toys exist. These toys can consist of miniature soldiers, plastic machine guns, replica grenades and the full attire (David Machin and Theo Van Leeuwen, 2009). These toys would intrigue children, in relation to the plastic guns, those are not toys, even if they are plastic. These toys would intrigue a child and become an object of enjoyment, as opposed, to teaching them what their real purpose is, which is to injure and kill people. What I immediately thought was how boys-not girls because there was more sexism towards girls if they were caught wanting to play with these war toys; this could resemble their family that was out fighting for their lives. Young boys want to be able to follow in their parent’s footsteps, usually their fathers, which would make these toys more appealing. Further, into the research, it brought me to an article based on a true story made into a comic, about a young girl named  Hansi who loved the Swastika symbol (Figure 2).

This is something I found to be extremely inappropriate for a child to love. The Swastika symbol is the official emblem of the Nazi party and a symbol that holds a meaning of hatred. The Hansi comic book was part of a series of biographies of famous Christians in the 1970s. The Christian comic book was based on the autobiography of Maria Anne Hirschmann, who lived through World War II as a victim of the Germans propaganda (Comic Alliance Staff, 2010). She was an avid believer in the Bible, but then found herself intrigued and interested in the swastika.It was concerning as it is found unusual of such difference in an interest into something which negatively impacted the world. Further with age, she then returned back to her Christian faith.It was obvious the moral behind this comic, as it is showing you that your faith will always be there for you even when you do not realize it. By looking back on the history of World War II, I am able to further prove the point that children did not receive the proper education. If they had, these children would not want to resemble the toys they played with to war, misunderstand comics for wanting to help with the war and have a young girl who loved the swastika.

 

Illustration: Visual Stimulation 

I further my research on my topic by looking into the illustrations displayed in my comic advertisement. This comic I found was unique in the use of illustration, especially when looking at Hitler’s expression while he is saluting. The facial reaction displayed on Adolph Hitler plays a large part in the advertisement (Figure 3). Looking at his face is unsettling, we are not exactly sure how Hitler is feeling. Hitler looks disappointed when he is giving authority by saluting yet, he is not exactly proud of himself. He also looks guilty. When we see realistic photographs of Hitler, his face is usually flat and he has no emotion shown on his face. However, this comic shows him looking vulnerable and upset. This I find has a major effect on children because it will have the emotional grab; he does not look happy with what he is doing so why would someone else want to follow in his footsteps? It is also seen Hitler holding a swastika in his hand. My findings concluded that the swastika connected with the story of the young girl who loved the swastika symbol. This adds to the fact that children were easily manipulated through illustrations; most likely finding the symbol appealing because they would not understand the meaning behind it. Looking further into the illustration we can take notice of a solider showing force against Hitler. This I found portrayed violence, which should not be portrayed to young children. I think children should see that violence is not something that we approve, yet, this comic is showing our soldiers being violent towards one of the most notorious people in history. It is quite a contradicting illustration when discussing the impact of illustrations affecting children. Although they are young, this is the time their minds start to process information and remember things that they see such as the illustration in this comic. A child finds illustrations more appealing than vocabulary. However, in order for comics to be appealing to the young crowd, the illustrators had to use images rather than vocabulary to catch the individuals eye and have a reminding effect.

Vocabulary: Cunning Persuasion 

Lastly, a strong form of manipulation used throughout this comic is the vocabulary. There are two words that stand out to myself and those words are “heed” and “breed”. Heed is a word that expresses obedience, but also indicates a warning in this comic. Once defining this term and delving deeper into the meaning of it, I realized you have to pay attention to small details in the comic. I looked carefully at this and realized the word heed is used in an intentional way. I needed to focus on the main idea in this comic, which is Hitler. I paid more attention to him after this because what he did throughout his life was not right. His “breed,” aka the Germans, though they were doing good, but when we actually pay attention to the reality of it all, we know that Hitler was trying to create racial purity. In my article, the communicating text starts with: “A jerk called Adolph” which indicates that they are trying to keep an appropriate word for children instead of using a  vulgar term (Figure 4).

This portrays to the child that the term “jerk” would be a bad word, but not too bad as to reveal Hitler. In the verse following, “was once a kid” this removes Hitler’s scary nature, allowing children to feel somewhat empathetic. Thus, thinking that he was once like them being weak and vulnerable. Also, without caution to children of Hitler’s true nature, they might desire to be like him one day. Following that in the text, “But, when he grew up  just look what he did!” It is implying that the reader would know “what he did” and assumes they would share the same assessment as the comic author. Furthermore, the text says: “Now you” which is speaking directly to the reader of the comic. Also, reverting back to words spoke earlier which were: “can help destroy his breed,” which refers to Hitler’s mission which was to destroy the Jewish people. The ‘you’ in this ad is aimed at its readers to destroy Hitler’s breed. Hitler is known for his wanting to destroy the Jewish. There is a fine line between us attacking Hitler like, he is attacking the Jewish, it is displayed in this ad that we need to destroy his “breed” which does not equal justice. The comic displays Germans as a “breed,” just like animals, they are just something to be killed off as if they do not have to mean. We should not intend to equal the violence, we should show children that we want peace. Lastly, is the quote:  “if these words you will but heed… Buy War Stamps!” This is now trying to persuade its reader into thinking that they must buy these war stamps. The vocabulary in this comic advertisement was very particular, they added the persuasion, the double meaning and the second person perspective (WOW Comic, 1949).

In conclusion, I prove that the media has a large effect on children who lived through World War II. This was shown with the use of the historical information gathered through research of war stamps, as children paid and collected these stamps to help fund the war. The stamps were particularly advertised to children, as they were easy to persuade due to their age and passion for involvement. Secondly, toys which represented different war items allowed a child to have an imagination and feel like their mothers and fathers, who of which did their part to help the war. The true story of Hansi, allows us to understand the meaningful power of the swastika and that person’s faith will always follow them. Moreover, by looking at the illustration displayed in the comic, Hitlers image and expression is evident in showing a negative perspective. As well as, the vocabulary used, which allowed us to see many different aspects being persuasion, double meaning and the perspectives directed. Overall, comics had a lot of impacts, not only on the innocent young boys and girls but also in the aspect of how it portrayed media throughout the event of World War II.

Work Cited

Comic Alliance Staff “Comic Art Propaganda Explored: ‘Hansi The Girl Who Loved the Swastika’.” ComicsAlliance, 17 July 2010, comicsalliance.com/comic-art-propaganda-explored-hansi-the-girl-who-loved-the-swa/

Canada, Veterans Affairs. “Canadian Youth – Growing up in Wartime.” Veterans Affairs Canada, Government of Canada, 24 Mar. 2017, www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/historical-sheets/youth.

David Machin, Theo Van Leeuwen. “Toys as discourse: children’s war toys and the war on terror.” Toys as discourse: Children’s war toys and the war on terror | Critical Discourse Studies Vol. 6, No.1, February 2009, 51-63

Martin Armstrong. “Propaganda & Children – Always the First Target of Leaders.” Propaganda & Children – Always the First Target of Leaders | Armstrong Economics, www.armstrongeconomics.com/uncategorized/propaganda-children-always-the-first-target-of-leaders/.

Stacy Gillis, Emma Short. “Children’s experiences of World War One.” The British Library, The British Library, 20 Jan. 2014, www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/childrens-experiences-of-world-war-one.

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.

Morale in “Wow Comics no. 17”

Introduction

The Second World War brought many changes to the lives of Canadian children. With fathers and brothers being deployed in the battle overseas, mothers suddenly joining the work force, shortages of food, rations, and talk of Nazi spies and Japanese invasion, the echoes of war were ubiquitous in the lives of children (Cook). Undoubtedly troubling for them, one of the only offers of escape for children was comic books. Enter the “Canadian Whites”: a series of comic books created by Canadian publishing companies that filled the void left by the removal of the American popular media when the King administration passed the War Exchange Conservation Act (WECA) (Bell). The “Whites” lifespan was short, but nonetheless, their run fulfilled a significant role in the lives of Canadian children.

In this article, I will examine issue no. 17 of Wow Comics (a member of the “Whites” family), in particular the narratives that focus on themes of war and violence, and how those narratives quite paradoxically supply readers with a more optimistic outlook on the war they were living through. By selling children a world of clear-cut narratives to situate themselves in, where good and evil were easily distinguished, the heroes always won, and life at home was never shown as being in danger, Wow Comics perhaps served as a means of upholding morale in their lives.

Defining Morale

For the purposes of this article, I will be using the term “morale” as a measure of optimism held by Canadian children about the war. Advertisements, propaganda, and other products of pop culture (including comics) that work to improve or positively shape consumer’s outlook on the war effort can be seen as upholding morale. Additionally, anything that helped kids to orient themselves in the confusion of wartime, or provide some sense of comfort and security can also be seen as upholding morale.

Context of Consumer Culture

Figure 1. Government issued propaganda used Hitler’s image to discourage spending. H. V. Shaw (a). “Save to beat the devil,” from “Canada at War Forums”, Canada at War, Jan 2010.

When accessed digitally, there is a tendency to forget that artifacts of history belonged to a broader sociocultural context. We must then keep in mind that Wow Comics was not only a product of a consumerist culture, but highly successful ones. During the war, there was a tension between the government’s “anti-spending” propaganda campaign, and the companies that naturally wanted to keep up consumption. Businesses, to protect their success, had to be tactical about their approach to advertising. As Graham Broad puts it in his book A Small Price To Pay, advertisers’ initial response to the war was to maintain a “business as usual approach” (50). However, as the government continued developing their propaganda to align spending with treason (e.g. using Hitler’s image in anti-spending campaigns as seen in Figure 1), advertisers shifted tactics to attaching social significance to their products (Broad 61). To accomplish this, advertisers started constructing the purchase of every commodity as being useful to the war effort (77). In doing so, advertisers inverted the government’s “serve by saving” ideology into a “serve by spending” call to action. As a result, advertisers made consumerism a mode of participation in the war effort, and boosted morale in the lives of Canadians by giving them the sensation that their spending was in some way helping to win the war.

Commodifying the War

Figure 2. Toy gun advertisement. Wow Comics, no. 17, 1943, Bell Features Publishing, pp. 57.

Wow Comics fits into the consumer climate in a similar way: by working both as a source of morale and a piece of propaganda. Two advertisements in the back of Wow Comics no. 17 that promote toy guns to its readers serve as an illuminating example. The advertisements invite children to role-play as soldiers with models guns that are “Just like the real thing!” (Wow Comics 57). Margaret Higonnet, doing research on military themes in children’s culture, argues that toys can be used to domesticate war, “[granting] distance and [permitting] us to claim mastery” (“War Toys” 119-120), and we can see such a process taking place here. Purchasing these toy guns would allow children to recreate the battles they hear about in school and read about in these comics, relocating the war into an imaginary space where they have control. In other words, children can use these toy guns to imagine themselves as brave heroes of war. Since we know that toys are often employed by children to help them navigate through uncertain times (“War Toys” 118), this reconfiguration of war allows children to feel better equipped to deal with the changes wartime brought into their lives, and thereby boost morale. The advertisements also work as propaganda, as they encourage children in their play to embody soldiers fighting on the “good side” (i.e. the Canadian military) against evil (i.e. enemies of Canada, Nazis). Rehearsal of war, especially as it is informed by the advertisements and themes found in Wow Comics serves to reproduce the ideological binary of good vs. evil and solidifies the justification of the Canadian war effort.

“Hair-Raising Features”

While several of Wow Comics no. 17’s stories are based in the military genre, its representations of war are quite distant from the realities. The front cover of the lets readers know it is filled with action. The cover depicts a German U-Boat being blown up, complete with enemy bodies flung airborne, and crashing waves. In the bottom left corner is a text box that reads “‘The Penguin Strikes’ Plus 5 Other Hair-Raising Features,” advertising that at least six of the contained stories are action packed. Higonnet argues, “One of the paradoxes of war, as it is represented in children’s books, is that battle becomes distilled as individual combat” (2). Her theory applies here: while some of the comic’s stories are situated directly in the war effort, there is never a battlefield full of soldiers or towns under siege. Instead, comics like “The Penguin” take place on a nondescript coastline, with a single protagonist going up against a single German villain, “the Luger” (Wow Comics 3). Similarly, “Whiz Wallace” takes place in India, and has a battle between the protagonists and the villainous “Spymaster” and his henchmen (Wow Comics 19). The comics’ representations of war take place in contained (and due the lack of specificity in location, almost secret) places, where the violence does not reach innocent lives. Such representations reduce war to a singular heroic man seeking out and infallibly beating up singular villains without causing any auxiliary destruction. However, the reality war is far more complex, violent, and senseless than that heroic process. As a scholar on the “White”, Ivan Kocmarek, remarks that the “Canada Whites” were likely one of the only sources of information about the war for children (156), and this representation could therefore be interpreted as a realistic depiction for young readers. Appearing so controlled and one-sided, the war might have then appeared less scary for kids, as it upheld morale about the likelihood of Allied success.

Have no fear!: Heroism in the “Whites”

The cast of heroes in Wow Comics no. 17 is not what one would expect compared to classic comic heroes such as Superman. Instead of supernatural powers, the Canadian heroes used cunning, detective skills, some weapons, and their fists to dole out justice. They are not superheroes, but vigilantes, spies, and adventurers who fought for good and exhibited bravura in the face of evil. “The Penguin,” shows a lone hero in a penguin mask foiling a Nazi plot to bomb the Canadian coast without ever coming face-to-face with the enemy, merely outsmarting them by placing one of their own bombs in the U-Boat’s periscope (Dingle 5). Beyond the immediate threat of a bombing, the deadly weapon is aptly named the “demoralizer bomb” (Wow Comics 3). The Penguin is therefore not just protecting physical bodies, but also the collective spirit of Canadians, pointing to the importance of morale during wartime. Similarly, the comic “Guy Powers: Secret Agent” shows a Canadian detective uncovering a Nazi sabotage scheme in a Canadian factory. In the end, the hero expertly punches out the Nazi spy when he tries to pull a gun on him after being found out. What this common theme of self-defence reveals is a uniquely Canadian approach to the war where violence is used as a means of defence, as opposed to an all-out offensive means to victory. While these tales openly confess that the home front is always a vulnerable target, they also remind young readers that there will always be heroes that will stop the infiltrating evil before it can cause harm, further providing them with comfort, and maintaining the good vs. evil binary that justifies the war effort.

Heroism outside the war

Several of Wow Comics no. 17’s “Hair-Raising Features” take place in a setting outside of WWII. Regardless, they still keep up morale in a similar way to their militaristic counterparts by continuing to reinforce the hero vs. villain binary. As an example, in the comic “The Phantom Rider,” a vigilante hero (The Phantom Rider) rides through the Wild West seeking vengeance against the gun-wielding bandits that killed his father. On his quest, he finds the criminals, but realizes they are planning on stealing a herd of cattle from a local town. The Rider then proceeds to trap the criminals and turn them over to the authorities, saving the day. This comic reinforces the idea that justice is achieved by a clearly good hero fighting against clearly bad villains. When the sheriff says “He never breaks his word, always helps the one in need,” (Wow Comics 35) readers are further reminded that this story is an example of the Rider’s time-proven process.  The echoing heroism in the comics that exist outside of the war continue to remind the reader that there are good people who protect the innocent from evil.

Constructing villains

Figure 3. Panel from “Whiz Wallace” showing the Spymaster. Wow Comics, no. 17, 1943, Bell Features Publishing, pp. 21.

Although the Axis powers were generally understood as evil, the brevity of the comic’s stories required their visual representations of evil to be done efficiently. To do this, illustrators of the “Canadian Whites” tended to rely on stereotypical depictions of Canada’s enemies to communicate not only villainy, but also race and nationality.  Perhaps the most striking example of this is Thomson’s design of the Japanese villain “The Spymaster” in “Whiz Wallace.” The Spymaster is bald, fat, has slanted eyes, and a fu manchu (Figure 4). Although skin tone is absent in the black and white comics, he is described by one of the white protagonists as a “yellow beast” (Wow Comics 22).  Additionally, he possesses a magic that allows him to control the minds of men, and is described as being “mysterious” (Wow Comics 17), ascribing to him a sort of mysticism frequently linked to Asiatic peoples. The combination of both these visual and textual elements construct a portrait of the enemy that is immediately distinguishable to both the protagonists and the readers. This representation shows the “bad guys” as being easy to identify, and in turn, makes them easy for the heroes to find and stop. Children reading these comics might then feel more confident in the understood heroic process when it is demonstrated as being so streamlined and a simple matter of finding the stereotypical villain and swiftly putting a stop to them.

Moreover, German villains were constructed in a similar way to the Japanese: by drawing on stereotypes. The Luger in Dingle’s “The Penguin” is the perfectly designed villain: square jaw, bald, scar located on his head, devilish smirk, and even a monocle. In addition to drawing on the familiar white villain tropes, the German accent is transcribed in the dialogue to reify the connection to German nationality (as if the U-Boat and Nazi flag were not enough). “What is the hold-up” thus becomes “Vat iss der hold-up” (Wow Comics 5). Villains, then, can be recognized not only through visual signals, but also aural ones.

 Conclusion

For the price of 10 cents, Wow Comics offered children worlds parallel to their lived realities where war was not as scary as it seemed. In line with the trends of the era’s consumer culture, Bell Features was successful in turning its products into commodities with social significance in a wartime context. Within these comics, war is reduced to a game of cat and mouse where the hero hunts down and inevitably stops the villain from doing harm. Giving children a more simplistic perspective of war, a complex adult phenomenon, perhaps helped them to feel less afraid during a time of great fear and uncertainty, or at least have a stronger faith in the success of the soldiers fighting for them. Additionally, through advertising, these comics invited children to recreate these war narratives in a way that made them feel in control of their situation. Amid the sea change the Second World War brought to the lives of Canadian children, the Wow Comics fulfilled the important duty of keeping up their morale and fending off fear.


Works Cited

Bell, J., & Viau, M. “Canadian Golden Age of Comics” from “Beyond the Funnies,” Jun. 2002, Library and Archives Canada. https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/comics/027002-8300-e.html

Broad, G. A Small Price to Pay: Consumer Culture on the Canadian Home Front, 1939-45. UBC Press, 2013, Vancouver, Canada.

Cook, T. “Canadian Children and the Second World War,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, Apr. 2016. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/canadian-children-and-wwii/

Higonnet, M. “War Games.” The Lion and the Unicorn, vol. 22, issue 1, John Hopkins University Press, 1998, Brooklyn, United States.

—. “War Toys: Breaking and Remaking in Great War Narratives.” The Lion and the Unicorn, vol. 31, issue 2, John Hopkins University Press, 2007, Baltimore, United States.

Kocmarek, I. “Truth, Justice, and the Canadian Way: The War-Time Comics of Bell Features Publications.” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, vol 43, issue 1, 2016, Canada.

Shaw, H. V. (a). “Save to beat the devil,” from “Canada at War Forums”, Canada at War, Jan. 2010. http://www.canadaatwar.ca/forums/showthread.php?t=2486

Wow Comics, no. 17, Oct. 1943, Bell Features Publishing. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166679.pdf


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.

Triumph Comics No. 23

Encouraging the Militarization of Scientific Advancement in Triumph Comics No. 23

© Gabriela Will 2017, Ryerson University

INTRODUCTION

World War II had a monumental affect on Canada’s advancement as a country, most notably on the cultural and scientific fronts. Culturally, Canada developed a strong sense of identity, as seen through the advent of the Canadian Whites: a series of comics made in Canada, targeting Canadians, and propagating Canadian imagery and values. The comic also depicts the rapid technological advancement rampant through the war years. In Triumph comics: No. 23, this is manifested through the repeated images of weapons in all sorts of contexts and across genres, including westerns, noir, superhero, and joke comics. These comics do not provide a historical lens to observe the period, so much as a mirror, reflecting back to the Canadian population the values and needs of the country, including the persistent emphasis on the invention and manufacturing of weapons technology. The importance of these advancements are reinforced throughout the comic in the form of acknowledgement and praise of the home front’s contributions, generating interest in the sciences, and instilling nationalism, with the intent of encouraging their reader’s eventual contribution. The prevalence of guns throughout the comic also contributes to the underlying theme of justice threaded throughout, suggesting further complexity to the comic’s aims, including constructing a new understanding of ethics during war time.

MEDIA AS PROPAGANDA

Like most forms of media during the time, Triumph No. 23 takes advantage of its reach and readership in order to encourage a pro-war nationalism among Canadians. It’s specific audience, as strictly Canadians, allowed for an outpouring of “nationalistic material” that was never previously possible in a comic subculture that was entirely subsidized by other countries (Foster). Beginning with the invention of the printing press, which lead to large-scale spreading of ideas and ideals, most subsequent mass produced texts served as avenues for social and political messages (Valentine 124-125). This is only amplified in war time, when writers were being pressured by many different industries to contribute to the war effort through subtle indoctrination of their readers.

The newspapers – which many comic authors are indebted to as the inaugural platform of comic strips – printed articles informing Canadian authors of their duty to portray Canada’s “proud and honourable past” in order to show the “heroic youth-and those who stay at home-what they are fighting for” (“Important”). Some comics even included “laudatory endorsements from Canadian cabinet ministers” who were trying to perpetuate an agenda of their own (Kocmarek 37). With a printing of around 500,000 copies of comics in any particular month (a number almost tripled by the known practice of circulating a single comic through multiple sets of hands), the messages contained within the pages reached a huge and often impressionable audience (Kocmarek). The effectiveness of the infiltration of the comics’ content into the Canadian consciousness is evident through the implementation of “active clubs” and other initiatives suggested by the comics that were successfully actualized throughout the population, amassing an impressive number members (Bell 156-160). By the mid-war period it was clear that the Canadian Whites had substantial influence over their large and varied readership, bringing the content “in the pages of [the comics into] the real world” (Bell 37).

INVENTION OF WEAPONS

Comics originated in the pages of newspapers, where they were “the most frequently read part … by children, and the second most [frequently read] by adolescents” (Foster). This familial relationship becomes important when analyzing the messages of the newspapers of the era, and how the news and events the authors read influenced the content of the comics they created. One such article from the Hamilton Spectator, 1942, talks about the scientific instruments that were being created in Canada including “radio-locators” and “navigation instruments”, which were at the forefront of the scientific boom (“Secret”). The added intrigue of ‘secret’ devices was used to increase interest and prestige among the readers of the newspaper, and may have influenced one particular writer, Adrian Dingle, in his comic “Nelvana”.

Fig. 1. Adrian Dingle; last frame of “Nelvana” Triumph Comics No. 23, Bell Features Publishing, Nov/Dec 1944. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

In this comic, Nelvana is trying to secure the “precious plans” for the secret “ice-beam,” an invention she and her Canadian companions are trying to keep out of the hands of the axis-agents (Dingle 1). This weapon is fantastical, yet not totally unrealistic, and may have been representative of some of the “secret devices” that weren’t talked about, but were nevertheless floating around in the consciousness of the Canadian population (“Secret”). By recycling the ideas and themes permeating the newspapers within his comic, Dingle emphasizes the importance of new scientific invention in helping the war effort. Indeed, it is the ice-beam invention that eventually defeats the Nazi “Roboms” in “Nelvana,” as told through a newspaper heading in the last frame of the comic (Dingle 7, Fig. 1). This full circle effect found in “Nelvana” – from authors reading newspapers, to creating their comics based on what they read, to portraying newspapers in their comics that share the same messages – reflects the life Canadian readers back to them in a more dramatic, elevated, purposeful way. Keeping the population attuned to the needs and realities of the situation on the home front permeates through every level of authoritative texts.

HOMEFRONT MANUFACTURING

The war brought an onset of technological advancements to the Canadian home front, specifically in regards to the manufacturing of weapons and transportation of supplies. Canada’s reputation as a country with a “virtually nonexistent” capacity for scientific or industrial development changed rapidly with the desire to be seen as self sufficient and separate from Britain’s influence (Avery 14). Therefore, Canada began their own endeavours into “radar, explosives, proximity fuses, and chemical and biological warfare,” as well as massive manufacturing projects in areas of transportation, such as the Corvette ships (Avery 25). However, the manpower needed to manufacture all these weapons was usually at a deficit (Avery). Many forms of media set their sights on improving this ratio through sending messages containing positive reinforcement to boost morale, nationalism, and the incentive for everyday Canadians back home to participate in manufacturing efforts. The first frame of the comic “Barnacle Bull” shows him on a Corvette: a ship built in Canada and used by the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II (Brunt 41, “Corvette”). These minute details threaded throughout the comics help instil a sense of pride on both a personal level for those have first hand experience with the ship, but also on a national level, wherein every Canadian can feel a sense of pride for their country’s accomplishments.

This covert propaganda tactic was seen throughout the media of the day, including a radio broadcast from 1942. Using testimony from Canadian’s on active duty stationed across the fronts, the speakers repeat the same message of thanks and appreciation to the home front for all the “new equipment [and] new weapons” (Messages). They emphasize how much it means that it “comes from Canada”, their home, and how “the people on the front [are] every it as important as any other” (Messages). Almost every person says “keep up the good work Canada,” and there is strong sense, especially in some of the stuttering, that the soldiers are following a script provided to them (Messages). This same persuasive elements of testimony and ‘glittering generalities’ are found both in “Barnacle Bull” (more discretely), as well as overtly in the radio broadcast. Both mediums use praise as means to make the Canadian home front feel more directly connected to the cause at large, creating a greater feeling of nationalism and desire to participate.

ENCOURAGEMENT OF SCIENTIFIC ADVANCEMENT

The manufacturing of weapons was not the only source of contribution that was lacking on the home front; the Canadian government and universities were also in need of educated youth to participate in the scientific invention stage of weapon making. The government tried to achieve this through “mobiliz[ing] Canadian universities for war” by allocating the majority of their resources on achieving this goal (Avery 42). Their two main goals were “developing new weapons” and recruiting students to “continue their studies in all branches of science, especially along the lines required to met national requirements as they develop[ed]” (Avery 83, 43).

The pages of Triumph Comics No. 23 are saturated with recurring depictions of weapons in many different forms. In the comic “Speed Savage,” the technical, scientific jargon alludes to the complexities of scientific advancement at the time. The evil mastermind’s “fluid of life giving cosmic energy” used to bring a statue to life was only possible because of his “years of study and research,” much like the career trajectory required of actual scientists (Steele 26). This story is also reminiscent of Frederick Banting’s career high, a Canadian scientist who’s lifesaving injection of insulin only a decade before was hugely celebrated and still fresh in the consciousness of the Canadian population around the time of World War II, when he again enlisted as a pathologist in the Canadian Medical Corps (Hume 128). Thus, a comic which prophecizes the possibilities of scientific advancement while alluding to Canada’s past scientific successes can be seen as a form of subtle propaganda aimed at instilling a sense of scientific curiosity and interest in young readers.

Fig. 2. Harry Brunt. Title of “Professor Punk.” Triumph Comics No. 23, Bell Features Publishing, Nov/Dec 1944. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

The connection between the necessity for a higher education in the advancement of weaponry is even more blatant in the comic “Professor Punk” (Fig. 2). As pointed to in the title, the main character is irrefutably associated with a university through his title of “Professor,” as well as the graduation cap he wears (Brunt 8). He uses scientific laws, such as deferring to the light of the “the deadly German V-2 rocket bombs” to track them, as they “travel faster than [the speed of] sound, so they strike before they can be heard” (Brunt 8). To defeat the bombs, he uses moles, who dig into the ground in order to avoid the light of the oncoming bombs, incidentally creating big craters for them to fall into and rendering them harmless. Even though this invention seems ridiculous, it was actually not far off some of the real suggestions put forth by actual scientists, such as “freez[ing] the clouds and mount[ing] guns on them,” or building a “bridge from Newfoundland to England” for the troops to cross over (Avery 50).

Pairing images of defensive weaponry advancement with symbols of university education not only emphasizes the necessary relationship between these two undertakings, it also suggests a relationship between publishing and university institutions. Both institutions, based in Toronto, received direct (in the form of monetary endorsement in the case of the University of Toronto) and indirect pressure from the government to aid in the recruitment of people in the war effort, especially needed in the scientific realm (Avery). Thus, the seeming collaboration of the two in the comic “Professor Punk” is not a surprising result of succumbing to these external pressures.

REINFORCING WARTIME MORALITY

The repetition of representations of weapons throughout the whole comic, specifically bombs and guns, trivializes violence and perpetuates a war time view of justice. Guns are used with a sort of reverence to their power, drawn by heroes with words like, “I’ll split you wide open,” “lead for the artist,” and “Speed’s gun is out of its holder and spitting death” (Steele 28, 30). These phrases, accompanied by flashy visuals, romanticize the act of killing another person, but only once they have been sufficiently villainized. The emphasis of a self vs. other dichotomy throughout the comic exemplifies a moral reasoning that justifies killing the enemy as long as it is the interest of the greater good. For example, in “The Voice of Justice” the detective is allowed to lie to the public in order to catch the murderer, in “Capt. Wonder,” children are absolved of their guilt to protect their innocence, and in “Ace Barton” people can be killed outright if they are an enemy or traitor (Alexanian, Saakel “Capt,” Saakel “Ace”). This type of morality has undertones of propaganda because it demonizes the enemy for the purpose of making the audience more united and, in the case of a war-time country, more nationalistic.

Scientists working on war weapons already had ethical concerns that were only amplified by the continued immensity of destruction that could be achieved now that “modern science had intensified the savagery of war” (Avery 39). Already in the first World War the invention of chemical warfare was being questioned on ethical grounds, and in World War II, with nuclear weaponry on the horizon, ethical concerns only increased. Scientists are being implicated in the ethical problems of a war they don’t necessarily support through their participation in creating the weapons being fought with. Therefore, those scientists “who contribute directly to that war will … be acting immorality” through their role in the death of thousands of young kids “due in no small part to their ‘ingenuity’” (Blue 20). This creates conflict between the advancement of scientific technologies and their implications on the war-front, where they employed the full extent their destructive power (Blue 89).

Clearly, the unethical attitudes portrayed in Triumph No. 23 do not align with the morality of Canadian scientists. This solidifies the content in the comic as propagandistic rather than realistic. Attempting to show a representation of justice that diminishes the act of killing the enemy would be more beneficial to Canada’s aim of recruiting scientists for war purposes rather than showing the result of their inventions in the form of thousands of dead youth. By advertising a new type of war-time morality that quantifies the killing of villains, traitors, and enemies, Triumph Comics partakes in an undeniable form of flag waving propaganda technique that “justif[ies] an action based on the undue connection to nationalism or patriotism or benefit for an idea, group or country” (“Flag-Waving”). Thus, with the comic’s reach as a media influence throughout the Canadian population already established, the assumption of the Canadian Whites as neutral media can be confidently refuted.

CONCLUSION

Triumph Comics No. 23 was a product of it’s time, informed by the context in which it was written and becoming part of the Canadian consciousness, infiltrating the minds of the Canadian population with the overt and covert messages about the war it carried. While the Canadian Whites dissipated with the termination of the war and the WARSAW pact, reading them reveals magnitudes about what life was like on the home front. The comic’s creators’ attempt to encourage their readers in certain directions, such as using persistent imagery of weapons to instil a curiosity in the sciences of weapons technology with the intent of motivating Canadians to participate in the invention, manufacturing, and advancement of these weapons. The theme of justice threaded throughout Triumph No. 23 in the form of demonizing the enemy in a self/other dichotomy absolves Canadians of any guilt attributed to helping create weapons used for murder, fulfilling the authors’ prescribed obligations to propagate a war-time morality within the Canadian population.


Works Cited

  • Alexanian, Aram. “Voice of Justice.” Triumph Comics no. 23, Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, Nov/Dec. 1944, pp. 50-56. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.
  • Avery, Donald. The Science of War: Canadian Scientists and Allied Military Technology during the Second World War. University of Toronto Press, 1998, Scholars Portal Books. https://ryerson.summon.serialssolutions.com/#!/search?bookMark=ePnHCXMw42JgAfZbU5khZ9tYAFsjoANAjDlg4x6gIX1gmuJkEAKGgwK0mFfIT1MoTwTWAgpuriHOHrrQ5mY8dAgjPskQ1JEB1mXGRCgBAF14I60
  • Bell, John. “3 Smashing the Axis: Canada’s Golden Age of Comics, 1941-1946.” Invaders from the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe. Dundurn Nov. 11, 2006. pp. 30-43. ProQuest Ebook Central. https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/lib/ryerson/reader.action?docID=611683&ppg=23.
  • Blue, Ethan, et al. Engineering and War: Militarism, Ethics, Institutions, Alternatives. Vol. 20, Morgan and Claypool, 2014. Scholars Portal Books. http://books1.scholarsportal.info.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/viewdoc.html?id=641253&page=34.
  • Brunt, Harry. “Barnacle Bull.” Triumph Comics no. 23, Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, Nov/Dec. 1944, pp. 41. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.
  • Brunt, Harry. “Professor Punk.” Triumph Comics no. 23, Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, Nov/Dec. 1944, pp. 8-10. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.
  • “Corvette.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Nov. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corvette.
  • Dingle, Adrian. “Nelvana of the Norther Lights and the Ice-Beam.” Triumph Comics no. 23, Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, Nov/Dec. 1944, pp. 1-7. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.
  • “Flag-Waving.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 Aug. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag-waving. (last edited 11 October 2016)
  • Foster, John. “Comic Books – Oxford Reference.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature, Edited by Jack Zipes, 2006. http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195146561.001.0001/acref-9780195146561-e-0697.
  • Hume, Stephen Eaton. Frederick Banting: hero, healer, artist. vol. 12, XYZ Publishing, 2001. Scholars Portal Books. http://books1.scholarsportal.info.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/viewdoc.html?id=372881#tabview=tab0
  • “Important Task Facing Writers of the Country.” The Hamilton Spectator, 24 Aug. 1940. Democracy at War: Canadian Newspapers and the Second World War, WarMuseum. http://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/newspapers/canadawar /munitions_e.shtml
  • Kocmarek, Ivan. “Truth, Justice, and the Canadian Way: The War-Time Comics of Bell Features Publications.” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature / Revue Canadienne de Littérature Comparée, vol. 43, no. 1, Mar. 2016, pp. 148–65. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/crc.2016.0008.
  • “Messages to the Home Front in 1942” A soldier’s War, 1939-1945. 30 Nov. 1942, CBC Archives. http://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/second-world-war-messages-to-the-home-front.
  • Saakel, Ross. “Ace Barton.” Triumph Comics no. 23, Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, Nov/Dec. 1944, pp. 43-48. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.
  • Saakel, Ross. “Capt. Wonder.” Triumph Comics no. 23, Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, Nov/Dec. 1944, pp. 11-17. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.
  • “Secret Devices Made in Canada.” The Hamilton Spectator, 19 Dec. 1942. Democracy at War: Canadian Newspapers and the Second World War, WarMuseum. http://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/newspapers/information_e.shtml.
  • Steele, Theodore. “Speed Savage.” Triumph Comics no. 23, Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, Nov/Dec. 1944, pp. 25-31. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.
  • Triumph Comics, no. 23. Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, 1944. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.
  • Valentine, Patrick M. A Social History of Books and Libraries from Cuneiform to Bytes. Scarecrow Press, 2012, ProQuest Ebook Central. https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/lib/ryerson/reader.action?docID=1664200.

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.

Who Are You? Where Are You From? What do you Stand For? Questions of National Identity in Dizzy Don Issue 14

© Copyright 2017 Sophia Vecchiarelli, Ryerson University

Introduction

At first glance, the issues of national identity in Dizzy Don Down South America Way Issue 14 may not jump out at readers. It may appear as just another comic released in 1944 by Bell Features: to a child who lived in 1944, it could be considered funny, with an adventurous plot, and awe-inducing heroes; to a 21st Century reader, it would come across as fairly stereotypical, poorly produced and horribly racist. Through a closer reading, one begins to notice the overarching concept of identity and the all-encompassing attitude nationality seems to inflict on that identity. This paper will be discussing the historical and contextual factors that affect the way readers approach Dizzy Don Down South America Way through the lens of national identity. It will provide a constructed definition of national identity using multiple scholarly articles that have been published in that field, which can then be applied to the characters in Dizzy Don Down South America Way. Moreover, this essay will discuss the shifting of nationality and the affect it has on the identities of the characters. Most importantly, this paper will be exploring the impact of characterizing identities through nationality and how that affects the young readers Dizzy Don Down South America Way is directed to.

Historical and Contextual Factors

To begin, the historical factors of World War 2 will have an important impact on the way nationalities are depicted in Dizzy Don Down South America Way Issue 14. World War 2 took place between 1939-1945 and pitted nation against nation (“World War II Fast Facts”). During this time, who one was and where they came from were considered the same identifier (Dauphinee). One’s country of origin was used to identify a person as quickly as their name would be used (Dauphinee). An article from The Globe and Mail in 1943, titled “No Japs left on Kiska as Canucks, Yanks Land” illustrate the way people categorized each other based on their home nation (Dauphinee). The names of individual soldiers are not used in this article, it is simply their country of origin that matters and that is all a reader needs to know in order to judge these men. This technique was used to classify people as being allies or enemies during war and this technique translates into Dizzy Don Issue 14.

Furthermore, one must understand the medium of the comic book and the importance of the time period in which Dizzy Don Issue 14 was created. Comic books in Canada were in their golden age during World War 2 because of the War Exchange Conservation Act, put in place to stop trade between Canada and other countries (Bell). This Act allowed Canadian comic book makers to thrive and publish stories that enhance Canadian national identity (Bell). It can be assumed, given the content, comic books were directed mainly at young boys. It can also be assumed that comics were used to make children laugh in a time when laughter didn’t always come so easily. However, not everything in Dizzy Don Issue 14 is

Fig. 1. Manny Eason. Pp 36, Dizzy Don Comic. No.14, Aug/Sept 1944, Bell Features. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166605.pdf

humorous as many stories are filled with propaganda and bias ideas against certain types of people (Easson 36-40). It is important to remember to step back and remind oneself of the time period in which these materials were released. Many aspects of Dizzy Don Issue 14 will not seem acceptable to the mind of a 21st Century thinker but for the sake of understanding this paper and comic better, historical perspective is helpful.

A Definition of National Identity—Somewhat

The Oxford English Dictionary defines national identity as “a sense of a nation as a cohesive whole, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture, and language” (Oxford English Dictionary). This definition allows for a starting point in thinking about national identity; it is a concept that people are connected through their nation, where they live, even if they are not connected in any other way. It is another technique that humans have come up with to divide people into categories of us and them (Thompson 251). It causes people to start thinking about their home country in a certain way, as being bonded through their “shared” traditions, and outsider countries of having “other” or “different” ways of living (Thompson 251). In powerful countries, such as the United States, it creates a “nationalistic impatience” with outsiders who cannot or don’t want to assimilate into the “right” national identity (Thompson 250).

During World War 2, dictator Adolf Hitler used nationalism as way of excluding anyone who wasn’t his ideal citizen, using this concept to make citizens have the mentality of being better than other countries (Thompson 250). One could argue that the need to be the strongest nationalistic country caused the death of millions. This concept of nationalism is able to be extracted from war and politics, presented to children in the comics of 1944, and in the present, still plagues citizens at every turn.

An argument that can be drawn from this definition is that where one comes from is a part of who they are as a human being and is displayed through the way one walks, talks and approaches situations. However, Dizzy Don Down South America Way takes this concept to a new level when representing characters from all around the world; their identity of “self” and their nationhood are so intertwined that changing their nationality changes the essence of a character.

Dizzy Don Down South America Way—Identity Displayed

The article, “The Many Lives of Captain Canucks” explains the connection between national identity and comic books as such “comic books, as a visual medium, engage this act of imagination, in turn facilitating the mental construction of the nation and national identity” (Edwardson 185). Given the excerpt from this article, it is not surprising that Dizzy Don Down South America Way creates an imagined environment where what characteristics one displays are directly correlated to where they are from.

The Americans in Dizzy Don Issue 14, Dizzy Don, Shirley Watson and Canary Byrd, are portrayed as cool, sly, funny radio hosts who are going on tour to meet their fans from South America (Easson 10). They are beautiful and smart, the heroes of the story who can defeat any problems they could possibly come across (Easson 30). They are untouchable and powerful, just as the United States would have been viewed, by allies, during World War 2.

The South Americans, represented by Senor Cabana Manyana, Senor El Ropo, Sugar Lips and the South American police officer, are represented as mysterious, sexy, a bit clueless, and very useless outside of the extravagant parties they throw for their “favourite Americanos”. In particular, the scene after Shirley has been kidnapped by unknown bandits, Dizzy Don and Canary Byrd go to the police but the police officer offers to find Shirley in a month or two, dead or alive and Canary Byrd tells him “Go back to sleep now chiefy” (Easson 19). Dizzy Don proceeds to say they will deal with this themselves, furthering the characteristic created in this imagined setting of South Americans being no help and the Americans saving the day.

The Canadian, by represented by Joe Flip, seen only in one series of frames in the comic as being polite and helping the Dizzy Don and Canary Byrd save Shirley (Easson 24). He introduces himself as Canadian and then simply offers his services as a polite; the audience learns nothing about Joe other than that he is Canadian, he has the ability to fly a plane, and is eager to help the Americans.

Who these characters are cannot be distinguished outside of their nation and they are confined to the imagined national identity of that nation; until, of course, their national identity changes.

Shifting National Identities

The plurality of national identities is based on the idea that national identities are not static, they change from context to context (Andreouli and Howarth 362)). The idea of plurality is one person can hold multiple nationalities or a nation can have an influx of multiple identities (Cantle 315). According to the article “National Identity, Plurality and Interculturalism”, this leads to a nation of multiculturalism where there is “no us versus them” concept in play but a place that embraces new thoughts and ideas that can only come from outside sources (Cantle 315).

However, despite the positive expectations Cantle has for plural national identities, he predicts that

“The postwar ideal of a more integrated international community, in which ideas and cultures may bridge national boundaries to create a world in which we are more at ease with each other, is seldom now advanced as a desirable political objective, despite the evident interdependency of economic and political decision-making” (Cantle 313-314).

People view minorities and “other” national identities as threats to their carefully crafted world (Cantle 313). The need to classify and create the “us versus them” ideology is too distinct in humans; it is how people are able to make sense of their worlds and disrupting that is too challenging, even if it could bring positive possibilities, like Cantle believes.

This ideology was alive back in 1944 as portrayed in the article “S. Africa Hospital in Italy Has 26 Canadian Nurses”, where the reporter questions if the nurses in Africa have become African or if they are still Canadian. There is no discussion about whether they could be both Canadian and African, choosing to adopt traditions from both cultures. The reporter goes on to mention some of the nurses married African men and hints that they have chosen Africa over their Canadian roots (“S. Africa Hospital…”). This is the concept present in Dizzy Don Down South American Way, that there is no in-between for national identity. One can only be this or that and whichever they choose becomes an irreversible part of who they are.

What Nationality Shifts Mean to Character Development

The shift from one nationality to another for Senor El Ropo and Sugar Lips completely
change who the audience thought the characters where up until this point. Senor El Ropo was the shifty, mysterious, odd South American who a reader could think was suspicious but not outright dangerous. Sugar Lips was the sexy, mysterious, South American songstress who could be considered eye candy and little else as she only appeared to speak Spanish. Both characters kept up their façade until their true identities (nationalities) were revealed.

Sugar Lips is no longer the sensual singer, as she is no longer South American, but a skilled kidnapper from Brooklyn that plans to auction Shirley off for ransom (Easson 18).

Fig. 2. Manny Eason. Pp 18, Dizzy Don Comic. No.14, Aug/Sept 1944, Bell Features. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166605.pdf

While she is still portrayed in her South American dress and heels, her facial expression and tone shift to a cold criminal with an attitude. She tells Shirley in one frame, “Listen babe! That Spanish was just an act I was brought up in Brooklyn. See,-your pals are gonna kick in a heavy ransom for you, and we need the dough, get the angle? Sweetheart” (Easson 18) She has acquired a whole new set of traits with her new nationality and has dropped the “performance” of a South American.

Senor El Ropo, similarly drops his performance as a South American cigar company owner when he is revealed to actually be a German spy working for Hitler and the Nazis. El Ropo becomes “Nutsi Agent Schwarīzmuller” and with his new name, he adopts new personality traits (Easson 27). All of a sudden, he is willing to kill Shirley and himself in the name of Hitler, when there has been no indication thus far that he is interested in killing anyone. When he acquired his German nationality, he also acquired “his true self” of being a murdering spy. There are no traces of El Ropo left in him, as though that was a different person altogether.

These two examples display the all-encompassing role nationality plays in this imagined comic world. A character cannot be both a mysterious South American and a murdering German as the two nationalities cannot be inhabited in the same person for the sake of the traditional solo national identity.

Why National Identity (Identities) in Comics Matter

One might be considering whether the comic itself amplifies the importance of nationality for the purposes of the tale or if it has sunken into the subconscious of the writer, publishers, and illustrators involved and unfolded unintentionally. Truthfully, it could be one or the other, or it could be a bit of both but the reason why it’s there doesn’t matter—what matters is the fact that this is the representation of national identity in comics at all.

In a child’s comic book, national identity is being used as a prop to further the divide between people who are the proposed “us” and who are the “them”. In this case, it’s the Germans who are the villains, the Americans who are the heroes, the Canadians as minor aids in getting the job done, and South Americans appear as useless, as it would be reflected to one perspective in the war. It displays the idea that people can perform identities of minorities to achieve a goal but outside of that, they will never be the heroes or the villains (Barbour 271).

However, this isn’t just a staple in the past that has changed as humans evolved and became more politically correct. It is not just a comic book that has no reflection on real life. These same issues are alive in the 21st century. The countries that one labels as hero or villain may have changed but the underlying issue is still there; people are too busy pointing fingers at each other to be conscious of what blossoms from segregation. It became Hitler in 1939, believing that Germany is the only country worthy of being powerful, it became millions of people dying, fighting each other simply because of where they come from and sadly, it became education for young kids who read comics like Dizzy Don Down South America Way and saw the world in terms of nationality.


Works Cited

Andreouli, Eleni, and Caroline Howarth. “National Identity, Citizenship and Immigration: Putting Identity in Context.” Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 43, no. 3 (2013): 361–82. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5914.2012.00501.x.

Barbour, Chad. “When Captain America Was an Indian: Heroic Masculinity, National Identity, and Appropriation.” The Journal of Popular Culture 48, no. 2 (2015): 269–84. Scholar Portal Journals, https://doi.org/10.1111/jpcu.12256.

Bell, John. “Comic Books in English Canada – The Canadian Encyclopedia.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, July 8, 2015. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/comic-books-in-english-canada/

Cantle, Ted. “National Identity, Plurality and Interculturalism.” The Political Quarterly 85, no. 3 (2014): 312–19. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-923X.12101.

Dauphinee, John. “No Japs Left on Kiska As Canucks, Yanks Land.” Globe and Mail, August 23, 1943. http://collections.warmuseum.ca/warclip/pages/warclip/ResultsList.php

Edwardson, Ryan. “The Many Lives of Captain Canuck: Nationalism, Culture, and the Creation of a Canadian Comic Book Superhero.” Journal of Popular Culture 37, no. 2 (2003): 184–201. Scholar Portal Journals, https://doi.org/10.1111/1540-5931.00063.

Owens, Mickey, Manny Easson, and Bell Features, eds. The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don: No. 14. Toronto, Ontario: Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, 1944. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166605.pdf

Thompson, Ewa M. “Nationalism, Imperialism, Identity: Second Thoughts.” Modern Age; Wilmington 40, no. 3 (Summer 1998): 250–61. ProQuest, https://search.proquest.com/docview/196868484/abstract/8A2D52CC9A954AA7PQ/1

“S. Africa Hospital in Italy Has 26 Canadian Nurses.” Globe and Mail, December 19, 1944. http://collections.warmuseum.ca/warclip/pages/warclip/ResultsList.php

“World War II Fast Facts.” CNN, Cable News Network, 17, Aug. 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/09/world/world-war-ii-fast-facts/index.html

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