Tag Archives: The funny comics with Dizzy Don

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.

 

Using Racism In Comic Books To Fight For Social Justice

Introduction:

It is no secret that as of late, Hollywood has benefited from turning comic book pages into live action adaptations, evident in the recent box office hit Thor: Ragnarok, and the widespread anticipation for the upcoming release of Justice League. Although widely popular today, comic books and the fan base that followed had a much humbler beginning, especially in Canada. In 2016, comic books in the “U.S. and Canada reached

Figure 1: The cover page of Issue 16. Upon first glance, it’s obvious the story will be taking place in the Wild West.

$1.085 billion” in sales, with the market growing nearly “five percent” from 2015 (Comichron 2016). “By the late 1920s, newspaper comic strips — the “funnies” — were an established popular art form in North America, and quite distinct from political and gag cartooning” (Library & Archives Canada, 2017). While more newspapers began publishing comic strips, it was not until 1941, with Bell Comics, that comic books in Canada began to gain traction. Largely targeted towards children, these comic books aimed at entertaining their young audience with stories of mystery and heroics. While the tone of comic books was often light hearted and educational to an extent, in the case of The Funny Comics wit

h Dizzy Don no. 16, there are several instances where racial stereotypes were on full display, with the most noticeable being the inclusion of an “African man ape”. Regardless of intention, every minute detail in a comic is carefully chosen, holding valuable meaning and making it crucial to the story’s plot. In issue sixteen of The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don (Figure 1), African race and culture is subjected to a  stereotypical portrayal, a deliberate choice aimed at questioning the social attitudes of the time regarding race, be it African-Canadians or Japanese-Canadians, acting as a stylistic choice to highlight differences between cultures.

Overview of the Comic Book:

Figure 2: This is the first time in the comic book that we are introduced to something related to the African culture.

Issue sixteen of The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don (Figure 1) is very much a self-contained wild-west story, incorporating western scenery with stock characters to deliver an authentic old-western story. Stepping away from his traditional outfit of a suit and bowtie, Dizzy Don, in the third act of the comic book, is seen sporting cowboy attire, further distinguishing his surroundings from that of the opening city scene. While characters and names such as “Two-Gun Dan” are very much grounded in the western portion of the story, there seems to be three distinct instances where certain things seem almost out of place; the “African blow darts” (Figure 2), the deadly “two fang viper snake” and the “African man ape” (Easson 1941). When dealing with a setting most commonly associated with  cowboys, anything related to Africa seems arbitrary and out of place. More shockingly, Mr. Monk, the “African man ape” who serves as the villain of the story, is depicted in what appears to be a racially fuelled illustration of what Africans look like; depicting Mr. Monk as an animal rather than a human being as you can see in Figure 3. At one point near the end of the story, Mr. Monk must justify his appearance in relation to his criminal organization, stating that he “has a brain bigger thanmost men” (Easson 1941). It is comments such as these in relation to how evil African artifacts, animals and individuals are portrayed, that it becomesevident that there is a clear distinction being made between Dizzy Don, a white male who appears to be upper-class, and the villain, Mr. Monk, a dramatic interpretation of what an African male looks like.

Depicting Ones Traits, Flaws and Culture in Literature:

Comic books not only offer a quick escape into a world of wonder, but sometimes, they serve to engage with the reader to help denounce unequal roles of power amongst different individuals. In a journal article written by Sean Carleton, Carleton introduces a term he refers to as conscientization, defining it as “a pedagogical process defined by critical engagement with understandings of the world that leads people to actively reject established rationalizations of unequal power relations and oppression” (Carleton 2014). He argues that in comic books, “conscientization is first of all theeffort to enlighten [people] about the obstacles preventing them from a clear perception of reality…. Conscientization effects the ejection of cultural myths that confuse people’s awareness” (Carleton 2014).

According to Carleton, while some comic books may be racially motivated, most of the time, inaccurate depictions of racial groupings or cultures is meant to be understood as a signifier towards racial intolerances. What this means for The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don

Figure 3. Near the end of the story, we are finally introduced to Mr. Monk (the African Man Ape). Here, he is depicted as animal like, closely resembling an actual ape rather than a human being.

no. 16 is that Mr. Monk (Figure 3), while clearly of a different race, should not be perceived as the writers racially fuelled opinions but rather, writers understanding of racial indifferences. By depicting Mr. Monk as such, the writers effectively question why we immediately  associate the “man ape” with black individuals, especially from Africa, calling into question our own personal prejudices as a way of correcting them. The writers therefore, rather than filling the pages of their work with hate, are explaining to the readers that what they are reading is completely fictitious, and that individuals portrayed in comic books are not at all how individuals of a certain grouping are in real life.

Brian Johnson, in his journal titled Son of a Smaller (Super) Hero, explores the work of Mordecai Richler, a prominent comic book writer whose protagonists often fall short of heroism. In it, Johnson details how Richler’s characters always appear to be less then heroic, with villains closely playing on stereotypes of the time. Johnson explores how in actuality, portraying villains in stereotypical ways is only done to make the reader aware of the villain and how different he/she is from the protagonist. According to Johnson, “the protagonist must face off against this villain, and only then can he/she be the hero” (Johnson 2010). The only reason why comic book writers choose to portray villains in such a stereotypical way is so that the readers will be able to make a clear distinction between the hero and the villain. Not only are the African poison darts and poisonous viper snake all tasks which Dizzy Don must face off to become the hero, but, and more importantly, Dizzy Don must overcome a villain as strong as Mr. Monk, the man ape, to become the hero at the end of the comic book.

Understanding Racism in Canada During WWII:

One interesting commentary on black representation in literature comes from David C. Este, in his journal article titled Black Canadian Historical Writing. In it, Este’s goal is to critique several different contributions to the “discipline of Black Canadian History beginning in 1970” (Este 2008). Roughly up until the early 1970’s, “black Canadian history from a historical perspective, was largely untapped”, and so began the quest for historians to find out all they could (Este 2008). Este chooses to asses a few known historical works, trying to note what life as an African-Canadian was like, and how the community responded. However, Este primarily references author Robin Wink’s Blacks in Canada: A History, and the knowledge he had to offer. In it, Wink understands that “African-Canadians have always faced discrimination, and it will not change until they are fully immersed in Canadian culture” (Este 2008).

To highlight the racial indifferences between African-Canadians and Canadians, Wink focuses on his understanding of black churches, and the major road block it created for African-Canadian immersion into Canadian society. To Wink, “creating this distinction between Black and White churches did more harm than good”, as he felt that there needed to be integration for a tolerance to form (Este 2008). Relating this back to literature, Este feels that improper depictions of the African culture are not signs of racial prejudices, but rather, should be symbolic of cultural differences, and at the time, lack of immersion.

While it is important to understand that racial depictions in comic books were not intended to be forms of racism for the most part, in Canada, during WWII, the Japanese-Canadian community, especially in British Columbia, faced hateful discrimination daily. If one is to understand why comic books were poised at educating readers, especially children on social issues, specifically racism, it is crucial to understand events happening in Canada during the 1940’s that would cause this need. Jordan Stanger-Ross, in his journal article Suspect Properties: The Vancouver Origins of the Forced Sale of Japanese-Canadian-Owned Property, WWII, discusses the uprooting of hundreds of Japanese-Canadians from British Columbia during WWII, as a way of exploring racism in Canada through a Japanese-Canadian lens. One important detail mentioned is that the government of British Columbia justified the uprooting of hundreds of Japanese-Canadian homes by claiming that “there were many houses which were in a state of decay”, when this was the case for only a few homes, and even then, the residents were not to blame as it was the landlord’s responsibility to provide proper living conditions (Stanger-Ross 2016). In no way was British Columbia’s government justifiable in uprooting so many families, especially, when only a few housing units were in such bad shape that it called for relocation. Stanger-Ross also takes issue with the 1942 decision to “uproot the 22,000 Japanese-Canadians”, but primarily focusses on 1943, when British Columbia’s government decided to “sell all the property which belonged to the individuals uprooted without consent or right” (Stanger-Ross 2016).

More unsettling is the fact that Stanger-Ross identifies the cause of this uprooting, tracing it to “a few individuals with racist attitudes and ideologies towards the Japanese culture began creating stories about how Japanese neighbourhoods were uninhabitable by whites, as their culture was drastically different” (Stanger-Ross 2016). If one is to understand that comic books can be seen as a form of social education and justice, it is important to outline the need for change, evident in the treatment of Japanese-Canadians in British Columbia during WWII. It is fitting to suggest that comic book writers used their work, by portraying other cultures as wildly different, that they intended to make the distinction between real life and fiction, clearly represented in the depiction of Mr. Monk, where every African stereotype is played upon and used to teach a lesson.

Parties and Individuals Involved in Combatting Racism in Canada:

To further connect comic books to social movements, Stephanie Bangarth, in her journal article, explores Premiere Hepburn’s decision to “accept Japanese-Canadian workers” on his farm during 1942 (Bangarth 2005). Recounting the tension between Japanese-Canadians and Canadians during WWII, Bangarth commends Premiere Hepburn’s decision to not only allow for “Nisei” workers to work on his farm harvesting onions, but also on his push towards the social justice of Japanese Canadians (Bangarth 2005). The clear lack of acceptance amongst Canadians towards their fellow Japanese-Canadian citizens is emphasized through Hepburn’s letter to British Columbia’s government, where he wrote, “Canada must provide a living for those Japanese which have to be moved from the Western defense zone. Either we place them in relocation camps and feed and clothe them with no benefit to the State or to themselves, or we find some way that they can help us to win the war” (Bangarth 2005). Bangarth chooses to note Premiere Hepburn’s desire for social justice to highlight the lack of social justice for Japanese-Canadians, but also in determining that more needed to be done to help, and that there were individuals and institutions whose goal was just that. While not much has been recorded in terms of  comic book writers intentions, it is fitting to suggest that stories such as The Ghost of Two-Gun Dan, rather than assume they were hatefully constructed, are far more likely to be a tool to promote social change and educate children on racial tolerance, by instilling that stereotypes belong in comic books and other literature, but have no basis in real life.

Conclusion:

In issue sixteen of The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, African race and culture is subjected to a stereotypical portrayal, a deliberate choice aimed at questioning the social attitudes of the time regarding race, be it African-Canadians or Japanese-Canadians, acting as a stylistic choice to highlight differences between cultures. While there were certainly individuals in Canada during WWII that believed in racial differences, not all Canadians were like that, and majority of comic book writers tried their best to differentiate between what is depicted in a comic book, and what is true in real life. It is the oddly placed cultural items combined with the racially depicted Mr. Monk that allow one to understand while at times certainly racist, the overall goal was to promote social cohesion and racial acceptance across all cultures living in Canada.

Works Cited:

“Archived – Emergence of the Comic Book, 1929 – 1940.” June 24, 2002. Library and Archives Canada. https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/comics/027002-8200-e.html

Bangarth, Stephanie. “The Long, Wet Summer of 1942: The Ontario Farm Service Force, Small-Town Ontario and the Nisei.” Canadian Ethnic Studies, vol. 37, no. 1, 2005, pp. 40-62, Canadian Business & Current Affairs Database; International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (IBSS); Political Science Database; Politics Collection; Sociology Collection, http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/215635958?accountid=13631.

Carleton, Sean. “Drawn to Change: Comics and Critical Consciousness.” Labour, no. 73, 2014, pp. 151-177,9, Business Premium Collection; 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/1546469398?accountid=13631.

“Comics and graphic novel sales up 5% in 2016.” Comichron: Industry-Wide Comics and Graphic Novel Sales for 2016, www.comichron.com/yearlycomicssales/industrywide/2016-industrywide.html.

Easson, Manny. The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don. Issue 16. 1941. Bell Feature Comics.

Este, David C. “Black Canadian Historical Writing 1970-2006: An Assessment.” Journal of Black Studies, vol. 38, no. 3, Jan. 2008, pp. 388–406. SAGE Journals, doi:10.1177/0021934707306573.

Johnson, Brian. “Son of a Smaller (Super) Hero: Ethnicity, Comic Books, and Secret Identity in Richler’s Novels of Apprenticeship.” Canadian Literature, no. 207, 2010, pp. 26-40,200, Canadian Business & Current Affairs Database; Research Library, http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/879053731?accountid=13631.

Stanger-Ross, Jordan. “Suspect Properties: The Vancouver Origins of the Forced Sale of Japanese-Canadian-Owned Property, WWII.” Journal of Planning History, vol. 15, no. 4, Nov. 2016, pp. 271–89. SAGE Journals, doi:10.1177/1538513215627837.

 

Dizzy Don and the Pompous Propaganda, Issue 2017

Copyright © 2017 Matthew Perfetti, Ryerson University

Introduction:

By Martin Goodman
Captain America breaking the fourth wall to promote the purchase of War bonds. Martin Goodman. USA Comics #7, 1943

            Propaganda and comics were huge during the 1940’s since it took place during the Second World War.  Dizzy Don, a Canadian comic series created by Manny Easson, and the idea of Carpooling, a way of saving gasoline, were both born during this era.  Because comics were becoming popular and being nearly read by everyone, the government had an idea to incorporate propaganda and comics together, essentially killing two birds with one stone as people tuning into the comics despite not wanting anything to do with propaganda would always have a dose of politics without them noticing.  the characters themselves can be seen behaving in different ways; example Captain America asking readers to buy War bonds to help America win the war.  Dizzy Don, despite being a Canadian comic had done the same thing with their comic issue 13, The Black Gas Racket, promoting the idea that carpooling was the way to go.  I will discuss how Dizzy Don helps promotes the carpooling propaganda through its distinct humorous nature, proving that comics and propaganda did go hand in hand during the war.  “Selling war bonds actually, they used the characters for that purpose, that I defiantly knew they did that, and apparently it was successful because they did quite a bit of that ….. they did a lot of work for the government.” (Carmine Infantino, 2:58 – 3:20)

World War II Rubber Problem and the birth of Carpooling:

Make sure not to ride by yourself or else the Führer will be right next to you. Weimer Pursell. Painted for the U.S. Government Printing Office for the Office of Price Administration, 1943.

            World War II was an advancing time in history, it was an age of competition with other countries, being a step ahead in the war was important but sometimes in order to meet the demand, there had to be limitations.  In the case of the United States, it was actually rubber since it was hard to mass produce.  The means of saving rubber was to produce fewer tires for civilian vehicles and instead focus it all on the tanks and other war machines.  A way of getting around not producing as many car tires was to limit the use of cars themselves; less wear and tear meant fewer people would ask for tire replacements resulting in more rubber for the war.  Instead of going around telling people to stop using rubber, they created the idea that America needed to save gasoline for the war despite oil being plentiful and not difficult to obtain.  They introduced the idea of carpooling, it was basically sharing one vehicle with multiple people that way there would be fewer cars as often since one driver could drive up to five people to work at the same time, essentially getting rid of multiple cars off the road.  Propaganda such as my personal favourite “If you ride alone you ride with Hitler” were effective of getting people to go cruising with their neighbors’ instead of driving by themselves. With the decrease of cars on the road, rubber was no longer a scarce resource, helping America build more tanks and aiding their war efforts immensely; the idea was a complete success.

Dizzy Don’s relation with World War II Propaganda:

On the left we see the Villian being the only driver while on the right we see our Heros driving together. Easson, Manny.”Dizzy Don and the Black Gas Racket”. Funny comics, no. 13 September 1944, pp. 3 and 4

            Dizzy Don was a Canadian comic series known for its comedic nature of its time but also can be seen to have political undertones, more so during World War II.  On 1944’s Issue 13 of Dizzy Don and the Black Racket, Dizzy Don and the gang have to stop a mob of black market thugs trying to sell gasoline illegally.  Seems harmless until you notice all the small hints for promoting the carpooling lifestyle; Dizzy Don is seen always driving never alone but with a group of his friends meanwhile, the villains are always driving by themselves, the crooks also waste gas by blowing up vehicles or setting gasoline tanks on fire just to escape.  The comic doesn’t directly tell but rather visually lets you know that to be a good guy you don’t waste fuel but if you do you’re the bad guy.  It’s a smart technique to help push a motive to society, showing the protagonist perform certain actions will most likely influence fans of the series to do the same.  To say that carpooling paid Manny Easson to feature their propaganda in his comic is hard to say and near impossible to prove nowadays but to think that Manny Easson got influenced by the propaganda itself is quite believable.

The Humor of Dizzy Don:

Ernie Kovacs on the left, Manny Easson in the middle and an early sketch of Dizzy Don on the right. Kocmarek , Ivan. “Easson Find.” Comicbookdaily, Whites Tsunami, WECA Splashes, 10 Dec. 2014,

            Delving into the humor of Dizzy Don, Manny Easson took inspiration of Ernie Kovacs, a famous comedian who pioneered TV comedy today with the Ernie Kovacs show.  The design of Dizzy Don even took inspiration of Kovacs attire, including his stature as well.  Kovacs style of humor was skit based, featuring short plots that were full of humor and quite bizarre, whether it be drowning a scarecrow, women having a drug trip on what to wear, or three apes playing instruments, it was out there, especially for its time.  Easson nailed the style with Dizzy Don, it’s hard to describe it but if you had read Dizzy Don and watched an Ernie Kovacs skit you’d automatically see the resemblance, even down to the characters like Kovacs’ female companion and trusty sidekick in some of his re-occurring skits, the exact same layout as with Dizzy Don.  Dizzy Don’s style of humor was quick and explosive, a lot of stuff would happen all at once but it flowed well enough that the reader wouldn’t get lost in the chaos, similar to that of a Kovacs skit.  Because the humor was fast-paced, subliminal messages can be easily overlooked as each panel wasn’t meant to be viewed for too long since most of the humor came from the obvious visual gag and writing.  This can result in propaganda being merged within the humor itself, such as Dizzy Don’s sidekick, Bill, blows up a gas tank full of fuel resulting in him getting blown up but in an innocent way (not dead, just Looney Tunes style), or just the abundance of car crashes in issue itself, all in done in a slapstick kind of way, but why so many?  Is there a secret message being told? the answer to that question is yes.  Since the issue was dated in 1944, the same time the propaganda regarding fuel conversing and carpooling was huge, also taking into consideration of Easson’s love of American television seen by his appreciation to American stars like Ernie Kovacs, resulting in absorbing more of said advertisement, I can simply say there is a high probability Easson made this issue of Dizzy Don as a means for sharing his opinion with the viewers of his comic.  An author will usually put their thoughts and opinions into their works, mostly hidden through the style, in this case, the humor.  For someone who isn’t into politics, they wouldn’t think much of it but rather view it as just Easson’s style of humor which it is but with a political twist.  Politics and humor have always gone hand to hand, this comic is no exception.

            The Verdict:

What we can take from the information we have learned is that comics and propaganda do work together to help push an idea to the public, more so during the time of WWII.  It was important for comics to do such because it was this time comic books were in its prime, the number of people tuning in to the next issue was astonishing so it made sense to put forms of advertisement within a comic, including propaganda; it was a sure way of getting more people to look.  Manny Easson, a fan of US television shown by his love of Ernie Kovacs style of humor, it would seem possible for his issue 13 of Dizzy Don, The Black Gas Racket, to be centered around carpooling as it was common propaganda during the time of its release.  Perhaps Easson simply wanted to share his ideas, thinking it was right for him to push an idea to help out the soldiers, it was probably the most he can do.  Sadly we can never know for certain if this was intentional or not, despite all the little hints pointing towards that conclusion, nothing can be confirmed.  However, it’s nice to discuss Dizzy Don, it was an underappreciated comic series with a lot of passion put into it; it was sadly swallowed by the much higher budget comics during its time and was overlooked because of it, (it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page).  Hopefully, this research can shed light on a series that has been dead for ages.

The ending page for most Dizzy Don comics, showcasing all the sponsors and other comics from the same company. Easson, Manny.”Dizzy Don and the Black Gas Racket”. Funny comics, no. 13 September 1944, pp. 3 and 4

 


Work cited:

  1. 1. Kelly, Mark. “The Golden Age of Comic Books: Representations of American Culture from the Great Depression to the Cold War.” Epublications, Marquette University, epublications.marquette.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=dittman.
  2. Kocmarek , Ivan. “Manny ‘Dizzy Don’ Easson.” Comicbookdaily, Whites Tsunami, WECA Splashes, 11 Apr. 2013, www.comicbookdaily.com/collecting-community/whites-tsunami-weca-splashes/manny-dizzy-don-easson/.
  3. Kocmarek , Ivan. “Easson Find.” Comicbookdaily, Whites Tsunami, WECA Splashes, 10 Dec. 2014, www.comicbookdaily.com/collecting-community/whites-tsunami-weca-splashes/easson-find/.
  4. Long, Tony. “Dec. 1, 1942: Mandatory Gas Rationing, Lots of Whining.” Wired, Conde Nast, 29 Aug. 2017, www.wired.com/2009/11/1201world-war-2-gasoline-rationing/.
  5. Quednau, Rachel. “WWII Carpooling Propaganda.” Strong Towns, Quednau, 8 Oct. 2015, www.strongtowns.org/journal/2015/10/8/wwii-carpooling-propaganda.
  6.  Easson, Manny.”Dizzy Don and the Black Gas Racket”. Funny comics, no. 13 September 1944, pp. 2-3. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada. http://catalogue.library.ryerson.ca/record=b2611399
  7. Viotte, Michel, director. Spider-Man – Once Upon a Time the Super HeroesOnce Upon A Time The Super Heroes , 23 Dec. 2001, www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySOOLp_SoDw.

 

The Representation of Women in Comics in the 1940s

Copyright © 2017 Liran Yefet, Ryerson University

Introduction

Female characters have served different purposes over the years within comics, whether they are the sidekick, the love interest, or even the villain. However, whether or not the roles women assumed in comics were reflective of the societal views of women during that specific time period is another matter altogether. In the fifteenth issue of The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don: The Miracle House Mystery released in towards the end of World War II in December of 1944, there are two main female characters: Diana Mite and Shirley Watson. Diana Mite is the go-getter villain whose hair still manages to look flawless regardless of what she is doing, while Shirley Watson is there purely for aesthetic purposes — a pretty face in Dizzy Don’s clique. Even though Shirley does not do much in the comic, Diana is hands on, going out and doing the dirty work herself. To varying degrees, both female characters are reflective of the sexist societal views and beauty standards of women in the 1940s, who were starting to deviate from at home labour and make the transition towards paid labour.

Women in the Workforce During World War II

With the men at war, women were left behind to tend to matters at home. This resulted in a shift in the type of labour females did from more traditional housework to paid labour. However, not all women were necessarily capable or interested in the opportunity of paid labour. Thus, the idea of women filling in the labour shortages left by the men at war was initially marketed moreso at young, unmarried women rather than mothers with children to take care of, and a husband’s income because of the societal views that a, “. . .women’s place was at home, and so initial recruitment was directed at young unmarried women and then at married women without children” (“Women’s Emancipation. . .” 164). With women now starting to make an income themselves, the attitude towards allowing women in the labour force began to change, as women were now needed due to the shortage of workers.

Also, the attitudes of women in general changed, as they were starting to gain independence through their careers, which made their jobs of value to them in that sense as well because, “Work for money, regardless of type of work, generates different attitudes and relationships among family members” (Costa 102). This is reflective in the comic in the sense that Diana Mite, who is a working woman, is more independent than Shirley, who is more traditional and is only ever seen by a man’s side. Unlike Shirley, Diana Mite is not sitting around at home taking care of the house while the men are at war, but rather teaming up with others to take down her nemesis. Opposite to Diana is Shirley, who does not do much except serve the plot and boost Dizzy Don’s ego. She represents more of the traditional image of a woman who is devoted to the husband-like figure in her life, and is there mainly to stroke their ego and as arm candy.

Diana Mite

Diana Mite is one of the main antagonists in the Miracle House Mystery, along with Driplip. Despite the physical labour she does, she is still the image of the ideal woman in her heels, dress, and perfectly done hair — this regardless of what she is doing. Although the overtly sexual nature and hyper feminization of her depiction was common for female characters in comics at the time, as this was also the case with George McManus, and his depiction of the character Maggie in the Bringing Up Father comics

One gets the impression that McManus simply couldn’t control himself when drawing women’s bodies, and by the 1920s through the 1940s, he had even developed a habit of drawing Maggie in transparent dresses through which her fabulous figure could be seen in silhouette. (Robbins, “Gender Differences in Comics”)

Similarly, Diana Mite is described as, “. . .tiny and attractive. . .” (Easson 1) in her character description, while the description of her male counterpart, Driplip has nothing about his physical appearance. This is sexist due to the fact that Diana is so much more than just her looks — she goes out and gets stuff done, so the focus of her description should also be about her nature and not about her looks. It is not fair to Diana Mite to have her body commented on if none of the male characters have their bodies commented on just because she is a woman, much less that the comments made about her body are sexual in nature. She is described to have the ideal female figure to men, which is something a female writer would likely not have done due to having experienced the sexism of the time firsthand.

Not only that, but Diana Mite does all of the dirty work for Driplip, whom she works with. While Diana does the hard, physical work herself, Driplip still takes most of the credit, even though he just mainly handles the business side of things. This is reflective of how even though women were free to make their own income, it was because the men were incapable of doing the labour themselves, and not because they were needed for the sake of workers, regardless of their gender, being needed. Had the men been at home working instead of at war, it is unlikely women would have been allowed to start doing paid labour because then they would be taking jobs from the men, who were considered to be the major source of income in the household at the time. It did not matter if the woman was more qualified for the job similar to the way Diana Mite was more qualified than Driplip to take out Dizzy Don’s plan, and was only hired because Driplip could not physically do the job himself. Men like Driplip who were less qualified would have likely gotten priority over the woman for the job. This is all just to play into the patriarchal views of who should traditionally be working and bringing in the money in the household: the men.

Manny Easson. Panel from “The Miracle House Mystery.” The Funny Comics With Dizzy Don, No. 15, December 1944, p. 10. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Whether or not Driplip was absolutely necessarily in the plot against Dizzy Don is arguable, as while he handed the “business side” of things, Diana Mite likely could have been just as well without him. He even goes so far as to call her the, “. . . smartest operator in the world,” (Easson 10) and says, “‘Diana Mite’ — she can do it if anyone can,” (Easson 10) which is a clear indicator that Diana is the more physically capable one in the partnership. After all, she did all of the dirty work all while still looking perfect, and Driplip kind of just sat around for most of the comic waiting for her. This is ironic considering that men are supposed to be stereotypically stronger, but somewhat irrelevant in the situation, as he gets credited like he is the one who did all of the hard work in the plan. It is important to note that the comic attempts to insinuate that his role is equally, if not more important than hers, and that she is carrying out his plan, not hers, thus making him the evil mastermind and her just an accessory in his plan. The reality is Diana Mite is more than just an accessory to his plan because she is the one who actually carries it out, so her role in the plan is the one that is more important. Without her, Driplip likely would not have gotten anything done. Thus, Diana Mite is representative of both the patriarchal beauty standards women were held to in the 1940s, and the way women were only wanted in the workforce to do the jobs the men could not do because they were away at war, not necessarily because they were equally, if not more qualified for the job.

Shirley Watson

The other main female character in the comic is Shirley Watson, who is Dizzy Don’s friend in the “Miracle House Mystery.” Shirley is representative of the patriarchal view that women should be housewives and accessories for their husbands in the 1940s. She is fairly useless, and is mainly there to serve the plot. Without the story itself, Shirley would serve no real purpose due to her lack of character development. Shirley is there merely to amuse Dizzy Don, and get information out of him that furthers the plot. Everything about her from her background story to her dialogue only serves the purpose of furthering along the plot. 

Manny Easson. Panel from “The Miracle House Mystery.” The Funny Comics With Dizzy Don, No. 15, December 1944, p. 6. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Shirley is the one with the brother who is a soldier returning from the war, thus giving Dizzy Don a connection to the soldiers returning home. Other than Shirley’s brother, there is no one else personally connecting Dizzy Don to the war and the cause that he is trying to help. Even though it is Shirley’s brother returning from the war, the plot continues to revolve around how Dizzy is solving the housing crisis, while Shirley just kind of follows him around and ask her plot-furthering questions whenever necessary. She is even the one that asks her brother, “What are your plans Bill?” (Easson 6) which causes him to bring up the housing crisis caused by the soldiers returning from the war and having no place to go back to. Then Dizzy immediately responds that he has an idea on how to solve the housing crisis, which furthers the plot. The problem with this is that while the male characters get real character traits and proper, dimensional attributes that allows them to exist independently from the story, Shirley Watson has no personality because her purpose revolves around Dizzy Don, and being a pretty face at his side at all times, just like how women in the 1940s could only leave the house with a man at their side. If one met Shirley in real life, one would have a hard time getting to know her because she is not a multi-dimensional person who can exist outside of the story.

On top of this, Shirley fits the stereotypical beauty standards of women in the 1940s with her well-styled curls, modest dress, heels, and perfectly applied makeup. Thus, not only is she a one-dimensional character, but she looks like one too. There is not a lot that sets her apart from the other characters, so she kind of blends into the background and is there as just another pretty face like the housewives in the 1940s who were like accessories to their husbands.

It is a view rooted in the belief that women should do as the men in their lives please, definitely more male superiority over women-oriented that could be a result of the story being told by a male author and thus likely reflects his societal outlook. Had a female written this comic, it is less likely that Shirley would have remained as underdeveloped as she was throughout simply due to the fact that a female writer would likely have a better understanding of the patriarchal problems in the 1940s and the negative effects as a result. Therefore, through this understanding, a female writer would be able to write a more balanced comic that would play less into sexist stereotypes such as finding a women’s value in her looks. Hence, Shirley Watson is a representation of the patriarchal view that women were accessories to the men in their lives, and that their purpose revolved around men the way Shirley’s purpose revolves around Dizzy Don.

The Juxtaposition Between These Two Female Characters

Even though Shirley Watson and Diana Mite exemplify two contrasting examples of women in the 1940s, both are hindered by patriarchal views that confine them to the ideal beauty standards of the time, and showcase their inferiority to men within the comic. Shirley, the girl who acts as an accessory to the plot and never goes anywhere unless she is hanging out with Dizzy Don or some other man whom her life revolves around is the opposite of Diana, who is the working woman entering the labour force, and who gets what she wants done by herself. Despite their differences, both ladies are the picture of the ideal woman with their done hair and makeup, cute dress, and heels. This is a reflection of how most, if not all women in the 1940s were in some way constricted by patriarchal views that prevented them from ever truly being independent from the men in their lives.

Moreover, Diana Mite and Shirley Watson represent the working woman entering the labour force, and the loyal housewife respectively. Through antagonizing Diana Mite and making Shirley Watson one of the good characters, the comic is likely suggesting that having women in the workforce is bad, and that a woman’s place is wherever the men in her life need her to be: at home. An impressionable child reading this comic in the 1940s without the same exposure to feminist ideals as most children today could come to the conclusion that a woman should not be doing paid labour. This is because Diana Mite, an example of the working woman in the 1940s only causes trouble for Dizzy Don, and thus working women like her should stay at home and out of the way of men. This outlook sets women back in the workforce, and their transition into equal paid labour and equal opportunity regardless of one’s gender. Therefore, it is important to note that the antagonization of the working woman within the comic is harmful as it plays into the patriarchal societal views of the 1940s.

Conclusion

The comic The Miracle House Mystery utilizes the female characters Diana Mite and Shirley Watson to reflect the sexist views of the 1940s on women in the workforce. Diana Mite, who is physically carries out the plan against Dizzy Don is antagonized to reflect the view that a women should not be in the workforce, but rather at home or by a man’s side. She is capable of being independent, but by having Driplip be her partner, the comic takes away from everything she does on her own. On the other hand is Shirley Watson, who is only there to serve the plot and has no real character traits to her, and is reflective of the more traditional view that a woman’s place is an accessory to the man in her life gets to be one of the good characters. Ultimately though, regardless of what role these two women play in the story, they are both similar in the sense that they are the epitome of idealized female beauty standards, thus making them both trapped in a sense by patriarchal views. This juxtaposition of these two female characters showcases the sexist societal views of the 1940s, and those of the author of the work. Through this, the comic gives the reader insight into the societal views on women in the 1940s, thus likely causing them to reflect on how women were hindered by the patriarchy during the 1940s.


Works Cited

Costa, Dora L. “From Mill Town to Board Room: The Rise of Women’s Paid Labor.” Journal of Economic Perspective, vol. 14, no. 4, 2000, pp. 101–22, doi:10.3386/w7608.

Easson, Manny, and Mickey Owens. “Ryerson University Library.” The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don : No. 15 / Miracle House Mystery, http://catalogue.library.ryerson.ca/record=b2611402.

Murdoch, Maureen, et al. “Women and War.” Journal of General Internal Medicine, vol. 21, 2014. www.readcube.com, doi:10.1111/j.1525-1497.2006.00368.x.

Pierson, Ruth. “Women’s Emancipation and the Recruitment of Women into the Canadian Labour Force in World War II.” Historical Papers, vol. 11, no. 1, 1976, pp. 141–173, doi:10.7202/030808ar.

Pierson, Ruth R. “Canadian Women and the Second World War.” World War II and the NFB :: The Home Front, 2008, http://floraweb.nfb.ca/ww2/home-front/women-and-the-war.htm?article=18789&subtype=articles.

“Remembering Canada’s Role in WW II.” CBC News, 29 Apr. 2010, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/remembering-canada-s-role-in-ww-ii-1.871801.

Robbins, Trina. “Gender Differences in Comics.” Image and Narrative, Edited by Heike Jüngst, vol. 2, no. 4, 2002, www.imageandnarrative.be/inarchive/gender/trinarobbins.htm.

Silverstein, Brett, et al. “The Role of the Mass Media in Promoting a Thin Standard of Bodily Attractiveness for Women.” Sex Roles, vol. 14, no. 9-10, 1986, pp. 519–532., doi:10.1007/bf00287452. .

Songs My Mother Taught Me. 10 Sept. 1945, http://www.cbc.ca/andthewinneris/war_brides_620.jpg.

Tepper, Sean. “Heroes of the Canadian Golden Age of Comics | Toronto Star.” Toronto Star, 11 Oct. 2013, https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/2013/10/11/heroes_of_the_canadian_golden_age_of_comics.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.