© Copyright 2017 Ruba Hassan, Ryerson University
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
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
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,
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.
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.
- 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.
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