@ Copyright 2017 Puebla Ponciano, Alicia, Ryerson University
In this exhibit I will examine the representation of women and Japanese figures separately through several of the stories in the entire thirteenth issue of Commando Comics (1942). The last story in the issue, “Invisible Commando,” has the only woman to take action and fight throughout the comic but was still only as an helper to the men. I will compare the representation of women through the story to the way women were treated within society at the same time to see what societal stereotypes there were for women and why they were used in the comic and what they were used to do. I also relate this to the racist representation of the Japanese in the first story of the issue “Clift Steele” and compare the minorities in the comics to the way they were perceived in society. Studying these two portrayals of women and Japanese figures in reality in the 1940’s, will give insight to why the comics depicted them in ways that made them secondary to a white male hero. While going through the comic and studying the way these two figures are represented it rises the question of why the illustrators depict these groups in ways that suppress them. By targeting the white male demographic authors were able to market to the patriarchical ideology of society and capitalize on fear and machoism to encourage the white male to join the war and buy comics. They used women as tools that could support them and make it possible to leave the home front and manipulated the fear of the Japanese to create a hatred and encourage them to fight in the front lines.
How women were depicted.
In the storyline for “Invisible Commando” there is an interesting portrayal of women as the
only woman featured within the story was a woman who helped the Invisible Commando as she was able to throw a knife across a yard and hit the evil Japanese scientist. This is the only storyline to have a female actually make any productive actions or given any sort of power. By studying this storyline I have noticed that the women representation was powerful and great since she stopped the man trying to take the knowledge of what makes the invisible man invisible but overall she did not save the story, she did not save the day but rather was a helper for the Invisible Commando being able to save the day. She did not save the story but rather enabled the hero so he could save the day which shows the ideology about women being inferior that the illustrator is trying to represent. The portrayal of women in the comic showed that women mattered but not as much as men did.
Women on the home front.
By doing some more research I found that women on the home front where being used in a similar manner to the woman in the Invisible Commando story. Many women during the second world war were asked to leave their duties as a house wife and rather work on the home front making ammunition or taking the jobs that they could that would allow the men to leave their stations and join the fighting front in Europe. Once the war was close to an ending the government began to have a problem as women did better than expected on the field (Globe and Mail 1942) and many of them did not want to go back to work, as 91% of women were open to find employment after the war (Stephen, 129). They were given the opportunity for more freedom and independence in the work field and many women did not want to give it up. This is relevant because the government had planned to put men back to work once they returned from the war. This shows the value of women in the eyes of the government and how they were expected to be accessories that could be used while the men where out in the field and placed back home once the war finished.
By analyzing propaganda distributed at the time audiences can see how women were portrayed as important enough to be valued but not as important as the male. Men were the protectors and women needed protecting but while they were away women were left to do the work on the home front in a time where there was no other option. This poster that encourages women to join the fight on the home front while visually suppressing them to the bottom of the ranks. This portrays the ideology that society had about women at the time and proves that they were looked at as secondary to men despite their efforts to contribute to the war.
Overall by analyzing the social stance of women at the time of the publication of the comic I have noticed that the characters are representations of the reality of women at the time. The creators where trying to replicate the way women were expected to be in a white mans ideology. At the time the government was not done trying to recruit for the war. This acts as a subtle hint to the white man demographic that was needed to convince the men that the women would be there to support them while they were needed to stop the real enemy, similar to the comic where the female was strong enough to help out but only as a supporting role.
The depiction of Japanese characters in the comic.
By studying the first story of the issue called “Clift Steele”, where the Japanese enemies
were characterized in a racist manner and the “heroes” of the story used derogatory terms towards them. I noticed that although it made sense to create a negative connotation around the enemy the creators instead used the physical attributes of the Japanese to degrade which acts as an insult to not only the Japanese axis that the allies were actually fighting but to the Japanese -Canadians who where not involved in the war at all. In the comic the “heroes” regard the Japanese as the “Yellow Boys” and “Nips” and this creates a physical mockery of the characters. I believe these were used in order to create a hatred of Japanese people in the mind of the readers . The illustrators also depict the Japanese characters in a manner that is negative as they have more curved spines and walk with a hunch that makes them look smaller and like less than the heroes to creates an image of an enemy.
Japanese-Canadians on the home front.
Upon more research into the reality of the Japanese Canadians there has been records of Japanese Canadians being forced to live in internment camps so they could not pose a threat to Canadians within Canada. Many and most of these people were Canadian citizens and many had never even been to Japan (McAllister, 137). The conditions in the internment camps were terrible and they were treated as less than human(McAllister, 143) as they were expected to leave behind their whole life because they were a threat based on their physical attributes. The government claimed that it was an act to keep the people safe but there is a possibility that it was because they wanted to maintain the idea of us versus them in order to encourage the radicalness that would get more people to join the war, if Japanese Canadians were joining the war the white male dominated community would act out of fear and hatred because of who they are supposed to be fighting and end up hurting or killing their own neighbours. At the time the white male liked fighting in one unit that all looked the same because they believed that they could trust each other so in order to keep this unity the government segregated the Japanese Canadians and claimed it was for protection.
Overall the Japanese -Canadians were depicted in a manner that created a negative connotation around their physical attributes which created a fear and hatred towards all being who shared those attributes. In order to create unity within the nation the government pushed out all those who could be seen as the enemy into internment camps to protect their “own” and make them believe they needed to be the heroes like in the storyline and fight off the “evil” Japanese.
The ideology of the white male dominated society during the second world war
At the time of the second world war the world was not as open as it is today in 2018, society saw things in a much more slanted view and had a supreme ideology about the white man as they were the only ones with full rights. Women had barely just earned the right to vote and Japanese Canadians were being locked away. The ideology at the time was that the white men held all the possibility in the world and controlled all the decisions. They decided if there would be a war, who would be in that war and how they could help and luckily in the second world war the boundaries opened up a bit in regards to gender and race but the white man still held the most power in the world. This relates to the comic as during the war the targeted audience was the white male and in order to reach that demographic they follow their ideologies, like the degrading of the Japanese and the use of women in order to hit their market. If they can hit their market then they can make more money and encourage more of the white men to join the war as they were who was wanted to fight the axis .
How the comics creators used methods to pull on the ideology of the targeted demographic
By playing on the white males ideologies they were able to use their own techniques in order to appeal to the market and get them to read more. They capitalized on their fear of the Japanese to create an enemy that they could defeat in the comic and make them feel more secure. They also capitalized on their dependability on women to ensure the men that they could leave and the women would take care of the home front until they get back. They drew the Japanese specifically to look weaker then the “heroes” of the story intentionally to add to their egos and make them more confident in themselves and their capabilities . While they also drew the female in the “Invisible Commando” in a demeaning form as she was essentially wearing a bra and a mini skirt on a battle field, they did this to create intrigue with the character and make the market more comfortable with her character as she was beautiful and works well as assisting them with their needs.
Bachle, Leo. “The invisible Commando.” Commando Comics, no. 2, March, 1942, pp. 43-48. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
Darian, Jon. “Clift Steele.” Commando Comics, no. 2, March, 1942, pp. 1-7. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
Hallowell, Gerald. “Cartoonist.” The Oxford Companion to Canadian History, Oxford University press, 2004. http://www.oxfordreference.com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/view/10.1093/acref/9780195415599001.0001/acref-9780195415599-e-304? rskey=xrnhlt&result=2
Hallowell, Gerald. “Wartime Internment.” The Oxford Companion to Canadian History, Oxford University press, 2004. http://www.oxfordreference.com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/view/10.1093/acref/978019541559.001.0001/acref-9780195415599-e-1636? rskey=QOBJag&result=1
“Huge Increase in Gun Output Here, Women Workers’ Skill Amaze M.P.’s.” Globe and Mail, 11 June 1942.
McAllister, Kirsten. “Photographs of a Japanese Canadian Internment Camp: Mourning Loss and Invoking a Future.” Visual Studies, vol. 21, no. 2, 2006, pp. 133–56.
Rogers, Hubert. Attack on All Fronts. 1943, https://www.warmuseum.ca/collections/arti fact/1019736/q=&page_num=1&item_num=0&media_irn=5399483&mode=artifact. Canadian War Museum.
Stephen, Jennifer A. “Balancing Equality for the Post-War Woman: Demobilising Canada’s Women Workers After World War Two.” Atlantis, vol. 32, no. 1, 2007, pp. 125–35.
Images in this online exhibition are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.