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Comic Art Propaganda: A Graphic History

Comic Art Propaganda: A Graphic History - Fredrik Strömberg, Peter Kuper Doesn't everybody know about Bugs Bunny making fools of the Nazis in early 40‘s comics? If this book were just about that, it would hardly be worth it. It turns out, the marriage of comics and propaganda is much richer and more widespread than I imagined. This very meticulously researched book gives hundreds of examples from all over the world of comics being used to advance political agendas, religious indoctrination, social engineering, commercial brainwashing, and any other type of propagandizing you can imagine. Here are a few I could find images to go with:Evangelical Christian propaganda ArchieCaptain America fights HitlerCamel cigarette comics, where all the adventures are cigarette-themed!Naturally, both sides of the Israel/Palestine situation are represented...Anti-Japanese themed comics from World War II:This isn’t a comic, just a poster, but I thought it was funny.Early 60’s anti-Communist comics.Oh… that’s enough, isn’t it? Some others that I didn’t find good images for include:✓Nazi comics… old school WWII flavor, as well as redneck modern day variety (I hate Illinois Nazis)✓Abortion comics, pro/con (or however you want to word those positions)✓Evolution comics (mostly con)✓Racist comics of many varieties (underground publications by hate groups)✓“Reefer Madness” type anti-drug comics, and 60’s stoner comics✓Cautionary sex ed comics about people getting STDs✓Japanese comics against the Chinese (WWII era)✓Chinese comics against the Japanese (WWII era)✓Chinese comics against the Russians (60’s)✓Russian comics against the Chinese (60’s)✓Russian comics against the West (60’s, 70’s)✓Iranian comics against Donald Duck (and by extension, the U.S., I think) (80’s)✓Korean comics (North v. South)✓Eastern European comics against the West (Cold War)✓Anti-Catholic comics (all by other “Christians”)✓Both sides of the India/Pakistan tensions✓“Stay in school, don’t do drugs, crime doesn’t pay” comics✓Vietnam War -era antiwar protest comics✓Right-wing Christian anti-Harry Potter comics✓Lightly-treading Japanese anti-American (occupation) comics ✓American socialist comics (pro and con)✓Anti…??? Cuba-before-Castro comics (Castro Era)✓American superheroes joining forces to take revenge for 9/11…but then, you probably expected all of those, didn’t you? The most fun part of this book is the unexpected stuff. For example, I just assumed that all the Arab world comics would have an anti-American or anti-Israel bent, but the most popular series is called “The 99”,which is like a very positive X-Men group of super kids, who have mostly apolitical adventures, like the example comic, where they search to find mythical jewels at the bottom of the Tigris River, which contain lost secret medical knowledge of the ancient world.I found that very heartening. Then there’s some pre- First Gulf War comics from Iraq, which actually portray Saddam Hussein himself as a crime-fighting superhero! That’s just a bit too ridiculous to be credible, even for comic lovers, I’m thinking.OH! Don't forget about the improbable 1980’s Exxon-sponsored energy conservation-themed Mickey Mouse/Goofy adventures, which dispense the dual lessons of (1) the long-term benefits of using our limited resources wisely, and (2) what a socially-conscious and generous corporation Exxon is, and how it selflessly administers a large number of socially beneficial and environmentally-conscious programs for the universal betterment of mankind. Childrens’ NRA (National Rifle Association)-sponsored gun comic Let’s Go Shooting from the 50’s.. where tweens Billy and Bess get into weekly gun-related adventures!An apparently serious 1980’s right wing Republican comic called Reagan’s Raiders comics, which portray Ronald Reagan as President of the United States as his cover identity, who manages to slip away when the need calls, to become a totally ripped Captain America-style crime fighting superhero! (it is breaking my heart that Google image search didn’t produce anything for this… the purchase price of the book was worth this alone)Catholic comics portraying the Pope (John Paul, not the new one) as an athletic, sin-fighting super hero.A bizarre 1980’s New Zealand comic called Varoomshka, whose titular character (heh) seems to be sleeping around with all the popular New Zealand politicians of the day, and whose bedroom adventures manage to make political commentary on the issues du jour. Here’s the only non-R rated image I could find of that: Propaganda? Mmmmm, maybe not… everybody seemed to get lampooned by this one. Come to think of it, there are a few scattered ones in here that are not actually propaganda… a few bizarre sex comics (nothing too strong shown in this book though), and a few puzzlingly vague ones, like a TinTin comic on page 82 which doesn’t address any particular theme, but demonizes “protesters”. Good stuff.So what is it about comics that makes them so well-suited to propaganda? For one thing, they have bright and interesting art, and fantastic characters involved in dramatic, heroic adventures. They are also generally inexpensive to produce and distribute in mass quantities (although a trip to the local comic store makes one wonder about that, these days). Also, in some times and places, where literacy isn’t that high, comics can be drawn such that a person can get most of the story (and all of the propaganda message) just by looking at the artwork. As long as you know who you’re supposed to hate, that’s all that’s important, isn’t it? This book is well worth the perusal, if not the purchase. If there are any take home messages, it is that (1) everybody's doing it, and (2) the extent of propaganda all around us is remarkable, if you open your eyes to it. But then, you knew I was going to say that eventually, didn't you? ;)