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Author Topic: Question about using Golden Age comics for teaching history class  (Read 376 times)

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Offline Yoc

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Hi Gang,
An online teacher asked us if we could make some suggestions for books to use in teaching.  See the question below:

Message: Hi - I am and English teacher who is team teaching an online course with a history teacher, and I would like to use comics from the WW2 era as an eye into history. I am pretty much a newbie in this area, and would like to know if you could point me to some specific resources or make suggestions on how to focus my planning? I only have 2 class periods to do this i, but think my students would really enjoy it as a companion to the traditional literature and history study. Thank you in advance for any directions or suggestions you can offer!

Any suggestions?

As it's a teaching course I think they would be allowed to show covers or perhaps even a story from non-PD material so Capt. America #1 immediately comes to mind as does several great Fawcett anti-Axis covers.  A heavy warning about wartime racist image being super common would have to be given as well.

Airboy, Blackhawk, The Challenger are other characters I could think might help.

Anyone else want to add to this?
-Yoc

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Offline erwin-k

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Re: Question about using Golden Age comics for teaching history class
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2019, 08:30:20 AM »
Standard's Real Life Comics tells factual stories of WW2 in a lot of issues. (From a totally Allied point of view.)

https://digitalcomicmuseum.com/index.php?cid=726

Offline Yoc

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Re: Question about using Golden Age comics for teaching history class
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2019, 12:12:03 PM »
Thanks Bob.
I'll be recommending Yoe Books - "WE SPOKE OUT: COMIC BOOKS AND THE HOLOCAUST' and his 'REEFER MADNESS COMICS' in case they are talking about other non-war topics.
'TAKE THAT ADOLF!' is a good quick look at how Adolf was depicted during the war.  And Fantagraphics 'Cartoons for Victory' might interest them.

-Yoc

Offline Chad!

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Re: Question about using Golden Age comics for teaching history class
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2019, 02:58:16 PM »
One of the things which strikes me when I read some of these wartime comic books is how frequently Hitler himself is presented as a buffoonish foil - almost comic relief - rather than serious threat.  I certainly understand why comics weren't willing to make Hitler himself out to be a credible threat but it reminds me of an observation John Cleese once made with regards to the difference between US perception of the Nazis and the UK.  In America, WWII/Hitler is associated with The Holocaust and all of the horrors that conjures up in the mind; in the UK on the other hand, Britons thought of Hitler as that silly, little man and WWII was, for a time, thought of as yes, a major battle with major casualties, but a battle nonetheless.  I don't know why this is - perhaps seeing the war first hand meant the English saw the damage to their own country as the definition of WWII while in America, the concentration camps which were liberated became the most tangible and horrific evidence of just what the Nazis were doing the whole time.  What I'm getting at is this - it seems that during the war itself, Hitler wasn't necessarily thought of as he is today - then (and this is speculation on my part) he was more of a guy who lusted for land and power whereas now, we know him to be a sadistic, evil monster unlike any we've seen since.  Not that his bigotry would have been much of a secret, but its interesting to read something like Captain America #2 "Trapped in the Nazi Stronghold" where Cap and Bucky spend much of the issue pulling pranks on Hitler ("Germans find Hitler standing in ashcan" reads one newspaper headline in the tale) as if he's Elmer Fudd.  I believe there's also a Will Eisner Spirit story out there in which Hitler comes to America out of a desire to simply be liked for who he is and only wants a friend - hardly the type of depiction you'd expect for the man responsible for The Holocaust.  In other words, Hitler doesn't seem to have been regarded as a symbol for bigotry, feelings of racial superiority, intolerance of those who were different from one another, so much as he seems to have been thought of as a warlord like any other without anything other than a lust for power motivating him.

As for further suggestions, how about possibly the most obvious one?  Look Magazine's 1940 two page spread on "How Superman Would Win the War"? 

Offline SuperScrounge

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Re: Question about using Golden Age comics for teaching history class
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2019, 06:28:37 PM »
On another forum I commented that the writing in Heroic Comics #24 was much better than previous issues, although I was never much of a fan of Heroic Comics true life stories.

Heroic Comics #23, though has an interesting story in hindsight. "Beyond The Call Of Duty" is true story of the bombing of the oil fields of Ploesti, Roumania & tells of how two of the bombers being damaged deliberately crashed into the plants. What caught my attention was the line of a gunner in another plane, "Another suicide dive... That's one way to bring a quicker victory!"
The cover is dated March 1944, Japanese kamikaze runs started in October 1944.

Offline hufflepuffle

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Re: Question about using Golden Age comics for teaching history class
« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2019, 04:13:10 PM »
I would say Take that Adolf! would be a interesting and unique way of using golden age comics for WWII history. Comics like Captain Marvel and Captain America and Fox Feature Comics all had war support ads aimed for kids like selling Victory Bonds, gardens, pulp paper drives, (even gathering milkweeds in the Fawcett comics).

And some of the covers like Captain America #1 and Blue Beetle #32 are both punching Hitler.


Offline Crimson-Blue-Green

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Re: Question about using Golden Age comics for teaching history class
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2019, 12:58:04 PM »
I'd like to throw in my two cents for the books "Superman - The War Years", "Batman - The War Years" and of course "Wonder Woman - The War Years" all of which featured WWII stories, jingoistic covers, mentions of buying war bonds and stamps and even some now racist slang such as "Japanazis".  Hitler being punched or made a buffoon is pretty common, especially on such comics as "Daredevil Battles Hitler", but Hitler actually gets strangled by Cat-Man on the cover of Cat-Man Comics #20.  The aforementioned Daredevil also battled The Claw, an exaggerated Asian villain.  National Comics' main character (in the early issues) was Uncle Sam, and there was plenty of stories with him battling an unnamed "aggressor nation" (a thinly disguised Germany).  Wasn't there a cover that depicted Pearl Harbor being bombed before the actual event? 
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Offline Electricmastro

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Re: Question about using Golden Age comics for teaching history class
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2019, 12:56:29 AM »
One of the things which strikes me when I read some of these wartime comic books is how frequently Hitler himself is presented as a buffoonish foil - almost comic relief - rather than serious threat.  I certainly understand why comics weren't willing to make Hitler himself out to be a credible threat but it reminds me of an observation John Cleese once made with regards to the difference between US perception of the Nazis and the UK.  In America, WWII/Hitler is associated with The Holocaust and all of the horrors that conjures up in the mind; in the UK on the other hand, Britons thought of Hitler as that silly, little man and WWII was, for a time, thought of as yes, a major battle with major casualties, but a battle nonetheless.  I don't know why this is - perhaps seeing the war first hand meant the English saw the damage to their own country as the definition of WWII while in America, the concentration camps which were liberated became the most tangible and horrific evidence of just what the Nazis were doing the whole time.  What I'm getting at is this - it seems that during the war itself, Hitler wasn't necessarily thought of as he is today - then (and this is speculation on my part) he was more of a guy who lusted for land and power whereas now, we know him to be a sadistic, evil monster unlike any we've seen since.  Not that his bigotry would have been much of a secret, but its interesting to read something like Captain America #2 "Trapped in the Nazi Stronghold" where Cap and Bucky spend much of the issue pulling pranks on Hitler ("Germans find Hitler standing in ashcan" reads one newspaper headline in the tale) as if he's Elmer Fudd.  I believe there's also a Will Eisner Spirit story out there in which Hitler comes to America out of a desire to simply be liked for who he is and only wants a friend - hardly the type of depiction you'd expect for the man responsible for The Holocaust.  In other words, Hitler doesn't seem to have been regarded as a symbol for bigotry, feelings of racial superiority, intolerance of those who were different from one another, so much as he seems to have been thought of as a warlord like any other without anything other than a lust for power motivating him.

As for further suggestions, how about possibly the most obvious one?  Look Magazine's 1940 two page spread on "How Superman Would Win the War"?

Yep, it seems so easy to portray the Axis leaders and the Nazis as if they're demons from some fantasy book, when really though, it should never be forgotten that it was humans that slaughtered people, both the Jews at concentration camps and the many soldiers on the battlefields. Hitler and his accomplices surely didn't see themselves as the villains, as from what I've understood, the villains almost always think they're doing the right thing, even though they're objectively wrong. This isn't to downplay the seriousness of the slaughtering that went on the concentration camps and at the battlefields, but to reinforce the fact that it was human beings, however immoral, that were responsible, and not some supernatural threat as if it's impossible to accept that it was humans that committed all of those atrocities. Hitler certainly didn't carry out his malicious plans alone, and whether it be through racist speeches, superiority, fear-mongering, scapegoating/lies of Jews and other such minorities somehow making society worse, etc. many were foolish enough to follow him. Again, it was human beings that did all of that, and to that degree, it's the human species I hold accountable and responsible for their foolishness. It should never be underestimated how much senseless destruction and genocide humans are able to carry out, whether we're talking about the past, present, or future.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2019, 01:06:52 AM by Electricmastro »

Offline erwin-k

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Re: Question about using Golden Age comics for teaching history class
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2019, 02:49:06 PM »
In Eisner's story Hitler visits, among other places in the Spirit's city, a hobo jungle. Those homeless men support their own country with such vigor that Hitler is moved to change his ways. He goes home and tells his Nazi associates of his new plans for peace. He is immediately murdered and a compliant double takes his place.

MLJ/ Archie Comics took Hitler's (surrogate) to a whole new level of evil. In the Mr. Justice strip (see both Blue Ribbon Comics and Jackpot Comics here on DCM) the spirit hero discovers that the chief dictator is actually a personification of Satan. Mr. Justice can not stop the evil being carried out by humans at Satan's orders, but he can (and gleefully) slap the snot out of Ol' Scratch. Not that that changes anything.

Offline Electricmastro

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Re: Question about using Golden Age comics for teaching history class
« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2019, 03:13:46 PM »
In Eisner's story Hitler visits, among other places in the Spirit's city, a hobo jungle. Those homeless men support their own country with such vigor that Hitler is moved to change his ways. He goes home and tells his Nazi associates of his new plans for peace. He is immediately murdered and a compliant double takes his place.

Just goes to show how foolish those are who would rather choose violence and murder over peace and kindness, even when the suggestion of peace is made smack dab right in front of their ignorant faces.