Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Nurses as Objects in Comics: Joe Yank 12 - "The Battle of the Sexes"
Joe Yank was an early 50s Standard title of a kind of war comedy genre. Private Joe Yank and Sgt. Mike McGurk are the two main characters. I just acquired this comic, but I'm using pages from the scan available in the Digital Comic Museum. In this story, "Battle of the Sexes" by Ross Andru, we have a perfect example of image discrimination coupled with sexist exploitation of the female form. You'll also note the misleading cover, which depicts a scene that is not part of the actual story. What happens is McGurk gets hospitalized, and in the ward he encounters a nurse who doesn't fit the usual comic book stereotype of the pinup. With little else to do, and with a score to settle with Joe Yank, McGurk hatches a plan to make the Private experience some serious discomfort. He exploits the plain nurse's eagerness to find a man, and her unattractive features, to carry out his scheme.
Joe Yank turns up at the hospital to visit McGurk, and his first encounter with the nursing staff feeds his expectations, based on the kind of nurse image typically promoted by the male mind indulging in fantasy. This softens Joe Yank up for McGurk's ruse, and he buys it, hook, line, and sinker.
Joe Yank goes on his date, only to find he's been had. All he can think of from the moment he meets the man-hungry homely nurse is how to get away, and in the end he has to resort to some extreme measures.
I know it's a comedy designed most likely for male military readers, but I can't help feeling that there's something not right about the way the unattractive woman is made fun of and is also humiliated. Not all women and not all nurses look like Marilyn Monroe.
Kind of an unusual nurse tale that raises some interesting questions about attitudes towards women in the early 1950s.