Monday, April 11, 2011

Anti-Racist Propaganda in Comics: True Comics 39 - "There Are No Master Races!"

During the 1940s, True Comics, of what might be called a true life, factual, or educational genre, promoted the humanist viewpoint of publisher George J. Hecht. A nice article about the series can be found on the Virginia Commonwealth University website. Quite a number of complete issues can be read in the Digital Comic Museum. Hecht used the comic to disseminate anti-racist propaganda that flew in the face of Nazi claims of racial superiority and inferiority, and of Aryan supremacy. True Comics 39 (Sept-Oct 1944) featured an overtly anti-racist piece entitled "There Are No Master Races", which presents practical reasons in support of racial equality. This story (and the whole issue) is available in the Digital Comics Museum, but the scans presented below are of higher resolution and are 'cleaned up'/edited with image editing software.


This story was also distributed as a propaganda pamphlet - I've seen one for sale on eBay for a considerable sum. I like this issue of True Comics because it shows that, while segregation was still a reality in American society at the time, there were people working to change things, and Hecht was one of those people. Little by little things did change, and comics played their part in the emergence of a more civilized world.

18 comments:

  1. I think the likes of the True Comics'll always be important for putting out there materials and ideas that'll find suitable responses in young minds before they're closed by other more divisive ideas.

    But while I salute their intentions I note that for every mind expanding observation, (e.g., Asia and the Middle East had several highly evolved civilizations while Europeans were still seemingly living at caveman level), there's still a lot of cultural blinkering going on.

    For instance, the implication the "belligerent" Mexican Indians were at a primitive level - tribes "continually fighting each other" - until the arrival of the civilizing Gringos, whereas much of Europe - including Spain - was in pretty much the same state warring factional state itself, (viz the wars between Spain and Britain over South America).

    Ditto Japan supposedly turning war-like on being "opened" by America - well no wonder they wanted "ships of war like those of the Americans" because America had used such warships to order Japan to 'open' or be blasted off the map; but it also ignores the many internal feudal wars conducted by samurai in the spirit of Shintoism.

    It even leaves the impression Hitler merely went eeny-meeny-miney-mo...Jews're it! But that whole anti-Semitism thing goes back hundreds if not thousands of years.

    My point being, all the ground gained early on can be lost by painting an overly rosy picture which a little historic research'll quickly undermine, not to mention more astute propaganda pamphlets.

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  2. borky: that's all true, but in comics and actually in popular culture generally, this kind of propaganda at that time was extremely rare. It's certainly imperfect, flawed, but it is one of the early steps in the right direction. While quite revolutionary for the time, this comic is not as powerful as World's Finest 15's Johnny Everyman story from 1945. I haven't posted that yet - cost me a bundle - but it hits more at home in the US. Again it is still imperfect, but nobody was writing, or daring to write, this kind of anti-racist or anti-segregationist material but for a very few.

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  3. Hey KB,

    I recently just found this old post of yours
    http://kb-outofthisworld.blogspot.com/2011/03/beatniks-in-comics-sampler-part-3.html#comments
    and I saw that your request of an old Archie comic strip you read when you were a kid. I just posted it up on my blog for ya! Hope you check it out!

    The Marielator

    ReplyDelete
  4. Here's the link if you don't find it:

    http://marielator.blogspot.com/2011/05/looking-for-this-old-thing.html

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you! Incredible to see it again after all this time!

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  6. Thanks for the interesting article. I recently found this comic in a collection and it has a message from the department of research and education and CIO on the back. I can hardly find any info on it. Any idea on what the value might be?

    ReplyDelete
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