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Wednesday, June 07, 2017 

A would-be historian claims that golden age comics fueled racism, even as they attacked the real thing

Vice has an interview with Mark Fertig, author of a new book on some of the comics published during WW2, who perpetuates the questionable claim that golden age comics were fueling racism against Japanese, all without even considering the Rape of Nanking in 1937. At the beginning, it says:
The war—the bloody catastrophe that it was—was in many ways integral to building superhero comic books as we see them today. The Nazis—and, to a slightly lesser extent, imperial Japan—was a ready-made crew of baddies with their own costumes, logos, and crimes. All that was needed was a brawny superman (sometimes Superman) to give them the heave-ho.
Umm, not if you take the aforementioned assault on Chinese civilians into account. It's ill-advised to downplay the atrocities committed by the Japanese imperialists, yet Vice seems to be doing just that. And when they get around to the interview paragraphs, this peculiar little part comes up:
It must have been quite an easy sell to the publisher with the way things are right now.
Sure, I mean… I wasn't thinking about the whole Trump thing when I came up with the idea to do the book. I don't think he was even on our radar yet, but yeah, that's a happy coincidence as far as I'm concerned. If people are looking back at that moment in history and coupling it with this dick, then that's fine by me. I just put a gallery together in a blog of ten or 15 images and sent it to a publisher at Fantagraphics.
Very fishy. And very telling. It sounds, alas, like reporter and author are making negative comments about Trump, turning him into a scapegoat and implying he's responsible, and nobody else. They later say:
Aside from 9/11, Pearl Harbor was the only real huge attack on American soil, and people still haven't forgotten about it, as evidenced by some of the reactions to the Japanese tsunami in 2011. Some of the images in the book are strikingly racist—what do you think these say about the American psyche?
You know, that's an ugly thing to touch on, but it's undeniably true. I think I quote a statistic somewhere in the book where a poll was conducted in which a God awful percentage of the American people said that every Japanese man, woman, and child should be killed at the end of the war. I'm not old enough to really understand the depth of feeling surrounding Pearl Harbor. I was unaware of the people saying they deserved it, but sadly, it's not surprising.

I don't know if people are thinking that way now. I think we're fucked up for a lot of other reasons, but I don't know if there's a cultural memory of Pearl Harbor here. I think, instead, it's more likely that younger Americans couldn't tell you the first thing about it other than that they remember it or somehow carry a grudge. It's definitely fair to bring up 9/11. It's comparable. When you look at 9/11 and the entitlement to hate, which some Americans feel, the relationship to Pearl Harbor and the way that it surfaces in the comic books and the imagery of the time is really clear.
Whoa, what's this here! So the twosome who put this propaganda piece together are trying to imply that Americans during both these eras were/are one-dimensional racists! Or that their anger is misplaced and has no valid basis. Fascinating. It's basically liberal guilt tripping in motion. What does this mean? Do they think the military and civilian victims in Hawaii during WW2, and the victims during 9-11, were expendable? The article doesn't dwell clearly on any of that. It's just the sort of biased history retrospective that can only make comics writers of yore out to be one-dimensional racists. In other words, even if it doesn't name most writers/artists directly, it still has the effect of implying famous figures like Siegel, Shuster, Kirby and Simon, among others were nothing more than hate-filled racists, the interview's acknowledgement of the Holocaust notwithstanding. On which note, if the book author's going to make subtle attacks on anybody who takes offense at the results of indoctrination to real bigotry and hatemongering, known in some circles as moral equivalence, then he's not making a convincing case why we should think his new book is worth the money.

Thinking more about the interviewed author, he honestly sounds pretty dumb, and his comments about the cover for the 3rd issue of the Suspense Comics anthology series from the Golden Age are no improvement:
There's one particular cover I found quite striking, but also quite odd. It was the Suspense Comics cover with the KKK swastika jungle guys. It was kind of a mishmash of different sorts of fascistic themes.
See, the thing I don't understand about the cover is what that guy thinks he's doing with the spear.

Yeah. What's going on there?
It's like there are these KKK Nazis guys down there with Tommy guns, so there's some classic gangster in there too with these Tommy guns, and this guy's attacking them with a spear. It doesn't make a lot of sense. It's an Alex Schomburg cover, too, and he's really the preeminent cover artist from the war. There's more stuff of his that of anybody else in the whole book. By that point in the war, you were beginning to see more and more comics that were salacious in an effort to make sales. I think in a case like that one it backfired, and news vendors pulled that comic booked off the stand before people could actually buy it, or the comics that did make the copies of that book that did make their way into the hands of school kids were then destroyed by their parents when they found it. That's a very notorious comic right there, in the sense that so many copies were destroyed for one reason or another that it's become really valuable today. Any time a copy comes up for sale, it sort of becomes buzzy news in the comic book collecting culture.
Good grief, this is quite the head-shaker. The guy with the spear must think he's going to aim for the cult's head honcho who's in the act of raising a sword/dagger to murder the scantily clad babe the KKK-nazi gang tied up! Probably because she not only opposed their belief system, she also dared to dress inappropriately, in the eyes of such "public moralists". Today, there's Islamofascists who can do the same thing. Man, are these jokers blind? I've got a hunch he's exaggerating the circumstances surrounding the issue's rarity today to boot. For now, his awkward comments make for a lot of unintentional comedy.

And as noted before, they made no mention of Japan's atrocities against innocent Chinese, and this was just 2 years before WW2 officially began. All Mr. Fertig's done is lead me to figure he's an ignoramus product of leftist university corruption whose alleged history book is not worth buying.

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Now what's your explanation for the depiction of Blacks during this time period?

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  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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