Why did so many people want to read comic books during the time of war? The Nazi enemy of World War II greatly changed US pop culture through inspiring the creation of new heroes, and also changing those already there. The war against the Nazis had a great affect. This affect also occurred in the United States. The war changed pop culture greatly.
People at home wanted more comforting happy comics. They wanted forms of entertainment on the home front to cheer them up. There was war affected books, movies, music, and comics. “The subject of most comics, like books and other forms of entertainment, reflected common concerns.”
“Popular music trumpeted optimism.” The people of the United States enjoyed positive music. Most of which had to do with the war. Some of the songs from the time were, “You’re a Sap, Mister Jap”; “Let’s Take a Rap at the Jap”; “The Japs Don’t Have a Chinaman’s Chance”; and “We’re Gonna Find a Feller who is Yeller and Beat Him Red, White, and Blue”. “ ‘White Christmas’, first heard in 1942 in the film Holiday Inn, was soon sung by soldiers in hot deserts jungles as well as by civilians in the United States. Like blueberry pie, the song represented home.”
Books were also a wonderful hobby and way out from the tough times. There was a major market established for paperback books in the 1940’s, “Paperback sales increased astronomically, jumping from several hundred thousand to 10 million in 1941, then rising to 20 million in 1942 and 40 million in 1943.”
“During the war, Americans went to the movies in record numbers.” “More then 90 million people attended films each week as admissions increased 33 percent. Yearly grosses at theaters swelled to well over a billion dollars, even though fears of film stock shortages caused the total number of pictures released to drop from 533 in 1942 to 377 in 1945.”
“Americans also enjoyed comic books. Comic book sales rose from 12 million copies a month to over 60 million a month in 1946. Eighty percent of the population aged 6 to 17 read comics books during the war; one-third of people aged 18 to 30 years did the same.” People enjoyed seeing their heroes involved in the everyday fight. Most comic heroes were involved with the war during the Crucial Era. “Joe Palooka, Dick Tracy, and others enlisted in the military services and did their part.”
Three of the main heroes involved with the war Superman, Batman, and Captain America. Superman was a true hero; all people loved him, and enjoyed seeing him during the war. Batman was often fighting the mysterious, the creepy, people who are different and unlike us, and of course, Captain America.
He was a hero created to help the war in comics too. He was a weak man. Steve Rogers was a true representation of ‘the little guy’. He was transformed in a lab as America’s true hero. “Thus, a true champion of freedom was born – and a foe of liberty meets his death, in a truly symbolic.”
It goes on after he was created to show him as a soldier. It shows Captain America and his sidekick Bucky Barnes beating the Nazis. There is also some spots talking about the evil of the Nazis and their ways. “If this was the Third Reich, I’d have to shoot you to keep my secret safe! But we don’t do things that way!”
In Batman comics, there is a sense of evil, of distrust, of outlandish, foreign villains. Making the US citizens feel unsafe, to be suspicious of each other. To ask the question not only asked about the Nazis, but the Communists too. Who can be trusted? Who is a US citizen? Who is a spy? Who belongs here? Who doesn’t belong here?
An example of Batman fighting against a foreign foe and different is when,
“It is well that you three joined forces with me four great scientists, the scarlet horde…”; “And I Carl Kruger will be dictator of the world!””, “Master of the world, another Napoleon-no one can stop me!” . A man obviously foreign sits discussing his plans to be a dictator. Showing that a world dictator is something to be feared, even for the Americans.
Another example of the different being our enemy is, “For Kila!” A car full of Hindus shout as they toss a body in a river and speed away from Batman. There are many other images of Batman fighting weird different people.
Superman is sometimes shown like this as well. There is an issue where he is against a science experiment. “The fiery eyes of the paralyzed cripple burn with terrible hatred and sinister intelligence–”. This man is focused on “Domination of the world!”
There is still an effect of WWII on US pop culture. “Government now affected cultural life as well in the aftermath of the second world war. Between 1933 and 1945, the federal government had become a patron of the arts.” “Cultural life was also affected by the emphasis on organization. A new age of mass culture emerged.”
“Many of the young men and women who were involved in such wartime activities, as publishing and mass distribution of paperback books for the armed forces carried their experiences into private industry in succeeding decades. The vast expansion of paperback books extent by experiences during the Second Word War.”
The main lasting effect is the story of the survivors. They have been told as movies and books. “Maus is the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father, his father’s terrifying story, and History itself.” So Vladek’s story was portrayed as a comic book. Which is a way the war affected our culture.
World War II was a difficult time for many people. The citizens at home needed a way to escape. Movies, books, and music were all great ways to get away. Comic books however had one of the biggest impacts. You could escape from your miserable troubles to see Superman, Batman, Captain America or many other heroes defeating the evil Nazi army. The Nazi enemy of World War II greatly changed US pop culture through inspiring the creation of new heroes, as well as changing those already there.