Event Title

Men of Steel and Sentinels of Liberty: Superman and Captain America as Civilians and Soldiers in World War II

Location

Edwards 102

Document Type

Oral/PowerPoint Presentation (10 minutes and 5 minute Q and A)

Description

During World War II, both Timely Comics and DC used Superman and Captain America to contextualize the war and present various ideologies to their readers. The comics, in keeping with historian John Dower’s thesis , portrayed World War II as a racial conflict pitting Anglo-Americans against non-whites around the world. While comic book writers and illustrators targeted the Japanese with the worst of the stereotyping, no non-white group escaped unscathed. African Americans, Indians, and surprisingly Native Americans faced racial stereotyping in comic books, serving to reinforce white male supremacy and cast America as a white nation defending itself against non-white enemies. The very first time an African American character appeared in Captain America Comics, he appeared in the background and then disappeared as soon as Captain America and his allies began fighting Nazis, again reinforcing the white supremacist portrayal of the war. Subsequent African American characters fit into the minstrel image and further dehumanized one group of Americans in a comic meant to unite all Americans. DC’s two Superman titles, Action Comics and Superman, avoid any portrayal of races other than Caucasians and Japanese. The comics, as a burgeoning form of mass media that catered to both soldiers and civilians, represented the war in the simplest terms possible, pitting attractive white men against dehumanized and grotesque portrayals of nonwhite soldiers and civilians.

Start Date

26-4-2014 2:40 PM

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Apr 26th, 2:40 PM

Men of Steel and Sentinels of Liberty: Superman and Captain America as Civilians and Soldiers in World War II

Edwards 102

During World War II, both Timely Comics and DC used Superman and Captain America to contextualize the war and present various ideologies to their readers. The comics, in keeping with historian John Dower’s thesis , portrayed World War II as a racial conflict pitting Anglo-Americans against non-whites around the world. While comic book writers and illustrators targeted the Japanese with the worst of the stereotyping, no non-white group escaped unscathed. African Americans, Indians, and surprisingly Native Americans faced racial stereotyping in comic books, serving to reinforce white male supremacy and cast America as a white nation defending itself against non-white enemies. The very first time an African American character appeared in Captain America Comics, he appeared in the background and then disappeared as soon as Captain America and his allies began fighting Nazis, again reinforcing the white supremacist portrayal of the war. Subsequent African American characters fit into the minstrel image and further dehumanized one group of Americans in a comic meant to unite all Americans. DC’s two Superman titles, Action Comics and Superman, avoid any portrayal of races other than Caucasians and Japanese. The comics, as a burgeoning form of mass media that catered to both soldiers and civilians, represented the war in the simplest terms possible, pitting attractive white men against dehumanized and grotesque portrayals of nonwhite soldiers and civilians.