Date of Award

Fall 12-7-2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

First Advisor

John Daly

First Reader

William Morris

Second Reader

Carter Soles

Abstract

This thesis examines Superman and Captain America comics during World War II, arguing that they portray the civilians’ and soldiers’ experiences of the war, respectively. The thesis begins by examining the creators’ backgrounds and how they influenced later portrayals of the war before proceeding to explore the wartime comics. During the war, DC used Superman as escapist fare to distract from the war while Timely Comics used Captain America to explore the issues of the war, such as portrayals of the Nazis and Japanese. The third and fourth chapters focus on these two issues: portrayals of Nazis and the Japanese. Both comics carefully distinguished between Germans and Nazis, avoiding racial stereotyping of Caucasians. The Japanese, however, were the most prevalent in a series of bluntly racist portrayals of non-whites in the comics. Superman and Captain America comics reinforced white supremacy and cast the war in racial terms. The two characters and their respective publishers used the relatively new medium of comic books to engage World War II in distinctly different ways, allowing the comics to portray the civilians’ and soldiers’ respective experiences.