I have had to choose and end-point for my LIS 518 course assignment, but not for this blog. Stay ‘tooned’ for more!
In contrast to cultural history that draws on high art that is largely inaccessible to the masses and provides only encapsulated excerpts, Scott (2011) describes that “… popular cultural history draws on a broader base of materials and a more complete record, especially for the past two centuries (a period roughly coterminous with the existence of the United States of America). Thus, as historical subjects get closer to the present and the depth and breadth of evidence expands, it is increasingly possible to write history that reconstructs the mental universe in which ordinary people lived.”
I could not finish this assignment without taking a quick look at my beloved Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) and his contributions to WWII propaganda.
During the inter-war years between WWI and WWII, comic books resumed their role as an entertainment medium, offering escapism and adventure stories (Scott, 2011). Among other things, comic books helped in reconciling the WWI experience for children, youth and young adults who either lived through it or were experiencing its inter-generational latter effects via in their upbringing by parents/families who lived through it (Chapman, 2014; Scott, 2011).
Still in use today in United States Army recruiting materials, the iconic ‘Uncle Sam’ image by James Montgomery Flagg image was first published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (1852-1922) a year before America entered WWI. It is consistent with a shift that can be observed cross-culturally at that time towards greater personalization in wartime propaganda. Patriotism, self-sacrifice and “making due”, doing your part at home or at the front, the purchase of war bonds… These were among the themes that were commonly articulated through mass media in both Allied and Axis nations.
WWI and WWII offered Japan a vehicle for imperial expansion to other parts of Asia through military conquest. Critical to these pursuits were conquering the minds and hearts of Japanese citizens, including children who represented the future of the empire, and undermining enemy morale (Aoki, 2016; Kennedy, 2007; Manga, 2016). Early manga used in propaganda was an effective medium.
Pro- and anti-suffrage propaganda from 19th century Britain and the United States offer some of the best examples of the use of comics art style and design elements in single and multiple panel works from that era, including caricature, panel layouts and panel transitions, especially for showing change over time and contrasting social structures (McCloud, 1994).
Within the worldwide context of growing Western imperialism, China’s 1899-1901 Boxer Rebellion represents a critical nationalist action protesting foreign control and Christian missionary infiltration and co-optation (Boxer Rebellion, 2016; Sebring, 2014). Foreign media provided important channels for influencing critical interpretation of the conflict, primarily aimed at motivating public support within the eight nations that cooperated to subdue the uprising and afterwards carve up China amongst themselves (Boxer Rebellion, 2016; Eight-Nation Alliance, 2016; Sebring, 2014).
Though not wartime propaganda per se, and hardly a cartoon or comic, George P.A. Healy’s 1868 work The Peacemakers, painted three years after the American Civil War, employs design elements that seem to borrow from cartoon/comics archetypes that developed through that period and that set this work apart from other Civil War era high art. The rainbow over President Lincoln’s head is the most eye-catching icon.