comics in wartime propaganda



One chief, two chief, east and west chief…

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.

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Marvels in the war theatre

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).

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The ultimate “Wanted” poster…

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.

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The Boxer Rebellion

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).

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The ‘Peacemakers’& the American Civil War

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.

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