THOMPSONS GO TO WAR IN THE COMICSBY
STEPHEN H. GENTNERIn June of 1938, a red and blue clad hero gave notice to the world of his arrival on the cover of action Comic #1. To the "who's at home", his name was and is ... Superman. The popularity of this seminal super character forever changed the previous strip characters role in comic books. Before, there was "Wash Tubbs," "Abby 'N Slats," "Bringing up Father," etc. now, came "Batman," "Captain Marvel," "The Human Torch," "Submariner," and some lesser known heroes such as the "Black Terror," "Fighting Yank," "The Grim Reaper," and others.
With the depression as a backdrop, Hitler marshaled his forces and defied the Versailles Treaty. Hirohito and Tojo in the Japanese Cabinet pressed their designs of a "co-prosperity" sphere. With Neville Chamberlain's naivete and the world's inability to stop it from happening, WAR was declared. The US was plunged into the conflicts after Pearl Harbor, and it was total WAR. To help the Allies kick the Axis, Comics went to WAR!
Propaganda is so very important to keep the populace in "line" ... for Mussolini anyway. An American, "patriotic" propaganda took a myriad of forms. Radio, the movies, serials, the food we ate, the music we sang, the newspapers we read... and the comics were no exception.
The big comics companies at this time were D.C. Comics (Superman, Batman, etc), Timely (Captain America, Torch, Submariner), Fawcett (Black Terror, Fighting Yank, Pyroman, etc.) All of these companies heeded the call to arms, and the super heroes battled thick-necked Nazi goons and buck-toothed, optically challenged Japanese!
One artist in particular epitomized the Propaganda/Patriotic War comic book cover. His name was Alex Schomburg. Alex produced nearly 1,000 covers for Timely and Standard/Ledor in his career, and his wartime offerings were (and are) legendary.