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Disclaimer – please read

In this blog I write about my many and varied interests. One such interest concerns “Golden Age Comics”, comic books which were published between 1938 and the early 1950’s, with a particular emphasis on comics published during World War II. I approach these publications on two levels. As a fan, I love a good rip-roaring adventure story which satisfies my “inner eight year old”. As a historian, I treat these comic books as an art form which frequently documented popular American mores and attitudes during those years; we can learn much about the lives of our parents and grandparents by closely observing their favorite forms of popular entertainment.

Unfortunately, the 1940’s were not especially “politically correct” (to use the modern term), and some comic books of the Golden Age featured racial, ethnic, and cultural stereotypes.

I have endeavored as much as possible to keep these potentially offensive images out of this blog, particularly as they pertain to African-American stereotypes and caricatures. It must be remembered, however, that America was in the midst of a global conflict against the European and Asian forces of fascism at that time, and that it is impossible to fully analyze the source material without sometimes displaying caricatures, especially of Asian people, which some readers today will consider offensive.

I wish to state with this public disclaimer that I neither condone nor seek to excuse racism, but rather seek to understand it as an unfortunate part of American culture of that period, by treating these antique comic books not just as “kids’ entertainment”, but also as historical documents from another era.

It is also a fact of the times that fascist characters, while always characterized as reviled enemies, are frequently depicted with swastikas and other Nazi/fascist symbols prominently displayed. This should in no way be construed as support of fascism or neo-fascism on my part.

It is not my intent to offend my readers, or to promote racism or fascism. It is my intent to depict these comics, warts and all, as interesting facets of America’s social and cultural history and as frequently fascinating glimpses into the American psyche of the 1940’s.

Again — I endeavor as much as possible to keep offensive imagery out of this blog but, given the nature of the historical period and material being examined and discussed, I sincerely regret that this is not always fully possible.

— Steve Lopez

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Blame it on Blackhawk « Steve Lopez's Big Blog o'Fun
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 18:37:02

  2. Gary Ludwig
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 10:37:06

    I’m in my mid-50s now and I still share with people like yourself a deep, abiding love comics – particularly from the rough-and-ready old Golden Age. Clearly, though, you can’t read them without often coming across material that any intelligent contemporary reader would find offensive – often extremely so. I would hope that people who are genuinely interested in comics of that period recognize that the stories weren’t focused on, or intended to promote, racism or misogyny – those parts of the narrative were an unfortunate reflection of the attitudes of the times (and that phenomenon is certainly not limited to comics of the period). So they can’t be viewed and judged through a post-millenial social lens any more than a work like Huckleberry Finn can or should.

    So I absolutely get why you have your disclaimer so readers are clear on the context of what you’re doing and your own attitudes relative to the material, but I don’t quite get why you’re OK including some ethnic groups and not others. Are African-Americans more easily offended than Asians or native Americans or Jews or women of any race, color, or creed for that matter? I think if you didn’t comment on a Golden Age story simply because you were afraid it would be offensive to a contemporary black person that would be a shame. Particularly if you thought it would be OK to substitute one portraying a different ethnic stereotype. I think that would be wrong. Maybe a whole other kind of discrimination of your own making. It feels like thin ice to me.

    We didn’t create the past so let’s not be afraid of it. The creators weren’t being malicious, they were ignorant and unaware. We’re not. The discomfort we feel looking back at those comics is a good thing. It means we’ve changed. Let’s not pretend those things never happened, let’s celebrate the fact that we can no longer understand how people could think, speak, and act the way they did.

    So long as your attitudes and intentions are clear and honest I’d hope that comic fans could look back with you in good faith and appreciate the comics for what they are. I know I could.

    Reply

    • fourcolorglasses
      Mar 31, 2012 @ 11:53:54

      The reason why I’ve decided to (judiciously) include some while excluding others is because it’s essentially impossible to discuss a period war story without including Asian (or Aryan) stereotypes, which are beyond merely “pervasive”. On the other hand, I’ve also seen online comments in which people express a high degree of offense at a character like Ming the Merciless (from Flash Gordon) or Dr. Fu Manchu, when no “stereotyping” is involved — they’re stock villains who just happen to be (or resemble) Asians.

      Ultimately, different people draw the line at different places. I’m merely expressing where my line lies which, I hope, will allow me to maximize the number and variety of comics I can feature while minimizing the potential offense delivered.

      Reply

      • DrFrood
        Dec 13, 2012 @ 09:11:46

        Utterly misses the point, but ‘pervasive’ is one of my favourite words.

        Reply

        • fourcolorglasses
          Dec 13, 2012 @ 18:27:36

          At least I attempted to make a point, which is more than I can say for your comment. Some thoughtful clarification would be nice.

          I’m glad you appreciated the word usage, however.

          Reply

          • DrFrood
            Dec 14, 2012 @ 06:10:32

            I think you may have misinterpreted my comment.

            Wasn’t suggesting that you were missing the point, I was highlighting that I wasn’t engaging with anything you’d actually written and instead just felt compelled to mention how much I like the word pervasive.

            Reply

            • fourcolorglasses
              Dec 14, 2012 @ 07:18:10

              My apologies. You were right after all — I missed your point.

              Happy Holidays! And thanks for visiting!

              Reply

              • DrFrood
                Dec 14, 2012 @ 07:42:36

                With hindsight I should’ve been a little clearer.

                As it happens I broadly agree with you – it’s important to take a reasonably unflinching look at the past and place it in context. The views and attitudes may seem unsavoury by our standards, but doubtless some day people will look back at our time and be appalled at some of our own prejudices.

                Keep up the good work…

                Reply

  3. Villains: The Executioner – Hangman Comics #3, Summer 1942 « Steve Lopez's Big Blog o'Fun
    Sep 28, 2012 @ 21:17:58

  4. Blackhawk: Death and Resurrection (Part One) – Military Comics #3, October 1941 | Steve Lopez's Big Blog o'Fun
    Oct 27, 2013 @ 19:57:54

  5. frank.dg
    Apr 13, 2015 @ 14:15:49

    Awesome blog! The “Daredevil battles Hitler” issue was my very first (and very recent) digital forray into the world of public domain Golden Age comic book downloads. I am endlessly fascinated at the products they advertised in those days and the way they played to most boys’ sense of adventure and courage. It truly is a glimpse into decades gone by, which now seem closer than they did decades ago.

    I particularly found your “Daredevil: Another great Golden Age hero” post to be informative and definitive as to where the connection lies between the 1960s version of the Daredevil and his predecessor. Clipped that article to Evernote for safekeeping!

    Thank you for sharing the “warts and all”. Even if the wartime editions showed creative license “Hitler, The Man of Hate” to a degree, it is most definitely a historical account of the pervasive cultural perspective in those days.

    Needless to say, your blog has been a fantastic find to stumble across… and I’ll be joining you for the rest of the adventure if you don’t mind!

    Reply

    • fourcolorglasses
      Apr 13, 2015 @ 20:02:08

      Thanks for your kindness, sir! Welcome aboard! It’s great to have you along for the ride!

      Reply

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