The Truth About Wartime Propaganda in Comics
Wartime propaganda was embodied in many visually striking forms; yet in particular, the pickings to be had going through the covers and advertisements of comic books are rich indeed. WWII propaganda machine took the sparkle of the ‘The Golden Age of Comics’ and pounced upon it, using nearly every superhero as part of an ideal ‘pro-US’ platform.
The drive to contribute to war bonds was particularly fierce in the comic book industry, and given the natural patriotic slant many heroes had, the two became eager bedfellows. Soon (in comic books at least) ‘Winning the war’ went hand in hand with good defeating evil, always getting the girl and upholding Truth, Justice and the American way.
Many of the comics contained racist depictions hand in hand with extreme jingoes that would certainly not be tolerated today. Often, it was deemed expedient for the Superheroes to abandon their poignant heroic qualities. For example, Batman as we know him never kills, and never uses guns. However in Batman #15 (1943), Batman appears on the cover firing a Gatling gun, alongside the quote “Keep Those Bullets Flying…
Keep on buying war bonds and stamps”. Batman was then seen on various other covers holding guns, firing guns and handing over guns to troops in the under growth. A page in ‘World’s Finest #39’ sees Batman sat in his home with his pistols proudly mounted behind glass on the wall behind him, which is a little odd given his ethical commitments.