This is a major turning point in the history of comics, World War II. This period of time not only changed comics as we knew them, but also other areas in graphics such as propaganda posters. Now mid to late 1930's we've seen the birth of the modern comic book. Due to the war as well we're also now seeing the birth of war comics
. An obvious example of this as I'm sure many of you have already guessed is Captain America Comics
in 1941 (before American involvement in the war). Captain America was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby who worked for Timely Comics
, which of course has now become Marvel Comics
. He gained amazing popularity and is often fighting the Axis powers in World War II.
Around this time in Japan has been rebuilding itself, its political and economic infrastructure was changing. Whilst American occupation disallowed art or published material that glorified war or the Japanese military. This policy though didn't block the publication of manga and so this form of design really took over by storm over there. Print had become much cheaper in both America and Japan now so printed forms of entertainment were very popular. This is where we see the birth of a character you may be familiar with, Osamu Tezuka's Mighty Atom, or what you might now call Astro Boy.
Now here's something interesting, what the American comic was doing was 'patriotic justice', mysterious superpowers, often cosmic origins. But Astro Boy was really something else, sure his powers were scientific being an android boy. But instead of fighting for justice, he fought for peace, and that is a key difference with Tezuka's work. Astro Boy was always very innocent in nature, and he battled evil and hoped to turn them to good. Tezuka has influenced the world of modern manga forever.
Astro Boy was largely about prejudice and racism, whether humans could ever coexist with another kind of sentient life [such as self-aware robots] and also the question of whether people would ever stop using technology toward evil ends like war and crime.
Back in America, Charlton Comics, and the original Marvel and DC studios were still producing comics based on the US military, the Vietnam War of course boosted their popularity. So we were seeing both traditional war comics and superhero comics. Around 1945 towards the end of World War 2, this is what we've seen more characters we all know now in modern American Comics, and this is what has been happening:
- Captain America stopping a bomb loaded plane, but crashing into the Arctic (later found by the Avengers)
- Human Torch killing Hitler in self defense
- Magneto incarcerated by Auschwitz concentration camp.
- Wolverine as a commando for the Canadian Army.
- Superman punching Hitler.
Over in Japan things were a bit more subtle but propaganda nonetheless! Sure there were depictions of war in some manga, but it largely focused on just boosting troop morale and encouraging valor. Also trying to undermine the morale of enemy troops:
Manga was such a huge influence in the war that artists such as Ryuichi Yokoyama (creator of Fuku-chan) was sent into war zones to create manga for their troops. Ironically the Americans also used Manga to help them in the war. Taro Yashima was an artist who left Japan and settled in America. His comic at the time told the story of a peasant soldier who died in the service of corrupted leaders, and this comic was often found on the corpses of Japanese soldiers on the battlefield. The power of manga and comics to affect human abilities is incredible indeed.
I realized that comics was the medium I could work in, because it had no limitations and it encompassed aspects of every other medium.