“The World War II Editorial Cartoons of America’s Leading Comic Artists.”
by Andre Schiffrin.
Earlier this year I read the Dr Seuss Goes to War book and this is a follow up to that. Not only more work by Seuss but also cartoons from many of the other artists who worked for PM magazine before, during, and after WW2.
The points I made for the previous book still apply here. Yes, Dr Seuss was horribly racist against all Asian people when Japan was an Axis enemy. Yes, he changed his opinions as he grew older. But those cartoons will always be there. He was one of many creators who felt that way at the time. Yet because he is world famous for children’s books his anti Japanese pieces jump out more than others. He is also the best artist of the bunch. The panel layout, his expressions, the symbolism, and even tiny details to the side or in the background of the focus of the cartoon make not only the joke but entire concepts of worldwide politics come to life in deceptively simple and understandable ways.
For many years I have accumulated magazines discussing theories of at the time current pop culture. Hundreds of pages speculating what will happen in Revenge (Return) of the Jedi after Empire Strikes Back came out. All of them with excellent points based off of the information that was known at the time. Theories that have become forgotten once the third movie has been released and we do know what happened.
Once history actually happens, that actual history is written down, not the discussions that came before it. LIkewise, this collection of cartoons from a newspaper brings to light the debate at the country at the time. A debate that isn’t taught in schools. The facts of Pearl Harbor, the United States entering the war, Normandy, these are the important happenings we have to remember for a test. It is deemed unimportant and thus forgotten that there were many in the United States that felt we should stay out of things. There were people who agreed with Hitler. There were those who felt Germany should be allowed to run over Russia because even though Hitler is a bad guy at least he’s not a dirty commie. We all debate the merits of “cancel culture” today as a modern occurance and yet here is evidence of Charles Lindburgh being called out as a sympathizer. He flew solo and his child was kidnapped but don’t question anything else nor look into other parts of his life.
One of the things I’ve learned in my book seller and librairan experiences is that political and current news books are the most disposable of all genres. Front table one week, on the shelf the next, and on clearance a few short months later. Then found easily and in bulk at any thrift shop, book sale, or good will. Once an election is lost there’s not much desire for the loser’s book detailing how they’ll win the election and what they’ll do next. After the infamous events of December 7th, what is the point in debating whether or not to go to war? That argument is over, this is the path the country is now on, on to the next debate. But a book like this shows the importance of remembering that argument. Who was on which side, and which side history has deemed as the correct one. How some of these manipulations and agendas can be seen at play even today. Over some different challenges the country faces, and sadly, over some of the same ones that keep coming up.
The funny thing about kids stuff like cartoons and drawings is that they often are more honest and revealing than the adult fare.