Showing posts with label racism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label racism. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Library of Congress collection used for wartime comic book research

#22 from Grand Comics Database
Paul Hirsch used the papers of the Writers' War Board held in the Library of Congress, specifically Box 11 of the collection, to look at how a semi-official government body influenced the depiction of the Axis in comic books during the war. DC Comics, Fawcett Comics, and Street & Smith are specifically mentioned.

The WWB also encouraged racial reconciliation in America at the same time, with a 'Race Hatred Committee' which helped with an anti-lynching story in Captain Marvel, Jr. #22.

Here's the citation and the abstract:

"This Is Our Enemy" The Writers' War Board and Representations of Race in Comic Books,1942–1945
Author(s): Paul Hirsch
Source: Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 83, No. 3 (Aug., 2014), pp. 448-486
Published by: University of California Press


During World War II, the U.S. government, through the Writers' War Board (WWB), co-opted comic books as an essential means of disseminating race-based propaganda to adult Americans, including members of the armed forces. Working with comic creators, the WWB crafted narratives supporting two seemingly incompatible wartime policies: racializing America's enemies as a justification for total war and simultaneously emphasizing the need for racial tolerance within American society. Initially, anti-German and anti-Japanese narratives depicted those enemies as racially defective but eminently beatable opponents. By late 1944, however, WWB members demanded increasingly vicious comic-book depictions of America's opponents, portraying them as irredeemably violent. Still, the Board embraced racial and ethnic unity at home as essential to victory, promoting the contributions of Chinese, Jewish, and African Americans.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Catching up with Keith Knight before SPX

by Mike Rhode

Michael Cavna, Keith Knight and Lalo Alcaraz
Keith Knight is one of my favorite cartoonists and one of the hardest working men in comics. His 7-day strip Knight Life appears in the Washington Post (only on Sundays, boo!). He does another panel each week called (Th)ink). And his first 1-page multi-panel, The K Chronicles, is still running. You can see them all at

Keith was in town last weekend for the National Book Festival (link to my pictures) and we started chatting until he had to go on stage. He's had a lot of changes in his life in the past year or so. First read my 2011 interview with Keith.

MR: Why did you move to North Carolina from California? How's that working out? 

KK: One of my first comic strip slideshows was in the Research Triangle of North Carolina (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill)..I had such a great time and really enjoyed the it was always in the back of my mind...Then my mom moved down to South Carolina from Boston, so there's that...  Affordability was also a huge factor.  The boys have a yard to run in...

MR: What's the story behind your NAACP award?

K: I was recognized, along with a number of other activists, for my cartoon slideshow about police brutality.  It's not really an award, just recognition.

MR: You're taking on the serious topic of police violence against black people in more ways than just drawing a cartoon. Can you tell us about that, and why you feel the need to do so?

KK: I felt like a slideshow of 20 years of my police brutality cartoons would be a good way to engage audiences to ask why these incidents continue unabated.  I was really frustrated drawing yet another cartoon after Ferguson. I used to say to myself, "I hope this is the last time I have to draw one of these." Clearly, it never is.

And this Shaun King quote really resonated with me: "LISTEN: If you ever wondered what you would do if you were alive in the Civil Rights Movement, NOW IS THE TIME to find out." 

MR: Your children are bi-racial, you live in a progressive part of NC, and you've chosen to home-school them. Why?

KK:  A number of reasons, but the biggest being that we felt it was a doable. The amount of resources the Research Triangle offers to secular folks who decide to home-school is incredible.  Classes for home-schoolers are held at libraries, the Y,  the university..There's even a homeschooling store near our place.

Keith's sign language interpreter kept cracking up.
MR: You've told me that your business model has been changing from sales of books to sales of prints, and that you're doing better at art shows than you do at comic cons. Can you expand on that?

KK: Comic book conventions give folks a chance to get their fantasy on, so I can understand how they don't want to be confronted with the ugly reality of some of the stuff I do.  To balance things, I've been doing comics celebrating some of the people I've looked up to who have recently passed.  Folks like Julian Bond, Maya Angelou, and Nelson Mandela. I do their portraits, along with some of their quotes.  They go over really well in non-comic book settings.  Sometimes it's better being the one cartoonist at an art show, than one of 500  at a comic book convention.

MR: Keith returns to DC next weekend for the Small Press Expo. I can't recommend his work highly enough.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Post on The Last Airbender and an interview with the director

This is only online, and it's a very good interview with the director over the 'racial controversy' that's sprung up around the movie adaptation of the cartoon -

Talking with director M. Night Shyamalan about 'Last Airbender,' race and more
By Jen Chaney
Washington Post's Celibritology 2.0 blog July 1, 2010

and here's the paper's review -

It's easy to drift away from 'Last Airbender'
By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post July 1, 2010: C10

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tintin Banned in Brooklyn

See "An Intrepid Cartoon Reporter, Bound for the Big Screen but Shut in a Library Vault," By Alison Leigh Cowan
New York Times (August 20, 2009): A21. The story appeared on their blog yesterday as "A Library's Approach to Books That Offend, New York Times City Room blog August 19, 2009,

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Comic Riffs cited in AP article on cartoons and race

Michael Cavna's blog got a mention here - "Cartoonists treading lightly when drawing Obama," By JESSE WASHINGTON AP National Writer, Posted: 02/20/2009. If you're not reading Riffs daily, you really should.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

NY Post chimp cartoon starts a firestorm on a Wash Post blog.

Posting for the blog host Mike Rhode:

Yesterday, Mr. Cavna asked about a Sean Delonas cartoon, "The Stimulus Monkey': Is Today's 'NY Post' Cartoon Racist?" As of this posting, he's got 81 comments, possibly a record for the Comic Riffs blog. Judging from the hits this blog got last night on Delonas (for a post about meeting him at a children's book signing), he's really touched a nerve.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Weingarten's chat on 38-year-old Dennis the Menace panel

Gene Weingarten's chat yesterday had quite a bit on a 38-year-old Dennis the Menace panel and it's possible racism.

The cartoon is here.

The poll based on the cartoon is here.

Here's Weingarten and his chatters on the cartoon. For what it's worth, Weingarten's right, the gag is ok, but just ok.

Missing Option in Survey: The first question does not provide an option for those of us who didn't find the cartoon offensive in the slightest.

Gene Weingarten: We don't care about you.


Postraci, AL: I can't imagine the cartoonist intended the Dennis piece to be hurtful, but it is hard to believe that in 1970 someone could be so ignorant and/or oblivious as to be unaware that this was in bad taste. In comparison, consider the character of Franklin in Peanuts who was introduced about the same time, maybe even a bit earlier. Clearly black, but drawn and scripted without any stereotyping characteristics at all.

Gene Weingarten: Franklin debuted in 1968. The amazing thing is that his race was, to my memory, never mentioned. He was just another Peanuts kid.

It was an intelligent and gracious act by Schulz. He once got a letter from a southern newspaper editor asking him not to put Franklin in a schoolroom with white kids.

Franklin always sat in front of Peppermint Patty in the classroom. Schulz never changed that.


Race Relatio, NS: It was 38 years ago, which puts me in high school, but I remember that cartoon. I don't think I remember any other Dennis the Menace cartoons, since it was the Garfield of its day, still running in a lot of newspapers though never funny, clever or insightful at all. I remember my jaw dropping. I could visualize it even before using the link to confirm my memory.

By 1970, we'd come a long way since Amos and Andy were played by white guys on the radio in the 30s. All in the Family premiered just one year later, with George Jefferson as a regular character, so the sensibilities of the times had most certainly passed Hank Ketchum by even in the cultural arena. And this was seven years after the I Have A Dream speech, and two years after Memphis. It was appalling then, and it's appalling now.

Gene Weingarten: It was appalling then, yep. Ketcham had to issue an apology, though it was grudging and half-hearted. See next post.


Curacao, Netherlands Antilles: The absolute worst thing about that comic in the poll is that it JUST ISN'T FUNNY.

I mean the punchline is delivered in such a way as to totally trip over the joke. I mean that if it were delivered correctly, the joke can't even aspire to a "Family Circus" level of lame humor. I mean that even if I were like a KKK member or something, I wouldn't see the laughs in saying "This other kid runs faster than me!"

The only way that joke works is if you find the drawing laugh-worthy. Since I found the drawing horribly offensive, I hope you'll agree with me that this may well be the unfunniest strip I've ever seen on the comics page.

Gene Weingarten: Now, I disagree with this, and with most of you in the poll.

I believe that if Ketcham had drawn Jackson as a normal kid, this cartoon would have not only been acceptible, but pretty darn good. A worthy punchline, and one with a little bit of a social punch.

I'm not sure I've seen, or would have seen by then, a joke relying on confusion between "race" as ethnicity and "race" as running. Imagine a slight tweaking of this comic:

Let's say that Ketcham had drawn it -- as he has been known to do -- in two panels, not one. And in the first, Dennis says that he has a "race" problem with Jackson (again, who looks normal.) And in that first panel, Henry Mitchell looks concerned. And in the second panel, Dennis elaborates: Jackson runs faster than he does, and Henry looks relieved.

Pretty good comic! Raise the specter of something bad, defuse it, make the point that kids don't see race. That is actually what Ketcham was ham-fistedly TRYING to do, though he failed spectacularly.

But even without the two-panel treatment, the joke would have been the same, had Ketcham drawn this thing with a modicum of sensitivity.

What you would be left with was the question of whether it was insensitive to trade in the racial stereotype that black people run faster. I think I could have defended that, because that interpretation would be in the mind of the reader.

I know. Y'all disagree with me on this.

Dennis: Gene, people don't disagree with you on the comic. People aren't getting the pun.

Gene Weingarten: Is that it? Did people not get the "race" pun?


David Mills: I do kinda disagree, Gene... except that your two-panel alternative improves the joke a whole lot. It also improves it as social commentary, becoming about the father's discomfort.

Gene Weingarten: Right. True. I still think it would have worked, though. Just less well.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Ann Telnaes interview on gender bias in editorial cartons

Ann Telnaes was interviewed for the story that appeared in the paper - "Drawing the line: Editorial cartoonists confront issues of sexism and racism when caricaturing the Democratic front-runners," by Pam Platt, Louisville, KY Courier-Journal February 10, 2008, but Ms. Platt also posted the interviews she did on their website.

And a tip of the hat to Alan Gardner's Daily Cartoonist blog for one of the links.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Post on comic strip collective action

The Post has picked up on the February 10th collective protest by cartoonists of a darker shade of pale - "Cartoonists to Protest Lack of Color in the Comics," by Teresa Wiltz, Washington Post Staff Writer, Wednesday, February 6, 2008; C01. The protest is largely the idea of local cartoonist Corey Thomas who does 'Watch Your Head.'

I'm afraid I agree with the opinions that Gene Weingarten expressed in his chat update today, although I like Baldo and La Cucaracha well enough. Boondocks' McGruder's comments in the initial article are interesting too - unfortunately I don't think a lot of the college cartoonists are able to sustain their strip. I was a fan of Watch Your Head when the Post tried it out, but it's become a real one-note strip.

Chatalogical Humor by Gene Weingarten, Washington Post Staff Writer, Tuesday, February 5, 2008; 12:00 PM

Gene Weingarten: Here's an interesting piece in today's Style section, about a planned protest by cartoonists-of-color.

I sympathize with these guys, and many of them produce good strips that are victims of a de facto quota system. But there's a difficult truth that undercuts their argument. In devastating economic times, newspapers are (unwisely, I believe) ruthlessly squeezing the life out of their comics pages. So there is plenty of pandering going on in all directions -- a naked, desperate effort to appeal to every possible perceived constituency -- and that has nothing to do with racism. With limited space, there are quotas for everything. Believe me, the only reason newspapers run the painfully bad Prickly City is that they feel they need to offer a conservative voice on the page, to counterbalance the lefty Doonesbury, Candorville Nonsequitur, etc. The only reason newspapers run Dennis the Menace and Beetle Bailey and Classic Peanuts is to appeal to the oldsters who they believe would feel lost without these mild, mealy things. Family Circus is for very, very young readers, and preposterously stupid adults, and lovers of camp humor. This appeal-to-all-demographics impulse leaves very little room for ANYONE to break into a newspaper.

There is another factor undercutting their argument: For some, the despicable quota system has worked splendidly. The only reason The Post runs the weak Baldo is that the pandering alternative is the weaker La Cucaracha.

It's a pretty bad situation all around.