Time Magazine Asks Are Comics Fascist?

Not the new edition obviously. One from October 22nd. In 1945. It’s an intriguing parallel to media concerns these days.

I’ve often ended up in message board arguments over political nature of the superhero. My argument ahs been that the superhero is an inherently conservative construct, and despite the liberal tendencies of many comic book writers and publishers to sway one plotline this way and that, the conservative nature of the genre always shines through. The belief that it is the personal duty of each individual to take responsibility for their actions rather than devolving that responsibility to the state. Add a bunch of neo-conservatism to ensure that might makes right and you’ve got a vigilante hero structure. Which is why the recent Civil War storyline at Marvel seemed so counter-superhero fiction rather than a logical step.

According to Walter J. Ong, ex-professor of English at Denver’s small Regis College it was much worse, even back in 1945 when you had Superman as a bit of a lefty, smashing union breakers and going up against corporate bullies,

The civilization of the new [comic book] order is in great part a herdist phenomenon. Its subjects are . . . standardized men, men en bloc. . . . Everything is centered on one man—the leader, the hero, the duce, the Führer. Herd responses not being on the rational level, this hero does not appeal by argument. (‘I was just realizing how much better it is to reason with these poor wayward fellows,’ Plastic Man observes as he drives a left to the jaw.) He builds on the herd’s dreams: he hypnotizes. Thus did Hitler and Mussolini. . . . The Superman of the cartoons is true to his sources. He is not another Horatio Alger hero or a Nick Carter; he is a super state type of hero, with definite interest in the ideologies of herdist politics.

The creature familiar as Superman is the leader of a swarm of satellites separated from him only by a copyright. Scores of comic books feature similar characters—for example, Catman, Bullet Man, The Human Torch, Captain Midnight, Captain Marvel, Black Terror, Blue Beetle, Green Lama, Yankee Boy, Bogey Man—which follow the Superman pattern of a ‘hero’ who overcomes all obstacles with machine-like precision. Often, victory comes from frankly preternatural powers . . . propulsion and X-ray vision: these heroes’ bull necks are often a pretty fair index of their intellectual prowess.

And Time Magazine relishes in his quotes about Wonder Woman, described as an example of Hitlerite paganism

the cult of force, spiked, by means of her pretentiously scanty ‘working’ attire, with a little commercial sex. . . . When not in her outré ‘working’ clothes she habitually wears a suitcoat and tie among the jeweled guests at luncheon parties and at formal evening affairs.

this is not a healthy sex directed toward marriage and family life, but an antisocial sex, made as alluring as possible while its normal term in marriage is barred by the ground rules.

There is criticism amongst many that todays creators read too much into simplistic parables for children, trying to expose adult themes that were never intended. Well folks, they were doing in in 1945, five years before John Byrne was even born….

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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