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Should comics be political? Show more Show less
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Since their creation in June of 1938, comic books have unified fans hoping to see super-powered good prevail over evil. Comics as a medium have lasted through numerous international conflicts, from World War II to the War on Terror. During each one of these conflicts, the question of politics' role in comic books has been posed. Political comics are those which try to comment on or influence how a country is governed. Should comics, which routinely explore the extraordinary, comment on the ordinary? Or, should comics concern themselves with fictional politics at most and no politics at the least?

Yes, comic books should be political. Show more Show less

Comic books, while fictional, are still grounded in reality. Politics, for better or worse, are an unavoidable part of life.
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The art and politics of comic books

The infamous cover of Captain America punching Adolf Hitler in the face on the cover of Captain America #1 is inherently political, just as comics are.
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Context

Many people point to this comic as the "right" way to incorporate politics into comics. They see a picture of Captain America punching Hitler as inherently political but uncontroversial.

The Argument

Comic books are a form of art, and art is political. Any form of art is an attempt by the artist to communicate imaginative ideas. These ideas, no matter if they are idealistic, futuristic, or dystopian, are based on values and beliefs. Thus, it is impossible for comics to be apolitical because being apolitical means reinforcing the status quo--a political statement in itself.[1] Take Captain America #1, for example. On the cover of this book, the superhero is depicted punching Hitler in the face. While this image can be seen as apolitical and relatively uncontroversial today, at the time it was extremely controversial. In March of 1941, the United States had yet to enter World War II. Adolf Hitler was a powerful world leader with an immense following. Even in the United States, there were a significant number of Nazi sympathizers. For example, a group of 20,000 sympathizers, called the German American Bund, gathered in Madison Square Garden in 1939.[2] At the time of the comic's publication, Hitler was not the villainous political figure that he is widely known as today. Further, Jack Kirby, one of Captain America's creators, was Jewish.[3] When you take all of these factors into account, this comic is the definition of political and highly controversial. Yet, not only was the comic book financially successful, so was the character.[4] Thus, comic books should be political. They not only give creators like Kirby an outlet to express their political beliefs in an artistic manner, comics with a strong political undertone can also be financially successful. Comics are an art form that are created by people who have values and beliefs. Their work is bound to reflect these values and beliefs.

Counter arguments

While this comic may have been successful and a good way for Kirby to express his political beliefs, it was published at a different time. Society today is vastly different from WWII-era society. For one, we are not living in a world that is at war. Relative to the political climate of the 1940's, we live in a peaceful time. There is a time and place for politics in comics, and a world without intense international conflict is neither the time nor the place. At the time of it's publication in 1941, superhero comics were selling by the millions. Captain America #1 sold about a million copies--a figure that was normal for the time. The success of the book cannot be completely contributed to the political nature of the cover.

Premises

[P1] Comic books are a form of art. [P2] Depicting a world leader being punched is artistic and thus inherently political. [P3] At the time, the cover was controversial. [P4] Allowing this book to be politically controversial contributed to its success.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P4] This book would have been successful with or without the political imagery on the cover.

References

  1. https://thehill.com/opinion/white-house/406258-all-good-art-is-political
  2. https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/542499/marshall-curry-nazi-rally-madison-square-garden-1939/
  3. https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/jewcy-kirby
  4. https://captain-america.fandom.com/wiki/Captain_America#cite_note-fromm-8
This page was last edited on Friday, 15 May 2020 at 00:13 UTC

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