Before December 1941, Why Were American Comic Books the Only Medium to Attack Nazis?

It has been well documented that many popular culture mediums (movies, radios, fiction magazines/newspaper supplements, novels) in the United States, with some exceptions, effectively ignored Nazis and Hitler and the War in Europe in its storytelling leading up to Pearl Harbor. Were they trying not to antagonize the Axis regimes?

And why was this not the case in comic books, which by 1940, used Nazis regularly as villains in stories and plot lines, most famously shown on the cover of the first issue of Captain America in 1941, when Cap punches Hitler on the cover? Why was this medium the only one that regularly identified Nazis as an enemy nearly two years prior to Pearl Harbor?


Nazty Spy (Which country is Moronica? )and the great dictator springs to mind. Are there more examples?


Hollywood, deseves special mention, for how few movies or movie shorts/serials dealing with any of the Fascist powers (or stand-ins like in the Great Dictator), especially for the 1939-1941 period. I think it might be hard pressed to find maybe a dozen examples. How many were released during those years? 300-400 movies and shorts and serials? Throw in maybe another 50-70 cartoon shorts too.

Speculation that I read was the the studios played things so middle-of-the-road after the creation of the movie code, they went out of their way to only make movies that appealed to a mass audience and not wanting to alienate anyone. It appears to be radio dramas avoided the subject as well, even if the character was in Europe or East Asia where actual war was going on in the real world.

It reminds me of television shows based in New York city post 9-11. Except the occasional Law & Order episode that would mention the event in passing, or things like the American flag popping up on the set of the show (like Chandler and Joey’s door in Friends), you’d never know watching popular culture shows that 9/11 even happened in TV’s version of New York.

But the question remains. Why did comic books buck this trend? Especially in a medium that Americans considered a “children’s medium”.

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Probably because US Comics at the Time only pandered to the US market, take much less money to produce and were and often still are more edgy than modern mainstream movies :movie_camera: which rely on big finance for approval.

The big studios didn’t want to be seen as war mongers at a time when the US still had a massive intervention trauma from WW1. Especially because The Axis controlled an enormous area. In 2020 that trauma is moot as we know there future.

Not much has changed as in the nineties e.g. the European countries didn’t intervene in Yugoslavia or Rwanda. ( Politician laid WW2 wreaths, virtue signaled and in effect forbade the military to stop it until way too late).

In 2020 the is no military intervention against the African slave trade either. And moviemakers again bow to dictatorships with censorship. Not sure if 2020 morals are superior?

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recinded. misread title


I don’t think it had anything to do with the idea of not antagonizing the Axis. Escapist literature which sold was the aim of the Pulp magazines and the crime novel, not something ripped from the headlines or contemporary social topics. The commercial writers produced what the publishers thought they could sell, not trying to educate their audience. There were a few magazines which did use the occasional European spy, but they mostly just followed the trends of the cinema and tried not to alienate readers with politics. And not to forget the publishers and writers shared the deep conservatism of their society. A lot of people in America didn’t want to have anything to do with what they saw as European problems, and up to Pearl Harbour quite a few preferred the Nazis to the Communists.

So instead of the Axis regimes the Pulps had the Yellow Peril as their villain. It was just an accepted trope, even in kid’s comics. For instance Detective Comics #1 from 1937 – before it featured Batman – has an (in)famous cover of a typical Oriental villain and stories like The Streets of Chinatown and The Claws of the Red Dragon.

Crime fighters - or better vigilantes - like The Shadow (1931-1949; written by Walter Gibson) or the over the top The Spider (1933-1943; written mostly by Norvell Page) often fought Oriental villains. Although The Shadow battled sometimes against communist spies; despite the ties of the character which then was viewed as mysterious oriental mysticism he was more grounded in reality then say Doc Savage with his Science Fiction baddies or The Spider who was more interested in apocalyptic battles in New York with a body count of thousands of victims; gangsters releasing the plague or poison cigarettes to extort money etc.

There were some oddities, of course, as there always are.

Popular Publication’s Secret Operator # 5 was a pulp (1934 – 1939) in which America got invaded every issue, the villains were also mostly nebulous Asians like the “The Yellow Empire”. But there was a series of 11 novels by Emile C. Tepperman in which the hero fights the “Purple Empire” and its dictator Emperor Maximilian I, which is some European empire. It is often cited as some disguised Nazi analogue.

At least one rather successful aviator Pulp had it’s hero fighting against Germany. In WWI. G-8 and His Battle Aces (1933-1944) by Robert J. Hogan had science fiction and supernatural overtones. The heroes fight in the sky against the monsters from the Kaiser’s secret laboratories.