JF Ptak Science Books Post 2459
I wanted to write about this a little before the idea and data slipped away--the idea is formed but the supporting info is not, probably. This information came to me via the generosity of high-expert in the history of comics and comic books Robert Beerbohm (of San Francisco and Fremont, Nebraska). I was asking him about representations of concentration camps in comic books during WWII, and he instantly came up with True Comics (#37) for July 1944, which includes "a three-panel sequence showing a Nazi concentration camp"1.
According to the entry in Michigan State University's comic archives (see note below) the great photographer Therese Bonney had something to do with the images--Bonney was certainly all over Europe during the war and was on hand making photographic images of concentration camps beginning in 1939 to liberation beginning in May 1945.
The interest here is how, and perhaps why, kids were presented with enormous and complicated ideas like concentration camps. The only real way to reach children in a pop-cultural way at this time was through comic books, and so, still with a year left in the war and with perhaps millions of more people to kill, the image of the concentration camp was presented to them.
- See an earlier post on the reporting of the atomic bomb in the Manzanar internment camp newspaper, here.
Mr. Beerbohm then suggested an issue of Capt Midnight #23, for August 1944 for an unusual image of that super hero responding to an escape from a Japanese "prison camp". What I'm wondering about is whether or not it was an Internment Camp (like Manzanar or Tule Lake), as the escapees are dressed in civilian clothing. I don't yet have access to the issue (and so the lack of info) though it does give one pause to think about the possibility of this being an escape on U.S. soil. (Franklin Roosevelt’s February 1942 Executive Order 9066 was designed to imprison more than 100,000 American--70,000 of whom were U.S. citizens, including children--for the duration of the war; it was the legal bombshell that gave the War Department the authority to authorize the removal of the Japanese to theoretically prevent those people from engaging in sub rosa and fifth column activities and wartime terrorists fighting for Imperial Japan.)
There was evidently little to worry about with the Internees "escaping"--the camps were remote, and more often than not there were no fences to speak of. And according to many reports at camps like Manzanar hundreds of people would slip away for a day or week or whatever to go fishing for more appetizing food, like rainbow trout, and then return.
I suspect that the escape of the Japanese in this comic book must have been from a POW camp (in spite of the civilian clothing), though it is not impossible that it is an Internment Camp, and that this was an effort to reinforce the removal orders of 100,000 people. But as I said my information is incomplete, and I'm just speculating on this presently--I'll return here once I have a copy of the book.
- See this interesting article on Manzanar internees 'escaping" to go fishing and return, here: http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-manzanar24-2009apr24-story.html
1. The quote is from a description of the issue from the Michigan State University archives, which includes one of the country's greatest library collections of comic books, and headed by the very informed and generous Randall Scott.
Concentration Camps. "Photo-Fighter : Therese Bonney" 3 p. in True Comics, no. 37 (July 1944) -- SUMMARY: Photographer Therese Bonney made "truth raids" throughout Europe in World War II. This story has a 3-panel sequence showing a Nazi concentration camp.