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Comics, Race, and Stereotypes in World War II America

On February 19, 2024, I was invited by Professor Mark Raider at the University of Cincinnati, to speak at a hands-on workshop.

The upcoming workshop, to be led by Mr. Kalagayan, will explore images produced by mainstream American media in World War II, particularly comic books. As World War II unfolded, American media increasingly depicted the Axis powers - Germany, Japan, and Italy - in crude racialized terms and portrayed the enemy as savage, subhuman, and bloodthirsty. The workshop will emphasize a hands-on examination of key texts and investigate racism in American culture and the complexity of anti-Asian sentiment on the American home front.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942.

110,000+ Japanese Americans were removed from their homes and communities on the West Coast, and placed in facilities run by the War Relocation Authority.

I started first by introducing myself and my practice, as well as accomplishments. Then, I described some key historical events from the 1940s, before I explained print media, and what it was.

The conversation was then shifted to identifying and analyzing the racist characteristics present in anti-Asian propaganda. We discussed Don't Save His Face! - Every Blow Counts in the Battle for Production by Fred Little Packer (1942), Our Carelessness by the United Stated Forest Service (1943), The End of the Nap (1941) and Waiting for the Signal Home (1942) by Dr. Suess, and How to Spot a Jap by Milton Caniff (1942).

Here I showcase Waiting for the Signal Home by Dr. Suess, How to Spot a Jap by Milton Caniff, and Don't Save His Face! - Every Blow Counts in the Battle for Production by Fred Little Packer. I would discuss a bit of information about each piece before pointing out the stereotypes.

After a couple of pieces were discussed, Dr. Raider and I then initiated a "Round Robin" activity. For this, we printed out select anti-Asian propaganda and gave one poster to each group. Those in the group would then analyze the poster together, then write down a description of characteristics they noticed, as well as an analyzation of said characteristics. The groups would then change their stations to analyze a new poster, and build off of the previous groups' thoughts.

The pieces that we analyzed in the Round Robin included : Alaska - Death-Trap for the Jap by Edward Thomas Grigware (1889 - 1960), Tokio Kid Say - by Jack Campbell (1941/1945), Tojo Velly Happy (1942 - 1945), and Every Mile You Drive Over (1942 - 1945).

Once finished, each group shared and elaborated on their identifications, allowing thought-provoking and in-depth conversations between the students.

To finish up the presentation, I spoke a bit about the incarceration of Japanese Americans and how that event began. I then showcased photography of Japanese Americans that were in these camps, and who joined the military to "prove" their patriotism. This was done in order for the students to really understand the difference between how America portrayed Asians, and how Asians actually were.

A special thank you to Professor Mark Raider for inviting me to speak, as well as Victor Kirkbride for help with research.


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