Just finished writing the summary for U.S.A. Comics #6 and related character profiles and another year bites the dust. 1942 was an interesting year for Timely Comics. For those of you who are a little rusty on your world history, on December 7 1941, the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor an event that got the United States involved in World War II. It was an event that shocked and horrified a lot of Americans. I think the closest equivalent we've had in modern times was September 11th.
The anger and outrage of the Pearl Harbor attacks came out in full force in just about every Timely Comic I had read, and the amount of patriotism was ramped up to the extreme. A lot of stories featured foes who were part of the Imperial Japanese Army -- and none of them very flattering. Pretty much every racial stereotype about Japanese people were exploited in these old comics. While completely racist by the today's standards, one can kind of understand the rationale behind it during the war.
However, despite the depictions of World War II, and the Japanese/Nazi antagonists it's interesting to notice just how "clean" the depiction of the war was. Granted, not all the facts about the Nazi Holocaust were made fully aware to the world at large, but also there is little to no mention of the Japanese internment camps that were set up in the United States.
Anyhow, here are some highlights from 1942 that I found interesting. Check them out if you feel so inclined:
Captain America Comics #13 - Pretty much the first issue that addresses Pearl Harbor. It features Captain America socking Hirohito in the face with a "Remember Pearl Harbor" logo on the cover.
1942 also saw the final appearances of obscure heroes such as the Terror, Rockman, Blue Blade, Captain Terror, Defender, Rusty, Silver Scorpion, Blazing Skull, Ka-Zar, Thunderer/Black Avenger, Fin, Blue Diamond, Jack Frost, Challenger, Citizen V, Mister Liberty, Vagabond, and Victory Boys (to name a few). The Terror would resurface decades later in Sensational She-Hulk #15; Rockman, Blue Blade, would surface again as main characters in Twelve Vol 1, while Captain Terror, the Defender, and Mister Liberty, would have a cameo appearance in the first issue of that series. Silver Scorpion and the Blazing Skull made their returns in the 1990's Invaders Vol 2 series. More recently Silver Scorpion is part of the modern day V-Battalion, and the Blazing Skull was part of the Initiative. Citizen V of course became a bit of a thing again in the late 90's as part of the Thunderbolts back-story and involvement with the modern day V-Battalion. The Fin, Jack Frost, and Blue Diamond cropped up in modern Marvel stories as well. Interestingly, The Defender's side kick (and Bucky clone) Rusty has not been seen since, neither has the original Ka-Zar or the Vagabond.
Oddities: There were some weird characters that were introduced in 42 that were just one-offs. Like the Fighting Hobo who appeared in U.S.A. Comics #5. He found a book of Shakespeare and even though he couldn't pronounce the guys name properly (Shake....Spear?) he became obsessed and dressed like Hamlet (this apparently just involved wearing long underwear) and fighting crime... Well, saving a kidnapped puppy for a rich woman. I can see why the character only lasted one issue. Another oddity was the Tough Kid Squad which, I suppose, was trying to be another series like the Young Allies Vol 1 only without flagship characters like Bucky and Toro. The two main characters (The DANGER brothers) were injected with a Super-Soldier Serum type chemical that made them smart and strong. As it appears that Marvel is resurrecting all these old characters from retirement, I would not be surprised if they brought these characters back again.
Racial stereotypes abound, especially Japanese characters such as Admiral Nippo, Admiral Nodope and the like. Also another few minstrel show character appeared right at the end, one being Fish Face Friday as well as Slow Motion Jones the slow witted sidekick to the Whizzer. Jones is making an comeback in the pages of All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes Vol 1 with the stereotype cleaned out, much in the same way they did with Whitewash Jones when they did Young Allies Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1 back in 2009.
Another obscure character is Jimmy Jupiter who replaced Ka-Zar as a feature in Marvel Mystery Comics Vol 1. In these original publications, Jimmy is a boy with an imagination who may or may not be visiting an imaginary world called Nowhere (the stories never specify if it's a "real" place or a product of the boys imagination). Recently, Jimmy (his last name actually being Jankovicz) has resurfaced in the pages of the new Captain America Vol 6 volume as having part in some secret mission. I expect the character is going to be heavily retconned in much the same way all the other World War II characters have been "updated" by Ed Brubaker.
All Winners Comics #6 is the only comic I've read from the 40's so far that mentions the Japanese internment camps that were around the Untied States during World War II. This is only briefly mentioned in passing. Also, check out possibly the most racist panels I've seen published so far in Sub-Mariner Comics #6 where the Sub-Mariner disguises himself as a Japanese sailor.
And for all you lovers of war comics, car characters were starting to slowly crawl out of the wood work. Flying Flame made a brief comeback, they also introduced one-off characters the Terror Squad, Fighting Yank, Fighting Fool and introduced recurring war characters Corporal/Sargent Dix and Jap Buster Johnson
Also I found that there were pretty much only a handful of types that were published during this time. Here we go:
(1) A crook, or gang of mobsters steal something of value. Hero chases them around until they are captured. (2) A Nazi or Japanese spy steals something/murders government officials and is chased around by the heroes until they are captured. (3) There is a will reading that involves some bizarre rules (such as staying in a haunted house all day) where someone (possibly the seemingly deceased person) is killing all the people who might potentially get the money.
Mercifully, Timely Comics managed to steer away from another staple the "Female love interest tries to convince the hero to marry them" routine that was common over at DC Comics.
Anyway that's all for now. Going to take a bit of a break and then get cracking on 1943.