A comic aficionado from Sweden named Fredrik Strömberg put out a book in 2010 called ‘Comic Art Propaganda: A Graphic History‘ and it’s quite literally the illustrations of indoctrination. After a funny foreword from Peter Kuper (“DO NOT READ THIS BOOK.“), it starts out by showing how everyone loves to get into a little cartoon conditioning – from the Rockefeller’s Standard Oil comic book about how their oil helps bomb the Nazis (which is a whole other discussion unto itself) to the current controversy over drawing Muhammad. Needless to say, if Strömberg put this book out today, it would no doubt include the current Charlie Hebdo controversies, as well.
The author blames the Axis powers for ruining the word “propaganda”, which he says was a “neutral term” before the heavy-handed WWII posters and sloganeering. (We should consult with Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays and his 1928 book called, ‘Propaganda‘. Hmm, that’s quite a few years before WWII…) Anyway, the book’s chapters run through racism (Have you looked at early issues of the exalted Will Eisner’s The Spirit featuring Ebony White?); WWII and the following Cold War get their own chapters; then there’s the cautionary tales and – a personal favorite for any recovering Baptist – the infamous Chick Tracts, featuring stern warning about eternal damnation (“That’s a lie straight from the devil!“); plus all the drugged-out R. Crumb stuff, sex and politics.
Not quite big enough to be a coffee table book (and there are complaints that the pictures and the print are “too small“), this is a great 101 on how comics can be misused – and perhaps a reminder of why I stopped reading them awhile ago. But that’s a whole other discussion unto itself.
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