Monday, July 02, 2007

Racial Stereotypes at Fawcett-1942

My ten year old son is incredibly smart, understanding and empathic for his age (his dad said proudly) and yet he is totally and thoroughly unable to comprehend in any way, shape or form the racial stereotypes that were so prevalent in the popular culture of the early 20th century. In comic books of the Golden Age, one can perhaps understand the desire to demonize the enemy during wartime but what was with the nearly subhuman portrayal of black people? More significantly, why was it accepted so readily in mainstream pop culture? This is all too big a deal to get into on the level it deserves right now but I ran across one thing today that really, really surprised me. Seen here is Steamboat, Billy Batson's valet from the early forties CAPTAIN MARVEL stories. In this 1942 story, he's hypnotized into thinking he, too, is a "Marvel." The art is probably by Cap's creator CC Beck (possibly with Pete Costanza or Marc Swayze). By astounding contrast, the second panels are from a CAPTAIN MARVEL, JR. story fom that very same year and show a perfectly realistic and yet obviously African-American child (at an integrated party, yet!) and was drawn by the too-good-for-comics illustrator, Mac Raboy.

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