Just in case I haven’t made it clear, I love Ethan Persoff’s web page. It’s one of the Internet’s best resources for finding strange bits of pop culture ephemera, especially comic books. The stuff he posts is like a secret history of comic books, and his most recent addition to the site is a great example. In the 1940’s, cartoonist Milton Caniff, best known for manly militaristic strips like Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon, did a propaganda piece for inclusion in a U.S. Army handbook called “How to Spot a Jap.” It stars the characters from Terry and is unabashed racism depicting the supposed differences between “the Japs and our Oriental allies.” For instance, “the Chinese strides…. the Jap shuffles.” The strip is now infamous among comics historians and rarely seen, for obvious reasons. It’s not actually that great a departure from Caniff’s ordinary stuff; after all, one of the most pervasive Asian stereotypes is named after one of his characters: the Dragon Lady. But it’s not just a product of Caniff, but of official policy of the U.S. Army; the strip was probably of little practical use in helping U.S. soldiers distinguish between Chinese and Japanese, but it was probably more effective at helping them to see the enemy as cowardly and subhuman. It’s a remarkable piece of history.
Image courtesy of Chris Hall | Literate Perversions