Comics used to promote social welfare messages

Comics used to promote social welfare messages


[ Music ]>>Welcome to “Secrets
of the Archives.” I’m your host Tim Johnson. Many of us think about
the funny in comics, but there were other
groups; social welfare and social service organizations
that had a different idea about what comics
might be about. Here to tell us a
little bit about some of those comics is
Linnea Anderson, Archivist for the Social
Welfare History Archives in the University of
Minnesota Libraries. Hi Linnea.>>Hi Tim.>>So the comics, where
is the funny here? What’s up with the comics from the National
Social Welfare Assembly?>>Well, this is a fascinating
project actually Tim. The comic’s project which
started in 1949 was proposed by Vernon Pope from
National Comics Publications which became DC Comics. And the industry was under fire from organizations
including congress and social welfare organizations
that viewed comics as a source of juvenile delinquency, crime
and mental health issues, and the comics industry was
looking for a way to sort of fight back against
that message, and to promote a
different use of comics. So he went to the National
Social Welfare Assembly, which was this consortium of
youth serving organizations across the U.S.,
proposed this organization and then they all got
together with the Ad Counsel, formed a committee and
began to develop the comics, and the first one came out
in I believe May of 1949.>>So Linnea, we’ve got these
two comics here in front of us, Buzzy the Dark–
“Deep Dark Secrets” of The Deep Dark Secrets,” and
of course, “Batman and Robin.” So what’s– what’s happening with these tow particular
comic strips here?>>This one actually
is about mental health, and this is from the mid 1950s,
so you have Buzzy talking to his friend whose feeling down because he thinks his
girlfriend is mad at him, and Buzzy explains well no,
actually her Uncle Kenneth has– is sick and he’s had to go to– he refers to it here as a mental
hospital, but a care facility. And they talk about oh
well that’s too bad, and the family shouldn’t be
ashamed of that, and it helps to talk about these
things openly and then at the end the two young
women are getting together and suggesting that one young
woman’s mother talk to the other about the family problems,
and don’t be embarrassed and we’re here for you. And I thought that this was
really almost a very current message about mental
health if you think of some of the public service
announcements that are out there now about
openness and discussion of mental health issues. So for this to be coming out of the 1950s I thought
was really fascinating. And then I had to bring one of the you know famous
superhero characters who show up so often in these comics. So this is a wonderful example. Batman and Robin riding around
in the Bat mobile, get the call to come and rescue this football
team that’s having an argument. And it turns out that they’re– the team is wanting to
exclude certain members that they are viewing
as un-American. There’s some wonderful dialog
here of messaging from Batman at the end about how it’s
un-American to discriminate against people based on
their religion, or the color of their skin, or
where they came from. And then in the final
panel they have this sort of everybody pull together
and it’s the American way to use your team work. So our country without
this kind of team work is like a football team that isn’t
pulling together, and I thought that was just a terrific
message. And again, this one’s–
this one’s pretty early. The date on this one is 1949,
and this is a great example of quite a number
actually of civil rights and diversity messages that
show up in these comics.>>This is Cold War, this
is post World War II.>>Yes.>>This is McCarthy and the
Black List, and all that kind of stuff wrapped
up in these comics.>>Exactly.>>Anything else
that you want to say about this particular collection or about the Social Welfare
History Archives in particular?>>Well, about this
particular collection, these are only two examples out
of about 50 to 100 that we have in the archives, so
there’s plenty to look at. So this is just the
beginning, and it’s one of the really fun
examples I think.>>Scratching the comic
iceberg as it were.>>Awe, awesome.>>Thanks Linnea. Until next time, I’m Tim Johnson
for “Secrets of the Archives.” [ Music ]

One thought on “Comics used to promote social welfare messages

  1. There's a slight misspeak there, when she says "Superman", but it's clearly "Batman". But not a big deal. (I suppose you could add a caption correction there.)

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