26 May 2011

The Presidents in Comic Books 1: FDR

The Presidents in Comic Books
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
I thought that I might explore the unique intersection of two of my favorite subjects: comic books and the presidency.  We begin this sub-series with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the first sitting president to be featured in the funny books.  The list below reflects only issues published during his lifetime and does not account for FDR's numerous posthumous appearances.  If you know of any missing issues, let me know so I can update the list.

Action Comics #49 (June, 1942)
Action Comics #52 (September, 1942)
I'm not clear on the nature of Roosevelt's appearance in #49, but in #52 he apparently feebly surrenders power to a guy wearing a helmet who waltzes into the White House and declares himself the Emperor of America in an alternate future story of some kind.  Superman thwarts the Emperor in the end.  Not exactly the kind of "rally 'round the president" story one might expect during 1942.

Blue Ribbon Comics #16 (September, 1941)
I am entirely unfamiliar with this series, but Roosevelt appears in the story, "The Origin of Captain Flag."

Captain America Comics #1 (March, 1941)
Captain America Comics #4 (June, 1941)
Captain America Comics #21 (December, 1942)
Captain America Comics #40 (July, 1944)
Interestingly, two of FDR's four appearances in Captain America were before Pearl Harbor.

Captain Marvel, Jr. #3 (January 20, 1943)
What I know about FDR's appearance here is that he's in a story called "Case of the Terrible Teeth" alongside a character called Captain Nippon.  One can well imagine the kind of racist propaganda of the story.  Herr Hitler appears in one of the other stories.

Crack Comics #19 (December, 1941)
With a cover date of December, 1941 and a title like, "The President's Been Kidnapped!" one can only imagine how this issue went over with youthful readers.

Detective Comics #69
At first, you're thinking you get a story combining Batman and FDR which would be really swell.  Unfortunately, that's not the case.  Theirs are just two of the six stories collected in this issue.  Roosevelt appears in the second story, "The Siege of Krovka" by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon featuring the Boy Commandos pitted against Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.  Among the Boy Commandos is Dan Turpin, later re-characterized as a cop in Metropolis in more recent Superman incarnations.

Exciting Comics #6 (December, 1940)

Hit Comics #4 (October, 1940)

The Human Torch #3 (Winter, 1940)
The Human Torch #5b (Fall, 1941) - also features Winston Churchill
Between these two issues, two issues of Marvel Mystery Comics, an issue of Sub-Mariner Comics and an issue of Young Allies, FDR spent quite a lot of time amongst The Human Torch, his sidekick Toro and Namor.

Joe Palooka #1 (January 1942)
This includes a storyline in which Joe has been caught up in an adventure with the French Foreign Legion.  Writer Hammond Fisher needed a deus ex machina to extricate his protagonist, and contacted the White House to see if President Roosevelt would consent to appearing in the strip to intervene within the story.  FDR agreed, and in so doing became the first sitting president to agree to appear in a commercial comic strip.    Note that this comic book issue is a collection reprinting Joe Palooka newspaper comic strips, which is why the cover date is misleading. [See: New Comics #4 for first appearance in a comic book.]

Lightning Comics #11 (February, 1942)

Marvel Mystery Comics #12 (October, 1940)
Marvel Mystery Comics #54 (April, 1944)

That cover to #54 (right ==>) tells you we're in full anti-Japanese mode.  More association between the Torch & Toro and FDR.

Mystic Comics #6 (October, 1941)
"Featuring The Destroyer, enemy of dictators" is the blurb on the cover.  This issue attests to the impatience among many Americans that we had not entered World War II sooner.

New Comics #4 (March-April, 1935)
Roosevelt's first appearance in a comic book!  [See: Joe Palooka #1 for first appearance in a comic strip.]

"The Most Important Man on Earth!"
Take that, Dos Equis guy!
Real Heroes #1 (September, 1941)
Real Heroes #4 (May, 1942)

Real Life Comics #6

These, along with True Comics, are part of a wave of reality-based comic book series from the Golden Age that sought to dramatize in graphic form the exploits of historical figures and events.  To the extent that they were intended as educational materials, I cannot attest.  Perhaps the intent was to further sensationalize the subjects; maybe the publishers just resented the proliferation of superheroes in the wake of Superman's debut.  Regardless, we see Roosevelt well represented in these kinds of comic books, and we will later see his successors also chronicled in such publications--particularly Dwight Eisenhower, who won the affection of these comics as a general long before taking the oath of office.

Remember Pearl Harbor
I have to say, I felt a lot better about the assorted 9/11 comics when I discovered the existence of a comic book in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor.

Sub-Mariner Comics #13 (Spring, 1944)
Looking over this list, I think FDR spent more time in the company of Namor than Eleanor.

Thrilling Comics #10 (November, 1940)

True Comics #2 (June, 1941)
True Comics #4 (September, 1941)
True Comics #39 (September-October)

Again, more of the reality-based comic books that seemed to really take a liking to the president.

Uncle Sam Quarterly Winter Issue (Winter 1941)
FDR appears in the second story, "War in Kid-Land" penned by Will Eisner.

Young Allies #7 (April, 1943)
FDR is featured here, and so is Emperor Hirohito.