What World War II Meant to Comic Books and Vice Versa, Today at the New England Air Museum

Granby comic book history expert Steve Kanaras gives a talk at the museum today that touches on the importance of sequential art in the great war.

The New England Air Museum hosts local writer and businessman Steve Kanaras today at 1:30 p.m. for a lecture on the comic book construction of World War II.

Kanaras, one of the two main partners at Granby’s Free Lunch Studios as well as a manager at New England Pizza, brings his interest in sequential art to the museum as a way to discuss how the medium took its first steps towards widespread acceptance and interest in the World War II era.

He will also touch on the lasting popularity of comics set in the great war, the popularity of comics amongst American soldiers at that time and the use of accurate source material (including planes, among other equipment) to accurately portray the war in comic form.

“Comic books enjoyed new heights of popularity during this war, and it remained a fertile setting for comics for many years after,” said Gina Marie Alimberti of the air museum.

Many of comics’ old masters, including Marvel Comics impresario Stan Lee, renowned and influential artist Jack Kirby, who helped create star-spangled hero Captain America among scores of other characters and Will Eisner, best known for his detective/hero series The Spirit, served in the war, were influeced by the conflict and are featured in the talk. Joe Kubert, whose long-running, popular Sgt. Rock series for DC Comics was published for decades after the war, also drew much inspiration from World War II, Kanaras said.

While Kanaras said Superman “really jumpstarted the [comic book] industry,” and Batman was another popular hero, those two iconic heroes were created in the late 1930s. The ascension of comics into the popular mindset was exemplified by the Captain America series, which depicted the all-American hero punching Adolf Hitler on the cover of its first issue.

“The super-hero was really created for World War II,” Kanaras said.

Comics were often shipped overseas to American soldiers during the war in care packages, and the pro-American message and dynamic but accessible stories resonated with American troops, Kanaras said.

Sgt. Rock best exemplified the continuing popularity of comics set in World War II. The combination of a war featuring starkly defined sides representing good and evil and the ability of artists and writers to craft idealized versions of the conflict meant the war was fertile ground for creators.

The talk will also touch on the recreation of super-heroes in the 1950s, comics published in the post-World War II era that featured the war and the introduction of new genres of horror, crime and suspense comics.

The ties that American soldiers had to comic books cannot be understated, according to Kanaras.

“When shipped overseas, the G.I.s  wanted them and asked for them,” he said.

Admission to the museum for a day, including the talk, costs $11. Members can enter for free. The talk begins at 1:30 p.m. Location and hours of operation for the New England Air Museum can be found here.


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