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Japanese and Americans in Superman Comics

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    In “‘Superman is about the visit the relocation centers’ & the Limits of Wartime Liberalism” Gordon Chang clearly explains that, “Japs were frequent and predictably portrayed as villains” (Chang 38), and as a consequence of the powerful media used to show that, it “highly influenced” the public opinion on them. In the comic strip, they are described as “cruel-faced” and “sinister-looking” which make the Japanese become evil human beings and a threat to American citizens due to their “racial characteristics” so its part of their nature.

    Several erroneous ideas of what Japanese were supposed to be planning or thinking about what to do to Americans are presented throughout the strip. For example, Masu Watasuki says “Added proof that America is destined to become a vassal state of Japan” (Chan 52) after he buries Superman with lumber, who represents the United States according to Chang. However, in reality, such ideas were absurd since “many Japanese Americans were indeed loyal” (Chang 42).

    Another theme mentioned throughout the article and is present in the comic strip is the “suggestion of widespread disloyalty among Japanese Americans” (Chang 51). While Lane and Kent are visiting “Camp Carok”, Major Munsey explains that “loyal Americans of Jap ancestry… would be glad to sabotage out national welfare” (Chang 51). In the next scene, one reads how a group of Japanese is trying to escape with firearms. Later in another panel, the internees are about to hurt Lane, “the feminine America”. These scenes demonstrate Japanese American are disloyal to the United States and a threat to American citizens.

    What liberal members of the OWI and WRA were trying to do was to basically educate the public about the interests of Japanese Americans, not evil and cruel, as they were usually being illustrated, but rather loyal to the United States. Their goal was to find a way to release Japanese from relocation centers since they did not deserve to be there. They wanted to begin a “program of release and resettlement of those the government deemed free of suspicion” (Chang 43) since most of those “aliens” held there were not guilty of these false accusations.

    Philleo Nash joins the anti-racist cause and tries to convince the McClure Syndicate that “the Superman reference will create a new hostility to the work of the War Relocation Authority Program” (Chang 44). He is not trying to eliminate this program but rather to add an episode to the comic strip in order to balance the Japanese disloyalty presented on it. Without this balance, segregating Japanese would become more intense and severe. He was against Superman arousing “race hatred against Japanese Americans” and misinterpreting them as “prisoners of war under the jurisdiction of the Army”.

    Chang sees the liberal’s work as evidence of the limits of liberalism rather than pure anti-racism. Although they fought for them so they could receive a better treatment, at the end the liberals were not able to “overturn the fundamental injustice of the camps… just as Superman’s closing instruction to his readers in the last frame of the storyline could hardly neutralize the insidious characterizations” (Chang 57). Their efforts were not enough just like Superman’s final attempt to support loyal Japanese Americans is not enough to change public American opinion.

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    Japanese and Americans in Superman Comics. (2017, Feb 10). Retrieved from

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