It has been 75 years since the United States of America became a participant in the Second World War. To this day, World War II is the largest armed conflict this planet has ever seen. What began as Britain and France looking the other way as Germany slowly rearmed during the Great Depression soon became a global struggle for survival. Even though the war began on September 1, 1939 with Nazi Germany invading Poland, it would still be more than two years before America would join the fray. For years leading up to the events in Hawaii, the US and the Empire of Japan had been at odds with foreign exchange, trade embargoes, all of which Japan saw as slights by the US against their honor. The Empire decided to take action on December 7, 1941, a day that will truly live in infamy. In the early morning hours of that Sunday morning, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, striking a sizable blow to the American Pacific fleet. It was a hay-maker that Japan hoped would put America down for the count before they could even begin to fight. Fortunately for us, it only awoke the sleeping giant. The war would continue for another 4 years, and it would change the world forever.
Conflict creates innovation, and WWII created a ton of innovation. From radar, to weaponry, the war thrust the world forward in technology and the creative edge really hasn’t ceased since. We also have the war as the catalyst for the genesis of comic books. While the war did not create comics, it propelled them to the core plot-lines that still resonate today. During the war, companies such as National Allied Publications (today’s DC Comics) and Timely Comics (now Marvel) created some of the most iconic characters, still popular 70 plus years later. Superman was introduced in 1938 to defend truth, justice, and the American way and by 1941 was battling Nazi paratroopers in the skies above Europe. Captain America was introduced by delivering a knockout blow to Adolf Hitler on the cover of his new 1941 comic, and of course, one of Caps greatest foes is the villainous Red Skull (Johann Schmidt), who re-imagined the ancient cult of HYDRA from the bowels of the Nazi regime. Even Batman got into the fight, soaring on an American eagle to combat the Luftwaffe.
World War II was also the start of a new way of thinking for American women. While the men went to war, the women of this country went to work in factories, textile plants, and government. Women proved their mettle both at home and on the battlefield. They were also introduced to a mighty Amazon warrior princess, Wonder Woman. With her lasso of truth, super-human strength, and fearless focus, WW became the definition of female power in comics.
Comics are best when they are displaying the classic good vs evil story-line, and World War II was the ultimate good guys against bad guys theatre. Millions of copies were produced to supply our troops overseas, both as entertainment and as inspiration. The industry might not be what it is today without the early 40’s. Years later, more characters such as Spidey and X-Men would take up the fight, but it really began with World War II.