May 4, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 435: G.I. Combat #222, October 1980 (War Week, Day 6)

I think it's a good thing I'm getting to the end of "War Week," as I'm finding war comics to be remarkably depressing. Which, I guess, makes sense. I understand the impetus to tell such stories - the same impetus spurs Remembrance Day every November - and these later titles and issues do their best to delve into the effects upon soldiers of their experiences. There's also the moments of humanity amidst something that I, at least, find to be one of our most inhuman behaviours. There are those, I suppose, who might disagree with me and look to war as the most human of behaviours. We have, after all, been doing it for a very long time. Call me an optimist.

There's an interesting juxtaposition of art and words in this issue that struck me. I've noted the cariacatures of Japanese and german soldiers in previous war comics, and it becomes more complicated in this issue. In both "Ice Soldiers" and "Angels of Death," we see representations, respectively, of North Korean and Japanese soldiers. Visually, these representations depart markedly from the caricatures of earlier comics, and present a visual representation in keeping with physical aspects of someone from those parts of the world. In this, I mean that we don't get the pronounced lips and buck teeth one might see in the old Fleischer Superman cartoons. The representations of East Asian peoples in this comic are every bit as stylized, but balanced, as the depictions of Caucasian peoples. However, the text accompanying these depictions drips with the worst Orientalism I've yet encountered in comics. Drawing on constructions of the East as meditative, stolid, descriptions of an idol-like patience offer a stark contrast to the terror inscribed in each American soldier. This dehumanizing in text is off-putting, for sure, especially in contrast with artists who seem to recognize that there's a difference in art between stylizing and caricaturing.

Last day of War Week tomorrow. Today's issue featured a number of "Haunted Tank" stories, and tomorrow we'll look at a Vertigo re-imagining of that feature. Onward.

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