From the beginning comic books have published war stories and adventures, profiling every branch of the military and visually portraying every aspect of modern warfare. Even before the United States entered World War II, Captain America fought Adolph Hitler on the cover of Captain America no. 1 (1940). Contemporary comics on war and the military include graphic journalism pieces as well as comics by and about veterans themselves.
G.I. Joe, who began as a newspaper comic strip and later had his own self-titled comic book, is perhaps one of the most well-known military comics today, but there were many others. Particularly during the Korean War, even continuing into the Vietnam War, wartime adventures in comics were popular alongside their other genre counter-parts such as Crime, Romance, and Western Comics.
Navy Combat, Fightin Marines, Our Fighting Forces, Star Spangled War Stories, even Weird War Tales and Wartime Romances were only a few of the titles that featured the US military and war stories. While many stories include depictions of race and gender now considered inappropriate, they document public perception of these issues at the time.
Comics weren’t limited to fictional accounts, however. Did you know the US Government published comics? Legendary cartoonist Will Eisner, for example, served as a cartoonist in WWII where he illustrated the technical bulletin series PS The Preventative Maintenance Monthly, as well as other stand-alone publications like this one specifically for soldiers during the Vietnam War. Superheroes even joined the non-fiction wagon, publishing stories and full issues on topics ranging from sportsmanship, landmine awareness, to anti-drug awareness and other heath topics.
There are so many intersections between comics and war and the military, I only touched briefly on a few from our collection. I’m looking forward to finding more in the future!