Saturday, January 29, 2011

Social History in Comics: New Heroic Comics 81 - "Hill 528"

The significance of New Heroic Comics 81 (March 1953), published by Famous Funnies, is that it contains a short true story about the bravery of Corporal Fred McGee in the Korean War. Corporal McGee is still alive today, and is a decorated veteran of the Korean War. In this two page story depicting the events on Hill 528 for which Corporal McGee received his honors, McGee is not shown as an African American, even though that is his identity. Personally I think it is unlikely that this omission was deliberate on the part of the comic book creators. It is more likely that it was simply assumed that McGee was white, because in the early 1950s, institutional racism, if nothing else, tended to make society blind to the contributions of African Americans. It was as if a whole section of the population didn't exist, and you can see this by the absence of African American characters in comics throughout the 1950s especially. The error made on this comic is reminiscent of that made by the Marvel colorists on the cover of Sgt. Fury 1 in the early 60s - they simply assumed that all the characters were white, unaware of Lee and Kirby's intention to introduce diversity into the Marvel universe. Here then is "Hill 528". I wish that somebody who is a comic book creator would re-do this short story with McGee correctly depicted as an African American, and publish it somewhere while McGee is still alive.

As a special treat, here's the inside back cover of the comic, which features a Boy Scouts of America National Jamboree ad drawn by none other than Frank Frazetta!

Also, just to complete this short post, here's the cover of Sgt. Fury 1, showing the incorrectly colored Gabriel Jones:

Gabriel Jones is the famous African American horn-blowing member of the Howling Commandos.

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