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World War II in Cartoons

Mark Bryant

Grub Street, 28 July 2014

 

ISBN 9781 909808119

 

This is a paperback reissue of a hardback originally published in 2005. Bryant is an academic who specialises in the history of cartoons. So this is an unusual book, perhaps more suited to dipping in and out of than reading from cover to cover. The quality of the copious illustrations is thankfully high, and Bryant has unearthed several that have not previously been published.

 

The cartoons are accompanied by a narrative of the war, setting each illustration in context. The narrative is unlikely to enlighten many visitors to this website, but from time to time Bryant will slip in a fact that is off the wall, and certainly beyond my ken. A Soviet cartoonist, for example, was reputed to earn four times Stalin’s salary. Do you know the derivation of Chindits – as in Orde Wingate?

 

The book is truly global in coverage, and indeed it is interesting to see how Axis cartoonists dealt with success gradually slipping between their fingers. Churchill was understandably a target of much (underserved) derision. On Bryant’s sample, Axis cartoons are more universally propagandist, whilst Allied ones (certainly the British examples) are more typically observational and humorous. David Low, who went on to a very long and successful post-war career, and who will be familiar to many readers, is a case in point. I particularly liked Low’s observations on the Nazi-Soviet pact. Another favourite was a 1940 piece by a Frenchman, Tim, showing De Gaulle being rescued by Churchill – little thanks he received for that!

 

The book serves as a testament to the talent, and in some cases bravery, of these artists. It is noticeable that some of the most acerbic are those who escaped from Nazi Germany (or in one case a German PoW who had seen the light).

 

Some of the artists led very interesting careers: Rowland Emett might be familiar to some as the creator of works of engineering fantasy (for want of a better description). But he started drawing cartoons for Punch in 1939 whilst working as a draughtsman on the development of the jet engine!

 

All in all, an interesting book which sheds light on an overlooked aspect of the interaction between society and war.

hist_rendezvous_low

David Low's take on the Nazi-Soviet pact in 1939

verdunkeln_by_berzerkr-d3hwyag

German poster, c 1942 attempting to portray Bomber Command as terrorists