Wednesday, November 19, 2014

FDR, Harry Hopkins, and the Golden Age of Comics

Above: Even the most veteran FDR scholar may not be aware that President Roosevelt created the Justice Society of America (JSA). In the scene above, the Flash shares this historical tidbit with the Huntress.

Above: Harry Hopkins was probably one of the few government officials privy to FDR's interactions with the JSA, as this scene indicates.

Above: This comic book cover shows that FDR created the JSA to fight "For America and Democracy." Considering the sorry state of American democracy today (corporate cash, voter suppression laws, voter apathy, voting districts that have been racially gerrymandered, etc.), perhaps we need a new JSA.

During the 1930s and early 40s, a great number of comic book characters were created that are still popular today: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Captain America, and many more. Even some of the lesser known comic book heroes of that era are experiencing something of a renaissance today. For example, the Spectre--a character created in 1940 and an original member of the JSA--will be a recurring character in NBC's new television series "Constantine."

According to Erin Clancy, a curator at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, "In the 1930s, the American Dream had become a nightmare, and I think comic books and superheroes in particular provided an escapist form of entertainment that allowed the American public to go into a fantasy world where all the ills of the world were righted by these larger-than-life heroes" ("Superheroes rise in tough times," CNN, March 20, 2009).

The American Dream turned into a nightmare? Escapism? Ills of the world righted? Hmmm, well, considering that we just learned that the number of homeless children in America has reached an all-time high--at the exact same time that the Forbes 400 has added $270 billion to their already-bloated wealth--I think I need to crack open a comic book.

In any event, add the JSA to the alphabet soup of programs & agencies created under FDR and his New Deal colleagues! 

(All images are from DC Comics, scanned from a personal collection, and provided for educational and non-commercial purposes.)

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