This Sunday will mark 100 years since World War I ended at 11 am on the 11th day, of the 11th month 1918. We as a nation and countries across the Commonwealth will observe a 2 min silence at 11 am to remember the people who have died not only in WW1 but in wars across the years. Here at Bulbbotz HQ, we decided to look back on the history of this significant day but also the effect that superheroes and comics had on the people back home and on the war front.
After 4 years of fighting Germany was not in a strong position against the Triple Entente (Britain, France and Russia), especially when American joined in the battle and sent thousands of soldiers to France to help. With this additional greater military strength against them, German leaders told their government to end the fighting which led Kaiser Wilhelm (German Leader) to abdicate on 9th November 1918. Only two days later, Germany signed the Armistice and the guns fell silent. The First World War officially ended on the 28th June 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. A two-minute silence was first held on the 11th November 1919 when King George V asked the public to observe a silence at 11 am. This tradition has remained and will continue to do so.
The Remembrance Poppy.
The remembrance poppy has become synonymous with commemorating military personnel who died in the war. The wearing of the poppy was inspired by the WW1 poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ by Lieutenant John Mcrae.
It was promoted by American academic Moina Michaels, by creating handmade silk poppies to raise money for living serviceman and women. The Royal British Legion oversees the poppy appeal here in the UK and has run it since 1921 after coming across Moina Michaels idea. They also organise a national service of remembrance at the Cenotaph in London every year.
The Imperial War Museum in London has an exhibition called the ‘Weeping Window’. The 7,000 cascading poppies are handmade in ceramic and can be seen till the 18th November. In Manchester, (at IWM) there is another exhibition called the ‘Wave’ which is a sweeping arch of bright red poppy heads suspended on towering stalks.
Comics and the War.
Comics can be seen to be a majorly American product and are created out of a particular point but can adapt/change to reflect the values of a generation. For the UK in WW1, there were comics making the rounds although not in the superhero form. Kids of the early 20th century had annual publications (appearing only once a year) but without the fast-paced financial and technological certainty of America to push them, British Hero’s were more earthbound. We had that stereotypical stiff upper lip view and our adventurers were the kind of men to keep Britains Empire in check. Not having superhuman abilities.
In the Second World War, kids in Britain had The Beano and The Hotspur which showcased the importance of the war effort. They had colourful front stories and comical storylines that ridiculed Hitler and undermined the Nazis. Cartoons for the older readers with stories of rocket-powered jets severing German defences and courageous British soldiers preventing Nazi attacks. For the younger generation, there were comic strips of schoolgirls outsmarting the enemy and a shrewd ostrich ambushing the enemy with an explosive egg!
America, on the other hand, had the likes of Superman and Captain America to provide some escapism. Superman first appeared in the 1930’s and in a time of uncertainty with the likelihood of a second world war, children had a hero to look up to – a simple notion of a man of steel who could stop the enemy. Captain America was created by Jewish American comic book writers in response to the threat of Hitler and the rise of anti-semitism. In a blunt show of defiance against Hitler, the first iconic Captain America cover came out 9 months before Pearl Harbour (when the US enters the war). It shows Captain America, in a very patriotic suit of the American Flag, punching Hitler in the jaw.
It is important for us and even superheroes, to commemorate November 11th. The hope is that remembering past and present conflicts, will tell each new generation that we must live in peace and fight for what is right, even Iron Man said, ‘Heroes are made by the path they choose, not the powers they are graced with’.