How To Spot a Jap
Painfully politically incorrect WWII War Department comic strip by my (otherwise) cartooning hero Milton Caniff, from A Pocket Guide To China (1942), which is included in Richard L. Graham's fascinating history of government-issued educational and instructional comics, Government Issue: Comics for the People, 1940s-2000s ("All the Do's and Don'ts of American Life...Courtesy of the U.S. Government!").
|Milton Caniff's "How To Spot a Jap" (from "A Pocket Guide To China," 1942)|
The Japanese were the new "oriental scourge," depicted as sneaky, bucktoothed enemies. Caniff's comic is no less offensive for being a product of a 1940s wartime mentality. Even the army may have recognized this; the second edition of this pocket guide, printed a year later, did not include the Caniff mini-comic."
With characters like "Chopstick Joe" and the "Dragon Lady" in his Terry and the Pirates strip, Caniff certainly contributed to the old "oriental scourge" stereotypes of the Chinese. But the super patriot would go on to glorify Chinese Nationalists (led by his his Western Culture-loving Princess Snowflower) in his post-war Steve Canyon comics, especially his international playboy pilot's 1949 and 1950 adventures in the new People's Republic of China, in which Mao's Communist regime is always referred to as the "Puppet Chinese" government and "Puppet Chinese" army. But that's OK, for Caniff was a master artist and storyteller who gave readers a passport to adventure - if not political accuracy or correctness.