George Orwell knocks American Comic Books Again, Nov. 22, 1946

February 20, 2010

“. . .and platinum blondes are raped, or very nearly, by steel robots and fifty-foot dinosaurs?”

George Orwell had already trashed American comic books, a year earlier, as filled with “Magic and Sadism”.  Now he’s back to take another swing at the funny books. Ah, lay off, George, you big English bully! But much as he seems to despise them as sub-literate and borderline immoral, Orwell finds evidence in comic books for some of our better qualities too.

“English children are still Americanised by way of the films. but it would no longer be generally claimed that American books are  the best ones for children. Who, without misgivings, would bring up a child on the coloured ‘comics’ in which sinister professors manufacture atomic bombs in underground laboratories while Superman whizzes through the clouds, the machine-gun bullets bouncing off his chest like peas, and platinum blondes are raped, or very nearly, by steel robots and fifty-foot dinosaurs? It is a far cry from Superman to the Bible and the woodpile.”

Comparing children’s literature like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Little Women and Black Beauty to the post-war comic book, Orwell explains,

“The society described in the one is subdued, bookish, and home-loving, while the other tells of a crazy world of bandits, gold mines, duels, drunkeness and gambling hells; but in both one can detect an underlying confidence in the future, a sense of freedom and opportunity.”

Excerpts from Orwell’s essay Riding Down From Bangor, Tribune, 22 November 1946


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