French Comics and Propaganda Exhibit

The new student exhibit in Bostock Library explores the juvenile press in France from 1939 to 1945. The exhibit was designed and curated by students in Professor Clare Tufts’s Fall 2012 course, Comics and Culture: Images of Modern France in the Making (French 414/Visual and Media Studies 312).

When Paris was liberated in the summer of 1944, a beautifully illustrated, 29-page hardback comic book appeared on the market seemingly overnight. This publication, La bête est morte! (The Beast is Dead!), presented a pictorial account of war among animals who symbolized all of the major players of World War II. Hitler was portrayed as the big bad wolf, Mussolini as a hyena, and the Japanese as yellow monkeys. Meanwhile, the occupied French were glowingly depicted as docile rabbits and industrious squirrels beset by barbarian hordes from other countries. Their savior, a great white stork wearing a Lorraine cross, clearly symbolized Charles De Gaulle and the Resistance. The story does not touch on the subject of French collaboration.

During this time, comics provided French children and adolescents a regular diet of fact, fiction, and outright propaganda about the Germans, the Vichy regime, the Allies, and eventually the Resistance. The exhibit highlights a selection of representative publications, focusing on the messages they conveyed to their youthful audience. As an art form and means of mass communication, the comic book medium was used to form a post-war generation of young adults primed to accept and support the prevailing political ideology.

In particular, the student exhibit traces the history of the following publications:

  • Three weeklies available in France on the eve of the war: Le Journal de Mickey, Jumbo, and Coeurs vaillants/Ames vaillantes (Stout-Hearted/Brave-Souled), which migrated south to unoccupied France and underwent significant changes in content and format.
  • The comic Le Téméraire (The Audacious), which started publication in Paris during the Occupation; and the weekly Vaillant (Valiant), born with the Liberation and filled with realistic images of fighting and resistance.
  • The exhibit also includes presentations on the Nazi Propaganda comic Vica and the comic book La Bête est morte! Annotations written by students are available in English and French.

The exhibit is located in the International and Area Studies exhibit cases on the 2nd floor of Bostock Library, across from the International and Area Studies Offices. (Map and directions available here.) It will be on display until March 15.

More information about the exhibit can be found on our library guide for French and Francophone Studies.  

Post contributed by Professor Clare Tufts and Heidi Madden, Librarian for Western European Studies

 

3 Responses to New Exhibit: Comics and Propaganda: France 1939-1944

  1. julia says:

    I was hoping to find someone who may be able to tell me more about a French propaganda poster I have. I have photos of it at http://laminunat.com/?p=983 any information would be greatly appreciated. (particularly why the shadow is different) Have a great day! Julia

  2. Paul says:

    I was just wondering if the Duke mobile app was going to get the library exhibit pictures back? I really enjoyed viewing them on my phone.

  3. Is there any chance to find this material (Comics and Propaganda: France 1939-1944) on line? I find it incredibly interesting to see other uses for comic books or strips than the usual superheroe treat used nowadays. Not to say that characters like Captain America were never used as more than an action figure.

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