Johnny Everyman | The Racial Integration Stories
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These best stories of the comic books are preceded by their issue number.
The Johnny Everyman stories were essentially public service stories. Each Johnny Everyman tale preached liberal ideas, usually involving understanding and respect for other races and nationalities. They often gave a detailed look at the lives and problems of these groups, in an almost documentary like way. They embedded this mix of educational information and social commentary in what the writers hoped would be an exciting adventure framework.
Many of the Johnny Everyman stories attempted to educate readers about the typical lives of people in Asian countries, such as India, China and the Philippines. The stories were "produced in cooperation with The East and West Association", according to the tales. The president of this group was Pearl S. Buck, the 1938 Nobel Prize winning author of the famous novel about China, The Good Earth (1931). During the 1940's, Pearl Buck served on DC Comics' Editorial Advisory Board, a group of professors, child psychologists and writers, who gave advice to DC on comics content. Their names were prominently displayed near the beginning on most DC Comics in the mid 1940's. DC's goal almost certainly involved deflecting the heavy criticism that was being directed against the comic book industry at this time, targeted at all the sleazy horror and crime comics being put out then, by publishers other than DC. DC's own comics were all G-rated, wholesome family entertainment, but it certainly felt the horrendous public fury directed in blanket fashion against the comic book industry as a whole. Putting the names of this distinguished group of educators on its comics was probably an attempt to guarantee that its comics were good family reading.
Pearl Buck's experiment, of getting involved with the comic book industry and encouraging the publication of educational comic stories, is unique in literary history, to the best of my knowledge. I know of no other writer of her stature who worked on comics, or who helped produce such ground breaking stories in comic history.
Johnny Everyman had no super powers. His stories took place around the world, and were adventures set against realistic backgrounds in many countries. During the war, Johnny was often an undercover agent, behind enemy lines in occupied territory. Johnny was a typical American. He was famed for his heroism and numerous experiences during World War II. In "Meat on the Hoof" (Comic Cavalcade #13, ), Johnny Everyman is described as a trained engineer, and has been given a temporary commission as the commanding US Army officer building a project in China. Daly depicts him in a spiffy Army officer's brown uniform. In many of the other stories, Johnny is a civilian, and usually wears a double breasted suit and tie. Johnny also has an engineer's diploma in "Birds Over China" (Comic Cavalcade #11, Summer 1945).
The Johnny Everyman stories came to an end in 1947, just at about the time when super-heroes began to die off in the comics. The wartime background had been a commercial boon for super-heroes, and also served as the background for the Johnny Everyman stories tales. Also, the liberal ideas preached by the Johnny Everyman stories might have become less popular during the rise of the McCarthy period. I have been unable to find anything Communistic in any of the Johnny Everyman stories I have read. Instead, they look like pure examples of liberalism. They are astonishingly blunt and direct, within this political paradigm. They include some of the most forthright Civil Rights and pro-integration works of their era, in any medium.
Jack Schiff would go on to write many one pager public service pages for DC comics, throughout the 1950's and 1960's, as well as being the long term editor of Batman. Many of Schiff's one-panels featured continuing teenage characters Binky, and his family. These tend to give advice about good study habits, making friends, and learning about the world; the advice in them tends to be remarkably cogent, and still relevant today. Schiff also wrote lots of non-series one pagers, especially in the 1960's. These later works often promoted racial brotherhood and the UN. These ideas are consistent with, and an extension of, his work on the Johnny Everyman tales. They too are deeply admirable. There are also stories with advice to young people such as "The Hip Way to Learn" Writer: Jack Schiff. Art: Sheldon Moldoff, which gives advice on study habits.
This is a landmark story exploring racial issues in the comics. It should be much better known today. This is the first of three 1945 Johnny Everyman stories attacking racial prejudice, and exploring the need for mainstream acceptance of racial minorities.
Both Ralph and Johnny are extremely macho. Both are heroic Americans; both were former football players, something made much of in the story. The tale emphasizes their male bonding. Throughout the series, Johnny is depicted as a macho person.
The Secret of Ohain (1945). Writer: Jack Schiff. Art: John Daly. When Johnny discovers that some young people in the United States are prejudiced against Jews, he tells them about the village of Ohain in Belgium, and its fight to hide a Jewish family from the Nazis. Powerful tale.
Meet Charley Wing (1945) Writer: John Daly. Art: John Daly. A bunch of white American boys believe in stereotypes about Chinese people, till Johnny Everyman introduces them to young Charley Wing and his parents.
Although The Grand Comics Database attributes this script to the story's artist John Daly, there are elements in the splash panel that recall Jack Schiff. It is especially close to a one page public service comic book page he wrote in the 1960's, "What's Your Brotherhood Quotient?". This comic page also promotes racial acceptance and respect.