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Government Comics

Cartoons and comic books published by government agencies; also government publications that discuss cartoons and comics.

Commercial Publications

Many works that are sponsored and distributed by government agencies are contracted out to commercial companies or authors. Some of these publications use popular characters to capture the public's attention, and the companies or authors often retain copyright over the material, although the publications are typically distributed to the public for free. 

Also included here are commercial graphic novel adaptations of official government publications. These are usually created without the direct involvement of the agency that produced the original document and are sold through commercial venues for a profit.

Commercial Comics, Inc.

From 1946 until his retirement in 1991, Malcolm Ater produced educational and promotional comic books for politicians, government agencies, and commercial industries through his company, called at various times Malcolm Ater Productions or Commercial Comics, Inc. He wrote the scripts himself based on information provided by his clients, then assigned the artwork to any of a number of artists. In the 1960s, Ater became the commercial agent for Field Enterprises, Inc. and created government comics starring some of their most popular characters, including Dennis the Menace, Mark Trail, Andy Capp, and Rex Morgan, M.D. 

Harvey Publications, Inc.

In 1945, departing servicemen were provided with comic books instructing them on citizenship, family responsibilities, and voting rights, as well as urging them to sign on for another tour of duty. Alfred Harvey supervised production of these titles for the Armed Forces Information and Educational Division Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense. Some featured well-known characters, while others were produced solely for informational purposes, with characters created specifically for the comic. (The Harvey Comics Companion, by Mark Arnold.)

Marvel Comics Group

Harvey Publications: Citizenship Story Books

After World War II, the Department of Defense commissioned Harvey Publications to create the Citizenship Series—a series of "picture story books" (i.e., comic books) designed to teach the general public how to be good citizens. There were a total of five books in the series, but for some reason they were numbered 2 through 6. 

In the 1940s political indoctrination was the responsibility of the Office of the Chief of Information (OCINFO). In 1950 the Defense Department created the Armed Forces Information and Education Division (AFIED) to oversee OCINFO and other internal information programs. Originally a division of the Defense Department's Personnel Policy Board, AFIED was moved to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower and Personnel) in 1951, and in 1952 AFIED changed its name to Office of Armed Forces Information and Education (OAFIE). (Political Indoctrination in the U.S. Army from World War II to the Vietnam War, by Christopher S. DeRosa, pp. 91–92.)

Toby Press, Inc.

Toby Press, Inc. was founded by Elliott Caplin, the brother of Al Capp, and started out publishing reprints of Al Capp's Li'l Abner comic strip.Toby Press produced several promotional comic books for the U.S. military to encourage high school students to join up.

Dietz Press and Victoria Publishing: Naval Aviation Training Comics by Ted Ritter and Bob Gadbois

The Chronicles of Elmore

While in pre-flight school at the Naval Flight Training School in Murray, Kentucky, writer Theodore J. Ritter and cartoonist Robert W. Gadbois (pronounced "GAD-boy") came up with the idea of collaborating on a series of humorous books depicting the experiences of a typical naval air cadet trainee progressing through the five stages of Naval Aviation Cadet Training. After a minor disagreement over the protagonist's name—Ritter preferred "Elmer," Gadbois "Elmo"—the collaborators compromised on the name "Elmore." Ritter, who edited the base paper, would write the text. Gadbois, whom Ritter had recruited as cartoonist for the base paper, created cartoon-style illustrations to bring Ritter's captions to life. In addition to his writing duties, Ritter would serve as Gadbois' model for their snub-nosed hero. During the next eighteen months, as they progressed through the Naval Aviation Cadet Training program, the two young creators developed Elmore's story out of their own personal experiences.

While the books were still being written, Ritter shopped the idea for the series around to several publishers but had difficulty selling the unfinished project, since it would require both of them to complete both a challenging military training program and a series of five books. Eventually the Dietz Press in Richmond, Virginia took a chance and all five volumes of the series were completed and published, although as it turns out, both Ritter and Gadbois washed out while in the final stage of the Naval Aviation Cadet Training program. Elmore, fortunately, managed to make it through and earn his Golden Wings.

Although they were written for and by members of the military, these comics were not issued directly by any government agency.

(This account is based on an interview with Bob Gadbois that appeared in the Daily Iowan shortly after the war: For a more detailed account of the day-to-day experiences of a cadet in the Naval Aviation Training Program, see Wings of Gold: An Account of Naval Aviation Training in World War II: The Correspondence of Aviation Cadet/Ensign Robert R. Rea, edited and with introduction by Wesley Phillips Newton and Robert R. Rea. Wings of Gold is also available online.)

[Note that Phase 2: War Training Service and Phase 3: Pre-Flight School are not owned by UNT Libraries.]

During the last months of their war services, the authors privately published two other books under their own self-publishing imprint Victoria Publishing. 

After returning to civilian life, Ritter and Gadbois continued to produce and self-publish several more military-related comics. Many of these described the experiences of other departments of the armed forces.

Graphic Novel Adaptations of Government Publications

These are works that were originally created and published by government agencies, but were subsequently abridged and adapted by commercial publishers into a graphic novel form for popular consumption. In addition to being abridged, they may include additional historical background information. 

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