Racist Comic Book Ads
The course went down well and people keep staying well after class, emailing me and asking what was coming up. I showed some old horror and crime covers, which brought some gasps from people but the one thing I did show which left everyone in the room speechless was this ad, taken from an old Australian comic (I think it was a Dagwood comic. I have it downstairs buried in a box somewhere). If the ad wasn't enough then what really stunned people was when I told them that this ad appeared in all it's glory in the mid to late 1960s. There was more discussion about this ad and it's merits than anything else in the entire course (other than the inside story about a sacked artist that I know). That discussion was both civil and heated at the same time and I asked people what was it about the ad, other than the obvious racism, that fired them up. No real reply was forthcoming and it was clear that it was the obvious racism that offended people. More discussion came when I explained that these kinds of ads were as common as the books they appeared in, and this ad appeared in a book aimed at children, as was the product itself.
These kinds of ads were pretty much gone in the USA by this stage (despite what the ad claims I can't imagine it'd have been good for your health to walk into a store and ask for a 'Nigger Boy') and for good reason - it's one of the most racist ads I've come across in an Australian comic book. I've shown it to a few people and gotten mixed responses. Most just chuckle at it and say, "Good thing they don't make that stuff now." For the record - I do remember eating some Nigger Boy Licorice, but that was when I was a very young lad, and at the same time I used to buy boxes of a lovely candy called 'Fags', now called 'Fads'. They were named 'Fags' because they were white with a red tip and manufactured to resemble cigarettes - hence they were fags.
These ads are valuable in the sense that, even more so than the comics they appeared in, they give us an insight into the world of yesterday. It might have been a more uncomplicated world, but that doesn't always mean it was a better one. In the meantime click on the image and have a good read. If anyone else out there has some more interesting ads like this then feel free to send them down and I'll post 'em. It's all history and history is worth preserving, both the good and the bad. And even the ugly.