During the mid-20th century the commercial American comic book was a global phenomenon, with publishers selling up to a billion issues per year. But the commercial comic book – uncensored, enormously popular, and unambiguously American – presented U.S. policymakers with significant challenges, creating diplomatic crises throughout Europe and the decolonizing world. In response, federal agencies appropriated the book medium to help win World War II and the Cold War. They sent millions of pro-American propaganda comic books abroad to battle the influence of commercial comic books and win hearts and minds, particularly in the decolonizing world.
My ongoing digital history project, “America’s Pulp Empire: Comic Books and Diplomacy, 1942-1965,” is built in Esri StoryMaps and explores the geographical dissemination of comic books published in the US and distributed around the world. Click on the image above to view the map.