They say the sun never sets on the British Empire, and we sure hope that's the case when it comes to goofy comics from that aforementioned former empire, because the British comic book field is broad and deep and gets kinda nutsy. Also, like the British Empire, sometimes it gets kinda racist.
Exhibit "A" -Little Mo the Eskimo, who has been savagely abducted from her home in... let's say Kugaaruk, in what we'd later call Nunavut, and deposited in what we'd later call a residential school where her native language and traditions are forcefully removed, leaving her with only a fur-trimmed hat and a pet seal. Because how are ya gonna know she's an Eskimo if she don't have the fur hat?! I ask ya!
"You looks hokey dokey!" says Little Mo. Soon centuries of cultural imprinting will come to the forefront and little Woolu the hokey-dokey pet seal will make a hokey-dokey dinner and a belt and a jacket and enough fat for candles to last the entire fifteen or sixteen months of a Nunavut winter.
All the other girls think Mo and Woolu are tops, and not at all repellently foreign and a harsh indictment of the current government's lax immigration policies. Well, except for the "two snobs Cynthia and Iris", clearly evil nativists longing only to Keep Britain Tidy. Luckily there's a vote coming up and they can all make their displeasure known. So what if it tanks the pound?
Oh no, Woolu has the measles, because seals get that. I'd say the illness more likely to occur here is Mo getting heatstroke from wearing that fur bonnet everywhere.
HO HO OUR EVIL PLAN HAS SUCCEEDED. So evil! You can tell by their squinty little eyes!
But it's a mischievous goat that adds crazy goat-galloping action to THIS pet lineup! Who can stop the runaway goat? Why Mo can, that's who, with the help of Mr Gardening Man and his hose!
Just want to point out here the horrifying visage of Human Faced Demon Goat, mascot of Satan's School for Angry Big-Headed Middle Aged Convicts Dressed As Schoolgirls. I think I hear Christopher Lee firing up the Wicker Man in the distance, I'm outta here, gang.
Nothing quiets a rampaging Satan Goat down like being sprayed with Mr Gardening Man Hose Water - and hey, it washed the spots off of Woolu and everybody can admire Woolu's shiny sleek sealskin and how great that sealskin would look in the form of a stylish hat, or perhaps a handbag, let's get it straight kids, where Mo comes from, Woolu will get you a quick twenty-five bucks down at the local Hudson's Bay Company outpost. No questions asked.
But is this mildly patronizing (or "patronising", as the British would say) story the limit of British comics ethno-kookery? Oh no sir.
Let's take a trip to Africa and to Janet's Jungle School where the white schoolma'am Janet puts on her pearls and party dresses and teaches the well-behaved small black pupils all about Africa and Asia and America and Australia and Europe. Well, okay, apart from the pearls, this doesn't seem too crazy or stereotypical.
Whoops. All it takes is a good old fashioned Jungle Witch Doctor to really remind us that we're reading mid-century imperialist propaganda specifically designed to bolster feelings of superiority in its readership! Now put on your pearls and go teach!
Turns out Janet saves the irritating and frankly annoying Suli from a probably deserved horrifying bloody death in the maw of a savage jungle crocodile. Isn't that typical of our selfless, perfectly made up, blindingly pale British schoolma'ams and their dedication to teaching and incidentally shouldering certain burdens specific to white people? Yes it is.
So yeah, you think about it, this has all kinds of stuff going on that is kinda iffy. Surely this is as far as this particular Bunty annual (1961) was going to go in terms of comics featuring ethnic stereotypes, right? Right?
wrong. I don't even know what this little girl is supposed to be, is she a doll that came to life, is she a Martian, why is she inky solid black, the gag would have worked perfectly well with a girl that isn't drawn inky solid black, I'm not gonna say it doesn't work from a design aspect, because it does, it's just a great big question mark.
But surely, particular, terms, right, right?
Nope! It's back to Africa where Lulu, before she had a top-10 hit with "Downtown", was beginning her career as a diminutive little jungle girl using her self-taught outsider art skills to humiliate the techno-arrogance of the white interloper. Again, trying to separate 'cartoony' from 'hateful stereotype' is difficult, especially when dealing with something that was drawn at a time in which the concept of 'hateful stereotype' didn't really, you know, exist old boy, don't you know, now steady on old sock, better have another G&T before you go completely barmy. Feeling better? Now let's get you into that dress and get those pearls on. The children will be here before you know it.
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