Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Patriotic Posters on the Silver Screen

Like all the other comic book geeks who could not get tickets to Comic-Con in San Diego, I took consolation in being able to see Captain America: The First Avenger (Dir., Joe Johnston, 2011) in theaters its opening weekend. Although I am sure historians will have some understandable frustrations with certain aspects of the period piece, I hope, like me, they will be thrilled by the reproductions of US World War II-era propaganda posters scattered throughout the film and its closing credits. I may be biased though, as part of my duties at the Hoover Institution Archives includes regular perusal of our Poster Collection.

After seeing Captain America, I realized that the red, white, and blue supersoldier and the propaganda posters contemporary to his creation were collaborating media of the WWII-era. Like the posters, Captain America originally appeared in a paper-based medium, comic books, to encourage support of the war effort. The image on the cover of his first comic book appearance, featuring Cap punching Adolph Hitler in the jaw, could have been used for a propaganda poster. The filmmakers, conscious of these cultural ties and his origins, incorporated Captain America as a poster boy of patriotism into the film’s narrative. Thus featuring the posters throughout the movie and credits not only conveys the era the film is set in but reinforces for the audience the nature of the character and what he stands for.

I have only seen the film once (so far) but recognized a number of posters that we have in our collection (see the accompanying slide show). In fact, Rok!t Studios, the company behind the closing credit sequence, ordered scans of a number of our posters earlier this summer, so we're confident that some of those in the film came from our collection of over 100,000 posters. For information on any of the posters in the slide show, search using their poster ID in our database. For more information on Captain America, consult your local comic shop.

US 1692, Poster collection, Hoover Institution Archives

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