Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel
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Pulitzer Prize–winner Art Spiegelman’s introduction places Seuss firmly in the pantheon of the leading political cartoonists of our time.
less recognizable than the Disney mouse ears. Seeing the slightly battered lid on the Seuss bird that represents the United States in many of the PM drawings (presumably it’s an eagle, though it looks as much like a Sneetch and suspiciously like the prominently beaked Theodor Geisel himself) is disorienting enough to bring on an epiphany: the prototype for the cat’s famous headgear is actually an emblem deployed in countless political cartoons: Uncle Sam’s red-and-white-striped top hat! The Cat
infection.102 And on December 17, 1942, Dr. Seuss produced one of his grimmest cartoons, about the rounding up of 400,000 French laborers to work in Germany.103 In this cartoon Hitler sits on a throne in a cave, amidst a pile of skulls, a Valkyrie-like helmet on his head and a sword across his lap, and orders Laval, a lizard-like creature with a very long tail: “Crawl Out and Round Me Up Another 400,000 Frenchmen!” The issue here is not genocide but forced labor; French laborers sent to Germany
November, “Windbags of America” hold forth as the world burns.203 It is a classic portrait of civic leaders; each holds pages of speech. Wearing a fireman’s hat, “Uncle Sam” heads for the conflagration, but he has to drag the “Windbags” along, too. Dr. Seuss was a genius at ridiculing pomposity and pretensions. In these cartoons he did so time and again. On December 16, 1941, less than ten days after Pearl Harbor, he depicted a chubby man leaning back in his armchair, bow tie on and martini in
ostrich, head in the sand, his “America First” joined by “Siamese beard” to a man with a swastika, his cow with thirteen pairs of legs and twelve udders, his “new Humped dachshund” for Hitler to replace the “non-Aryan camel.”29 38 81 112 Like many of his cartoonist contemporaries and like cartoonists down to the present day, Dr. Seuss reduces many of his enemies to subhuman status: lice and other insects, cats, snakes. That is a practice that can open the door to virulent racism. But Dr. Seuss’s
his career in the late 1920s, doing gag cartoons for the two most important humor magazines of the time, Judge and Life. He received his first renown for a long-lived series of cartoons advertising a bug spray called Flit. (One of the more memorable images reprinted in this volume has Seuss’s Uncle Sam eagle about to shoot a Flit spray gun labeled “U.S. Defense Bonds and Stamps” at enormous Adolf, Tojo, and Benito bugs.) In 1935, he briefly turned out a comic strip for King Features called