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The predominance of caucasians in golden age comics affected the choice of cast members for The American Rabbit Wakes Up

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The people in my webcomic are mostly caucasian (like me) and regardless of how much I would prefer a more diverse cast, my source material doesn't make that easy to do. The public domain comics that are used to make The American Rabbit Wakes Up are mostly from the 1940s and 50s, plus a small number of pages from the 1930s and earlier. 

This panel from 1953 is by one of the few female comic book artist of the golden age, Nina Albright. Art credit details and links are at the bottom of each page on this site.

American comics of the mid 20th century are mostly quite segregated, and the more respectable and heroic roles are especially certain to be white, and of course male. If it were practical to do, I would have liked to cast Penny as either Native American or African American. Stewart Moskowitz, creator of The American Rabbit, agreed (or originally suggested this, I don't remember) but I couldn't locate a sufficient number of adequate quality images. Casting of the main characters required a good collection of faces from many angles, with many expressions, that all appear to be the same person. Mostly this was done by choosing artists that drew similar faces in numerous comic book stories. In nearly every panel of my comic, Penny's face is drawn by Emil Gershwin, one of the greatest artists of the golden age. Of course, since the faces are taken from many comic books, Mr. Gershwin was not drawing the same character in each story, but now and then he would draw faces similar to work he had done in other comic books. These pictures were gathered and marked as "Penny". 


Likewise, the face of meat-obsessed egotist Jack Bomlobber emerges from many years of drawings by a single artist, the very prolific Harry Lazarus. Choosing cast members required many hours of looking through the archive at the Digital Comic Museum, and when I collected my top several choices, there was one obvious thing that they all had in common: they were all white. And after a while I had to accept that racial diversity would need to be added manually, laboriously, and not in starring roles. But his doesn't mean the story will have no mention of race in America.


I should point out briefly that comic book history is not purely white. For instance, there were some comics drawn and published by black creators, and featuring black characters. But I didn't find a lot of this (and I need a lot), and the art in the few examples I found was mostly not a match to the fairly realistic style I was looking for. 


There are gobs of Native Americans in golden age comics, but they're in stories of the old American west, and the wardrobe and background are off-target for my comic. I could search the western comics just to find faces, but that makes a lot of extra labor for me, since nothing else in those comics will be useful for my story. And the drawings of faces of Native American women seemed to often appear essentially like a caucasian person colored brown, or occasionally solid red. If I had located a single artist who could draw a likeness well, and who used the same or same-looking character in several stories, I could have cast Penny as a Native American, but I didn't find that artist. The archive of the Digital Comic Museum is huge and growing, so I may have overlooked a good candidate.



Art credit for this page:

Teen-Age Romances #30, page 6  1953  artist Nina Albright



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