Sunday, October 29, 2006

Comic Book Editorial: Peter Puptent as geopolitical commentary?

Was this Peter Puptent filler cartoon in a DC comic book actually a geopolitical "stealth editorial" by Henry Boltinoff?

Featured in The Brave and the Bold #40 (Feb-Mar 1962)

What was happening in the world in 1962?

United States involvement with the internal affairs of Laos, Cuba, Thailand, China, Nigeria and Vietnam. Strife in Brazil that led to U. S. businesses being nationalized. The War Against Communism, Russian/American spy exchanges and Jon Bon Jovi was born.

So...Did Henry Boltinoff use the comic book character of world-explorer Peter Puptent to sneak in an editorial about current world events? Would a Mom or Dad get the underlying message of the cartoon when reading a comic with their children?

Maybe. Peter Puptent could be a symbol of American foreign policy in 1962, accidentally stirring stuff up in an attempt to ensure domestic tranquility*. In the cartoon, the explorer erred in becoming involved (in spite of the pre-cautionary statement from his unnamed companion that the jungle, like geopolitics, was "dense" and in questioning if any natives were around) in foreign political events. Puptent acted rashly and with ignorance (though with innocent intentions) by interfering in local affairs and sparking a conflict. I'm also thinking that the sound fx in panel four are more representative of explosions in a war-torn jungle and less of some native communication system. Let us not forget that the names that comprise "Peter Puptent" has multiple definitions. The simplest if which would be "Penis Erection" or rather, that of tumescent male genitalia. An image that surely evokes the idea that the United States is a country full of rootin'-tootin' cowboys that has taken on the self-appointed role of the world's moral compass and police force.

DC creative teams were known for being stealthy in them days and everyone has some sort of personal opinion or leaning that is usually reflected in their creative output. Not everyone is as extreme as Steve Ditko or as obvious as Judd Winnick in their work.


* Hah-ha! Now you have that School House Rock song stuck in your head, too!

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