Sunday, July 01, 2007

Comic Book Propaganda: War makes you pretty!

Way back in World War 2 when Russia was an American ally this two-page story about the career of Russia's celebrated sniper, Ludmilla Pavlichenko, appeared in War Heroes #3 (January-March 1943).

It is interesting to note how many times Ludmilla's attractiveness was mentioned, as if war was the secret of eternal youth and being smeared with the mud of the European trenches was better than a day at the spa. A WW2 era photo of Ludmilla reveals that the reality does not quite match the beauty queen image perpetuated by her handlers and related propaganda, but then all things being relative she may have been considered quite easy on Russian eyes of the time, as she does have a sort of a sweaty, gritty Ingrid Bergman look about her from the film For Whom the Bell Tolls.

It is a bit chilling how matter-of-factly her exploits are described to the young children who would be reading this title. The story points out that her actual body-count is much higher than the 309 Germans she is credited for because any Romanians that Ludmilla ambushed is not part of her official total. The Romanian soldiers were coldly declared to be mere practice targets.

The story stresses how important it was to diminish the number of German soldiers through attrition. As the comic books of the Golden Age enthusiastically perpetuated, the German military was the bogeyman legion, the big public face of pure evil. With the exception of the Japanese military, the soldiers of other armies were not as important as the Germans even though they were also armed and trained in warfare. In reality, to any allied soldier in the European theater any member of an opposing army was a deadly threat. But for propaganda purposes, the soldiers of other armies were incidental objects on the field of battle that were marginalized and relegated to the status of paper bulls-eyes tacked to a bale of hay.

Whatever the truth is behind Ludmilla's career as a sniper she seems to have been quickly removed from the battle field and used as a propaganda tool, going on tours and getting lots of face time with various leaders as an example of how egalitarian Communism could be. Ludmilla Pavlichenko also seems to be the inspiration for the character of sniper Tania Chernova, played by Rachel Weisz in the film Enemy at the Gates.


1 comment:

  1. Have a little more propaganda...

    I like how they reuse the Ludmilla photo.


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