Heroines, heroes and villains

10 August 2016

In the second article of a two-part series, Andrew Selth takes a look at superheroes and more in Myanmar comics.

Over the past 75 years, Western comic books with a Burma theme have been dominated by stories set during World War II. There were some noteworthy exceptions but, even when new characters appeared and the plots changed, descriptions of the country and its population rarely did so.

During the Cold War, Western governments exploited the power of comics to influence public opinion, including in Burma. For example, in 1950 the British embassy in Rangoon persuaded a local newspaper to run a comic strip based on George Orwell’s anti-totalitarian fable Animal Farm. In 1961, the US government recruited Roy Crane, creator of the comic book hero Buzz Sawyer, to help save countries like Burma from communism. In a series entitled ‘Your United Nations at Work’, a 1963 Action Comics story portrayed a young Burmese woman who saved her village, thanks to her training at a WHO school in Rangoon. While described as part of a public service program, such stories were designed to garner support for the then pro-Western UN.

Read Heroines, heroes and villians by Andrew Selth, published in New Mandala.

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