The comics drawn by James “Jimmy” Kugler (the author’s father) when he was 13 in 1945 and living in Lexington, Nebraska provide a microhistorical perspective on at least four things. First, they offer a glimpse of an adolescent boy’s life in small town America during the mid-twentieth century. The strips took local buildings and situations and turned them into something strange, reflecting some of Jimmy’s loneliness and alienation. Further, they “back talked” the adults in charge of school and town. Second, they manifest the power of a dynamic American popular culture at the time. Jimmy’s war comic strips depict fairly simple characters, cinematic perspectives like close-ups or long distance, and framing from newsreels and combat films. The Frogs that he created reflect elements of cartoon figures of the era, including Ub Iwerk’s “Flip the Frog.” Third, they illustrate how a child’s imagination transposed a distant yet hard-to-escape war into a reflection of aspects of a world marked by authority and violence. The media portrait of World War II gave Jimmy authoritative permission to revel in mayhem, brutality, and spectacular destruction. The local coverage of the war reported more on the Pacific war with Japan than the war in Europe, and the behavior of Jimmy’s Toads in their war with the Frogs generally echoed common media portraits of the Japanese. Finally, Kugler’s war comic storytelling readily reshaped itself after the war into stories of violent crime and horror, paralleling how comic book taste more generally was moving in similar directions.
"A Rural Nebraska Boy’s Comic Strip Narrative of World War II,"
Northwestern Review: Vol. 1
, Article 3.
Available at: https://nwcommons.nwciowa.edu/northwesternreview/vol1/iss1/3