When Comics Sold the American Dream

During much of the twentieth century comics were looked upon as low art (if art at all). Yet comics were nonetheless very popular among the great masses. What’s more, they were accepted as a nifty tool for selling the American Dream, or at least that part of it that was mass marketed – mostly to women. During the Depression, throughout the 1930s, comic strips were part of the “shirt sleeve advertising” arsenal, and appeared in newspapers (often on Sunday) and magazines, selling toothpaste, white bread, detergent, deodorant soap, antacid, and much more.

These are a fraction of the approaches, including glorified storyboards, serial situation comedies, and full-blown comic narratives. Sometimes, real comic strip characters were recruited, like Buster Brown, who had his own line of kids’ shoes.

Makes one long for the days before AXE deodorant organized urban meet-ups.

(For a larger view click on picture.)

2 thoughts on “When Comics Sold the American Dream

  1. Linda Rodgers

    Perhaps you would like to include the first American woman cartoonist, Rose O’Neill. Her first cartoon was in 1896. She created cartoons for young children from 1909 to 1937. She literally broke the glass ceiling for women to enter this field dominated by men. Her fantastic story of come from poverty living in Nebraska to being a top New York Illustrator by age 18 is remarkable to say the least. I have heard people say why were there no women cartoonist in the 1920s. Well there were several but Rose O’Neill was the first. People should know that women did play a part in the comics.
    Thank you,

  2. Alessandro

    This is very interesting and new to me. I didn’t know about advertisment comics. The article push me to know more. I was looking at art deco during the last few days and so I read about the roaring twenties. How were comics in the decade before, in the 1920s?
    Thanks for posting!