Home » Writing » Book Reviews

The Human Torch Does Fire Protection: The History Of Fire Safety Comics For Kids

Sep 10, 2008
Comic books: one of the few great American art forms, known worldwide as mental rot and poison, at best "literature for illiterates." But a few comics have attempted to rise above their low image by providing valuable public services. In particular, there's the NFPA's line of fire protection comics for kids.

The fire safety comics aren't particularly attempts to do something interesting within the comics medium, of course. There were two directions high-minded comics traveled in around the late 1940s-early 1950s, when the generation originally raised on comic book trash in the late 1930s came of age and started working on comics of their own.

One direction was to seek refuge in the "safe" realm of classic literature. The "Classics Illustrated" line, true to its name, simply added pictures to works whose moral weight and value was unassailable and undeniable. It's hard to critique comics for being stupid, vapid trash when your subject matter is Dickens, for example.

But the quality that protected these comics from scorn was also the quality that limited their potential reach and appeal. Classics Illustrated books didn't introduce anything new in the way of narrative; they simply played it safe.

By contrast, the other big push toward increasing the power and appeal of comics in the 1950s--William Gaines's "Entertaining Comics", or "EC" line, only served to push comics further out of the mainstream and into the ghetto of lurid trash. Gaines hired some of the best writers in the business--including early work by Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury--and allowed artists to work in individual styles.

The writing on EC titles was excellent and the art some of the greatest ever to appear in comics, even to this day. The problem: in order to sell books, Gaines and the EC crew relied on the most lurid material possible.

"Tales From The Crypt", for example, one of the high-water marks of EC's line, today is shorthand for the kind of squalor comics love to wallow in, and the title was specifically banned by the first Comics Code Authority in 1954.

The NFPA's fire safety comics walk a dangerous line between these poles. Although no one can fault these comics for their intention, one can certainly fault their technical execution many times over.

"America In Flames", for example, a 1950s attempt at a fire safety comic by the NFPA, won points for its attempt to imitate the kind of lurid EC Comics aesthetic with its cover showing nineteenth-century firemen duking it out on the streets of Chicago, and a wise fireman explaining to children that "Things are different today!"

But the interior contents remained dull and procedural, interspersing comics tropes--fistfights, danger, adventure--with point-by-point explanations of fire safety.

The problems are even more pronounced in the GI Joe-licensed FEMA-produced fire safety comic, in which the GI Joe team returns from a battle with the Cobra Commander to find a local home burning and they stop to lend assistance. Again: comic tropes blend with good intentions to produce an uninteresting mix.

The later "Sparky" series dispenses even with this, using the comics vocabulary to straightforwardly communicate the "ABCs of Fire Safety" in the words of a cartoon dog: truly literature for illiterates, however good its intentions might have been.

Fire protection is a vital part of any major urban civilization, and ways to communicate essential fire safety concepts to young, pre-literate citizens are always welcome. But in embracing these good intentions, the fire safety comics-makers only contribute to the declining reputation of a uniquely American art form.
About the Author
Fire protection can cover both businesses and home owners. See the latest products at www.FireProtectionOnline.co.uk
Rating:
Please Rate:
(Average: Not rated)
Views: 348
Print Email Report Share
Article Categories
    • Artists
    • Gambling
    • Humanities
    • Humor
    • Movies
    • Music
    • Photography
    • Tattoos
    • Television
    • Classic Cars
    • Motorcycles
    • Recreational Vehicles
    • SUVs
    • Trucks
    • Vans
    • Branding
    • Business Opportunities
    • Careers and Jobs
    • Corporate
    • Customer Service
    • Direct Mail
    • Entrepreneurship
    • Ethics
    • Financing
    • Franchising
    • Home-Based Business
    • Human Resources
    • Import and Export
    • Leadership
    • Management
    • Market Research
    • Marketing and Advertising
    • Negotiation
    • Network Marketing
    • Networking
    • Organizational
    • Presentation
    • Project Management
    • Public Relations
    • Small Business
    • Strategic Planning
    • Team Building
    • Telemarketing
    • Training
    • Data Recovery
    • Databases
    • Games
    • Hardware
    • Networks
    • Operating Systems
    • Programming
    • Security
    • Software
    • Spyware and Viruses
    • Ask an Expert
    • College and University
    • Home Schooling
    • K-12
    • Languages
    • Online Education
    • Psychology
    • Accounting
    • Credit
    • Currency Trading
    • Debt Consolidation
    • Insurance
    • Investing
    • Leasing
    • Loans
    • Mortgage
    • Mutual Funds
    • Personal Finance
    • Stock Market
    • Structured Settlements
    • Taxes
    • Wealth Building
    • Coffee
    • Cooking
    • Gourmet
    • Recipes
    • Wine and Spirits
    • Acne
    • Aerobics
    • Alternative Medicine
    • Beauty
    • Cancer
    • Cosmetics
    • Depression
    • Diabetes
    • Diseases and Conditions
    • Fitness Equipment
    • Fitness
    • Hair Loss
    • Heart Disease
    • Medicine
    • Men's Health
    • Muscle Building
    • Nutrition
    • Skin Care
    • Supplements and Vitamins
    • Weight Loss
    • Women's Health
    • Yoga
    • Arts and Crafts
    • Babies
    • Collecting
    • Elderly Care
    • Genealogy
    • Hobbies
    • Parenting
    • Pets
    • Pregnancy
    • Woodworking
    • Feng Shui
    • Gardening
    • Home Appliances
    • Home Security
    • Interior Design
    • Landscaping
    • Affiliate Programs
    • Article Marketing
    • Auctions
    • Audio
    • Banner Advertising
    • Blogging
    • Broadband
    • Domain Names
    • E-Books
    • E-Commerce
    • Email Marketing
    • Ezines and Newsletters
    • Forums
    • Internet Marketing
    • Link Popularity
    • Pay-Per-Click
    • Podcasting
    • RSS
    • Search Engine Marketing
    • Search Engine Optimization
    • Security
    • Social Media
    • Spam
    • Video
    • Viral Marketing
    • Web Design
    • Web Development
    • Web Hosting
    • Copyright
    • Cyber Law
    • Intellectual Property
    • National, State, Local
    • Patents
    • Regulatory Compliance
    • Trademarks
    • Buying
    • Selling
    • Baseball
    • Basketball
    • Boating
    • Cycling
    • Extreme Sports
    • Fishing
    • Football
    • Golf
    • Hockey
    • Hunting
    • Martial Arts
    • Running
    • Scuba Diving
    • Soccer
    • Swimming
    • Tennis
    • Dating
    • Divorce
    • Marriage
    • Weddings
    • Astrology
    • Buddhism
    • Christianity
    • Faith
    • Hinduism
    • Islam
    • Judaism
    • Meditation
    • Metaphysical
    • New Age
    • Cable and Satellite TV
    • Cell Phones
    • Communication
    • Gadgets and Gizmos
    • GPS
    • Satellite Radio
    • Video Conferencing
    • VoIP
    • Addictions
    • Coaching
    • Goal Setting
    • Motivational
    • Stress Management
    • Time Management
    • Clothing
    • Electronics
    • Fashion
    • Gifts
    • Jewelry
    • Causes and Organizations
    • Environment
    • History
    • Holidays
    • Men's Issues
    • Nature
    • Philosophy
    • Politics
    • Women's Issues
    • World Affairs
    • Air Travel
    • Camping
    • Cruises
    • Destinations
    • Outdoors