Into the Jungle!
A Boy's Comic Strip History of World War II
An exploration of the experiences of war through the comics of an American youth
Near the end of World War II and after, a small-town Nebraska youth, Jimmy Kugler, drew more than a hundred double-sided sheets of comic strip stories. Over half of these six-panel tales retold the Pacific War as fought by “Frogs” and “Toads,” humanoid creatures brutally committed to a kill-or-be-killed struggle. The history of American youth depends primarily on adult reminiscences of their own childhoods, adult testimony to the lives of youth around them, or surmises based on at best a few creative artifacts. The survival then of such a large collection of adolescent comic strips from America’s small-town Midwest is remarkable.
Michael Kugler reproduces the never-before-published comics of his father’s adolescent imagination as a microhistory of American youth in that formative era. Also included in Into the Jungle! A Boy's Comic Strip History of World War II are the likely comic book models for these stories and inspiration from news coverage in newspapers, radio, movies, and newsreels. Kugler emphasizes how US propaganda intended to inspire patriotic support for the war gave this young artist a license for his imagined violence. In a context of progressive American educational reform, these violent comic stories, often in settings modeled on the artist’s small Nebraska town, suggests a form of adolescent rebellion against moral conventions consistent with comic art’s reputation for “outsider” or countercultural expressions. Kugler also argues that these comics provide evidence for the transition in American taste from war stories to the horror comics of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Kugler’s thorough analysis of his father’s adolescent art explains how a small-town boy from the plains distilled the popular culture of his day for an imagined war he could fight on his audacious, even shocking terms.
"Michael Kugler's microhistory approach, drawing on a never-before-published personal collection of World War II comic strips, adds a unique element to current memory studies of the Second World War as well as the graphic interpretations of international events."- Lisa L. Ossian, author of The Forgotten Generation: American Children and World War II
"Professor Kugler makes it easy to see how a kid could want to create his own version of the exciting, explosive, and terrifying war that was being hyped in the media and in the ubiquitous products of the propaganda machine…. Into the Jungle! A Boy's Comic Strip History of World War II is virtually plotless - yet it's violent, disturbing, and pulsing with energy and emotion."- Paul Karasik, The Comics Journal