National Social Welfare Assembly Comics Project

by Linnea M Anderson, Archivist, Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota

 

A Message from Otto The Robot!
Photo: National Social Welfare Assembly records
Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries

The National Social Welfare Assembly’s Comics Project was a collaboration between The National Social Welfare Assembly and National Comics, the company which became DC Comics. A committee of experts from social agencies developed the concepts, messages and scripts. Then, editors and artists at National Comics created and printed the comic pages.

When the project was conceived, comics were both an extremely popular medium and under attack as negative influence on youth.  They were blamed as a cause of numerous social problems from juvenile delinquency to mental illness and even vision problems. The project leaders, who included members of the National Assembly, experts from other youth and social service agencies, and representatives from National Comics, hoped to positively influence the large comics reading audience. National Comics also hoped that the project would improve the comic industry’s negative public image.

The project was proposed in 1949 by Vernon Pope of National Comics public relations. National Comics approached the NSWA, requesting that they cooperate on a social messaging comics project. At meetings held in February and March of 1949, the NSWA agreed to participate, and their youth division established a subcommittee to work on the project. A May 1949 report on the proposed project recommended that the project proceed (NSWA records).

Jack Schiff, best known for his work as editor of various Batman series, became the primary editor of the NSWA public service comics. This was Schiff’s second foray into informational and social commentary comics. From 1944 to 1947, Schiff created a public service series called “Johnny Everyman,” produced in cooperation with Pearl S. Buck and The East and West Association. Schiff’s “Johnny Everyman” series included 19 stories (Grost, n.d.).

The National Social Welfare Assembly Comics Project lasted from August, 1949 to July, 1967 and produced over 200 comic pages promoting citizenship and social values. The one-page social message comics appeared in 10 million magazines a month with an estimated readership of 40 million. Reprints of selected pages were also distributed to teachers, counselors, librarians, social agencies, and civic groups and used as stand-alone teaching tools.

Danger: Prejudice at Work!
Photo: Adventure Comics: no.240 SEP 1957
Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries

Over the life of the project, the comics promoted a range of social messages including fair play, racial and religious understanding and equality, a democratic vision of U.S. history, international relations and America’s role in the postwar world, personal values, health and safety, and citizenship. Superman and Superboy appeared in these wholesome stories, along with other characters such as Peter Porkchops, Buzzy, and Binky.

In May of 1967, Jack Schiff announced that he would soon retire from the company then known as National Periodical Publications (and colloquially DC Comics).  Jack Liebowitz, president of NPP felt that the costly project could not continue without Schiff.  A letter from Vernon Pope at this time stated that it is “Virtually impossible to carry on the project without him” and called Schiff a “vital cog in the operation.” (NSWA records, B 49 F2  2/15/67 letter ).

Schiff, Elma Philipson Cole of the National Assembly, and Vernon Pope (who no longer worked at NPP, but remained connected to the project) met to discuss the future. The NSWA Committee rallied, soliciting support letters from project constituents, and seeking other sources of funding, but the effort was ultimately unsuccessful. Liebowitz, citing the financial bottom line and a potential income loss, proposed that the project be discontinued, and the National Social Welfare Assembly Comics Project ended soon after Jack Schiff retired. (NWSA records; Schiff & Reed, 1983)

Sources:

Grand Comics Database. (n.d.). The grand comics database (GCD). Grand Comics Database. Retrieved from https://www.comics.org/

Grost, M. E. (n.d.). Johnny Everyman. Classic Comic Books. Retrieved from http://mikegrost.com/everyman.htm

National Social Welfare Assembly (NSWA) records, (B 48, B 49). Social Welfare History Archive, University of Minnesota Libraries. Retrieved from http://archives.lib.umn.edu/repositories/11/resources/735

Schiff, J & Reed, G. (1983). Reminiscence of a comic book editor. The Comic Book Price Guide, 13. Cleveland, TN: Overstreet Publications.

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To view a selection of NSWA comics pages, visit the Social Welfare History Image Portal.

 

The following is a list of known Comics Project pages compiled by Alice W. Campbell and Catherine A. Paul, Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries.

To research writers and artists associated with any particular comic, or to learn in which comic books a particular page appeared, consult the Grand Comics Database.

  1. Aloha…Hawaii! (In Celebration of Brotherhood Week Feb. 21 – 28)
  2. Are You a Good Neighbor?
  3. Are You a Litter-Bug?
  4. Are You a Silent Witness?
  5. The Atom, Servant of Man
  6. Be a Good Citizen (Superman)
  7. Be Sure of Your Facts (Buzzy)
  8. Be Your Own Boss!
  9. Be Yourself, Your Best Self! (Buzzy)
  10. Bem Shows Up!
  11. The Best Present of All! (Binky)
  12. The Big Dance
  13. Bike Safety = Bike Fun
  14. Binky’s Special Election Exhibit (Binky)
  15. Builders of the Future!
  16. Buzzy Gets Tips on Choosing a Profession!
  17. Buzzy Has the Answer to School Blues!
  18. Buzzy Learns About Careers in Nursing
  19. Buzzy Scores One for the Handicapped!
  20. Buzzy Scoffs at “That Deep Dark Secret!”
  21. Buzzy’s “Famous Books” Quiz
  22. Buzzy’s Rules of Water Safety!
  23. Carelessness is No Joke! (Peter Porkchops)
  24. The Case of the Careless Camper! (Peter Porkchops)
  25. Champs Against the Odds!
  26. Children of Tomorrow!
  27. Countdown on Excellence
  28. Danger: Prejudice at Work!
  29. A Date with Effie
  30. Do-It-Yourself Safety Rules!
  31. Do You Know How to be a Good Baby-Sitter? (Buzzy)
  32. Do You Know Your Neighbors? (Buzzy)
  33. Do You Make Life Hard For Yourself?
  34. Do You Know What’s Behind a Law?
  35. Do You Know Your Neighbors?
  36. Don’t Give Fire a Place to Start! (Superboy)
  37. Don’t Sell Nature Short!
  38. Earn While You Learn!
  39. The Family Favorite!
  40. Family Projects Can Be Fun! (Binky)
  41. Formula For Success
  42. The Flushing Remonstrance
  43. Formula for Success!
  44. Fred Finds a Way!
  45. Free Speech — Free for All! (Buzzy)
  46. Friends Across the Seas
  47. From Many Lands
  48. Get a Box Seat to Nature’s Wonders! (Buzzy)
  49. Get a Grip on Your Gripes!
  50. Get Hip to Old Folks
  51. Get Your Ticket to the Treasury of Books!
  52. Gifts From Your Elders!
  53. Gifts to the United Nations!
  54. Give and Take
  55. Give Your Pet All the Breaks! (Binky)
  56. Give Your Town a Present (Superboy)
  57. The Golden Rule
  58. Happy Hobby Time (Superboy)
  59. Health Myths Debunked!
  60. Healthy Teeth for You and Your Pet! (Binky)
  61. The Hip Way to Learn!
  62. Home Sweet Home (Leave it to Binky)
  63. Honesty is the Best Policy!
  64. Hop on the Welfare Wagon (Superman)
  65. How a Nation is Born: Your United Nations at Work
  66. How Are Your Shopping Manners?
  67. How Not to Enjoy a Vacation!
  68. How Safe is Your Driving?
  69. How to Make New Friends (Binky)
  70. How to Spend a Summer Week
  71. How’s Your Eye-Q?
  72. The Invisible Handicap!
  73. It’s Fun to Belong! (Binky)
  74. It’s Fun to Help Others! (Superboy)
  75. It’s Fun to Learn!
  76. It’s Fun to Serve!
  77. It’s Smart to Check and Double-Check (Superman)
  78. Job Counselor (Superboy)
  79. Justice for All Includes Children (Note at bottom of page differs: “Published as a public service by National Periodical publications, Inc. in Cooperation with the National Center for Juvenile Justice, The Research Division of the National Council of Juvenile Court Judges.”)
  80. Keep Learning – the Key to Success!
  81. The Key to Success (Buzzy)
  82. Know Your Community (Binky)
  83. Know Your Country! (Superboy)
  84. Know Your Pet!
  85. Learn from Your Hobbies!
  86. Leave it to Binky: “Good Neighbor Spirit”
  87. Lend a Friendly Hand! (Superman)
  88. Let Science Serve You!
  89. Look to the Stars!
  90. Lost, a Free Education (Leave it to Binky) The Magic Card!
  91. Make Your Summer Count!
  92. A Message from Otto the Robot!
  93. Mystery of the Million-Dollar Briefcase!
  94. Natural Beauty- Everybody’s Fight
  95. Nature’s Bill of Rights
  96. Names Do Hurt
  97. Nature’s Prize Pupil
  98. Never Underestimate A New Idea! (Binky)
  99. New Stars for Old Glory
  100. Not Wanted: High School Dropouts!
  101. Our American Heritage
  102. Parents Have Rights, Too!
  103. Peace on Earth
  104. Pennies for UNICEF! (Superman)
  105. People Are People! (Superman)
  106. Pioneers of 1976! (Binky)
  107. Play it Safe!
  108. The Policeman Is Your Friend!
  109. The Red Feather Kid (The Green Arrow)
  110. The Right to Be Different!
  111. Rx Against Accidents!
  112. Safety First — All Year!
  113. Salute to Courage
  114. A Salute to Our American Indians!
  115. Salute to Our Fellow Citizens in Puerto Rico!
  116. The Secret of the Happy Pig!
  117. Sharing — the United Nations Way!
  118. Smoking is for Squares!
  119. Special Christmas Quiz – Christmas in Many Lands
  120. Start the Day Off Right! (Buzzy)
  121. Superboy discovers A New Kind of Junior Sport!
  122. Superboy says “Share With Others”
  123. Superboy talks about…”The Holiday Spirit”
  124. Superman shows how UNICEF Spells Help for the Children of the World
  125. The Team’s the Thing! (Leave it to Binky)
  126. Teddy Roosevelt, Guardian of Nature
  127. There May Be a Career in Health for You! (Buzzy)
  128. Time Out For Talk
  129. Tips on Camping! (Binky)
  130. Tips on Summer Fun! (Peter Porkchops)
  131. Touchdown for Picasso!
  132. A Tree Grows on Second Street!
  133. United Nations Day, October 24th
  134. Wanted: A Teen-Age Code
  135. Wanted: a Pal!
  136. Wanted: Safe Bus Riders
  137. Water: A Good Friend or Deadly Enemy — Depending on You!
  138. Welcome Amigo! (Binky)
  139. What Are YOU Getting Out of School? (Buzzy)
  140. What Do YOU Know About Other People” (Binky)
  141. What’s Wrong With These Pictures?
  142. What’s Your B.Q.*? (*Brotherhood Quotient)
  143. Winter Sports Champions of the World
  144. Work Can Be Fun!
  145. Worldwide Adventures in Science!
  146. You Get What You Vote For! (Buzzy)
  147. Your Free Trip Around the World!
  148. Your Pass to New Worlds!
  149. Your United Nations at Work!

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Anderson, L. M. (2017). National Social Welfare Assembly comics project. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved from http://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/organizations/national-social-welfare-assembly-comics-project/

 

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