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Look Back: A Nation at War Learned the Magic of a Patch

This is "Look Back," a brand-new feature that I plan to do for at least all of 2019 and possibly beyond that (and possibly forget about in a week, who knows?). The concept is that every weekend (I'll probably be skipping the four fifth weeks in the year, but maybe not) of a month, I will spotlight a single issue of a comic book that came out in the past and talk about that issue in terms of a larger scale (like the series overall, etc.). Each week will be a look at a comic book from a different year that came out the same month X amount of years ago. The first weekend of the month looks at a book that came out this month ten years ago. The second weekend looks at a book that came out this month 25 years ago. The third weekend looks at a book that came out this month 50 years ago. The fourth weekend looks at a book that came out this month 75 years ago.

This week, we look at The Beano #222 from January 1944.

There is an apocryphal quote from Winston Churchill where he responded to a request to cut funding for the arts during World War II to help with the war effort that he wouldn't do that, as if they did that, “Then what are we fighting for?” That's not true, but it is fair to say that Churchill WAS a supporter of the arts. In 1938, he noted, “The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them….Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.”

Of course, saying that in 1938 and saying that in 1944 is a whole other thing. However, it is fair to say that the arts really ARE quite important during times of war, as they give the people something to distract themselves from the horrors of the war. There is a very good reason why superhero comics BOOMED during the war, as people wanted an escape.

Similarly, in England, the weekly humor magazine, The Beano, was a perfect example of giving the kids of England something to distract themselves from the war.

Interestingly, though, The Beano was reduced to a bi-weekly during the war due to paper rations. Still, the comics remained influential during the era. From a collection of stories about the war, one man recalled:

When we went to school you were not allowed to wear long trousers until you reached the age of 14, short trousers were the normal thing to wear, and when your backside became thread bare you would have the hole covered up with what we called ‘our jimmy and his magic patch’, named from one of the comics (Dandy or The Beano, not sure which). Nothing like kids of today, who have patches sewn on thinking its ‘cool’ - as they call themselves. If your patch came adrift slightly, the other lads would delight in pulling it off so your bare backside could be seen, laughing at your predicament. No underpants then, you had to sit in school until a repair could be done on them.

The character he is referring to is James and his Magic Patch.

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