Superheroes Fighting Nazis: Entertainment Since 1941
Let’s start this out with some blunt words: the Nazis are back. Numerous groups are now brazenly spreading their points of view, or committing acts of violence. This also has corresponded to a rise in hate crimes nationwide. What’s worse, they now have a foothold in fandom. This ranges from comics glorifying them to very popular YouTube channels.
With them causing a fracas in fandom, what are we to do? Well, thankfully most of the industry has a dim view of them as well. More importantly, the industry has a history of having the heroes punch Nazis in the face. We at Word of the Nerd would now like to celebrate this grand tradition by showing off our favorite moments of heroes kicking Nazi butt.
Captain America #1: The Comic that Started it All
It is 1941. World War II is raging in Europe. In New York, Jewish comic creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby are trying to think of a new feature for Timely Comics. Taking inspiration from the events around them, they create Captain America. This super soldier was created to do one thing: kill, or at least maim, Nazis. There was one hitch: the United States wasn’t at war with Germany, and there were Nazi sympathizers everywhere. But Timely decided to run it anyways.
Debuting a year before the US entered the war, Captain America #1 had Cap punching Hitler square on the jaw. It was a sensation and was a major seller. However, Nazi sympathizers sent death threats to Simon and Kirby to the point that Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia offered a police guard.
Kirby, a hater of Nazis if there ever was one, even charged into the lobby to fight Bund members who arrived to start a fight. The Nazi sympathizers apparently fled before Kirby got there. However, the cover of the comic became a morale booster and made people want to be the one to punch Hitler out.
Superman Takes Out Hitler and Stalin
Our next entry originally didn’t even appear in a comic. In a special two page comic for Look magazine, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had an idea. That idea: how Superman could end World War II by himself. It basically has Superman taking out not only Hitler but a then-neutral Josef Stalin. Supes captures the two despots and brings them before the League of Nations to stand trial for their crimes.
This article angered numerous Nazi officials, who attacked Siegel as “an intellectually and physically circumcised chap.”
This wouldn’t be the only time Superman would fight the Nazis. For example, the cover of Superman #17 has Superman dangling Hitler and Hirohito by their shirt collars. It was one of numerous patriotic covers throughout World War II. However, the comics themselves never touched on the war itself. DC Editorial felt it would be insulting if the heroes wrapped up the war in an afternoon, only for it to continue on in reality.
Raphael Punches Out Hitler
In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #64, the Turtles use a time-slip device to travel back in time to stop Hitler. Unfortunately, the device is powered by Hitler’s brain so it can be put into a robot body and…comics. A big fight breaks out, and it’s Raphael who gets to wham on Der Führer. While his brothers take out the robot, Raph takes on the real Hitler. Shouting “FOR THE MILLIONS!”, Raphael cleans Hitler’s clock, delivering a right hook of justice.
Even the Joker Hates Nazis
In John Byrne’s DC/Marvel crossover with Batman and Captain America, it’s someone else who gets the spotlight. Throughout the comic, which is set as a period piece, Joker has teamed up with the Red Skull. Throughout the story, Joker thinks the Skull’s Nazi clothes and henchmen are just an act. When he finds out that it’s not a joke, his tune changes. He pushes the two heroes aside shouting “I may be a criminal lunatic, but I’m an American criminal lunatic!” He then proceeds to fight the Skull, wielding his toxin against the Nazi’s own chemical weapons.
Nightwing Kicks Nazi Butt on Principle
In Nightwing #24 (pre-New 52), Dick Grayson is trying to solve a cold case for a regular at the bar he works at. The last words of the murder victim: “Boy with no hair.” So, naturally, Nightwing decides to first interrogate some Neo-Nazis who make their hangout in the area. The Nazis aren’t impressed with him and open fire.
Nightwing begins to fight for his life, but remarks it is time to bring the Nazis down a peg. He becomes a one-man wrecking crew and ends up dangling the last man standing over a multicultural neighborhood. Nightwing toys with the Nazi, threatening to leave him at the mercy of the people who live there. In the end, he just leaves the guy on the roof. The story portrays every skinhead as a coward at heart.
Robin Saves a Synagogue
In Gotham Knights #32, we see a day in the life of Batman, as well as the various members of the Bat-family. Tim Drake, aka Robin, is where we have our focus. The Teen Wonder is fighting off Neo-Nazis who have defaced and attacked a Jewish temple. In one page, Tim easily takes down the rabble. He leaves them on the ground for the cops, but not without spraying the word “Losers” all over them.
Superman Saves Immigrants from Alt-Righter
I’ve gone into this in more detail here, but Action Comics #987 is the most recent story on this list. When Mr. Oz sends his plans into motion, it includes sending an unemployed right-wing radical to attack immigrants. Superman swoops in to block the bullets unleashed by the Neo-Nazi. He then breaks the gun and while not punching the man, he does proceed to verbally shatter him.
While this story was planned in advance, it arrived on shelves shortly after the Neo-Nazi riot in Charlottesville, as well as a massive debate on immigration. Right-wing media slammed the issue as an attack on them. Sites such as Fox News and Breitbart condemned the issue, calling Superman “Social Justice Supes.” However, sales were brisk, and plenty of people pointed out Superman was doing what Superman does. Dan Jurgens, who wrote the issue, had the final word:
The fact that a few people object to Superman saving innocent, unarmed people pretty much proves the point of the story, sad to say.
— Dan Jurgens (@thedanjurgens) September 14, 2017
Continuing a Grand Tradition
Nazis have been perennial bad guys since World War II. They were punched then, they are punched now, and they will likely be punched in the future. Superheroes will always be punching these human monsters who wish pain and suffering on most of humanity. In the end, the Nazis will lose, and heroes, like in the comics, will rise to punch them.
They might even be turned into a meme.
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