Tag Archives: James M. Flagg

THE TOP SEVEN REASONS WHY UNCLE SAM SUCKS. (The comic character, not the country!!)

Happy Fourth of July.

BEFORE YOU READ FURTHER, PLEASE NOTE:  The following blog post deals exclusively with the comic book character UNCLE SAM, and not the concept of America, their government, or their people.   I kind of like Prezzie Obama, adore many American citizens, and consider the Constitution of the United States the greatest instrument of human freedom ever created.  So up front, I’m down with my American brothers.

But I just can’t help it.  Whenever I see the comic book character UNCLE SAM, I just want to punch him in the face.

Let the punching begin!

Here now, are the…

TOP SEVEN REASONS WHY UNCLE SAM SUCKS

(The COMIC BOOK CHARACTER, not the Country!)

1-HE IS A CREEPY ZOMBIE / GHOST.

The punching continues.

When the character first appeared (created by WILL EISNER for Quality Comics in the forties) he was presented as the spirit of America, joined “as one” with the ghost of a slain Civil War soldier, and using the bodies of other slain soldiers as a physical vehicle to travel around in.

Let's "join as one", pal. There's nothing gay about it, if we're dead.

That makes him a zombie in my book, or a creepy half zombie version of Deadman’s ghost who “inhabits” other dead guys.  A handsome zombie in a top-hat, sure, but a stinking zombie at his core.  Would you let your sister date one?

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2- UNCLE SAM IS A PATHETIC LOSER.

If she had really died in this issue, it would have been his fault, trust me. Everything around him turns to crap in the Seventies.

When DC Comics bought the Quality characters, and gave them their own DC debut in “Crisis On Earth-X” a crossover appearance in the Justice League of America  (Volume !, #106 and 107), the world of Quality Comics was depicted as a place where America (and Russia and England presumably) never defeated the Axis forces, and the war raged on until the Seventies. That means in a world where Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters WERE around, the allies couldn’t defeat an enemy that was soundly defeated in a world where Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters WEREN’T around.  That makes  Sam and the Freedom Fighter the deciding factor that caused the Allies to lose  Earth-X.  That’s not me talking, that’s science.

Help us, DC heroes. On our own, we make things much worse!

And in All Star Squadron, issues #31-32, ol Uncle Sam and the gang cannot stop the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Defeated heroes beaten senseless when it REALLY matters? You can bet Uncle Sam was on the job...

Sorry Uncle Sam, but what good are you?  Ya  crappy, loser, zombie–

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3- UNCLE SAM LOOKS A LOT LIKE A TRAITOR TO THE UNITED STATES:

Though Uncle Sam has been interpreted by many artists, to the general public, his iconic image was painted best by JAMES M. FLAGG for the World War I recruitment poster that says “I WANT YOU” and THAT is the version that has been used for the comic book version by both Quality and DC.

No question about it, that's an inspiring image.

Flagg claims he based the poster’s face for Uncle Sam on his own face, adding age, and gray hair.  That may be true, but whether he intended it or not, the face, the beard, the haircut…all created a dead ringer for JEFFERSON DAVIS, President of the Confederate States during the Civil War.

Whoops.

Flagg was born in New York, so it’s unlikely he intended this to happen, and he DOES bear a resemblance to his Uncle Sam character, but accident or not, recruitment was disproportionately higher in the South during  World War I, when the poster was first used.   To many in the South, the image was not an accident.

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4- HE WAS CREATED BY EVIL OCCULT MAGIC

Don't you feel all "patriot-y" now?

According to a wonderful run of the 90s Spectre, not only is DC Comics’ Uncle Sam a serial zombie/loser/accidental image of a traitor, traveling in the various corpses of American patriots, but he was originally summoned up by occult forces during the country’s birth -  forces wielded by unnamed representatives of the thirteen colonies, a group that is suggested to have included a founding father or two .  Now, personally, I think that’s cool, but it is a real kick in the religi-nards to any god-fearing citizen who ever believed in the spirit of Christian America.   The comics are worth reading if you’ve got the time ( Spectre #37-50 by Ostrander and Mandrake).

More chest-swelling, flag-salutin' feelings of pride from the Spectre.

Special NOTE:  This run of the Spectre included a scene where Uncle Sam’s spirit talisman briefly manifested itself as a super-hero called the PATRIOT or EAGLE MAN or SUPER-AMERICA-PUNCHFACE, I can’t remember and I’m not going to look it up…but he did wear a contender for the ugliest super-hero costume ever created.

O say, can you see this funky ass costume I'm stylin'?

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5- UNCLE SAM NEARLY KILLED ALEX ROSS’ CAREER

Please don't pee on me, and can I have some money?

Though he had previously done the Terminator comic for Now ComicsAlex Ross got his first big break with MARVELS, (1994) a HUGELY popular series about the Marvel Universe seen through the eyes of a photo-journalist.  The series made writer KURT BUSIEK into a household name.    Alex’s next big project, KINGDOM COME, (1996) was huge, and solidified Ross’ place as the A-list of his time, and solidified the career of writer MARK WAID, who has remained huge ever since.

Alex’s third big project was UNCLE SAM.

From beggar to burning in hell. The feel-good story is often politely referred to as "experimental".

The story, about a drunken, homeless Uncle Sam feeling stomach turning levels of guilty because of his country’s history of misbehavior, sold next to no copies, is rarely discussed, and literally DID kill the career of marvelous writer Steve Darnall, who has not worked in comics since. (This series is so ignored by the fans, if you go to the UNCLE SAM wiki-page, you’ll find that no one has uploaded an image of the cover or any interior page).   Steve Darnall is a wonderful creative person,  with a great speaking voice and the best Christmas cards in the world, but even he could not escape the curse this miniseries was to retailers who over-ordered it by the truckload.  (Full disclosure, I know and adore Steve, and thought this series was EXCELLENT!)

Uncle Sam prepares to defecate all over the career of Alex Ross and Steve Darnall--the bombing metaphor is obvious.

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6- HE’S CORRUPTED, or SOMETHING?

I’m not sure what it was in reference to, but in Final Crisis #4, Alan Scott is looking at a monitor screen, trying to decide who can help him fight Darkseid, and Uncle Sam seems to be off the list because he’s CORRUPTED–  I have to  confess, I read this series with growing disinterest, and shrinking attention span, and I know I  missed something….but any way you stack it, is being “corrupted” ever a good thing?  Someone let me know what this was about…?

If I'd paid any attention to the story, I'd probably know what this meant. Blame my late nights working, and my addiction to dentist-grade ether.

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7-THE CONCEPT OF UNCLE SAM IS PLAGIARIZED FROM BRITISH IDEAS IN THE FIRST PLACE.

"I beat that SAM fellow into print by a century. The lad is naught but a common thief!"

Relatively speaking, Uncle Sam is a newcomer to the world of national symbols, and he’s clearly based on the much older British personification character named JOHN BULL, created by John Arbuthnot in 1712 ( a hundred years before Uncle Sam existed).  And the female symbol of Britain, Britannia, had been around in one form or another since ROMAN times!

Suck on that, baby country, America.

The Germans had Germania.

When are THESE gals getting a Justice League? (No one take that idea, okay, I've had it for years!)

and of course, the Chinese had MR. CHING-CHONG, THE RACIST BUFFOON

Do Yankees and Engrishmen want flied lice? Me likee imperialism.

And as for getting there late, there was already a national symbol in human form.  Lady Columbia was America’s symbol for YEARS before Uncle Sam.  Dressed a lot like him too.

The name “Uncle Sam”, by the way, comes from a government contractor named Samuel Wilson (yes, that’s where Captain America’s partner, the Falcon, gets his name) who supplied meat products to the army during the war of 1812.  Soldiers started making the joke that every meal marked “U.S.” was a gift from “Uncle Sam” and the phrase stuck as a synonym for the letters ever since.  The guy in the stars and stripes top hat stole this meat packing guy’s name.  Another bit he just lifted from someone else…sigh.

But back to the “character” of Uncle Sam, and his iconic, American attitude.

John Bull is there first, yet again--Recruiting for the BRITISH army in the GREAT WAR.

If you think that pose looks familiar, you’re right, it was taken from a far better known recruitment poster created a couple of years earlier:

Oh no. Was ANYTHING to do with Uncle Sam original?

This recruitment poster, from 1914 depicted Britain’s Secretary of War, Lord Herbert Kitchener, looking  to fight the Germans in 1914.  The image (by artist Alfred Leete) worked very well, as over three million men signed up.  In fact, this poster was such a hit, it inspired many direct copies, used in many different cultures for years to come.  The one with John Bull (above) was the copy used in Britain just three years later.  The American one we all know.

Here was the Russian one, to join the White Army.

I VANT YOU-SKI

Here was the Nazi one, used to recruit Frenchmen to join the S.S. cause, if you can believe it.

Ve haff ways of making you want us.

Here’s the Commie recruitment poster used to recruit Commies to the collective Commie farms.

We want you to want to be part of us, Kommerade

And of course, the most famous version of all…

I think this one was originally Russian, as bears in hats all come from there.

To be fair, Uncle Sam can’t complain about all these people using his famous pose.  It’s not like it’s his in the first place, lousy plagiarist.

Uncle Sam, you are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent, ya thieving-zombie-foreigner loser!

I just want to finish on this note.  I don’t really mind that Uncle Sam is an amalgam of other images.  So is Batman, and Superman, and a lot of characters I love.  But with the DC version of Uncle Sam, we’ve been handed an amalgam of images that turn out to be a creepy, unpopular zombie loser, who fails his friends and his country on a continuous basis.  I have no idea why the creators at DC keep doing this to the character.  Maybe there’s something in their hearts that makes him fun to kick around.  Maybe, they feel uncomfortable with a borrowed symbol of American war propaganda as a character of adventure fiction.    Truth to tell, I’d love to take a crack at the character.  As an outsider, I might even have a decent idea about what makes America great to the world, and could paste that spin over this very potent symbol.  Captain America is my hands-down favorite Marvel Character, after all…

It bugs me that I don’t like DC’s Uncle Sam as a character, when the country he’s supposed to represent has got such potential.

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Happy 4th of July, everybody.  And please don’t kick me in the teeth when you see me, I have children and I’m weak, and this was all in fun.

TY THE GUY.

PS: (Hey, I just noticed if you type 4th of july with the shift key on, it spells $TH OF JULY.  Does that mean anything?)

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