Sunday, February 20, 2011

People are People!

A few weeks ago at Greensburg's Pop Culture Connection, I stumbled upon a copy of Justice League of America #8, published in 1961, and bought it for a great price.  As is sometimes the case with comics that are 50 years old, I found the story to be a little goofy (the uncomfortable "Wonder Woman can be rendered powerless if you bind her tight" issue was brought up), but some of the ancillary material was pretty interesting.

Take the above advertisement - apparently purchased by the United Nations, of all places.  In its bold title it proclaims that "People are People!"  Despite sounding a bit redundant and a perhaps a precursor to Charlton Heston's famous line from the movie Soylent Green ("Soylent Green is PEEEEOPLEEE!"), I was impressed with this ad once I began to think about the context in which it was printed.

The 1960s were right in the middle of the Civil Rights movement, a real turning point for this country in reaction to the kind of prejudices that still existed despite the fact that the Civil War had been over for a century at this point.  To print an advertisement like this in a book marketed to millions of kids at a time in which racial tensions were at a boiling point showed savvy and guts on the parts of the UN as well as DC Comics.  While the six-panel comic and its message might seem a little obvious (in a "how can this not be an accepted way of thinking" kind of way) 50 years later, I can only imagine what it took to produce and print something as potentially incendiary at the heart of the struggle for equal rights.

The issue also gives us this gem, brought to you by the makers of Science:

First off, this advertisement makes the abstract concept of science seem rather antagonistic: "What's that, kids?  You think cold water pipes freeze faster than hot water pipes?  Well GUESS WHAT?!  SCIENCE says you're wrong!  Eat it, children."

For more reasons than that, though, this is a strange ad...or whatever it purports to be...because it's difficult for me to believe that there was ever great debate surrounding any of these subjects.  I can't see that one person ever said to another: "The vibrations of a fly's wings alone make its familiar buzzing sound!"  While another replied: "Hogwash!  The buzzing is created by its wings IN ADDITION to the exceedingly rapid vibrations of its thorax!", at which time the two must have decided to settle the dispute by blowing holes in each other.

Beyond this rather flippant observation, I'm not convinced that all of the science reported here is entirely correct - if nothing else, the wording is a little strange.  Science (the bastard) says you're wrong if you believe that the amount of oxygen in the blood controls how often you breathe.  Instead, it's the amount of carbon dioxide!  But...aren't the two amounts inversely connected?  In that a larger percentage of carbon dioxide implies a smaller percentage of oxygen, and vice versa, meaning that the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide control the number of breaths you take, and not simply one or the other?  Maybe I'm thinking of things improperly, which has been known to happen (if that's the case, perhaps a more science-minded reader can correct me), but it sounds to me like Science is splitting hairs.

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