With the publication of The Winner on this site, I feel it is important to discuss the topic of racism and stereotypes in the stories and artwork of the early 20th century.

Non-white characters are rare in Greg and Jim stories, though heavy accents could be used in stories to depict immigrants. However, as I’ve gone through their collection of works spanning 30 years, there have been some modifications I’ve had to make, or I’ve made the decision not to reprint something at all. The most common issues I have encountered are depictions of Chinese and African Americans (or African Canadians).

In news reporting, Greg could repeat opinions of others (see Is the Modern Dance Killing Dancing?). The article was just too much for me to reprint. If I can edit out derogatory words, I do, such as the term “Chinamen” being the common descriptor for Chinese up until the 1930s.

In the comic strips by Jim, non-white characters are also rare. I can only see two depictions of Chinese in Birdseye Center, (both in 1932, as topical references after the Invasion of Manchuria).

Black characters rarely appear in the Greg-Jim stories. The most common depiction is as stable hands at the race track, such as Right Out of the Nose Bag (May 15, 1937). I have already decided not to publish one story because of the artwork that accompanies it. Chinese are depicted more regularly, with more sympathy for the Chinese after the Invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. This could have resulted in their depictions in a more positive light, despite stereotypical appearance and manners, with the joke more likely on Greg and Jim rather than the Chinese themselves. However, there are a few stories I would be reluctant to reprint, such as A Couple of Chinese Generals (March 18, 1933) or Stlip Poker (January 30, 1937). I suspect that Jim, like many artists, stopped using stereotypes after the Second World War as can be seen in his depiction of a porter in No More Tricks. It should also be noted, that his physical depictions early in his career were realistic as well (such as The Barber Shop, in 1920).

So, in summary, if I personally feel that depictions are “too much”, either in artwork or descriptions, I will not reprint it. If minor editing can fix the story, I will. I reprinted The Winner, not because I considered it acceptable, but because I wanted to engage in this topic for the readers of this site, and not “sweep it under the rug”.

For more information on racism and stereotypes in comics as a whole, see the article here.