Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Obscurity of the Day: Stars in Service
During World War II our government issued a lot of patriotic material to newspapers, quite a bit of which was in cartoon form. From the U.S. Treasury Department came a number of features whose message was for newspaper readers to buy war bonds.
One of those features was Stars in Service, a panel series highlighting famous people who were serving in the armed forces. The root message was that if these famous folks can put their lives on the line, surely you, Mister and Mrs. America, can at least buy some bonds to support the war effort.
The series was drawn by veteran sports cartoonist Alan Maver, who drew for King Features for close to half a century. Naturally given Maver's specialty, the lion's share of the Stars in Service subjects ended up being sports figures.
As with most features issued by the government, Stars in Service would have been issued in batches to newspapers. Editors were free to run them when and as often as they wished. They were great items to fill holes, and for smaller papers they were welcome free substitutes for the comic strips and panels they could barely afford.
As best I can tell, the Stars in Service series was first issued to newspapers around April 1943. It's tough to determine just how many were issued, or if there were multiple batches issued over time, but I've not seen a tremendous number of different panels, so perhaps just 30 or so in all?
The samples that are shown above are sort of interesting. They come from the Waukesha County Tribune, which was evidently so short on material to run in their paper that they scratched out the word "WAR" on these panels and ran them after the end of World War II. I wonder how many of the stars profiled were casualties by then? (I checked on the two fellows above -- they came through unscathed.)