Superman, World War II, and Japanese-American experience

Superman makes an appearance in what looks (at first sight) like a Japanese print.

Roger Shimomura, Diary: December 12, 1941, 1980, acrylic on canvas, 127.6 x 152.4 cm (Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of the artist, © Roger Shimomura). A conversation with Dr. Sarah Newman, James Dicke Curator of Contemporary Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Dr. Beth Harris.

This Seeing America video was made possible by a generous grant from the Terra Foundation and the Alice L. Walton Foundation.


Go deeper:

This work at The Smithsonian American Art Museum

Shimomura’s website

Learn more about the role of Superman and other comic book heroes during World War II

Listen to actor and activist George Takei speak about his experiences as a child in an internment camp during World War II

Explore primary sources on the Japanese internment camps of the 1940s

Explore more primary sources on the Japanese internment camps of the 1940s

Learn more about Japanese culture and ukiyo-e prints in this online exhibition

Shimomura’s Diary – American Experience in the Classroom (The Smithsonian American Art Museum)

An American Diary: Artist talk with Roger Shimomura (The Smithsonian American Art Museum)

Smithsonian Learning Lab collection on Japanese American Internment, Propaganda, and Superheroes

Cite this page as: Dr. Sarah Newman, Smithsonian American Art Museum and Dr. Beth Harris, "Superman, World War II, and Japanese-American experience," in Smarthistory, October 16, 2019, accessed March 3, 2024,