Every night, when I’m not reading my new book until my book literally falls out of my hands as I fall asleep, I read comics. At first, as I read through the comics you saw nothing of the current Pandemic. Then slowly they started to trickle in. Of course, political comics wrote about it earlier, but they have a much shorter lead time. As I scrolled through the comments, because I’m a glutton for punishment and seem to enjoy the pain of people turning it into an “I hate your side more!” flame war, someone mentioned this could be a great time capsule for future historians. This got me thinking of a fun history lesson by looking at comics from the 1918 Spanish Flu and today’s response, a Pandemic and Pop Culture lesson.
(I’ll probably throw an affiliate link in here somewhere)
First, what was the 1918 Spanish Flu?
The Spanish flu didn’t originate in Spain. It was a Spanish newspaper that first blew open the story, so it became called the Spanish flu.
From 1918-1920 the Spanish flu killed about 5% of the world population, it’s estimated to be about 50 million people.
While there wasn’t the complete shutdown we have now, there were a lot of similarities between how local governments reacted and how we are reacting now.
Cities started to require wearing masks, many cities shut down large groups. I’ve read conflicting reports on whether churches were shut down in some cities.
I’ve even read a few reports of cities shutting down the roads into their towns and turning people away.
Of course, sometimes it was the reverse and someone was instead warning people away because it was a plague town and too many people were sick.
Pandemic and Pop Culture of 1918
I went through the sites I’m going to link as resources and looked up some public domain pictures and comics to put together a series of comics and pictures from the 1918 Spanish Flu and how everyone reacted to it.
It’s interesting how much things stayed the same.
It’s also interesting how different some things are.
Resources where I found 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic and Pop Culture Comics and Pictures
- The Spanish Flu in Comics in 1918
- Soccer and the Flu Pandemic comics
- Single Spanish Flu Comic
- Spanish Flu Pandemic Pictures
Pandemic and Pop Culture today
These are all my very amateur pictures. It’s things I noticed and took pictures of, so the picture quality isn’t great, I’m sure you have some of your own you could use for this Pandemic history lesson
I then printed off a collection of comics from today. Since these are under copyright, I’m not going to put them in the printable. It is fair use for me to print them off and let my kids use them for a history lesson. Especially since it’s the equivalent of cutting out my local newspaper and taping them to my refrigerator.
Did anyone else do that when you still got newspapers?
My high school and college scrapbooks are filled with comics I cut out that made me laugh. So are the kids baby books. When I was pregnant with my twins, one of the comics I read, Jump Start, had the mother pregnant with twins. Sadly her pregnancy went on much longer than mine.
Actually, I’m not sad about that, I don’t want to be pregnant for over a year.
Oh and all those comics I printed out are going in my sadly neglected Pandemic Journal (because I’m terrible at keeping a consistent journal)
The Pandemic and Pop Culture printable I made
Usually, I stick my printables right away into my Subscriber page (get access to hundreds of printables when you join my Newsletter), but I’m putting this out here because it was only a couple of minutes to put it together.
Here are links to the current Pandemic comics I printed off
I love to read comics, they’re a great way for me to relax as I go to sleep. I suffer from insomnia, and it adds a routine to help my mind shut down.
- Pearls Before Swine– what started this all off
- Robert Ariail
- Clay Bennett
- Non Sequitor
- Frank and Ernest
- Joe Heller
I’d also say, you could easily just do the modern pandemic just based off of the memes we’ve shared.
I mean that’s about half of my Facebook feed right now, and I’m certainly saving a whole slew of them.
What I’m doing with this Pandemic and Pop Culture lesson
I’ve got a couple of different ideas:
First, just a great discussion as we compare the two sets. I didn’t bother taking pictures of what people look like now. I did take lots of pictures of empty store shelves. EMPTY shelves It’s kind of amazing. I wonder if because they actually have to pay for the film and developing it if they only took pictures they thought were truly important. So maybe they didn’t think the state of the shelves were important.
Pick a theme and discuss or write a timed essay. This theme is masks. I have about half a dozen mask memes on my Facebook. I really should have printed them out for this. However, these three examples make for an interesting assortment.
In the top is a satirical comic from 1918 on how masks have impacted society. Next to it is a Dilbert comic. Dilbert is mostly keeping to his usual style comics with the addition of masks, and the occasional joke about how masks have changed things. Like makeup.
Finally, a sports game, with a stadium full of people wearing masks.
This could be a fun essay.
Sometimes the comics offer political AND social commentary. I wish I knew more about the politics of 1918. It would give me a better idea of where these people stood and the subtle digs that comics written for fun are putting in there.
Those of us living through the Coronavirus pandemic have a whole subtext of the Pandemic and Pop Culture that historians a 100 years from now won’t understand.
I feel like that right now as I look at the 1918 Spanish Flu. I’m missing some Pandemic and Pop Culture subtext. Why is this a big deal when they say a line?
I’m curious, how would you do this Pandemic and Pop Culture lesson?