Secret scars of the Greatest Generation: Carol Tyler on You’ll Never Know
Because World War II is generally regarded as “the Good War”; because, even in the face of the firebombing of Tokyo and Dresden, the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the alliance with, and subsequent awarding of Eastern Europe to, the rapacious, murderous regime of Josef Stalin, it’s still pretty clearly a good thing that the side that won, won; because it marked the ascension of America as the free world’s undisputed superpower; because, Pearl Harbor and internment camps aside, it wasn’t fought on American soil. Because of all that, it’s easy to forget that it was the most massively, horrifically violent rupture of civilization in all of human history, and that like less favorably viewed conflicts such as World War I, Vietnam and Iraq, any such blow to the world’s societal and moral fabric is going to have devastating consequences for decades or more to come.
This forgotten cost of the Second World War is discussed provocatively in “CBR writer Alex Dueben’s interview with cartoonist Carol Tyler about her recent memoir You’ll Never Know, Book Two: Collateral Damage, which continues the story of her family she begun in Book One, A Good and Decent Man. This volume focuses on her father’s experiences in the War, and the emotional damage it inflicted, first on him and then, by extension, on Tyler herself. Money quote:
[Dueben:] This volume really makes the connection between this tough, stoic, can-do attitude and this cold, unemotional distance that your father had. What’s interesting is how that attitude has been elevated to this ideal in a way that’s really shaped all of us since. When you started working on this project, were you conscious of the idea that the defining moment for them and all of us since has been World War II?
[Tyler:] I have said that all along. I believe the damage leveled upon an entire generation of (primarily) men by WWII absolutely defined our Baby Boom generation. All that so called indulgence we’ve been accused of. Emotionally shut off children love hula-hoops! And drugs! Look at the bloody trail of bad relationships and general self-destructive behaviors we got into. Book I says, “I hurt you to harm your children.” This is the legacy of war.
Having been sucked in by war fever myself several years ago, I find myself more and more moved by accounts of how even the most well-intentioned conflicts make a rubble of countless human lives, both the ones taken and the ones scarred, physically, economically, or emotionally. I have reservations about Tyler’s comics, but she’s doing vitally important work.