GI Joe Writer Larry Hama Shares a Dismaying Marvel Story About Pearl Harbor and White Privilege
Brian Cronin
Today, on the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the day that "lived in infamy" and led the United States of America into joining World War II, legendary G.I. Joe writer and former Marvel editor Larry Hama shared a chilling piece of Marvel history related to longtime Marvel staffer Morris "Morrie" Kuramoto and how Kuramoto was treated every year on December 7th and why it should shape how we all view our own privilege.
Hama explained, "Every year, on this day, the old hands in the Marvel bullpen would rag supposedly “good-natured” Morris Kuromoto about dive-bombing Pearl Harbor. I’ve heard many a bull-penner remark about what a “good sport” he was about it. It wasn’t until after he passed that they found out that he was a vet of the 442nd Infantry Combat Team, and that he slogged through Italy, France and Germany with one of the most decorated units in WWII. He never talked about his combat experience while his family was locked behind barbed wire, nor did he complain about the discrimination he faced before and after the war. "
Hama ended his post by making the point, "Put yourself in his shoes, and then re-examine you privilege quotient."
Kuramoto first started work as a letterer and production artist at Marvel in the 1950s, before the company got rid of most of its staff in a downturn in 1957. In the late 1960s, Kuramoto returned to Marvel and remained on staff until he sadly died of a heart attack on the way to work one day in 1985.
Longtime Marvel letterer Rick Parker has shared a similar version of the story in the past, regarding a time that Kuramoto finally did snap back, "I remember that every December 7th, we would mercilessly tease the one Japanese co-worker we had in the Marvel Bullpen, a fellow by the name of Morrie Kuramoto. Cartoonist Marie Severin would annually do a hilarious cartoon of Morrie engaged in some type of war-like situation and we'd all gather 'round his desk when she presented the cartoon to him and we'd all have a good laugh... everyone, that is, except Morrie, who managed a tight-lipped smile or took a long drag on the Chesterfield King that hung permanently from his lips, making him look like some character in a B movie."
Eventually, though, Parker explained, "One year, though, when Marie had him piloting a plane and dropping bombs on the Empire State Building, he just couldn't take it anymore. That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. This time instead of bombs exploding, or peals of laughter bursting forth from the assembled multitude, it was Morrie who exploded. He really let us have it. We learned a lot that day." Parker then detailed the same facts that Hama noted above, leaving Parker to conclude, " We learned that there is often more to that co-worker sitting quietly in the corner doing his job, than we thought. We also learned that freedom is not something we can take for granted, even in America."
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