Special Collections and Digital Initiatives 04.11.2017
The latest addition to Auraria Library Digital Collections is The Granada Pioneer, the official internee-run newspaper of Camp Amache. Our holdings consist of a straight run from October 1942 until March 1943. The paper itself was printed and distributed in Camp Amache every three days (sometimes more frequently) and had both English and Japanese-language text. The Granada Pioneer was essential in keeping Japanese American internees at Camp Amache up to date on the day-to-day events of camp, apprised of changes to camp regulations, and alerted to the release of "contraband" books.
The Granada Pioneer also featured a comic strip called "Lil' Neebo." The title is a shortening of the assignation "little Nisei boy." Nisei is the term given to persons of Japanese descent who were born in the United States, but whose parents were born in Japan. The comic features the eponymous Neebo, a young boy living in Camp Amache; Suzie Heby Lamar, a snake; Lil' Joe, a turtle; and Johnson the hare. The comic's creator, Chris Ishii (a former Disney employee) developed Lil' Neebo while held at the Santa Anita Assembly Center in California. He brought it with him when he was relocated to Camp Amache.
The comic poses some interesting dilemmas in characterization, as the Lil' Neebo drawing is obvious, and unfortunate, a caricature of Japanese Americans, but the creator was, himself, Japanese American. The narratives in the series are not all that different from those explored in comics like Dennis the Menace or even Donald Duck, but the context of being set in an internment camp and, literally, drawn by an effective prisoner of war, adds several layers of complexity to an otherwise benign work of comic art.