FACT CHECK: Did A 1957 Comic Strip Reference A ‘China Virus’?

Hannah Hudnall | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook purportedly shows a comic strip created in 1957 that references a “China Virus.”

Verdict: False

The words “China Virus” have been digitally superimposed onto the comic. The original text does not include the term.

Fact Check:

The terms “China virus” and “Wuhan virus” have been used by some Americans, including former President Donald Trump, as a way to reference the COVID-19 virus, an allusion to the virus’ origins in Wuhan, China. A number of China experts have said the terms are xenophobic and contributed to a rise in discriminatory attacks against Asian-Americans, according to The New York Times.

A post shared on Facebook alleges the term “China virus” has been in circulation for decades, showing a comic strip in which a character instructs another character to tie a cloth across his face through a speech bubble that reads, “Tie it on as I do. This will protect you from the ‘China Virus’ in the valley.” Text included in the post alleges the comic was published in 1957.  (RELATED: Does Spongebob Squarepants’ Address Correspond To A Theme Park On Jeffrey Epstein’s Island?)

Through an internet search, Check Your Fact was able to determine the comic pictured is an altered version of a genuine 1957 comic strip titled, “The Phantom.” The unaltered version of the comic can be found in a 1957 news clipping from the newspaper the Courier-Post, where it shows the same comic in black and white. The speech bubble in question in the Courier-Post version of the comic reads, “Tie it on as I do. This will protect you from the ‘Sleep Death’ in the valley.” It makes no mention of the “China virus,” which appears to have been superimposed onto the comic where it read “Sleep Death.”

The comic strip series “The Phantom” was created in 1936 by Lee Falk and Ray Moore, and focused on a masked hero who had no superpowers, according to a collection of their work published in 2018 titled, “The Phantom: The Complete Newspaper Dailies 1956-1957.” The work was highly popular and was the basis of the 1996 movie “The Phantom,” according to The Guardian.

Hannah Hudnall

Fact Check Reporter


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