One of the most iconic images associated with the American holiday Thanksgiving is Norman Rockwell’s painting Freedom from Want. Painted by Rockwell in November 1942, it was published in the March 6, 1943 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. I am going to quote from Wikipedia here, and hopefully it’s accurate!
Freedom from Want, also known as The Thanksgiving Picture or I’ll Be Home for Christmas, is the third of the Four Freedoms series of four oil paintings by American artist Norman Rockwell. The works were inspired by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union Address, known as Four Freedoms.
The website Totally History offers the following analysis of the painting’s composition:
The painting depicts three generations of a family around a table at Thanksgiving. The father is standing at the head of the table as the mother is about to place a large turkey in front of him.
The opulence of the turkey is counterbalanced by the relative scarcity of other foods on the table and the presence of water as the only beverage.
Over the past 75 years Freedom From Want has been the subject of numerous homages and parodies, including within the comic book medium. For my tongue-in-cheek celebration of Thanksgiving this year, here are 10 of those images.
Probably one of the best well-known comic book covers to pay tribute to Freedom From Want is JSA #54 (Jan 2004) from DC Comics. Drawn by Carlos Pacheco & Jesus Merino, this cover features Superman and Power Girl serving Thanksgiving dinner to the Justice Society and Justice League. I am going to abstain from making any comments about “breast or leg” here, although the jokes do sort of write themselves. Sorry, Power Girl!
Nobody does political satire in comic books quite like the legendary Howard Chaykin. Here is a panel from American Flagg! #4 (Jan 1984) from First Comics, featuring one of the most dysfunctional Thanksgiving dinners you are likely to ever come across.
Hmmm, this turkey tastes a little funny. Ha ha ha… sorry, I just couldn’t help myself. Anyway, speaking of dysfunctional, not to mention just plain disturbing, here is the cover to Evil Clown Comics #4 by the late Alan Kupperberg from 1989. I’ve never found any physical copies of this series, but I believe that it collected together the Evil Clown Comics stories by Kupperberg that were published in National Lampoon.
A slightly less unsettling image is offered up on this variant cover to Garfield #7 (Nov 2012) published by Boom! Studios. I’m certain anyone who has ever had cats can identify with the danger of your feline companions attempting to make off with the Thanksgiving turkey. It’s certainly happened to us on a couple of occasions!
The talented and much-underrated Gordon Purcell offers up this lovely tribute to Rockwell on his cover for Flare #31 (Feb 2006) from Dennis Mallonee’s Heroic Publishing, which has been releasing fun, entertaining comic books since the mid 1980s.
Back in the early 1990s Marvel Comics had not one, but two ongoing Barbie comic book series, both of which lasted for several years. Both titles had some talented creators working on them. It was probably one of Marvel’s more successful efforts to reach a young female audience. Here’s the cover to Barbie Fashion #37 (Jan 1994) by Anna-Marie Cool & Jeff Albrecht.
Chase was one of those really good titles from the 1990s that unfortunately never really found an audience and was cancelled too soon. D. Curtis Johnson did some really great writing on this series. Cameron Chase had some serious family issues, so of course here we are flashing back to Thanksgiving of days past on the cover to issue #6 (July 1998). This striking image is by the superb team of J. H. Williams III & Mick Gray.
Good old MAD Magazine, always ready to skewer politics, pop culture and society! This send-up of The Saturday Evening Post is from issue #39, published waaaay back in May 1958. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a credit for the artist. Can anyone help out?
Update: As per the link helpfully provided by M.S. Wilson in the comments below, this piece was done by regular MAD contributors writer Tom Koch & artist Bob Clarke.
Marvel’s First Family celebrates Thanksgiving on the cover to Fantastic Four #564 (April 2009) by Bryan Hitch. I’m sure that, among the various things for which the Invisible Woman is thankful for this year, it’s that Reed Richards opted to slice up the turkey in the traditional manner, as opposed to inventing an Atomic Powered Turkey Carver which would have undoubtedly blown the roof off of the Baxter Building.
Let’s close things out with the cover to Betty #119 (Jan 2003) by Stan Goldberg & Bob Smith, which has the gang from Riverdale celebrating Thanksgiving, complete with Reggie Mantle’s usual snarky comments. I’m not absolutely certain if this cover is a specific homage to Rockwell, but it is certainly close enough. In any case, Archie Comics too often falls under the radar, which is too bad, since they have some really great art.
(This was by no means a comprehensive list, and a quick search of the internet will reveal many more tributes to Freedom From Want.)
2022 Update: I just came across this Freedom from Want homage drawn by Todd Nauck and colored by Rachelle Rosenberg last year as a variant cover for the now-classic Uncanny X-Men #308 which took place on Thanksgiving and saw Scott Summers & Jean Grey finally get engaged. I don’t know if this was physically published or just released digitally, but I really enjoy Todd’s work and it’s too cool not to share here.
This is the description Nauck gives for this piece on The Art of Todd Nauck on Facebook:
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
This is a variant cover I drew (with @rachellecheri on colors!) for an NFT of Uncanny X-Men #308 (1994) comic book exclusively for VeVe.
I hope everyone enjoyed this little selection of Thanksgiving-themed comic book artwork. Have a good holiday, and let’s all try to be thankful for for what we have, because there are a lot of people much less fortunate in the world.
3 thoughts on “Thanksgiving deja vu: comic book homages to Norman Rockwell”
Yeah, that’s a pretty iconic image, which could be said for a lot of Rockwell’s stuff. According to Doug Gilford’s Mad Cover Site (https://madcoversite.com/mad039.html) the Saturday Evening Pest was written by Tom Koch with art by MAD mainstay Bob Clarke.
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Thank you for the info!
Thanks again, Ben, wonderful stuff!!!
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