One of the most important pop art artworks to come out of the sixties was actually one that was dedicated to war. Roy Lichtenstein studied art before serving in the U.S. Army for World War II. Although he served for the army, he worked as a draftsman in a non-combat role and never saw actually combat.
He began working in abstract expressionist art in the 50’s and 60’s and Whaam! Was made in 1963. It was adapted by a panel by Irv Novik from the “Star Jockey” story from issue No. 89 of DC Comics “All American Men of War”.
Whaam! shows a fighter aircraft in the left of the panel firing a rocket at an enemy plane in the right of the composition, which is in the midst of transforming into a vivid red-and-yellow explosion. The cartoon style is emphasized by the use of the lettering “WHAAM!” in the right panel, and a yellow-boxed caption with black text at the top of the painting. The textual exclamation “WHAAM!” can be considered the graphic equivalent of the sound the explosion in real life would make.
The painting takes from the comic style intentionally, as a representation of how warfare is perceived and portrayed to pop culture. Wham! exemplifies the kind of heroic and exciting persona that was transcending into pop culture, and use of vibrant comic style colors and text is a metaphor to this kind of perception of war. Whaam! was bought by the Tate Museum in London in 1966, and is still on display at the museum.