Whaam! is based on an image from 'All American Men of War' published by DC comics in 1962. Throughout the 1960s, Lichtenstein frequently drew on commercial art sources such
as comic images or advertisements, attracted by the way highly emotional subject matter could be depicted using detached techniques. Transferring this to a painting context, Lichtenstein
could present powerfully charged scenes in an impersonal manner, leaving the viewer to decipher meanings for themselves.
When we see Whaam!, the 1963 painting of a fighter jet and an exploding missile, we experience something similar to looking at any famous painting, such as Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon or Leonardo's Mona Lisa: it's hard to see the real painting before us rather than the accumulation of cultural meanings, not to mention the dollar signs now attached to these artists' work. Although he was careful to retain the character of his source, Lichtenstein also explored the formal qualities of commercial imagery and techniques. In these works as in 'Whaam!', he adapted and developed the original composition to produce an intensely stylish painting.
Image and Quote from TATE