The Cold War — when the United States and the Soviet Union spent a enjoyable few many years enjoying nuclear hen and attempting to steal international locations from one another — is justifiably remembered as a time of intense paranoia. Many comedian books of the interval replicate this reality.
But no folks and no period is a monolith: identical to right now, there have been loads of individuals who disagreed with the dominant ideologies. Some even had the braveness, the expertise, and the means to publicly problem prevailing narratives that justified and even inspired inconsiderate fearmongering.
Shock SuspenStories was revealed by EC Comics from 1952 to 1955. Many points comprise horror tales about, say, dissatisfied spouses murdering their companions in grisly but ironic methods. But a very good variety of tales confronted social points that nearly no different comedian at the time was keen to take care of. One of those is “The Patriots!” from Shock SuspenStories #2.
Our story takes place throughout a parade honoring Korean War troopers. One of the spectators notices a person who seems to be sneering at the troopers. Word shortly spreads amongst the spectators who, stuffed with righteous fury, assume the man is a awful commie. When an American flag is carried previous and the sneering man fails to take off his hat, the crowd beats him to dying. Great safety at this parade.
Now right here’s the twist: the man wasn’t sneering in any respect. He was in truth a Korean War vet who bought his face blown off, requiring surgical procedure that left him disfigured. Oh, and he’s blind, so he didn’t see the flag going by. OOPS.
Characters on this sequence are inclined to overreact anyway, therefore the excessive homicide fee. But on this case, it serves a objective. Shock SuspenStories was revealed at the top of the Red Scare, when careers and lives have been routinely destroyed by unfounded rumors, uncontrolled worry, and blatant prejudice perpetrated by people and teams claiming to be patriots. One instance of this comes from 1952, when Hollywood had come underneath blistering fireplace from the federal authorities. Many creatives have been dragged earlier than Congress as suspected communists. They have been then blacklisted and even jailed for refusing to cooperate with what they noticed as an infringement on their proper to free speech. Others, like future president Ronald Reagan, turned snitch and added to the hysteria. “The Patriots!” is an apparent rebuke of such mob mentality.
It wasn’t the solely time this comedian handled the Cold War. “In Gratitude…” (see what they did there?) from Shock SuspenStories #11 tackled one other ’50s drawback that Americans didn’t wish to acknowledge: racism. A Korean warfare hero sends the corpse of his good friend — who sacrificed himself to save lots of the hero’s life — to his hometown for an honorable burial. When the hero will get residence, he’s horrified to find that the townspeople refused to permit his good friend, who’s Black, to be buried of their cemetery. The story ends with the hero utilizing his personal welcome residence rally to chew out the townspeople after which breaking down in tears.
This could appear hokey right now. But in an period when Korean War comics refused to acknowledge Black folks in any respect — and when arguing for equal rights was nonetheless thought of a communistic concept — it was downright revolutionary.
This isn’t actually the level of this text, however I’d be remiss if I didn’t observe that the key character in every of those tales is disabled: the murdered man in “The Patriots!” is blind and disfigured, and the warfare hero from “In Gratitude…” misplaced an arm to the identical grenade that killed his buddy. In each circumstances, the incapacity is used to emphasise how mistaken everybody else is: the violent spectators and the townspeople all bought to sit down comfortably at residence whereas these males bought blown to items, and that is the way you deal with them? I’m inclined to present “In Gratitude…” a move, since the disabled man is the protagonist and will get to do stuff, however “The Patriots!” has no such mitigating circumstance. Their use of incapacity as a prop for delivering the story’s ethical exhibits the limits of EC’s liberality: killing disabled folks to additional another person’s agenda shouldn’t be a very good look.
EC Comics was pushed out of enterprise in 1956 after the proprietor’s disastrous Senate testimony, which led to the firm being condemned for goriness and common dangerous style. An ironic finish for a corporation that railed in opposition to precisely such a witch hunt habits — and doubly ironic, since irony was their inventory in commerce.
The Cold War could also be over, however the scare techniques it popularized have been too helpful to surrender. In October 2021, when DC changed Superman’s slogan of “truth, justice, and the American way” with “truth, justice, and a better tomorrow,” the of us at Fox News flipped their gourds, with one disingenuously demanding, “What ‘way’ should we have, the communist China way?” A month later, when a Muppet dared to counsel vaccines are good truly, Republicans once more whipped out the C phrase of their denunciations.
We could snigger at the heavy-handedness of Shock SuspenStories, however their message is evergreen. If we don’t take it to coronary heart, we’d find yourself with one other indignant mob seeing communists the place there are none and killing anybody who will get in the method…oh, wait.