Cold War comics that warn about communism

This is a small but rather interesting collection of privately-published propaganda comics warning Americans about the menace of communism. Most of these date back to the 1950s. Now relegated to the dustbin of history, back in their heyday, the publications probably did more to shape the hearts and minds of a generation than any scholarly treatise ever could.

It goes without saying that the inclusion of any comic book on this page doesn't constitute an endorsement or denouncement of the views presented in the publication. The comics are just fascinating and forgotten bits of historical curiosa that capture the zeitgeist of the era.

Some of the books were not previously imaged on the internet, so I had to scan them myself. Several others are pieced together from existing scans. Stars (⭐) denote publications that stand out in one way or another and are particularly worth checking out.

America Under Socialism (click to view) ⭐

Publisher: National Research Bureau (1950)
Scan source: Comics With Problems

A tale of factory workers led astray by entitlements and the promises of job security. Culminates in a communist takeover of the industry, food rationing, executions, and all that. One of several attempts to differentiate union labor and socialist movements in the US, presumably in recognition of the natural affinity of the two. The story starts off strong, but gets maybe a bit less coherent toward the end. Extremely rare and with a pretty remarkable cover. The artwork is otherwise pretty simple and the panels are fairly cramped, with lots of dialogue.

Blood is the Harvest (click to view) ⭐

Publisher: Catechetical Guild Educational Society (1950)
Scan source: own collection

A true story of Pavlik Morozov, a kid who ratted out his parents to the secret police and became a martyr of the Soviet Union. A rather unique slow-burn comic, rooted more firmly in reality and not trying to uncover vast global conspiracies. The cover is quite notable; the remaining artwork is simple and clean but fairly minimalistic, with a limited color palette and not enough dynamism: everybody is just standing around, expressionless. Exceedingly rare, only a handful copies known. Not previously imaged on the internet. Also see this dedicated page.

Fight for Freedom (click to view) ⭐

Publisher: National Association of Manufacturers (1949)
Scan source: Hagley Digital Archives

Purports to be a general history of struggles for liberty. What makes this publication unique is that the authors attribute a wide range of societal collapses to socialism - starting in antiquity and continuing all the way to modernity. Stalin makes an obligatory appearance toward the end, but Soviets don't get nearly as much airtime as in most other books. Top-notch artwork with complex composition and lots of background detail; drawn by Dan Barry, a noted cartoonist of Flash Gordon fame.

If the Devil Would Talk (click to view)

Publisher: Catechetical Guild Educational Society (1950)
Scan source: Comic Book Plus

A fairly lengthy but easy-to-follow critique of secularism. Communism and Soviets are not mentioned per se - it's the devil himself pulling the strings - but the message is clear: godlessness breeds totalitarian leaders who ruthlessly control every aspect of citizens' lives, including killing off any undesirable individuals for the good of the State. Clean, reasonably expressive artwork that's several notches above "Blood is the Harvest". Another rarity with only a handful copies known.

Is This Tomorrow: America Under Communism! (click to view) ⭐⭐

Publisher: Catechetical Guild Educational Society (1947)
Scan source: Comic Book Plus

A notable, bombastic tale of a vast Soviet conspiracy to enslave America, told as it unfolds. A pretty breathtaking and all-encompassing narrative, told far more skillfully than in other anti-communist comic books of the era. A real page-turner. Simple but clear illustrations by Charles Schulz of Peanuts fame. Many parallels to contemporary conservative talking points. Zombie-like communists on the cover, and the main villain is strikingly similar to the antagonist in "America Under Socialism".

The Plot to Steal the World (click to view)

Publisher: Work & Unity Group (1948)
Scan source: own collection

A cautionary tale about the global communist conspiracy that's supposedly infiltrating the American workforce. Another attempt to make a distinction between union labor and socialists. Fairly stereotypical and done better in "America Under Socialism" and "Is This Tomorrow"; the new element in this publication is the inclusion of several (clumsy) defenses of capitalism and capital. Interestingly, communists are portrayed as ugly and disfigured creatures, somewhat similar to the treatment of the Japanese in WWII propaganda in America. One of the communists has glowing red eyes. This rare book also features J. Edgar Hoover, for no particularly clear reason. The artwork is busy and at times way too literal (a guy parroting Party slogans has the head of a parrot, for example); some speech bubbles are run-on, too. Not previously imaged online.

The Story Behind Your Liberty! (click to view)

Publisher: National Association of Manufacturers (1952)
Scan source: own collection

A quick and simplistic retelling of the revolutionary history of the US. Stalin crops up on the last page, in a manner somewhat similar to "Fight for Freedom" (a pamphlet from the same publisher published several years prior). Short and not particularly memorable. The artwork is perhaps the strongest aspect of the comic, making use of varied camera angles and such. Not previously imaged online.

The Truth Behind the Trial of Cardinal Mindszenty (click to view)

Publisher: Catechetical Guild Educational Society (1949)
Scan source: Comic Book Plus

A generally true story of a Hungarian clergyman imprisoned for opposing communism. Similarly to "Blood is the Harvest", it takes an intimate approach to the subject matter instead of trying to expose conspiracies; but it dwells a bit more on the deconstruction of the underlying motives of the Party. Simple and fairly uninspiring artwork, a bit better than in "Blood is the Harvest", but with more background clutter.

Threat to Freedom (click to view) ⭐

Publisher: Standard Publishing Co. (date unknown but after 1953)
Scan source: Comics With Problems

A fairly comprehensive overview of the history of the Soviet communist regime, from the Bolshevik revolution to the death of Stalin. Longer and better-researched than most, and definitely notable for this reason alone. Simple, clean artwork that gets the point across. Extremely rare.

Two Faces of Communism (click to view)

Publisher: Christian Anti-Communism Crusade (1961)
Scan source: Comics With Problems

Somewhat similar to "Threat to Freedom", but not nearly as in-depth. The first pages promise an exciting expose on the two-faced nature of the rhetoric coming out of the Soviet Union, but the rest is just a rehash of the same talking points about the origins and goals of Marxism-Leninism, framed as some weirdly cringeworthy dialogue between a father and his two suspiciously grown-up children. Fairly uninspiring artwork - for example, the scene where the soldiers execute a peasant family looks quite wonky and doesn't convey the sense of terror the author probably aimed for.

Your Fight is on the Home Front / Inflation is Your Fight! (click to view) ⭐

Publisher: National Association of Manufacturers (1951)
Scan source: own collection

Notionally a warning against inflation, a rather unusual topic for a comic book. Communism is not explicitly tackled, but there is a clear warning against government regulation and growing entitlements. A rather remarkable publication, in part because of how its prescriptions differ from the beliefs of fiscal conservatives today. Excellent artwork, once again by Dan Barry of Flash Gordon fame. Not previously imaged online. See this dedicated page for more.

Bonus: Grenada (click to view)

Publisher: "VOICE - Victims of International Communist Emissaries" (but really the CIA, 1983)
Scan source: Comics With Problems

A pretty obnoxious CIA-published propaganda comic to garner support for the otherwise probably fairly defensible invasion of Grenada in 1983; the cover features smiling crowds, US soldiers holding babies, and a subtitle reading "RESCUED FROM RAPE AND SLAVERY" (and communism). The remainder of the book is about as subtle, and the artwork is fairly poor. Government-produced materials are not exactly in scope for the collection, but this one is in the right ballpark, and there aren't many other similar works.

More to be added...

I'm still looking for three titles: "Red Iceberg", "Double Talk", and "Labor is a Partner". There might be several more.

Other features you might like: The Hyperinflation Gallery and Dear Leaders.

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