Sunday, April 01, 2012


As I was preparing the scans for Is This Tomorrow, published in 1947 by the Catechetical Guild of St. Paul, Minnesota, I was visited by the ghosts of Lenin and Stalin. They were looking over my shoulders, reading as I cleaned up the scans. I didn't know they could read or speak English, but they were ghosts, so what do I know.

Lenin exclaimed, "No wonder our plans to take over America did not work, Comrade Stalin!"

"Da!" agreed Stalin. "Decadent American comic book gave exact plan of our plot to turn America communist!"

I scoffed. "C'mon, you think a famine, drought (or alternate spelling "drouth", as in the comic), and sneaking a few Reds in office would turn us Americans into commies? Dream on." The comic plays its conspiracy plot very broadly, depending on extraordinary circumstances like the President and Vice President riding in the same car, killed by a bomber. Even in 1947, as the comic states, that was against procedure. So I give this earnest effort to warn us about how the communists could take us over an F for credibility. But, this is a historic comic book nevertheless, produced at the beginning of the Cold War.

Stalin and Lenin were squabbling over why communism ultimately failed; I got perturbed and yelled, "You ectoplasmic pinkos get the hell out of my office!" and even without me having to conjure the ghost of Joe McCarthy, they left. Uncle Joe Stalin had a reputation for body odor and let me tell you, ghost or not, he was peeee-yewski.

They wouldn't have been interested in something about the comic that I noticed, that more than one artist worked on this book, and the artists had different levels of drawing skill. Also, the book used different letterers. The story is that Charles Schulz—yes, that Charles Schulz—did some of the lettering, and you can spot his distinctive style, which didn't change much over five decades. (The rounded "W" is a tell.)


BillyWitchDoctor said...

I do notice certain aspects ring true: corrupt police and controlled media laughing in the face of victimized protestors while slandering them as "unpatriotic," for one example; burning religious texts and other books as another; bringing the force of government down upon workers' unions for still another.

The irony, of course, is that it's being done by the same cabal that professes to be the anti-socialist defender of American values (like waterboarding and neverending warfare, apparently).

Mykal Banta said...

What a great history lesson from this comic. I love how in this comic the early communist movement is empowered by false liberal front organizations like leagues opposing intolerance or fascism. Thus, any liberal or left-wing organization is suspect. And, of course, America's morals are broken down and class warfare is encouraged by communist trained writers and editors in Hollywood (not for nothing, but didn't Romney and several other republicans accuse the Democrats of promoting "class warfare" during the recent primaries?).

We can laugh now at how obvious and silly it seems, but this feeling in the late 1940s gave the HUAC and McCarthy their base of power and fear in the 1950s.

What a gem of a post. The artwork was really great in spots.

Runs.with.Ferals said...

The panel that sends a shiver up my spine is the one where the Puppet Master Guy has strings from his fingers to all the branches of mass Media... Still, our biggest threat today ! (regardless of the Party seeking Power)

Kirk said...

That does look like Schulz's lettering, and he was in St. Paul at the time.

As Charles Schulz is one of my heroes, I'm hoping he just needed the money.

Pappy said...

Dex, that panel was swiped from the cover of an issue of All Star Comics featuring "The Injustice Society"! I forget the issue number, but you'll recognize it if you see it.

Kirk, the information on Schulz's contribution came from his biography. He was struggling at the time to establish himself as a cartoonist, and it was one of his first professional jobs.

BillyWitchDoctor, amen.

Mykal, that sort of talk, liberal organizations being socialist or communist, has been going on since I was a little kid. I remember in 1966 having to sign a "loyalty oath" when I was drafted into the Army, swearing I wasn't a member of any left-wing (called "subversive") organizations. In the late '50s the John Birch Society even called President Eisenhower a commie dupe. Name-calling is free and easy and gets a reaction. When you hear it you just have to take it for what it's worth, and where, and whom, it comes from.

If you, in your capacity as a librarian, can ever find an old tape called "Communism, Hypnotism and the Beatles" you are in for a a real treat about conspiracy and paranoia. One of my very conservative high school teachers played it in a class in 1965 and I argued against its hysteria, only to be branded a commie dupe by the teacher and some fellow students! The world has changed, but not so much, especially when I hear the invective slung about during this political year.

To the commenters, thanks for speaking up! This was a special project for me, just as my post last Thanksgiving,"Andy's Atomic Adventure." Both of these comics speak to the age in which I grew up.

Brian Barnes said...

As the famous quote goes (and might be misquoted but the meaning is the same):

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Ben Franklin. Humans have demonized and will continue to demonize, because, sadly, it works really well.