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Comic Books and the Cold War, 1946-1962: Essays on Graphic Treatment of… (edition 2012)

by Rafiel York

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Member:dougcornelius
Title:Comic Books and the Cold War, 1946-1962: Essays on Graphic Treatment of Communism, the Code and Social Concerns
Authors:Rafiel York
Info:McFarland (2012), Paperback, 231 pages
Collections:Your library, Read in 2013, Publisher provided
Rating:***
Tags:Comics, Cold war

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Comic Books and the Cold War, 1946-1962: Essays on Graphic Treatment of Communism, the Code and Social Concerns by Rafiel York

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I thought that I was pretty familiar with the history of comics but this book brought out a lot of interesting facts that I had not run into. Most of the essays are informative and not too academic. However towards the end of the book are a series of much shorter articles which deserve an entire book to themselves (such as the beginning of the Marvel Age). The little taste of information in these chapters do little to add to the previous informative chapters surrounding the comics code censorship and cold war writings. ( )
1 vote scififan42 | Jun 26, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
At the beginning of the Cold War, adults saw comic books as contributors to juvenile delinquency and bureaucrats saw them acting to subvert “American” values. This concern led to U.S. Senate hearings and the publishers’ defensive creation of the Comic Codes Authority in 1954. Wrapped around this timeframe, Comic Books and the Cold War, 1946-1962: Essays on Graphic Treatment of Communism, the Code and Social Concerns explores the change in comic books with atomic anxieties, the nuclear family and the communist threat. The book is a collection of essays edited by brothers Chris and Rafiel York.

While some of the comics told stories of direct confrontation between the forces of good (America) and evil (everybody else), some were much more subtle. Or at least some of the essayists want us to believe that theory. Frederick A. Wright’s essay on the Flash comics, “I Can Pass Right Through Solid Matter!” suggests that the superhero was able to contain anything that threatened the American way of life, while also being free of restrictions. Bank robbers could be viewed as “the capitalist fear of communist system’s redistributing the wealth.” In the age of intercontinental missiles with only minutes between launch and death, who better to save the world than the strength of Superman or the speed of the Flash?

Even if you don’t agree with the metaphors, the Cold War did lead to the revival of superheroes in the comic books. The Comics Code pushed publishers to the more wholesome tales of bravery, strength, and speed. Superheroes of the era battled supervillains and the Soviet threat. That revival led to the multi-36+billion dollar movie franchises currently filling the multiplexes.

Comic Books and the Cold War has more of an academic tone than a casual reader may want. As you might expect, some essays are better then others.

Most disappointing to me was the lack of comic book panels from the book. Maybe that is most revealing about the power of the comic form. Some essayists describe the panel passage for paragraphs and then a few more paragraphs about the implications. All of that was wrapped up in a few lines of dialogue with an ink drawing in the comic.

The publisher was kind enough to send me a review copy of the book.

From Wired.com's GeekDad www.wired.com/geekdad/2013/02/looking-at-comic-books-through-the-lens-of-the-cold-war/ ( )
  dougcornelius | Feb 27, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have read several books published by McFarland. Of the five I have read, one of which was a republication for a book previously published under a different publisher. This, to date, has been the only book that I have deemed worth keeping (and its ten-year-old content wasn’t even revised for the McF publication). The rest have been varying levels of painful to get through, as the authors and contributors are all psuedo-intellectuals who like to hear themselves talk, or rather, see themselves write. Ultimately, every book originally published by McFarland becomes page after page of wordy gibberish in which the author takes a subject for which they have a special affinity, such as gender issues or racial stereotypes or some other thing that people are specializing in before they leave college only to reenter college as a professor of a class that specializes in that subject for future generations to superspecialize in subtopics and continue the loop... and juxtaposes it with the theme of the book.

Fortunately, with respect to comic books as a valid field of intellectual study, the field is very young, and therefore, has not been supersaturated with people whose vocabularies exceed them. As such, this volume, Comic Books and the Cold War, was nowhere near as dull and disappointing as other books published by McFarland. However, I felt that many of the essayists really didn’t have any point other than recapping their favorite comic book issues for their favorite heroes. Either way, I was disappointed in a lack of more images from the original source material, which would have been included under fair use, as they are relevant to the critique, and at times, were absolutely critical to include in order to properly communicate the concept of the original comic. A picture paints a thousand words so the essayists don’t have to.

This volume was, in the end, disappointing; however, it was not as disappointing as other monstrosities published by McFarland. While this is yet another book that gets shipped off to where unwanted books go, I’m glad that it wasn’t at least a struggle to reach that last page.

One thing I would recommend, though, to McFarland: While end notes are a big screw-you to the reader, section notes are even more so. While my preference is for footnotes (a thing with which some people strongly disagree with me), I understand that the sheer quantity of notes that books like this contain would quickly make each page only contain a sentence of content, to consolidate the notes into a single section, so I only need two bookmarks while reading, is much appreciated over having to flip to the end of the current essay, avoid any “spoilers”, and read the note the author thought was important enough to include, but not important enough to include in the text body. Unless there is a strong stylistic reason to avoid doing this, it’s much less annoying to a reader who is already annoyed with your books. ( )
1 vote aethercowboy | Oct 9, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I've always been a bit dismissive of post-war comics, especially in the treatment of the Communist threat. I think that by the 60's and 70's (when I mostly read comics off the stands) there were only a few remnants of those stories still being explored. When I became a bit older and a comic book fan, those books which defined the "Red Threat" were more interesting due to the covers than the interior content - most of the stories were rather poorly written and illustrated, or so I thought. This book, "Comic Books and the Cold War" has changed both my attitude and perception of those comics.

This work by Chris and Rafiel York explores the treatment of the "Commie" threat in both broad strokes and then in small snippets by providing some examples, along with the context driving those stories. I found the approach, which treats the books more like cultural examples of the time in more of a narrative style, increased my interest and kept me reading as, let's face it, unless you're an historian or cultural iconoclast, the subject matter is on the edge of what most would define as interesting.

I especially like some of the examples used in the book, some by favorites like Jack Kirby and Wally Wood, to further enhance the points being made by the authors (as they would in any book I imagine). The sections on female roles during that era, along with "sex" and how this affected the Comics Code would also be interesting to researchers, as would the changes in family life. If these are subjects of interest I would highly recommend this book. ( )
  johnnyapollo | Sep 9, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book is about the history of comic books in the Cold War era. As a collection of essays, this book is not phenomenal, but several of them do stand out. The general feel seemed very remiscient of another book about comics in the era, "The Ten-Cent Plague," which I felt was a better overall look at what was going on at this time. ( )
  goodinthestacks | Sep 6, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0786449810, Paperback)

Conventional wisdom holds that comic books of the post-World War II era are poorly drawn and poorly written publications, notable only for the furor they raised. Contributors to this thoughtful collection, however, demonstrate that these comics constitute complex cultural documents that create a dialogue between mainstream values and alternative beliefs that question or complicate the grand narratives of the era. Close analysis of individual titles, including EC comics, Superman, romance comics, and other, more obscure works, reveals the ways Cold War culture--from atomic anxieties and the nuclear family to communist hysteria and social inequalities--manifests itself in the comic books of the era. By illuminating the complexities of mid-century graphic novels, this study demonstrates that postwar popular culture was far from monolithic in its representation of American values and beliefs.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:06:36 -0400)

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