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American horror comics as Cold War commentary and critique

Printing Terror places horror comics of the mid-twentieth century in dialogue with the anxieties of their age. It rejects the narrative of horror comics as inherently and necessarily subversive and explores, instead, the ways in which these texts manifest white male fears over America’s changing sociological landscape. It examines two eras: the pre-CCA period of the 1940s and 1950s, and the post-CCA era to 1975. The authors examine each of these periods through the lenses of war, gender, and race, demonstrating that horror comics are centred upon white male victimhood and the monstrosity of the gendered and/or racialised other. It is of interest to scholars of horror, comics studies, and American history. It is suitably accessible to be used in undergraduate classes.

Michael Goodrum and Philip Smith

the counter-culture movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Just two weeks after American soldiers first arrived in Denang, the University of Michigan hosted an all-night debate featuring professors and 3,000 students. This was the first of a series of teach-ins and protests on university campuses that only grew in intensity as the war continued. In 1965, 25,000 people, many of them students and professors, gathered in Washington to protest against the war. In October 1967, their number grew to 35,000.3 The anti-war movement was further fuelled by media coverage. The

in Printing terror
Jonathan Atkin

described them to Lady Ottoline as ‘eight fleas talking of building a pyramid’ and later remembered, ‘I was interested to observe that the pacifist politicians were more concerned with the question of which of them should lead the anti-war movement than with the actual work against the war.’27 Russell was always distrustful of politics, especially during war. ‘I don’t want to be in Parliament; it seems to me one is freer outside, and can achieve more’, he wrote to Lady Ottoline in November 1914, concluding, ‘I should want … to be unfettered in saying what I believed.’ A

in A war of individuals
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Appropriating white male fear
Michael Goodrum and Philip Smith

explicitly anti-racist storyline from EC – though subsequent patterns of usage of horror comics and Wertham’s legacy tell a different story.5 The problematic alignment of horror comics with the anti-war movement, civil rights, and feminism also springs in part from the fact that underground comics creators, including those who created explicitly political and feminist comics, have often been read as the successors to horror comics in general and EC in particular. As Art Spiegelman, an underground creator and early reader of EC comics, asserts: After the accusations that

in Printing terror
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Bruce Woodcock

repressed homosexual desires, repressed in the process of being constructed as ‘men’, an experience through which their sexual potentialities were restricted and curtailed to fit the appropriate behaviour of the orthodox male. Similar issues can be found in the story ‘The Puzzling Nature of Blue’, which relates the issues of colonial capitalism and masculinity in an intriguing fantasy scenario. Its central male character, Vincent, is a hippy capitalist like the two characters in ‘War Crimes’. Involved with the anti-war movement where he wears

in Peter Carey
Siebe Bluijs

news items about the threat of a thermonuclear war. The voice actors list places and dates of nuclear explosions (such as Los Alamos, Bikini, Hiroshima and Nagasaki), the names of nations that possess nuclear weapons and the names of terrorist organisations that were active in the early 1970s. The play also includes the voices of the anti-war movement. We hear the rallying cries at a protest – ‘Freedom’ and ‘Stop the war!’ – and there are fragments from the protest songs ‘Give Peace a Chance’ (1969) and ‘Power to the People’ (1970) by John Lennon and the Plastic Ono

in Tuning in to the neo-avant-garde
Speechifying
Emer Nolan

dramatically transformed the face of Catholic protest in the North. Their language (as in their statement of their key objectives, which was later adopted by the broader campaign for civil rights) was bracingly clear.4 They displayed no timorousness in facing up to the unionist establishment or to moderates in the Catholic community. They drew on the rhetoric, tactics and imagery of the African American civil rights campaign, the US anti-war movement and student protest in Europe. Devlin and her colleague Eamonn McCann, in particular, looked as if they had wandered off the

in Five Irish women
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Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue (2012) and Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude (2003)

around overlapping issues of civil rights, gender equality, freedom of assembly, and the anti-war movement, taking shape in the collective action of groups founded in the town, such as the Peace/Rights Organizing Committee, the Free Speech Movement – ‘born near the corner of Bancroft and Telegraph’ – and prominent campus chapters of national organisations, including Students for a Democratic Society. 59 As important as individual causes were, equally significant was the style of political engagement: to coin a New Left slogan, ‘The Issue is not the issue’. 60 The

in The politics of male friendship in contemporary American fiction
Fact and fiction in the Regeneration trilogy
Natasha Alden

God knows who else was, [to the government,] merely an elaborate disguise, behind which lurked the real anti-war movement, a secret, highly efficient organisation dedicated to the overthrow of the state as surely and simply as [the Ministry of Munitions] was dedicated to its preservation.117 The government paranoia is as powerful as that of the prisoners in Aylesbury jail – both fear that they are watched by an invisible, hostile force, all the more powerful because of its psychological pervasiveness. Barker shows us the effect of this fear when it is felt about

in Reading behind the lines