The Commies of Comics!
First, a little context from Serious Voice-Over Guy:
"Following their uneasy World War II alliance against Nazi Germany, the United States and the Soviet Union began a decades-long struggle termed “The Cold War”, a political, industrial, technological and military rivalry that stopped just short of a full-scale (or “hot”) war. At its core, the Cold War was driven by the radically incompatible philosophies of Soviet communism and the democratic capitalism championed by the United States. The Soviets sought to aggressively expand their empire into new parts of the world, while the United States used its power to contain and frustrate their ambitions…made all the more difficult when Communists gained control of China in 1949. Through it all, the ever-present threat of nuclear war (or “mutually assured destruction) kept the two superpowers locked in a virtual stalemate."
At this point, serious students of history may be wondering, “Yeah, but what did this mean for comic books?”
Well, I’m no Serious Voice-Over Guy, but here’s my take on it.
Nostalgic for the sales figures of the World War II years, American comic book publishers of the early 1950’s initially treated the Cold War as a “sequel” of sorts to their pot-banging propaganda comics of the previous decade. Like the wickedly caricatured Axis forces of WW II comics (particularly Japanese), some of the earliest Communist villains were either clownish cultural stereotypes or sub-human monsters.
A great example of this early approach is the cover of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s Fighting American #3 (1954), as the buffoonish duo Poison Ivan and Hotsky Trotsky are easily foiled by Fighting American and Speedboy.