In reaction to the growing fears of Communism and the outward spread and consolidation of territory with the USSR, a number of accusatory and alarmist publications were written, denouncing the ‘Red Terror’ and its anti-capitalist sentiments as ‘un-American’. In 1947, the Catechetical Guild Educational Society responded with its publication of Is This Tomorrow: America Under Communism, a propagandistic comic strip concerned with detailing the approaching threat of Communism and the soviet onslaught against the United States of America.
The story unfolds as a warning to Middle-America, of the underground elements of Communism existing through the US. Following a devastating drought and agricultural disaster, a Soviet sleeper cell orchestrates a proletarian revolution taking over the entire country. The Reds cement their acquisition of power through its control of the media, Congress, elections and its dissemination of communist ideology amongst the younger generation.
The comic book’s success, with over four million copies distributed, owed its success to the clever marketing employed and its position within the media. Indeed, in his book, The Ten Cent Plague, David Hadju corroborates in saying that the comic book was a huge mass-market medium in the 1940s and early 1950s. At its peak, the comic book had more of an impact on children than television, radio or literature. The founder of the Catechetical Guild Educational Society, Father Louis Gales, recognised the usefulness of such a medium to convey Catholic ideals and anti-Soviet rhetoric in a manner which was both pleasing to the eye and exciting; akin to those comic books of the superhero, science-fiction and crime drama genres.
The majority of the document is concerned with the threat against Catholicism itself. Being produced by the Catechetical Guild Educational Society would of course lend itself to a pro-religious standing, detailing the heretical menace of a Soviet-style government. In one panel of Is This Tomorrow, a communist soldier is asked by a monk as to what purpose he and his religious order now hold, following the abolition of religious, principally Catholic, worship. His rebuke is sharp and swift, charging that these men should respect and venerate a new order, the United ‘Soviet’ States of America.
The most enlightening panel, arguably, concerns the impressionability and vulnerability of a lost Catholic youth caught up in the heresy and horrors of Communism. A blonde boy is shown denouncing his religious-practising parents as criminals of the State to the Soviet authorities. The young boy is assured, however, that the matter will be dealt with, “We’ll fix that” the soldier promises.
The comic book serves as an exciting and yet harrowing account of the extremism that plagued Middle-American society post-1945. Fear of the ‘Reds’ dominated US politics and foreign policy, orchestrated social change and anxiety and manipulated popular culture and media. The publication of Is This Tomorrow demonstrates, therefore, just how extreme these fears had become and how far they were perpetuated. By targeting children, the most impressionable and vulnerable social group, with such material, McCarthyism exhibited and utilised the same form of propagandistic apparatus imagined within the United ‘Soviet’ States of America. How then, in following the ‘Ten Commandments of Citizenship’, could a young American expect to “Be American first” when he was subjected to the same medium of communication as that demonised within the very comic book itself?
“TO MAKE YOU THINK!”
Individual pages from the comic book can be downloaded from the following photo album:
Is This Tomorrow: America Under Communism. Copyright © 1947 Catechetical Guild Educational Society.
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