Bad Comic Panels #9: “Our Communist overlords will slay us if we fail in our mission!”

"We have no choice! Our Communist overlords will slay us if we fail in our mission!"
Source: Tales of Suspense #50, 1964

Since the Anti-Communism entries in the Bad Comic Panel series have, so far, been about the Soviet Union, I thought that such a “monopoly” would be unfair to our Chinese friends in the 1960s, who have been ignored so far. This, then, is the first of several panels I have already chosen to show that, when it came to crude anti-Communism, Stan Lee and Marvel were equal opportunity stereotypists. 🙂

The panel above shows four fearful Chinese military officers who have been sent to negotiate with the Mandarin, who, interestingly, was a Chinese super-villain but not a Communist; his demeanour and trappings were all from imperial China (at least, as seen by westerners in the 60s). We’ll be seeing more of the four — and the Mandarin himself — in the near future. Meanwhile, I couldn’t be compiling this list and not include such a delicious quote as “Our Communist overlords will slay us if we fail in our mission” — or, translation, Communist leaders are evil (hey, but aren’t you “commies” as well?) and regularly kill underlings for failing. Then again, that comes straight from the official Evil Overlord manual, doesn’t it?

Bad Comic Panels #8: “Da! That is why you will never be dictator!”

Khrushchev: "Da! That is why you will never be dictator!"
Source: Fantastic Four #17, 1963

Unlike other entries in the Bad Comic Panels series, this one’s main quote is from an actual historical figure. I really love how the morally simplistic comics of the 60s (and earlier) depicted their opponents — such as Communists, in this case — as “hi, I’m evil!” card-carrying villains. 🙂 In this particular case, we have a dictator describing himself as such — which is rarer than you might think.

Other things to appreciate here:

  • the Commies are depicted as not just being in competition with the US, or “the capitalistic countries” in general, but as actually living just for beating them. They actually sit around a radio set waiting for news of their counterparts’ demise. Guys, get a life, will ya? ((in Soviet Russia — and, here, this is actually appropriate –, life gets YOU!!))
  • not only that, but two of them are shown holding glasses of wine or champagne. Nice! 🙂 Though I’d have though vodka would have been more appropriate…
  • can you really see Khrushchev’s “number twos” addressing him as “Comrade K”? 🙂 And don’t tell me that this was a case of censorship, as, if they printed comics like this, they weren’t particularly worried about what the Kremlin would think of them, or how it would affect US-USSR relations…
  • “Comrade K” is actually depicted relatively benignly here, being the only one among the Communists in the room with a brain. Very different from an Iron Man comic from the same era ((the one with the origin of the Crimson Dynamo)), where he is presented as a sniveling, treacherous coward (we actually see his thought balloons)… and fatter and uglier, too!
  • is the guy on the left, the one wearing purple, supposed to be based on Trotsky? He had been dead for 23 years when this comic was published, you know… Or perhaps that look was based on an “archetype” of the “evil Commie intellectual” common during the 50s-60s… anyone?

Bad Comic Panels #6: General Fang two-in-one

I could have stretched this one into two separate posts, but since they would both concern the very same character (again, much like Karl Kort, never seen again after this story, sadly), and are from the same story, I chose to do a “two-in-one” with the best / worst two panels featuring this fascinating “yellow peril” villain, General Fang, featured in The Incredible Hulk #5, from 1962.

The first is after the Hulk, disguised as the Abominable Snowman (don’t ask), had destroyed a few of Fang’s tanks and weapons. Naturally, his men are worried:

General Fang: "He dared to advise ME! To the FIRING SQUAD with him!"
Most leaders, even actual dictators, typically have advisors. But not Fang. Nosiree. He is far above that.

But Fang, reminding me of a couple of bosses I had in the past, knows how to deal with those pesky outside contributions. I bet the other guy, the one with the simian look and the ridiculous huge bowl with a star, will not ever think, in the future, of offering the slightest suggestion to his most glorious general!

The next panel comes a bit later in the story, after Fang has ordered the launch of his missiles into the peaceful neighboring country of “Llhasa”, which is of course not meant to be Tibet (whose real-life capital is “Lhasa”, with just one “L”), perish the thought.

General Fang: "It's time for the hordes of General Fang to strike terror to those who were foolish enough to survive my missile attack!"
Would YOU be foolish enough to survive his missile attack? Come on, spit it out. Would you?

As the caption in the panel says, the Hulk stops the missiles, but Fang doesn’t know that yet, and so he orders his cavalry (just the right choice for attacking snow-covered mountains, I guess) to attack, and to “strike terror to those who were foolish enough to survive (his) missile attack“.

Because, when General Fang attacks your country, to even survive is but mere foolishness. Makes sense. 🙂 I must use this phrase more often…

Bad Comic Panels #3: “It’s a membership card in a subversive Communist-front organization!”

It's a membership card in a subversive Communist-front organization! That means -- Karl Kort must be -- A RED!
Source: Fantastic Four #12, 1963

Comics, like all forms of art, are a product of their times. In the early 60s, American mentality was still mostly based on the 50s, with their sexism ((and there’s an even better one in this very issue, but I didn’t want to go after the same theme twice in a row, so you’ll have to wait for a future installment of Bad Comic Panels.)), and a huge dose of paranoia, especially in relation to Communism and the Soviet Union. At those times, many people really thought that a Soviet invasion was imminent, and that America was already full of Communist spies and sympathizers. If you read the first year of, say, Iron Man, the Avengers, or the Hulk, you’ll find a lot of “red menace” stories, with “commie” villains so obviously evil that, in a way, it negates the paranoia — there would be no fear of Communist spies if they were so easy to spot. 🙂

The example above is one I always found funny, ever since I read it a couple of decades ago. Obviously, Rick Jones’ dialog is great (“That means — Karl Kort must be — A RED!”), but there’s also that other little morsel: that a Communist spy kept his membership card in his wallet! 😛 Rick’s description of the organization Kort belongs to is also unintentionally humorous, and I have always found it funny to imagine that the card itself read something like:

(hammer and sickle)  RED MENACE  (hammer and sickle)
Subversive Communist-front Organization
Member name: Karl Kort

After all, “subversive” and “Communist-front” weren’t terms that the average teenager was likely to use, were they? So, maybe Rick was in fact reading from the card! 🙂 Anyway, sadly, this colorful and interesting villain, filled with intelligent and original motivations, didn’t ever appear again. Who knows what interesting, innovative stories featuring Karl Kort, and the organization he was a member of, could have been written…