Comics As Propaganda – Two Wonderful Examples

In the 1950s, Cyprus – under British rule – things were kicking off a bit with the young people. So what could save the day?

The violence prompted the commissioner of Cyprus to ask if it was possible to produce adventure comics to try to sway opinion.

The secret files contained an extract from one of the unnamed commissioner’s letters, which read: “Schoolchildren have been used as a weapon in the nationalist campaign and it is therefore at them that Government propaganda should particularly be aimed.

“Here again, crude propaganda against Greece is useless. The aim should be again to shift the focus off Greece – not necessarily on to Britain but to a broader, more international, outlook. This might be done by commissioning a firm in England, if necessary, to print weekly comics with Greek and English captions using adventure stories and the exploits of explorers etc as material.”

Sadly it never actually went ahead. However Slate finds a treasure trive of its own in the US government…

The Social Security Administration’s website hosts full scans of comic books that the government published in the 1950s and 1960s in order to inform young citizens about their rights. These pamphlets were printed at a time when everyone was trying to reach kids through comics; government agencies were no exception.

Why should young people care about Social Security? Some of these comics sold the program as a way that the government could help free young people from familial obligation. The crew-cut young men and well-dressed girls wanted to help parents in dire straits, but they shouldn’t have to. Social Security would make sure Tom wouldn’t have to skip engineering school to take over the family farm, and Janet wouldn’t have to postpone her wedding to earn money for her family. (Yes, Janet’s “dream” was marriage, even in a comic published in 1965; the 1950s died hard.)

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