We’re all familiar with the “When Animals Attack” trope of the vintage action magazine. However, there were a whole host of stereotypical (often wildly racist) adversaries for the rugged American Male. We’ve covered the Nazis, so let’s have a look at some of the other villains for our mid-century action magazine heroes…
“The Berlin Wall’s Red Rapist Guards” and other Red Scare headlines plastered the covers of these old action magazine covers. Thankfully, these commie menaces were always thwarted by brave Americans – such as the “Silk Panties Squadron”.
Cuban communists were perhaps the deadliest variety as they were perched just of Florida’s shores… just waiting to murder our G.I.s and rape our women. What to do about these “Communist Cannibals”? Thankfully, there were groups like the “Nympho Raiders” to come to our rescue.
You’ll notice, whether it was the Koreans or the Russians themselves, the Commies were never above torturing our women! And if you think this is hilarity reserved for “backwards” mid-century folks – you evidently weren’t paying attention to the rhetoric of the US presidential race. Putin and his red minions were portrayed in a manner not too far-off from pulp magazines.
For the mid-century action magazines – all non-american countries posed a threat of some kind. The Russians, the Chi-Coms, the Nazis, the “Japs”, the Middle-East – all were horrific monsters bent on murdering our men and raping our women. France was a threat due to its decadence, and Third-World nations were brimming with savages.. .you might say these magazines were a xenophobic nightmare; but, that presumes anyone really took them seriously.
“Slave Stud of the Sinister Islams” to the rescue.
Of course, it needs to be said that the US was at war with some of these countries – so “xenophobia” may be a bit harsh when you consider that painting the enemy in a bad light is standard practice, no matter the country. (That being said, if you look at the copyright for these magazines – almost none of these are from the 1940s, when there were active military engagements.)
“God help us! The Japs are burning us to death!”
“The Yank Bomber Crew and Guerrilla Joy Girls Who Clobbered 1,000 Jap Jungle Marines”
China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam could be used interchangeably – just as long as they were portrayed as bestial torturers, it really didn’t matter.
(4) JUNGLE NATIVES
Action magazines didn’t just select villains from our geopolitical rivals – even the humble “jungle savage” was an existential threat.
For more of this, be sure to check out When Natives Attack! White Damsels and Jungle Savages in Pulp Fiction
(5) HOODLUMS & BIKERS
With the battles overseas over, the action magazine needed to tap into a new fear – perhaps the mid-century male’s biggest source of anxiety – the next generation. Yes, the youth of the 1950s and 60s, with their “upside down morality”, posed a huge threat for the average working class male. These Baby Boomers, with their loud music and libidinous ways were destroying this country from the inside!
“Junkies on a Rampage – Our Greatest Peril”
And finally, the kindred spirits of the junkie hoodlum – the Cycle Savage. Before the hippie counter-culture movement took hold, the older generation’s worst nightmare were the dreaded bikers. No group symbolized a rejection of the straight-laced suburban lifestyle than these rebels on two-wheels.
This one may be the best of them all – encompassing so many mid-century anxieties in a single cover is no easy feat. Satanism, youth, Asians – all taking our women, killing our soldiers, and sending the world into flaming chaos. I can’t think of a better cover to end on.