Atomic Comics
Cartoonists Confront the Nuclear World

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Author: Ferenc Morton Szasz

Format: Cloth
Pages: 200
ISBN: 9780874178746
Published Date: 2012

The advent of the Atomic Age challenged purveyors of popular culture to explain to the general public the complex scientific and social issues of atomic power. Atomic Comics examines how comic books, comic strips, and other cartoon media represented the Atomic Age from the early 1920s to the present. Through the exploits of superhero figures such as Atomic Man and Spiderman, as well as an array of nuclear adversaries and atomic-themed adventures, the public acquired a new scientific vocabulary and discovered the major controversies surrounding nuclear science. Ferenc Morton Szasz’s thoughtful analysis of the themes, content, and imagery of scores of comics that appeared largely in the United States and Japan offers a fascinating perspective on the way popular culture shaped American comprehension of the fissioned atom for more than three generations.

Author Bio

Regents Professor of History, Ferenc Morton Szasz taught at the University of New Mexico for forty-three years. Renowned for his wide-ranging interests, in his teaching and scholarship he focused on American social and intellectual history, thereby embracing the history of American religion, World War II, and the Atomic Age. The Day the Sun Rose Twice: The Story of the Trinity Nuclear Site Explosion, July 16, 1945 remains one of his most popular books.


"This volume proves that 'small is beautiful' and can be significant. In only 136 pages, the late Szasz provides a fascinating account of the depiction of atomic warfare and energy in US and Japanese comics and cartoons. Some of what Szasz reveals is downright scary: the extreme censorship of WW II and the devastating impacts of American nuclear testing and failures. The inclusion of small press comics such as Leonard Rifas's EduComics testifies to the comprehensive nature of this book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers." Choice magazine; Outstanding Academic Title in 2012

“Charming and sophisticated . . . One might view Atomic Comics through many lenses. To some degree, the book fits in the ‘researcher studies pop culture’ category, but it is much too entertainingly--even at times, wryly--written to consign to the academic corner of the library.” -Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

"...Atomic Comics: Cartoonists Confront the Nuclear World is a seminal work identifying the perspective that cartoonists brought to nuclear issues that was to prove enduringly influential upon public opinion--an influence that continues to be felt to this very day." -- Midwest Book Review

"An immensely readable survey of how comic books have sowed fear and excitement ... clearly written and free of the jargon one might expect from an academic press." Pat Padua in, 8/15/12

"… Atomic Comics is a useful text, serving as a lucid introduction to the various intersections of popular culture and social issues during the Cold War. In a more general sense, it clearly identifies the ways all manner of popular cultural forms express the ideological conditions of their historical moment, thus serving as a succinct introduction to the study of popular culture and history. Szasz's prose is accessible and jargon-free, friendly to both undergraduate and general readers and the text is filled with images of the works he describes. It could fruitfully appear on undergraduate syllabi in American studies, history, and popular culture courses." Sean Cashbaugh, H-Net Reviews

"Atomic Comics is the 2013 winner of the ALA's “Choice Out­standing Aca­demic Title” award. I read it in almost one sitting, and if this book is any indi­cation of aca­demic writing, then we’d all be reading nothing but aca­demic titles. . . . Although we’ve been living in the atomic age for more than seventy years, many of us are woe­fully lacking in any clear under­standing of what the atom is all about. Szasz is less inter­ested in edu­cating the reader about the atom than in telling us about the role comic books played in a ded­i­cated effort to bring the atomic age, in both fiction and non­fiction, into the hands of the public – and he does a bang-??up job. . . . Szasz writes with an atomic power all his own. This is not a big book (163 pages, text and notes), but he takes the history of the comic book all the way from its beginning to the twenty-??first century with its atomic events, good and bad. The industry’s eagerness to educate and entertain in all things atomic will leave readers wishing Szasz had written more. The index alone is worth the price of admission." Bookin' with Sunny

"An excellent resource, as informative and entertaining as one could wish for.", 7/30/13