Archive for the 'Cold War Flashbacks' Category

Nobody Wants a Nuclear War by Judith Vigna (Albert Whitman & Co., 1986)

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Read the rest at Awful Library Books. It’s actually quite touching, and immediately recalled a fascination and terror I haven’t felt in 25 years: just one more reminder of the idiocy and decadence underlying the giddy sheen of the 1980s. I just hope that my kids don’t ever feel the need to read books addressing the very real possibility of nuclear annihilation.

Album Covers: Megadeth’s Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying? (1986)

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Guess what I’m listening to? The artist is Ed Repka.

The term “Megadeath,” according to the OED, was coined in 1953 and means “The death of a million people, esp. as a unit in estimating the possible effects of nuclear warfare.”

Atomic Energy Ad, 1954

Atomic 1954

Ladies and gentleman, I give you the 1950s.

(Image via Advertising Cliche)

TV Guide Ads for TV Movies: World War III (1982)

WWIII 1982

I only vaguely recall this two-part miniseries that focuses on the lead-up to a nuclear war through the eyes of opposing diplomats and military leaders. Not nearly as effective or frightening as The Day After, but it did premier a year earlier and was generally well received. Rock Hudson really hams it up as the POTUS, and Cathy Lee Crosby’s character is, apparently, “craving one last moment of love.” Trailer is below.

(Image via Platypus Comix)

Steel Monsters: The Only Survivors (Tonka, 1986-1987)

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Steel Monsters

Thanks to Warpo, I now know these post-apocalyptic-themed, Mad Max-inspired toys exist. Billed by Tonka as a “male-action survival” line for “older boys” and following the release of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985), it was a good shot, if a misfire (profit-wise), by Tonka. The post-nuke trope was in high gear in film, comics, and especially neo-pulp novels at the time, but I would say the concept appealed mostly to boys older than the 5-10 age range Tonka was targeting.

(Images via Orange Slime and the Action Figure Archive)

Post-Apocalypse Now: Ryder Stacy’s Doomsday Warrior Series (1984 – 1991)

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A combination of The Survivalist, The Executioner, and 2000 AD, the Doomsday Warrior series follows the exploits of Ted Rockson (“Rockhard” would’ve been better) and “his high-tech guerilla army of Freefighters” as they try to wrest America from Russian occupation while battling radioactive “glowers,” cultists, and all manner of post-nuke nasties.

Ryder Stacy is actually Ryder Syvertsen and Jan Stacy, both of whom wrote various men’s action-adventure fiction throughout the 1980s. Doomsday Warrior was the most successful, running to 19 volumes. There were an incredible amount of post-apocalyptic books and book series written during the Reagan era, including popular young adult novels like Gloria Miklowitz’s After the Bomb. The Hunger Games is nothing new, and it’s tame by comparison.

Fictional accounts of Russians taking over the U.S. date back to the Red Scare. Conelrad Adjacent, a treasure trove of Cold War ephemera, posted an early example from 1942, a comic book called Is This Tomorrow: America Under Communism.

The cover design of the Doomsday series—with the defiant fist and forearm doubling as the stem of the mushroom cloud that ended the old ways—is magnificent. The writing is not. From #7, American Defiance:

The whole Russian fort was coming to life and there was only one chance to escape. Gripping the long wooden pole in his hands, Rockson ran toward the sixteen-foot-high barbed wire fence and without breaking stride planted the pole in the dirt. With every ounce of strength he kicked off with his piston legs and climbed up in the air in a perfect arc.

A spotlight suddenly caught Rockson dead on, and a stream of Red slugs headed toward him like a swarm of man-eating locusts. The top of the fence was coming and Rock made it over—barely. The very upper strands of barbed wire ripped across his right calf, slicing open a three-inch-long gash that oozed a stream of blood. Then he was arcing down to the ground, curling as he made contact, rolling over and over into the blackness where the circle of searchlights ended.

This particular bunch of Reds wasn’t going to get the Doomsday Warrior. Not tonight.

The cover images come from two great blogs: The Post-Apocalyptic Book List, an exhaustive list and description of genre titles, and Glorious Trash, a pulp review site heavy on 1980s survivalism and action-adventure, Doomsday Warrior included.

`If the A-Bombs Burst’ (1951)

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The residents of New York or Gary, Washington or San Francisco must face the crushing reality that an atom bomb destined for his [sic] neighborhood might even now be winging its way across the curve of the world.

Thank you for the pep talk, article from a 1951 issue of Popular Mechanics. I feel much better now. The photo of the man collapsing from fatal radiation burns also inspires me with a sense of security.

The diagram on page two is tremendous, isn’t it? You’re probably safe if you’re a couple of miles away from the blast, unless you’re downwind!

(Images via Modern Mechanix)

Board Games: Apocalypse: The Game of Nuclear Devastation (1980)

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Apocalypse originally appeared as Classic Warlord, self-published by designer Mike Hayes, in 1974. The name changed to Warlord in 1978. Both of these versions came in plain red and blue boxes, respectively. Games Workshop, displaying its usual marketing prowess, released what you see above in 1980. The kids ate it up, despite the fact that the game board was cut in half. How could we resist playing out the “nuclear devastation” that grown men were on the verge of playing for real?

Here are some directions from the 1978 version. See if you can follow them.

Warlord 1978

We were not a squeamish generation, clearly, apart from the wankers who ran out of the theater during Gremlins.

(All images via Board Game Geek)

TV Guide Ads for TV Movies: The Day After (1983)

Day After 1983

What I remember about The Day After is that I had to wait a long time to see the now infamous nuclear attack sequence. I was deeply fascinated by the sight of mushroom clouds—actual test footage and various representations in movies, books, and comics—throughout the ’80s: they were like a dark magic in a world that was tediously ordinary. As an adult, I understand that nothing is more mundane than the willingness of one group of people to annihilate another group of people on a mass scale, and despite global collateral damage.

I thought I’d seen the movie when it premiered, but my mom says she doesn’t remember letting me watch it. I don’t know where else I would have been. It was Sunday night and we had one TV. It’s possible I could have seen it on video a few years later.

The juxtaposition in the promo is pretty damn effective.

When Pterodactyls Attack!

Here’s a tasty illustration from a children’s book called World of Tomorrow: War and Weapons (1981) by Neil Ardley, who describes what happens when enemy aircraft drop shells that spew hallucinatory agents over city defenders.

The soldiers see the aircraft turning into flying monsters and the buildings bend over, and they flee in terror. Invading forces protected from the effects of the drugs will soon arrive [and] easily take over the city.

Sweet dreams, kids!

(Via Paleofuture)


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