As I was perusing potential topics for my upcoming communication theory paper, I came across David Crowley’s book, Posters of the Cold War. I was immediately drawn to the front cover, which features a poster by Polish artist Roman Cieslewicz (depicted above). Side by side stand two nearly identical superheroes. The only differentiating factor is the logo on their chests (one represents the USA while the other represents the USSR).
“In the iconoclastic political atmosphere of the 1960s, many radicals were highly critical of the USA and the USSR. The superpowers were accused of exercising a destructive influence on the rest of the world and of betraying their own origins in revolutions motivated by high ideals.” – David Crowley
Before reading this book, I thought critically about Cold War propaganda from two major perspectives:
1. The media that were used to criticize Soviet ideology and promote American values.
2. The media that were used to criticize American values and support the Soviet ideology.
I realized I neglected an alternative perspective that is critical of both the United States and the Soviet Union. There was a widely held belief (as portrayed in Cieslewicz’s 1968 Superman poster) that both superpowers exercised a destructive and disproportional influence over the rest of the world.
Superman, which was featured as the cover design for the Paris-based left-wing art magazine Opus International, essentially mocked the “war of ideals” between the two superpowers. Cieslewicz ironically portrays the flaws in both nations through the depiction of strong, heroic figures.