Reading Foreign Comics
Next to its alleged anti-traditionalism, the Cultural Revolution is habitually characterized by its xenophobic outlook. During this time, it is said, and rightly so, foreign heritage and knowledge were rejected. Yet again, this general perception does not bear out some of the evidence: in the publication catalogs, comics with foreign plots and themes appear in great numbers both in the 1950s and early 1960s (ill. 6.44), some of them with rather licentious covers (e.g., Zhongguo lianhuanhua 2000, vol. I, 286, ill. 6.48). In the 1980s again, everything from the White House to Romeo and Juliet, Tarzan, Spartacus, and Hitler came to play a role (ill. 6.45).
But during the Cultural Revolution, too, as these catalogues show, the number of foreign titles and themes was not as limited as one would assume. Most of the publications seem to adhere to Cultural Revolution standards and aesthetics rather closely: these “foreign comics” are obviously constructed according to the rule of Three Prominences, as the rather predictable depiction of a villain being caught by a policemen dating from a few months before the Cultural Revolution may illustrate (ill. 6.46). The two foreign partisan fighters, with their extremely strong forearms in front of the red sun (ill. 6.47), accord perfectly with Mao’s guidelines. Less obviously “in style” because of its extremely “bourgeois” look is the comic “The Indian King’s Diamond” of 1967, however (ill. 6.48), published at a time when very few comics were published at all.
Moreover, what was not published was available nevertheless, the situation being similar to that described for literature more generally by Yang Lan: “It needs to be noted that the general criticism of foreign literature in propaganda could not lead to the thorough elimination of any practical influence of individual foreign literary works on Chinese CR literature” (1998, 27). Indeed, continued reading of no-longer-published comics, both foreign and traditional in topic and style, must not be neglected if we hope to understand the Cultural Revolution as a cultural experience.