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Exhibition Art in Action: Herblock and Fellow Artists Respond to Their Times

Herblock (1909–2001). “Riddle: How Many Missiles Does it Take to Put Out All the Light Bulbs?,” 1983. Crayon, graphite, India ink, opaque white, and porous point pen with overlays over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, February 8, 1983. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. © Herb Block Foundation (024.00.00)

An Unwelcome Figure

President Ronald Reagan initiated strategic nuclear arms reduction talks with the Soviet Union several times during his administration. During one such negotiation between the superpowers, Herblock inserts his signature character, Mr. Atom, possibly as “a warning he wasn’t going to be permanently on our side alone and that if he weren’t controlled he could cut loose the whole world.” Although wanting the U.S. to develop more nuclear weapons than the U.S.S.R., the president also came to realize how vital it was that both reduce arms.