British popular newspapers were fascinated by the terrible power of the nuclear bomb, and they devoted countless articles, editorials and cartoons to it. In so doing, they played a significant role in shaping the nuclear culture of the post-war period. Yet scholars have given little sustained attention to this rich seam of material. This article makes a contribution to remedying this major gap by offering an overview of the coverage of nuclear weaponry in the two most popular newspapers in Britain, the Daily Express and the Daily Mirror, in the period from 1945 to the early 1960s. Although both papers supported British possession of the bomb, claiming that it was essential for the maintenance of great-power status, their reporting was more complex and critical than the existing scholarship has tended to assume. This article argues that sceptical voices in the press often disrupted official narratives and that journalists emphasized the potential dangers involved in the nuclear arms race. Newspapers frequently highlighted, rather than downplayed, the horrors of the bomb: it was repeatedly portrayed as a ‘monster’ threatening the world.