Monday, December 29, 2014

Star Spangled DC War Stories Part 43: December 1962/Best of 1962

The DC War Comics 1959-1976
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook

Russ Heath
All American Men at War 94

"Be Brave--Be Silent!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Irv Novick

"The Flying Has-Beens!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Irv Novick

Peter: Johny Cloud attempts to integrate a new fighter pilot, one whom the other men have branded "pariah." Lt. Andy Blue relates to Cloud how on one deadly mission he couldn't "Be Brave - Be Silent" and it led to the doom of his comrades. Johnny tells Blue that his own father would tell him that most soldiers can Be Brave or Be Silent but it's a true warrior who can Be Brave and Be Silent all at the same time. Blue moans that he's not sure he can Be Brave and Be Silent but that he understands the unwillingness of the other pilots to accept him. Then, during a particularly grueling mission where the men are attacked by a squadron of dirty Nazi scum, Andy Blue becomes a true warrior; he learns to Be Brave and Be Silent all at the same time. Pride wells up in Johnny Cloud that this now-dead-as-a-doornail pilot could Be Brave and Be Silent and save the lives of the fellow pilots who shirked him and made his life a living hell. I learned to Be Brave and continue turning the pages of this unoriginal and uninvolving drama but I can't Be Silent when I say I will have forgotten just what it was all about in a matter of hours. I'm pretty sure if a pilot ejected above the clouds without oxygen (as Johnny does in this story) he'd Be Brave and Silent very quickly. Irv Novick delivers a nice bit of illustrating (in an all-Novick showcase issue) but the real wallop is delivered on the cover, one of the greatest we've yet seen. In one single image, Russ Heath delivers all the excitement and action that was missing from the story itself.

"Be Bold... No, Wait It's Be Strong... No, That's Not It..."
Jack: Are you kidding? This was one of the best DC war stories I've read yet! I was so surprised to find such a good read in a Johnny Cloud story! The narrative moves along smoothly, incorporating flashbacks to deepen the meaning of the WWII tale. Even the flashbacks to the reservation work. I like Irv Novick's art and this is Novick at his best. It's mind-boggling that Kanigher could write stories like this and, at the same time, churn out The War That Time Forgot and Gunner, Sarge and Pooch. Extra credit goes to Bob K. for not copping out at the end--having the fighter pilot die seemed just right.

Peter: "The Flying Has-Beens," three mothballed planes in an air museum, discuss what it was like to fly in their respective eras. Then a fourth weapon is introduced, a rocket designed to destroy cities, and the three sigh and get back to their knitting. One of those silly tales where inanimate objects are given a voice. I didn't much care for "The Flying Has-Beens" but they're preferable to a talking pooch.

"The Has-Beens"

Jack: This is an interesting story for a couple of reasons. I learned a little bit about the developments in battle planes from WWI through the Korean War, and Novick focuses on air battle action rather than people. Also, this may be the first time we've seen a post-Korean War weapon in a DC war comic. Here, we are introduced to the XR-12 rocket and shown how it can be used for deterrence. I know this isn't really a story, per se, but I thought it was neat anyway.

Joe Kubert
Our Army at War 125

"Hold--At All Costs!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Russ Heath

"Wings of Shame!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Jack Abel

"The Bug That Won An Island!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito

Jack: When Easy Co. is told to stay put on an open patch of land and "Hold--At All Costs!" Sgt. Rock tells his men a story about another time when they got the same order. It was in North Africa, and Easy managed to hold onto a patch of desert despite heavy casualties. Back in the present, Rock and his men advance on a group of tanks and blow them to bits. He tells the men that they solved the problem in the desert the same way--by moving forward instead of standing still. The last time we saw Russ Heath draw a Sgt. Rock story, it was a disappointment. That's not the case here, as Heath does what he does so well and focuses on battle and action rather than static faces of the men. The story really picks up momentum in the flashback and makes up for a slow start.

"Hold--At All Costs!"

Peter: Sometimes the story-within-a-story gimmick can backfire and lead to lapses in the narrative or just downright confusion for the reader but "Hold--At All Costs!" avoids both trapdoors. The story has almost a seamless time-jump between past and "present" and both pieces perfectly complement each other. I think this is the first Non-Kubert Rock I've really enjoyed (and that includes past Heath/Rock entries) and, in spots, you have to look closely to see it's not Joe.

"Wings of Shame!"
Jack: In WWI, Lt. Parker was the only man in his corps to lose his plane, which was captured by the Germans. Now it's WWII, and his son manages to lose his plane, too, and is captured by the same nefarious Nazi who captured his Pop! Lucky for him, he finds Dad's old plane in the hangar and steals it, managing to destroy a modern Nazi plane with a little Yankee ingenuity. Corny and predictable, yes, but enjoyable, with solid art by Jack Abel.

Peter: I'm not sure what it was that tipped me off but I just had a feeling that, no matter how careful, "dad" was going to lose his plane! Could it have been the several hundred times Hank Chapman included the words "don't lose your plane" in the first three panels? And how about sweet old dad, seeing his son off to WWII, telling him "No matter what happens, do not lose your plane!" Right! Lose your arm, lose your sight, hell, lose your life, but don't... This one begs for there to be a word to describe "beyond coincidence."

All is not quiet on the western front
Jack: Who knew that the rare butterfly Lepidoptera Rhopalocera would be "The Bug That Won an Island!" Certainly not Eddie, a soldier who is part of an invasion force. All he wants is to capture the rare creature. Chasing it around while under fire from enemy guns leads Eddie to destroy a few enemy machine gun nests; at the end, he decides to set the butterfly free in honor of its role in liberating the island. What are the chances that we would read rare butterfly stories two weeks in a row? Eddie is just lucky that this one didn't eat all the flesh off his body!

Peter: The art of Andru and Esposito isn't the only bad thing about this dopey mess but it's up there on the list. The young protagonist looks like he just graduated from Riverdale High School and thinks nothing of jeopardizing the mission and risking the lives of his comrades, all for a butterfly he lets go in the end. This story bugged me.



Best Script: Bob Haney, "Dog Tag Hero"
Best Art: Joe Kubert, "TNT Mailman"
Best All-Around Story: "Dog Tag Hero"

Worst Script: Robert Kanigher, "The Four-Footed Spy" (Our Fighting Forces 72)
Worst Art: Jerry Grandenetti, "Destination Doom" (Our Fighting Forces 69)
Worst All-Around Story: "The Four-Footed Spy"


  1 "Dog Tag Hero" (Our Fighting Forces 67)

  2 "TNT Mailman" (Our Fighting Forces 69)
  3 "Killer Sergeant" (Our Army at War 114)  
  4 "Ace in a Cage" (All American Men at War 91)
  5 "New Boy in Easy" (Our Army at War 121)
  6 "Battle Tags for Easy Co.!" (Our Army at War 120)
  7 "Hold -- at All Costs (Our Army at War 125)
  8 "Target - Sgt. Rock" (Our Army at War 124)
  9 "No Place Like the Front" (GI Combat 92)
10 "Stragglers Never Come Back" (Star Spangled War Stories 100)


Best Script: Robert Kanigher, "S.O.S. Sgt. Rock!" (Our Army at War 116)
Best Art: Jerry Grandenetti, "Dogtag Hero!" (Our Fighting Forces 67)
Best All-Around Story: "Dogtag Hero!"

Worst ScriptRobert Kanigher, "The Four-Footed Spy!" (Our Fighting Forces 72)
Worst Art: Jerry Grandenetti, "The Four-Footed Spy!"
Worst All-Around Story: "The Four-Footed Spy!"


1 "Rock's Battle Family!" (Our Army at War 115)
2 "S.O.S. Sgt. Rock!" (Our Army at War 116)
3 "Snafu Squad!" (Our Army at War 117)
4 "Dogtag Hero!" (Our Fighting Forces 67)
5 "The Seesaw Aces!" (Our Army at War 118)
6 "A Bazooka for Babyface!" (Our Army at War 119)
7 "T.N.T. Mailman!" (Our Fighting Forces 69)
8 "The Haunted Tank vs. Killer Tank!" (G.I. Combat 94)
9 "Target--Sgt. Rock!" (Our Army at War 124)
10 "Be Brave--Be Silent!" (All American Men of War 94)

In Our Next Skin-Sizzling Issue
On Sale at Participating Webstands January 5, 2015!

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