Monday, September 7, 2015

Star Spangled DC War Stories Part 61: June 1964

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

Irv Novick
All American Men of War 103

"Battle Ship--Battle Heart!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert

"Dot on the Spot!"
Story by Ed Herron
Art by Irv Novick

Peter: Lt. Johnny Cloud leads an attack against a formation of enemy bombers, wiping out most of them in no time. The final Nazi lowers his wheels, the sign that he's surrendering, and he's escorted to the base to be questioned. The next day, Johnny is teaching a newbie some air tricks when the pair happen upon and are attacked by a squadron of German fighter planes. The rookie is shot down (all the while refusing to surrender) and Johnny's jet is damaged. In the melee, Cloud's wheels lower and the Ratzis lay off. They all land and Cloud explains the misunderstanding. Good Germans that they are, they allow our hero to take to the skies to die a hero. Johnny has a few more tricks up his bomber jacket sleeve and lives to take part in another adventure next issue.

"Battle Ship..."
"Battle Ship--Battle Heart!" is an exciting tale but (like my similar complaint last issue) it always seems as though most of Johnny Cloud's adventures are based on coincidences or well-timed memories. It's not ten minutes after he tells his squadron that they've never had a member drop their wheels that his equipment fails and... what should happen? Kubert's art, as always, is majestic and it's nice to see Joe get off the battle field and choreograph air battles now and then.

Jack: Despite some over the top writing by Kanigher, who describes enemy planes carrying bombs as "iron-crossed buzzards" with "eggs of death," this is a thriller. I'm a sucker for tales where men in battle suddenly decide to become civilized and adhere to unwritten codes of combat. When we saw the flashback to Johnny's youth, I thought he was in for a lesson on the wisdom of surrender, but no--he sticks to his guns, watches his young colleague perish, and barely escapes with his own life. I would have let my wheels down and surrendered. Odd that the big scene on the cover and splash page barely matters by the end of the story.

"... Battle Heart!"

Peter: A former carnival performer gets into trouble when he discovers a Nazi-occupied big top in France. With daredevil stunts and hair-trigger shooting, our hero saves the day. Absolutely bottom of the barrel, "Dot on the Spot" takes two of the most well-worn cliches of the genre (the put-upon athlete who excels when it's needed and the ham-fisted catch phrase) and grinds them right down into our foreheads. At one point, the carny man discovers a tank inside a tiger's cage; no explanation how it got there and why the Nazis would be dumb enough to put a tank in a cage, but then war is crazy.

You'll believe a man can trampoline
and machine gun at the same time!

Jack: Sporting some classic Novick art, I didn't think "Dot on the Spot!" was that bad. The circus setting is unusual but you're right about the overused catch phrase.

No, really, there's a good explanation for this!

Joe Kubert
Our Army at War 143

"Easy's T.N.T. Crop!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert

"Sandbox Sub!"
Story by Kin Platt
Art by Jack Abel

Jack: Back when Easy Co. was being shipped out to North Africa, they had a new recruit nicknamed Farmer Boy who was determined to make something grow, even if it was just a little sprout in a pot. Ignoring "Easy's T.N.T. Crop!" that constantly exploded around him, he tended his plant even though it was shot down time and again.

He meets his end fighting a Nazi tank in the desert and Rock and the rest of Easy Co. bury his body in the sand. It seems that his decaying corpse provides the missing fertilizer, for a flower grows on the spot and Easy Co. defends that flower from enemy attack. Kanigher and Kubert reach a bit farther than usual in this classic story, using Farmer Boy and his determination not to let the enemy destroy growing things as a metaphor for the fight to uphold American values. For me, it works, and the art is as good as it gets.

Peter: Though Kubert's art is magnifico and I should find this story inspirational (that is the point, boys and girls), I actually find it rather tedious in its simple message and ho-hum action scenes. I find it unbelievable that the boys would lay their lives down (and risk those of their comrades) for a flower (even one that belonged to a fallen G.I.).

Jack: On the high school football team, Harvey always played second fiddle to Rogers. In wartime, sub commander Harvey again finds himself replaced by Rogers. When a tornado hits off the North African coast, the ship becomes a "Sandbox Sub!" after it is tossed ashore. A Nazi plane attacks and wounds Rogers, so Harvey grabs the gun and shoots it down. A tank attacks, and Harvey fires torpedoes until an underground channel provides a water source and they find their target. Finally, a battleship attacks from the water and Harvey manages to get the sub back into the drink by means of an ancient canal that has reopened in the desert. Harvey blows away the destroyer and finally earns praise from Rogers. Air, land and sea battles and all from a sub! Not a bad little back of the book story.

Peter: Oh no, not the old "disgraced athlete shows 'em who's boss" warhorse again. We just got a variation of that in this month's All American, for Pete's sake! Things may have been more interesting if poor Harvey had pulled his service revolver and put a cap in the forehead of the mocking Rogers. Alas.

Peter: An interesting Letters Page (Sgt. Rock's Combat Corner) this issue. Rather than print the usual letters about the firing pins of a M-16 or the width of the luggage rack on a Panzer VI, editor Kanigher prints only one bit of correspondence. Reader Rick Wood is allowed an entire page to critique Our Army at War issues 125-128. Good stuff, and a direction I hope Combat Corner heads into in the future.

The Long-Awaited Return of Frank Robbins!
In the Long-Awaited 61st Issue of
Do You Dare Enter?
On Sale Sept. 14th!

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