The DC War Comics
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook
"The Million Dollar Medal!"
Story by Howard Liss
Art by Gene Colan
Story by Howard Liss
Art by Jack Abel
Peter: Arnie's had it rough all his life; the poor guy can't buy a break, but now all that's changed. After his squadron enters a strange cloud over an uncharted Pacific island and is massacred by prehistoric monsters from a dinosaur stone age, Arnie's the only soldier to survive. He manages to grab a raft and row ashore, only to discover more giant beasts ready to make a meal out of him. Back at the base, his CO is growing antsy since Arnie has important info regarding an enemy convoy and the Allies are counting on his rescue. Luckily, the man in charge just happens to be Tim, Arnie's buddy from way back. Tim hoofs it to the island and discovers that Arnie has found the world's biggest diamond and has no intention of sharing it with anyone . . . including Tim. All that Tim wants is the info that Arnie is carrying but he can't convince his old buddy of that until a series of run-ins with stone age creatures in which Tim risks his life to get Arnie to safety. Arnie is mortally wounded but manages to relay the convoy info to his old friend. Tim heads back to the base as Arnie awaits his destiny with "The Million Dollar Medal!" as his pillow.
|"The Million Dollar Medal!"|
B-Liss-fully dark. The cover brings up an interesting question: was there a story entitled "My Enemy is 100 Million Years Old!" and featuring the Suicide Squad, slotted for this issue? There's a Suicide Squad vibe to Arnie Brock and Tim Granger but no one mentions the elite team by name (and they usually crow about it all through the length of a SS entry).
Jack: Mid-'60s Colan art isn't as good as '70s Colan art, but it's good nonetheless, especially when stacked up against what we're used to seeing from Andru and Esposito. This story has some of the same flaws we see in Kanigher stories, such as the long flashback and the coincidence of childhood friends meeting up again in wartime, but the fact that Arnie is an almost irredeemable bum adds depth. Yes, the plane still goes through a mysterious cloud and emerges into the Land of Dinosaurs, and yes, no one at base ever quite realizes what's going on, but Liss and Colan are definitely a step up from Kanigher and Andru.
Peter: Dobson was blind as a kid but all his other senses made up for it; the kid could nail a duck two hundred miles away with a pea shooter. But then, one day, a freak accident renders Dobby sighted and he's suddenly an even better marksman. Fast forward several years and another freak accident leaves army sniper Dobson blind. It's a "Sniper's Nightmare!" ("Tryin' to shoot a guy you can't see is like tryin' to hit a home run against a fastball with your back turned!") but, fortunately, Dobson has his childhood experience to draw from and lays waste to the entire German army. A bit of a fanciful tune from Liss and not really my cup of tea, unfortunately, but the loony bits are entertaining (Dobson's origin is actually kinda sorta a reverse Daredevil, isn't it?). That final panel (below), with Dobby laid up in a hospital bed, contains a bit of dialogue a little saucier than we're used to in the land of homogenized war.
|Hundreds of thousands of DC-loving boys|
just threw down their comics in disgust!
Jack: Stacked indeed! That was a surprise to read in a DC comic. Too bad Gene Colan didn't draw that story!
"The Sergeant Must Die!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert
Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito
(Reprinted from G.I. Combat #56, January 1958)
Jack: Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. have a new mission: to bring back the serpent crown of Barbarosa, the Germanic warrior king of long ago. It seems the Nazis are whipping themselves into a frenzy over the thought that the king will return and lead them to victory.
Before they can reach the ruined castle where the crown is held, the men of Easy Co. must fight their way through a village of Germans who cry out the emperor's name as they launch suicidal attacks on our favorite G.I.s. Once the villagers have been defeated, a batch of Nazi soldiers are next, and Easy Co. makes mincemeat of them as well. Nazi snipers menace Rock and his men in a German forest and several booby-trapped Nazis cause the death of a number of American soldiers.
|It's never a good sign when members of |
Easy Co. with nicknames we've not
heard before head into battle!
There's a lot going on in "The Sergeant Must Die!" and it fills up 18 pages with plenty of action. The notion that Nazis--and German villagers--could get fired up over the hope that a long-dead Germanic warrior might return to life and lead them to victory is an interesting one, something that one could almost imagine happening. There was a real Barbarossa (with a double s), who was Holy Roman Emperor in the twelfth century and a very powerful leader indeed. Hitler's invasion of Russia had the code name, Operation Barbarossa, so the great man of old was certainly in the mind of the Nazis. Kubert makes good use of the warrior's imposing physique, and it can't be coincidence that both he and Sgt. Rock--who battle to the death--have red hair!
Peter: Though the cover screams "Sgt. Rock fought the mad emperor for the lives of a teenage army . . . ," we don't get to see said fight until the closing pages and it ain't really worth the wait if you ask me. It seemed as though Big Bob was going down the supernatural path for a bit but then shied away, which is all right by me. Though "The Sergeant Must Die!" was anything but exciting, I don't care for those "Elseworlds" stories where Rock fights Vikings or cavemen. I've always been of the mind that the Sarge's world should be kept separate from the rest of the DC Universes; why fight WWII with hand-held weapons when the Allies could have the Son of Krypton wipe out the Ratzis in a single bound? Having said that, I always hoped for a cross-publisher team-up of Rock and Marvel's Sgt. Fury. How glorious would that have been? "Combat Mile!" is not worth bothering with; surely, there were more compelling reprints in the vaults.
|Heath and Adler|
"Target for a Firing Squad!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Irv Novick
"A Jet's No Pet!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Russ Heath
(Reprinted from G.I. Combat #62, July 1958)
Peter: The Jeb Stuart happens upon a soldier who's about to be shot for desertion but fate, in the form of a crashing Focke-Wulf, stays his execution. He holds a gun on the men of the Jeb and demands that they hide him from the inevitable search party but, when the going gets tough, the soldier proves that, deep down, he's no chicken. Though the story's a winner, this is just about the worst work we've ever seen from Irv Novick. If I didn't know any better, I'd say this chicken scratch masquerading as comic art was Ross Andru, inked by Jerry Grandenetti. Yep, it's that bad.
|"Target for a Firing Squad!"|
|"A Jet's No Pet!"|
As for the reprint, I thought the Korean War setting gave Heath an excuse to draw plenty of neat jet action, though the story was a simple one. It does seem like the stories in DC war comics have grown more complex over time, though Kanigher is no Harvey Kurtzman.
Our Aim is True!