Monday, February 26, 2018

Star Spangled DC War Stories Issue 124: March 1972

The DC War Comics
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook

Our Army at War 243

"24 Hour Pass!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Russ Heath

"Visit to a Small War!"
Story by Bill Finger
Art by Mort Drucker
(reprinted from G.I. Combat #62, July 1958)

"Rita, A Truck!"
Story Uncredited
Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito

"Last Shot of the Triggerfish!"
(Reprinted from Star Spangled War Stories #98, September 1961)

Story and Art by Sam Glanzman

"24 Hour Pass!"
Jack: Sgt. Rock is ordered to head back to a town that Easy Co. recently passed and wait for top-secret orders, even if he has to wait a full day. The town seems too good to be true and it looks like Rock has a "24 Hour Pass!" to enjoy the friendly Middle European villagers and their town that seems to have felt no effects of the war. Rock thinks he sees some Nazis sneaking through the woods outside a toy factory, but when he tries to follow them they disappear. He sits down under a tree and takes a short nap, but is awakened when an arrow from a crossbow nearly misses his head. The townsfolk insist he was dreaming and he is comforted by a pretty young woman who offers to help him forget his loneliness.

Who is this actor?
("Visit to a Small War!")
Rock survives an attack by a man who tries to garrote him, and he heads back to the toy factory, where he discovers that the seemingly gentle townsfolk are secretly assembling rocket parts stuffed with high explosives. He defeats the Nazi guards and blows up the factory before returning to Easy Co. and announcing that the town was peaceful and quiet.

Almost a solo Sgt. Rock adventure, "24 Hour Pass!" is one of the most successful Easy Co. tales in recent memory. There are no new recruits to kill off and no annoying phrases to repeat. Heath does a nice job of depicting the idyllic small town and the incident with the pretty young lass is drawn with few words. The gal almost looks like she stepped out of a DC Romance comic!

"Rita, a Truck!"
Jim is a soldier on the front lines in WWII fighting the Big War, but when he gets a furlough he pays a "Visit to a Small War!" and sees that his kid brother has just as much fighting to do, even though it's on a different scale. Bill Finger's script is exciting and Mort Drucker provides gritty, realistic art to go along with it. I can't put my finger on the actor whose face must have served as the model for Jim.

Near the end of WWII, an American supply truck needs to reach the front lines and leaves a convoy of trucks to try and forge its own route. Nazi guns cause a flat tire and a broken fan belt, but eventually the supplies get through. Eight pages of dreadful Andru and Esposito visuals don't help this tepid tale, and "Rita, a Truck!" is a real letdown after the first two stories in this issue. Rita, of course, refers to a cheesecake painting of Rita Hayworth on one of the fenders.

"Communications!" are important in wartime, from something as simple as a walkie-talkie to something as complex as the language used by Navajo code talkers. What starts out as a dull litany of communications methods takes a left turn near the end and becomes a paean to an Indian tribe! Sam Glanzman tries his hand at drawing Sgt. Rock, who narrates the piece.

Peter: "24-Hour Pass!" has some great visuals but a pretty dumb script. Seems a very elaborate ruse to fool . . . whom? Any ol' Sarge who would come wandering in to the village? Why not just blow away anyone who came into town? "Visit to a Small War!" is a real hoot, just about the best reprint we've had in these parts for some time. Of course, it's got Mort Drucker art and that's a big plus. I'm usually the first to jump all over the "tepid" Andru and Esposito doodles but that's not the weakest aspect of "Rita, A Truck!" That would be the tedious and overlong script which bounces from one AAA mishap to another.

Star Spangled War Stories 161

"The Long Jump"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Doug Wildey and Joe Kubert

"The Slayers and the Slain!"
(Reprinted from Star Spangled War Stories #138, May 1968)

Peter: The Unknown Soldier must parachute into a tiny village in Nazi-occupied France, where he'll scout for a landing area for ten thousand paratroopers. Once he's made "The Long Jump," US must convince village leader, Herr Voss, that the upcoming drop is good for France, but the stubborn old man is convinced the Nazis have been treating his people well and refuses to enlist the help of his fellow villagers. But once the man discovers that the Nazis plan to bomb the nearby dike in order to flood the landing area, he quickly helps the Unknown Soldier quash the evil  campaign. The paratroopers land safely and the Unknown Soldier is victorious again.

We've come to a major crossroads in the saga of the Unknown Soldier with this issue; Joe Kubert's juggling of editorial duties and illustrating war stories has obviously become too much and something's got to give. This is the first US story sans Kubert art and, unfortunately, it won't be the last. Joe will return to the art chores for the next two issues and then leave altogether. A few guest artists will fill in until (gulp!) Jack Sparling takes over for good with #165. Doug Wildey does not plumb the depths of Grandenetti, Andru, or Esposito, but neither does he ascend to the heights of Kubert or Heath. It's somewhere right down that middle between good and not-so-good. The story's pretty weak as well; the old man's reason for sitting out the rebellion (he's pretty darn happy that the Ratzis will allow him his white blossoms) is dopey. Voss won't even acquiesce when his daughter is taken hostage. A definite step down from the previous chapter.

Jack: I was about to complain about Doug Wildey's art until I read the Wikipedia page about his career and discovered that it was long and fairly illustrious. I guess this story isn't a good example. Haney's plot is entertaining but the art is so weak when compared to Kubert that it's distracting. The cover is great, though. As for the reprint, it's a great story but it's not even five years old!

G.I. Combat 152

"Decoy Tank"
(Reprinted from G.I. Combat #97, January 1963)

Story and Art by Sam Glanzman

"The Flying Tigers"
Story by Jerry DeFuccio
Art by John Severin

"The Psalm of the K Ration"
Story and Art by Jon L. Blummer
(Reprinted from Comic Cavalcade #8, Fall 1944)

"The War Comes to Matt Dobbs!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Frank Thorne

A sample of some of Jerry DeFuccio's exemplary
writing from "The Flying Tigers."
Peter: A blacksmith comes to an ironic end during the Civil War in "The War Comes to Matt Dobbs!," a strong anti-war tale that succeeds despite the chicken scratchings of Frank Thorne, an artist I still have not acquired a taste for.  If "The Flying Tigers" resembles the closest thing we've come to an EC war story since Two-Fisted Tales shut its doors in 1955, that's due to the partnership of artist John Severin and writer Jerry DeFuccio, who actually did work together on that classic title. DeFuccio hits all the right buttons with "Tigers," giving us a tutorial and interesting characters at the same time. Watch for this to land at or near the top of my annual Best-Of list. Unfortunately, Sam Glanzman's latest chapter of the USS Stevens saga, "Dreams," is a disjointed affair with very weak art.

Jack: Drawing people is not Sam Glanzman's strong suit, so "Dreams" falls flat for most of its short length. I did like the stoner's psychedelic reverie, though. John Severin contributes some sharp art to "The Flying Tigers," which has a good story and a character who resembles Clark Gable. "The Psalm of the K Ration" has great, Golden Age art and is almost certainly the only pre-1950 DC War story we've seen in 124 issues of this blog, which leads to a question: how many DC War stories were published before 1950 anyway? I liked the use of the Psalm and its application to the wartime story. Finally, "The War Comes to Matt Dobbs!" is a '70s morality play inside a Civil War tale, with appealingly scratchy art by Frank Thorne. For all the reprints, including the lead story, this is a pretty enjoyable issue.

Arrrr! Avast ye landlubbers.
The bosuns and I welcome
Piracy to the bloody waters off EC Bay!
Next Week in Issue 52!

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