Monday, June 4, 2018

Star Spangled DC War Stories Issue 131: October 1972

The DC War Comics
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook

Our Fighting Forces 139

"The Pirate"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by John Severin and Joe Kubert

"Whose Side?"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Bruce Jones

"A Nightmare From the Beginning . . ."
Story and Art by Sam Glanzman

Jack: While riding aboard the last ship in an Allied Convoy along the coast of Norway, the Losers find their ship suddenly boarded by "The Pirate" and his men, who set the ship ablaze and toss the Losers overboard. Swimming to shore, the Losers are met by resistance fighters, who were waiting for supplies from the ship that now will never arrive.

"The Pirate"
The Losers radio the bad news to London and are given a new assignment, to hijack a shipment of jet fuel being shipped by patrol boat to Berlin for testing. They head out to sea in a small raft and witness the pirate ship raiding and destroying the Nazi patrol boat! Back on land, the Losers radio London and learn that the pirate is offering the jet fuel to the highest bidder. The next morning, a strange auction takes place, with the Losers bidding against the Nazis for the bottle of rocket fuel and winning by throwing in some pocket change. On the way to meet a plane to deliver the fuel, the Losers are ambushed by the Nazis and a battle ensues, but the pirate appears and helps the Losers wipe out the Nazis, explaining that it would be bad for business if the Nazis hijacked the winners of the auction.

There are clues a-plenty here that the pirate is Captain Storm, but Kanigher and Severin are taking their time with the story and it's a welcome development. I have to wonder why the Losers don't recognize Captain Storm, even with a bandana, but we have to suspend our disbelief just a bit. The story is exciting and Severin's art is up to par--I don't know why Kubert felt the need to redraw some of the faces.

"Whose Side?"
In 1916, French and German soldiers fight it out across No Man's Land, as a vision of an angel appears and both sides take it as a good sign. Neither is spared in the carnage, however, leaving open the question of "Whose Side?" the angel was on.

Bruce Jones does a decent job with what is nothing more than a four-page vignette highlighting the very 1972-ish notion that war is hell and neither side wins.

A sailor on the U.S.S. Stevens is trapped below decks among flames when explosions rock the ship. He sees the captain laughing as the ship goes down in flames but soon wakes up and realizes it was "A Nightmare from the Beginning . . ."

Not one of Glanzman's better entries in the long-running back-of-the-book series, this is obviously a dream, especially when a DC ape makes an appearance on shipboard!

Oh yes, this issue's cover has to be in the running for best of 1972!

"A Nightmare from the Beginning . . ."
Peter: "The Losers" continues its ascent to the top of the series chart with a fun installment this time out. The added mystery of "Who is the one-eyed, one-legged pirate?" makes this reader want to jump to the next issue immediately. Surely, Big Bob can't be insinuating the World War II Blackbeard is actually Captain Storm, could he? The scene where the Losers have to pony up an additional twenty-six dollars and eighty-three cents to win the rocket fuel is hilarious as is the Nazi's comment that "German officers do not carry small change!" Bruce Jones debuts in the DC war universe with the strong "Whose Side?" Jones will grow into one of the best comic writers of all time with Warren and Marvel (his Twisted Tales series for Pacific was the Tales from the Crypt of the 1980s) and here shows he was just as adept as a beginning artist.

Weird War Tales 7

"Flying Blind"
Story by William Woolfolk
Art by Jerry Grandenetti and Joe Giella
(Reprinted from Our Army at War #12, July 1953)

"The 50-50 War!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert
(Reprinted from All-American Men of War #41, January 1957)

"The Three GIs!"
Story by Bill Finger
Art by Russ Heath
(Reprinted from Star Spangled War Stories #62, October 1957)

Peter: Though this issue has reverted to the title's evil ways of reprinting questionably "weird war tales," the next issue will see the advent of all-new material by talents such as Neal Adams, Alex Nino, Alfredo Alcala, Tony DeZuniga, and Ernie Chan. WWT will become, in effect, a DC "mystery" title (which is what it should have been from the outset). But for now, we have to deal with . . .

"Flying Blind"
The intro/outro this issue, written by Marv Wolfman and illustrated by Joe, is the, by now, cliched "We are in a hell of a pickle, boys, but let me tell you some stories about fighting guys who had it worse off!" nonsense. Where these new grunts hear these tales would make for an even more interesting story. "Flying Blind" reminds us that Jerry Grandenetti wasn't that bad of an artist way way way back when but the story, of a loner pilot forced to rely on his comrades to land him after he's blinded by flak, is cornball stuff. Our hero, who trusts no one, has an epiphany by the final panel and accepts the entire world into his treehouse. The plot of "The 50-50 War!" has been used a gajillion times and, in fact, Big Bob and Joe re-used it for a memorable Rock tale in the 1960s. Frankie and Alec are best buds/worst enemies in college and their competitive nature carries over into the army when they are detailed to a ski unit. A grenade damages Alec's legs and blinds Frankie so the two become a dynamite piggy-back team and discover that, together, they can win this war! It's pretty silly stuff and the idea that the entire German army is made up of witless bumblers (who ski in their full Nazi uniforms, jack boots and all, while the good guys use the more sensible snow suits) would make the producers of Hogan's Heroes rich men a decade later.

Last up is the laughably bad "The Three GIs!," written by the usually-reliable Bill Finger, about three new recruits who each have an annoying habit. Hal can sleep through anything as if he can just "shut off his hearing"; Tom is a "regular sphinx," who never talks; and Stan is a fumblebum who never sees a thing, tripping over his comrade's feet constantly. When the three buddies are thrown onto the battlefield, explosions rob them of speech, hearing, and eyesight (and I'll let you match up each grunt with his respective loss), but their afflictions become advantages when they manage to overcome the odds through sheer dumb luck. Shut down your brain for the duration of six funny book pages and it's not all that bad.

"And . . . for the whipped cream atop this
ironic pizza pie . . ."

Jack: I like Kubert's art in the frame story but I agree with you that the storytelling conceit is tired. "Flying Blind" is a fairly thrilling tale but I think what we're interpreting as decent Grandenetti art is really the work of inker Joe Giella; the best panels look like his work with Infantino in the '50s. Kubert's art is again the highlight of "The 50-50 War!" and I'm glad you reminded me of that Sgt. Rock tale because I knew I'd heard this one before. And "The Three GIs!" was just reprinted in Our Fighting Forces 117 (February 1969), so I knew I'd read that one before! The end of the frame story has a neat twist that I did not see coming.

Our Army at War 250

"90 Day Wonder"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Russ Heath

"The Last Escape!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by ER Cruz

Jack: Easy Co. has a new platoon leader in 2d Lt. Willis Kenton, a "90 Day Wonder" who insists on going by the book and ignoring Rock's advice. Rock and his men board a plane being towed by another plane, on their way to rescue paratroopers in Holland who landed off target and are under attack. The tow plane is shot down and Easy's plane crash lands next to a canal. Kenton orders everyone into the canal despite Rock's warning that it might be mined; a mine goes off and men are killed but Rock tells everyone they must obey the officer.

"90 Day Wonder"
Outside the canal, Nazis attack and both Kenton and Bulldozer are wounded. Kenton leads Easy Co. to its objective and once again they are subject to Nazi fire. Suddenly, Kenton takes off alone, waking slowly toward the Nazis and confusing them long enough to allow him to get so close that he can toss a grenade. Rock and his men follow up and wipe out the enemy but Kenton is killed in the battle.

Heath is at the top of his game here, most likely copying photographs for some of his photo-realistic depictions of characters' faces. The battle scenes are brutal, especially when the men are blown up by a mine. Kanigher's script is aces as well, with Rock unexpectedly following orders even though one man after another is killed due to the lieutenant's inexperience.

A prisoner of war in a Nazi camp is told that if he tries to escape again he'll be shot. Ignoring the threat, he makes his way out of the camp only to encounter a blinding snowstorm. He seeks shelter in a cave, where he witnesses a strange battle between a pale white serpent and a bright yellow tiger. He helps the tiger survive by killing the serpent. After a short rest, the sun comes out and the soldier is saved from death by exposure to the cold--it seems that the serpent he defeated was the snow and the tiger was the sun.

The onslaught of Filipino artists at DC has begun, and I expect it will be a welcome addition to the line of War Comics. ER Cruz's art in "The Last Escape!" is extremely good, turning a somewhat far-fetched premise into something most enjoyable.

"The Last Escape!"

Peter: Another day at the office for Russ Heath, making the best of another by-the-numbers Big Bob script. You can almost count the beats, anticipate every move before you've gotten to it. A little surprise now and then wouldn't hurt and, as I've been crowing on and on about, a little continuity would be nice as well. You can never tell where Easy is positioned from story to story. Are these told chronologically? "The Last Escape!" is an interesting oddity, one that would have found a comfortable home in Weird War Tales, and features our first glance at the talents of E(ufronio)R(eyes) Cruz, an artist well known to us for his work on the DC mystery line in the mid-70s. Cruz has a detailed style that works well in both the horror and war genres, similar to another Filipino artist about to jump on board the DC war wagon, Alex Nino.


Desperately needed for an upcoming project. If you have scans for the following Atlas comic books, or can make us a scan, please contact us:

Adventures Into Weird Worlds #1,4, and 23
Journey Into Unknown Worlds  #38 (3rd issue), 9, 10 and 48
Mystery Tales #4, 8, 11, 12, 21, 42, 43, 49, and 51
Mystic #13
Spellbound #14
Suspense #26 and 28

See your name in lights on this very website! 

Next Week in EC #59 . . .
Bernie Krigstein proves there might just be
a little life left in the corpse after all!

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