Monday, November 24, 2014

Star Spangled DC War Stories Part 41: October 1962

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

Russ Heath
All American Men of War 93

"The Silent Rider!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Irv Novick

"Wings for a Knight!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Jack Abel

"The Jinx Rides My Jet!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Jack Abel

Peter: Johnny Cloud reminisces about the boy who saved his life on the reservation years before. A horse had thrown Johnny and was about to stomp him into the sand when a local ranch boy, Jiminy Peak, comes to the rescue. While saving Johnny's life, Jiminy is permanently scarred by the horse and Johnny is indebted to the boy for life. Years later, Cloud and his men are attacked by enemy fighters and Johnny must make an emergency landing. There, his plane is fired on by an enemy tank but, before a direct hit can be made, a mystery bazooka man runs out of the brush and kayos the tin can. Incredibly, Johnny's savior is the same Jiminy Peak who risked his life years before. The pair hop into Cloud's P-51 and take to the sky, where they are able to get the best of a few more fighters before heading into the drink. Jiminy can't swim so Johnny Cloud must save him, paying off his lifelong debt. I'm not sure what's most amazing in this story: the fact that Johnny just happens to be thinking about Jiminy and up he pops, or the perfectly formed horseshoe scar on the man's face. Far be it for me to tell Bob Kanigher how to write a story but "The Silent Rider" would have read much better if Johnny was imagining Peak was back in his life. This coincidence bears the longest stretch marks I've ever seen. Johnny opens the story by proclaiming that he can never get into the cockpit without considering Peak to be his "Silent Rider." That's peculiar, since we've ridden shotgun on an even dozen Johnny Cloud missions and this is the first we've heard of the future mascot of the Indianapolis Colts.

"The Ballad of the Perfectly-Formed Scar"

Jack: That is one heck of a scar and an even bigger coincidence! I was not a physics major, but can a person riding in a plane fire a bazooka? I just learned online that bazookas have no recoil. However, the other day, my wife and I were riding along at about 50 mph and there was a berry squashed on the sun roof, so I opened it partway and stuck my hand up with a napkin to try to clean off the berry. Whoosh! The wind took that napkin and off it flew! Now, a plane would be flying much faster and a bazooka is much bigger and I have to wonder if it would have been whisked off as soon as Jiminy popped his head and shoulders above the cockpit. The Nazi jets might have had to watch out for flying debris!

Peter: Since The Lance of Flambeau was stolen by the Germans, a squadron of WWI pilots just can't seem to find their mojo, being eliminated one by one. Now, with the help of an American stunt pilot, the men aim to win back their pride. With a little bit of showmanship, our American hero is able to win back the Lance and put an end to the ferocious Baron Von Sturm. "Wings for a Knight" is a serviceable time waster, nothing more. It's that kind of story that reminds you of several others you've read before (but I'm too lazy to look through my past notes). I do wish I had been keeping a checklist of Barons. They all have the same name, don't they?

"Wings for a Knight"

Jack: Zee French folk--zey have me pining for our long-lost Mlle. Marie! When the U.S. pilot finally gets to Meet the Fokkers (I couldn't help myself), he does some stunt flying and grabs the lance from the ground. As if that's not ridiculous enough, he then throws it like a spear in midair and knocks out the enemy plane! Mon Dieu! And another thing--this is yet another story where a pilot drops a glove out of his plane in order to issue a challenge. Did anyone ever really do that?

Peter: Fighter pilot Doug has it bad; he's got a jinx that he can't shed. His mates tell him the only way to get rid of a jinx is to ride it out until it disappears. Doug gets the chance to test that theory when his jet crashes uphill from an enemy base and he has to ride down the hill behind a bomb. Base exploded, jinx evicted. "The Jinx Rides My Jet" is an exciting, though extremely improbable, thriller that uses its brief space wisely, never stopping to explain too much nor giving the reader much time to pause and exclaim, "Yeah, right!"

"The Jinx Rides My Jet!"

Jack: A pretty dumb story until the pilot gets tangled up with the bomb and is riding downhill toward his doom! That was some pretty slick shooting to free himself from the ropes at top speed while bumping along down a hill. He should've done like the guy did in last week's post and shot his arm off! That would be more likely to succeed.

Jerry Grandenetti
Our Army at War 123

"Battle Brass Ring!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"The Secret Convoy Killer!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Jack Abel

"Pick Up the Pieces!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Jack Abel

Jack: Ring is the new man in Easy Co. and the other guys nickname him "Brass Ring," since he's reaching for Sgt. Rock's job right away! Ring disobeys orders and shoots down a Nazi plane, causing some of the other men to be injured needlessly, but he won't listen to criticism. He single handedly blows up a Nazi machine gun nest cut into a hillside and gets some grudging respect from Rock. He blows up a tank hidden in a haystack and Rock admits he's two for two. But when Easy Co.'s guns run out of ammo and Ring is hung up on barbed wire in No Man's Land, Ice Cream Soldier risks his life to save the new guy and gets shot for his trouble. Darkness falls and the men of Easy Co. rescue Ring, but they have to defeat a Nazi tank with only their bayonets before they can escape with their lives. We are so used to great art by Joe Kubert on this strip that seeing it drawn by Jerry Grandenetti just seems wrong. I knew we were in trouble when the cover announced "a TNT surprise," and Kanigher does not disappoint, mentioning a "T.N.T. stare" at one point in this story and a "T.N.T. broom" in another.

Joe Kubert, please come home!
Peter: We've read 43 Sgt Rock adventures so far in our journey and I think this is easily the worst. I truly believe that Robert Kanigher saved his best stuff for Kubert and, if now and then his back was against the deadline wall and he had to pump out a sub-par effort, the assignment would go to Grandenetti. You can't convince me otherwise. This story is proof, ripe with DC war cliches and uninspired dialogue. A rare Kanigher/Rock TNT misfire.

Jack: Will the Allied invasion of France on D-Day be foiled by a Nazi drone sub packed with T.N.T.? Not if frogman Andy Walton has anything to do with it! He manages to redirect the sub so that it crashes into another U-boat, saving his brother Eddie--who is poised to storm the beaches--in the process! Not a bad little story. We haven't seen a frogman in awhile and I've missed them. Haney outdoes Kanigher with the T.N.T. references this time around: we have a "T.N.T. rendezvous," a "T.N.T. express," a "T.N.T. drone" and a "T.N.T. sub," which probably should have been the title of this story!

Peter: Any excitement generated by the story is balanced by really dumb one-liners and early 1960s ding-dong-daddy-O lingo. The art's pretty ugly as well. I won't even mention that the story's foundation is built on DC War Cliche #3: the two brothers going off to war and crossing paths.

Jack: A lone soldier from the Quartermaster Corps laments his role, which consists of cleaning up the junk left over when a company of soldiers abandons a battlefield. This time, after King Co. leaves, he is alone and has to fight off a surprise attack by the Nazis, which he does successfully using the last bits of weaponry left behind. Despite the overuse of the title phrase, this is an exciting story about one man against an army, with above average art by Jack Abel.

Peter: Yet another cliche: one branch of the army looking down on another. Right from that point you know what's going to happen. Not a good issue of Our Army.

Jerry Grandenetti and Jack Adler
Our Fighting Forces 71

"End of the Marines!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"Battle of the Ghost Ships!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Jack Abel

Jack: Gunner, Sarge and Pooch have worked together for so long that they can read each other's minds, something that comes in handy when they have to battle two Japanese tanks! They manage to dispose of the enemy leaders and the supporting troops fall apart without anyone in charge. Col. Hakawa learns a lesson from this and decides that the way to beat the Marines is to divide and conquer. Pooch is captured by an enemy boat, Sarge is caught in a booby trap hanging from a tree, and Gunner falls into a camouflaged hole. Is this the "End of the Marines"? Not hardly! It turns out that each of our three heroes escaped their peril and they teach Col. Hakawa another lesson--the Marines are unbeatable! Jerry G's art may be all wrong for Sgt. Rock but it works on this story, probably due to the lighter tone. There are silly moments, but the most outrageous has to be when Pooch starts firing the Japanese machine gun with his paws! On the T.N.T. watch, we have someone brewing "T.N.T. tea" and someone throwing a "T.N.T. egg." The gorgeous wash cover is the best these three have ever looked!

How did this war last as long as it did?

Peter: Everything about this series is a farce and this chapter is no different. The idea that the laughably stereotypical Col. Hakawa would suspend all war operations to concentrate his attention on splitting up two soldiers and their dog is almost as hilarious as the sight of Pooch manning a machine gun. Some farces are fun, but this one just tests my patience. Whatever problems I have with "End of the Marines," I do have to say that the wash tone cover that represents it is a stunner.

"Battle of the Ghost Ships!"
Jack: Near the end of WWI, the American ship 309 meets and sinks the German U-boat U-9, ending the undersea craft's reign of terror on the high seas. The German commander vows revenge so, when WWII gets underway, the Nazis raise the U-9 and it once again becomes a scourge. Soon enough, it encounters the 309 and sinks it, but after some time passes the 309 is raised and back in action, setting up a "Battle of the Ghost Ships!" The last time they meet, the 309 trounces the U-9 once and for all. This was my favorite story of the month, with exciting sea action spanning two wars. I'll ignore the mentions of a "T.N.T. fish" and a "T.N.T. bloodhound."

Peter: This one's pretty exciting, if a little long, but I have to wonder if filling your bow with ping pong balls would really keep your ship afloat after being torpedoed several times. Two Von Sturms in one month? This was either a case of a large family getting around WWI or the writers were officially running out of German surnames. Or maybe Von Sturm was an ace and a U-boat captain with nine lives?

In Our Next Blood-Soaked Issue!
On Sale December 1st!

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