Monday, March 23, 2015

Star Spangled DC War Stories Part 49: June 1963

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

Joe Kubert
Our Army at War 131

"One Pair of Dogtags--For Sale!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert

"Desert Hotfoot"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Jack Abel

"Everybody Makes It In Dog Co.!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Jack Abel

Jack: When Easy Co. is given the task of taking the French village of L'Oisseau, it looks deserted, but Sgt. Rock goes on ahead alone to make sure. He finds a Nazi machine gun nest hidden in the wreckage and manages to destroy it with some well-thrown grenades. Giving the all-clear sign to the rest of Easy Co. turns out to be a mistake, as the weapon from a second Nazi machine gun pins down the men of Easy and knocks Rock off his feet. The sergeant doesn't give up, though, and manages to crawl up under fire and disarm the gun using his helmet. Rock is critically wounded and, when Easy Co. gets him to a doctor in a nearby camp, no one can find a donor with AB negative blood to save the fading hero. Luckily, a nurse lying on a stretcher has the necessary blood type and, one transfusion later, Rock is saved.

As Easy Co. moves on, Rock is troubled by not knowing the name of the nurse who saved him and whom he was not able to thank. He asks after her everywhere but is unable to locate her until she turns up in the middle of another battle. This time, she is wounded, and Rock is able to repay the favor at last with a blood donation of his own. When Kanigher and Kubert are firing on all cylinders, it makes me glad I read comic books. "One Pair of Dogtags--For Sale!" is a terrific story that will be in my top ten of 1963.

Sgt. Rock hallucinates that
Bulldozer is a cute blonde

Peter: A bit of a lightweight entry compared to some of the heavy lifters we've read lately but, make no mistake, still a good read. For some reason, the happy ending doesn't come off as sappy to me. Far from lightweight, though, is the standout sequence where Rock has to improvise or watch his men die; he manages to craft an oven mitt from his tin pot to deflect a cannon from taking out his guys. Fabulously gritty stuff, that!

Not so much
Jack: A soldier with aching feet gets a "Desert Hotfoot!" when his sarge tells him to walk across the desert and bring back a prisoner. He trades his watch for a passing Arab's camel but is quickly thrown from the beast's back. He hitches a ride on a U.S. tank but finds it has been hijacked by Nazis. Finally, he forces a Nazi commander at gunpoint to give him a piggyback ride back to camp. It's discouraging to see such a poor story follow such a great Sgt. Rock story, but at least it was short.

Peter:  Lucky for our lazy soldier that the Nazi tank men speak English and they speak it loud enough to hear through inches of steel! So, the only amusing scene in this tedium was the one you weren't supposed to laugh at.  Nothing worse than a comedy that's not funny.

Jack: A soldier trying to take Dead End Hill is determined not to die and let his dog tags become part of the sergeant's growing collection. He rushes a tank and destroys it by shooting into its view slit, thus saving his company from further carnage. His sarge plants a rifle in the ground at the top of the hill and hangs the dog tags of the men who didn't make it from the butt end, announcing that "Everyone Makes it in Dog Co!" To the top of the hill, that is--eventually. A gritty little four-pager from Kanigher that shows that death and despair are not always the end of the story.

Peter: Write this down: "You're not getting my dog tags, Sarge!" There, you've just written a DC war story.

Irv Novick
All American Men of War 97

"The Ship That Fought In Three Wars!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Irv Novick

"A 'Target' Called Johnny!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Irv Novick

Peter: A World War I pilot suddenly finds himself in "The Ship That Fought in Three Wars!" Unable to impress the British pilots he's been detailed with, Leftenant Brooks, a young American pilot, attempts to win their attention and respect with air tricks but the seasoned aces aren't buying. They want victories, not stunts. So, determined to score a few kills before the sun rises, our hero hits the skies in search of prey and finds a helpless German zeppelin. Shooting the giant balloon down, the pilot heads home convinced he's taken the first step, only to be shot down (pun intended) by his seniors, who demand proof of the victory. Undeterred, our boy heads back out with his comrades but manages to lose himself in a heavy cloud bank. When he comes out the other end, he's attacked by a lone Messerschmitt, a plane that won't even exist for over two decades! Though Brooks shoots the German from the sky, the men are still not convinced and Brooks heads back out the next day with his young mechanic, Albert, in tow. Emerging from the same strange cloud bank, they are fired upon by a commie jet over Korean skies. While filming the phantom jet, Albert takes a bullet for the team just before Brooks blasts it from the sky. Once on the ground, the film is shown to be blank but, just as he's receiving another dressing-down from his Major, a doctor rushes into the viewing room to announce he's just dug a bullet out of young Albert; a bullet of unknown caliber! Enjoyable enough romp, but don't look for any explanations from Bob. How did this pilot fly into a cloud and end up in MIG Alley? Who knows? Another five pages and Leftenant Brooks might have landed on one of those uncharted islands in the Pacific. I'm more interested in why the film was blank.

Jack: H'I found bucktoothed, red-headed H'Albert rather annoying, Guv'nor! Haven't we seen this story before, where an American pilot has to prove himself as the first Yank to fight with the RAF? Like you, I was waiting for him to fly over some dinosaurs after he passed through that cloud, but I guess they're limited to the Pacific Ocean. And how handy is that time-warp cloud? He flies through it unintentionally the first time, yet it's always there when he needs to fly back to 1917. And why is Johnny Cloud relegated to the backup slot in his own book?

Peter: In his 16th adventure, Johnny Cloud is having a tough time convincing a hard-nosed tank sergeant that pilots and tank men can work together to win the war. It's only after Cloud makes himself "A Target Called Johnny" and draws the fire of the enemy that the tank sergeant comes around to our hero's way of thinking. The bottom of the bill in our Kanigher/Novick Double Feature isn't much better than the "prestige picture," but it's not bad for a Johnny Cloud starrer. There's a bit in this story where the tank guys admit they have no idea how to use the clock face to identify where an enemy is. That's hard to imagine, isn't it? There's one word to describe Irv Novick's usually dependable artwork in "A Target Called Johnny": cluttered. Way too much activity going on in every panel to focus; it's as if Novick decided each and every panel had to be filled with military vehicles and gunfire. We get one of those typically sappy climaxes where the antagonist comes around to the way our hero thinks in the space of two or three panels and acknowledges what we already know: Johnny Cloud is a genius. Groan.

Jack: Novick's splash page is exciting, but you're right about the cluttered look to the rest of the story. This tale is nearly non-stop battle with little letup and the premise that tank guys don't know how to direct planes is an interesting one. More interesting than this issue's lead feature, but I think that at this point in the run of All American Bob Kanigher was focused on getting three wars into the mag one way or another.

In Our Next Shape-Changing Issue!
On Sale March 30!

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