Monday, June 15, 2015

Star Spangled DC War Stories Part 55: December 1963/Best and Worst of 1963

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

Joe Kubert
Our Army at War 137

"Too Many Sergeants!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert

"Bring Back the Admiral!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Jack Abel

Jack: An old soldier nicknamed Ramrod is the newest recruit to join Easy Co., but Rock realizes that the man's long history of fighting means that this company has one "Too Many Sergeants!" Ramrod tells his fellow men stories of the old days, when cavalry charges were done on horseback and fighting was man to man. He does not like modern fighting methods involving machinery and insists on standing tall and charging the enemy every chance he gets. Realizing that this is a recipe for disaster, Rock does his best to protect Ramrod and the rest of his men, who are energized by the old soldier's tactics and begin to take dangerous chances themselves. In the end, Ramrod leads Easy Co. in a charge on a hill manned by Nazis; Rock and his men take the hill and Ramrod breathes his last.

"Too Many Sergeants!"
I don't think it's a coincidence that, in the flashbacks to Ramrod's cavalry days, we see him in the 7th Cavalry, which foolishly charged at Little Big Horn and paid the price. Kanigher and Kubert are at their best in "Too Many Sergeants!"

Peter: While it's really just another in the long string of "new recruit" stories, "Too Many Sergeants!" veers off into uncharted territory and scores a bullseye. Ol' Ramrod's mid-battle rants probably wouldn't have been tolerated in the real army and he'd have been sent back for observation but the poignant scenes and dialogue made me ignore the script's weaknesses. The old-timer's flashback discussion with his horse ("Our time will come, Laddie! Man against man! Mount against mount! Standard against standard! With the sound of the bugle liftin' us like the wind!") is both heart-breaking and chilling. This guy really digs war and without war he's simply another man with too much time on his hands, it seems. We've had senior citizen officers in many of the tales we've read before but I've never seen one as a "replacement." Was this common or simply a plot device? "Too Many Sergeants!" is a welcome return to the quality Sgt. Rock we've been missing the last few months.

"Bring Back the Admiral!"
Jack: A new Navy recruit keeps a promise to his mother to "Bring Back the Admiral!" despite enemy attempts to prevent him from succeeding. The admiral is his father, who knows secret battle plans and tells his son not to let the enemy take him alive. Sometimes I read a story and try to guess the writer and artist before looking at the GCD for the credits. From the first panel, the art was obviously by Jack Abel, and it wasn't long before I recognized the prose stylings of Hank Chapman. No one else uses phrases such as "magnetic boom ball" and "barrel of doom."


Dad: "Son, you have to make sure I don't fall into enemy hands!"
Son: "But, dad, I promised mom I would bring the admiral home!"
Dad: "Yes, but son, you have to make sure I don't fall into enemy hands!"
Son: "Yes, I know, dad, but I promised mom I would bring the admiral home!"
Dad: "Yes, but son..."

Half-star extra credit for the Donna Reed cameo.

Russ Heath
All American Men of War 100

"Battle of the Sky Chiefs!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Irv Novick

"Ace in Reverse!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Jack Abel

Peter: Johnny Cloud is surprised to learn that his squadron has just been joined by a new recruit known to Cloud as Proud Eagle. Years before, Johnny's father was chief of their tribe and Proud Eagle's father, Great Wing, attempted to snatch that crown away. The fight ended in Great Wing's death and Proud Eagle's vow to someday knock Johnny Cloud from his pedestal in a "Battle of the Sky Chiefs!" Despite the differences between the two men, they head off to destroy an enemy dam. When Proud Eagle's jet is damaged and he is faced with retreat, he instead flies into the dam, killing himself and blowing up the dam. Another in the seemingly endless string of tales of braves with chips on their shoulders and Johnny Cloud the target of their spite, "Battle" redeems itself with a knockout punch of an ending. There's no miracle rescue here; Proud Eagle bites the dust but somehow gets what he wanted by proving himself "the better chief" with his sacrifice. This dam looks an awful lot like the one Major Ben Wade blew up last month in "The Brainwashed Jet."

Proud Eagle makes his mark on the terror dam!

Jack: After a dull start with still more air battle action, this story got interesting with an unusually long flashback sequence and a surprise ending. I love when one Indian says to the other, "This prairie is not big enough for the two of us!" With a straight face, yet. The non-Indian members of Johnny Cloud's team call the two Indians "poker faces," which resulted in that stupid song getting stuck in my head.

Peter: Lt. Blake has had such bad luck lately, losing plane after plane, that the boys around the base have dubbed him an "Ace in Reverse!" Desperately trying to shrug off that moniker, Blake heads out on a dangerous mission and is struck by lightning. His plane crashes into the POW camp overseen by German killer ace, Major Von Muller, but flying bullets and exploding oil barrels are not enough to keep Blake from clearing his name. Deadly dull and incredibly lame. Hilarious that Blake manages to crash land his crippled plane in the very camp that the terror of the skies calls home, escape hails of machine gun fire, and blow up an entire runway without so much as a singed eyebrow, but even funnier is the scene where Blake and his rescuing ally, Captain King, hold a conversation as they fly by one another!

Mental telepathy perhaps?

Jack: At the end of the year we get one of the worst stories of 1963. Major von Muller's flying menagerie looks like planes decorated by a kindergarten class. More classic lines from the pen of Hank Chapman:

"After every mission, the major fed me razz-berries."

"He pulled the gag that gagged me."

"I was like a slice of knockwurst between two slices of pumpernickel."

Just awful.



Best Script: Robert Kanigher, "Battle Window" (GI Combat 102)
Best Art: Joe Kubert, "No Hill For Easy!" (Our Army at War 130)
Best All-Around Story: "Battle Window"

Worst Script: Hank Chapman, "Second Best" (Our Fighting Forces 80)
Worst Art: Jerry Grandenetti, "Buck Fever" (Our Fighting Forces 73)
Worst All-Around Story: "Second Best"


  1 "Battle Window"
  2 "Double Cross" (Our Fighting Forces 77)
  3 "No Hill For Easy!"
  4 "Battle of the Thirsty Tanks" (GI Combat 99)
  5 "The Haunted Tank vs Attila's Battle Tiger (GI Combat 101)
  6 "The Mouse and the Tiger" (Our Army at War 134)
  7 "Yesterday's Hero" (Our Army at War 133)
  8 "Too Many Sergeants" (Our Army at War 137)
  9 "Silent Pilot" (All American Men at War 96)
10 "Sergeants Aren't Born--" (Showcase 45)


Best Script: Robert Kanigher, "Sergeants Aren't Born--!" (Showcase 45)
Best Art: Joe Kubert, "Double-Cross!" (Our Fighting Forces 77)
Best All-Around Story: "Sergeants Aren't Born--!"

Worst Script: Robert Kanigher, "Backs to the Sea!" (Our Fighting Forces 79)
Worst Art: Jerry Grandenetti, "The T.N.T. Seat!" (Our Fighting Forces 76)
Worst All-Around Story: Robert Kanigher/Jerry Grandenetti, "Backs to the Sea!"


1 "The Four Faces of Sgt. Rock!" (Our Army at War 127)
2 "Heroes Need Cowards!" (Our Army at War 129)
3 "No Hill for Easy!"
4 "Battle of the Thirsty Tanks!"
5 "Jump Into Two Wars!" (Star-Spangled War Stories 108)
6 "One Pair of Dogtags--For Sale!" (Our Army at War 131)
7 "Double-Cross!"
8 "Sergeants Aren't Born--!"
9 "Battle Window"
10 "Too Many Sergeants!"

In our next gore-streaked issue of
Do You Dare Enter?
On Sale June 22nd!

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