Monday, November 30, 2015

Star Spangled DC War Stories Part 67: December 1964/ Best & Worst of 1964

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

Irv Novick
All American Men of War 106

"Death Song for a Battle Hawk!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Irv Novick

"Battling Tin Can and Wooden Crate!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Win Mortimer

Peter: Johnny Cloud is shot down and sinks to the bottom of the ocean but at least memories of his childhood keep him company. Johnny remembers a hawk who came to his rescue one day when he was being attacked by a grey wolf. Coincidentally, years later, a hawk finds its way into Johnny's cockpit as he's making a run at a remote rocket base situated between two rocky walls. All others have failed but, with help from his winged guardian angel, Cloud rounds third with the winning run. The hawk becomes a mascot to the team and almost seems to show the pilots the way to victory on every mission. Then the unthinkable happens: Swift Hawk flies into the open cowling of a dirty stinking Nazi pilot and sends him to hell but the poor bird can't get out of the ship in time and ends up singing a "Death Song for a Battle Hawk."

The agony of the bird's death snaps Johnny out of his nostalgia just in time for his magnetic torpedoes to fire at a passing enemy ship. The resulting explosion tears the cockpit to bits but Johnny is ejected and sent to the surface, where he is rescued and, presumably, treated for a bad case of the bends. Back at base, Johnny discovers that Swift Hawk has laid an egg and "junior" hatches before the startled pilot's eyes. A flashback within a flashback can sometimes lead to confusion and, of course, that's part and parcel for this series. Things can tend to get murky at times and you have to try to remember which past you're currently in. With all the room afforded this story, it's strange that the finale seems so rushed, as if Bob suddenly remembered this wasn't a two-parter. A sequel of sorts to "The Battle Hawk" (#92, August 1962).

Jack: Another scene where a pilot has to fly through a cleft in a rock? How many of those clefts were there? The bit where Johnny gets back to base and sees all of the other pilots holding their pets is just weird. One guy has a pet monkey and another has a pet squirrel. Are we supposed to think that monkeys and squirrels were running around in the cockpits while Johnny Cloud's air fighters were waging war against Nazi planes? I don't recall seeing fur and feathers before in this series.

Peter: Two competitive chums find their game escalated once they are drafted into the first World War. Pete ends up flying a rattly old Spad and Frank is encased in a deathtrap of a tank. The rickety vehicles don't stop the boys from trying to outdo each other and a twist of fate leaves them relying on each other to survive. "Battling Tin Can and Wooden Crate" is a rickety old carcass with an engine that sputters. The phony bickering and outlandish stunts would never be tolerated in a real war. These guys almost forget they're out there fighting for something; while bazookas are aimed at them, all they can think of is what the other is up to. Unless I've missed something in all the notes I've taken, this is the first time we've seen Win Mortimer illustrate a DC War story. It'll also be the last as he'll soon be busy on superhero strips like Legion of Super-Heroes and Adventure Comics. He'll re-enter our radar with a handful of appearances in the DC horror titles (which, to make things even more confusing, we've already covered thanks to our Monday Morning Quarterbacks status) in the mid-1970s. Mortimer's art on "Battling BlahBlahBlah..." isn't too bad; it's almost got an EC feel to it.

Jack: When I saw Mortimer's name on the credits for this story, I thought "uh oh," but it's half-decent work, much better than the terrible script by Chapman. "Frank shook the boing-boings out of his steel skimmer" is one pearl, and he gets close to an R-rating for "I must flame this fok out of the sky." Worst of all is the sloppy lettering that results in misspelled words like "frauline" and "champage." The bickering between soldiers is about at the level of "you got peanut butter on my chocolate!"

Joe Kubert
Our Army at War 149

"Surrender Ticket!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert

"Jackass Patrol!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Jack Abel

Jack: Sgt. Rock thinks back to 1942 and the events in North Africa that led to Easy Co.'s first battle. Nazi Col. Von Krizt studied air recon photos of U.S. troops marching toward German positions and selected Easy Co. at random, intending to force them to surrender and then use their cowardice as a propaganda victory. Planes launch an air attack and drop "Surrender Ticket!"s on Easy Co.; the first casualty of Rock's group is a handsome soldier nicknamed Prince Charming. Easy marches on and is next fired on by ground artillery; the C.O. leads them through the firestorm but is killed.

The men of Easy Co. began to dehydrate and march toward the next water source, only to find it guarded by German tanks that fire on them, killing a thirst-crazed G.I. who breaks from the group and runs toward the water. The German tanks rumble away, but not before filling in the water hole. Rock and his men press on in search of a water source, the surrender tickets looking more and more inviting. Another air attack results in the death of a G.I. nicknamed Beanpole, and Easy Co. marches on, finally spotting three German tanks sitting quietly, waiting for the American troops to surrender. Rock and his men attack head on, guns and bazookas blazing, defeat the tanks, and take Von Krizt prisoner, handing him one of his own surrender tickets to turn in at a P.O.W. camp.

Kanigher and Kubert are firing on all cylinders in this story, as we fill in another piece of the background story behind Easy Co.

Peter: 1964 was not a banner year for Sgt Rock stories; there have been way too many lightweight scripts for a series that used to claim the lion's share of my Top Ten every year and "Surrender Ticket" puts an end to that drought. This is the best Rock since "Dead Man's Trigger" back in #141 (which, not coincidentally, was also an "early tale of Easy"). The downpour of Surrender Tickets and the waning reserve of the men of Easy make for gripping reading.

Jack: Tired of playing second fiddle to Sgt. Mule, PFC Mulvaney is happy to get a three-day pass, but when an emergency arises he is pulled back to the front and sent on a "Jackass Patrol!" It seems that there are hidden guns about, and only Mule and Mulvaney (sounds like a buddy cop show) can find and destroy them. That they do, earning the mule another medal and Mulvaney another chance to seethe. My expectations for this story were at rock bottom and I was rather pleasantly surprised, though there are a few too many panels of Sgt. Mule laughing at his rider with a big "Hee Haw"! The story follows a familiar pattern established by Bob Kanigher in his Haunted Tank and Johnny Cloud series: the main character is given a vague assignment and passes through a series of trials, each time thinking he's reached the end.

Peter: The third in a series that makes me appreciate Pooch. And, yes, there are more to come. Speaking of which, with all the war crossovers happening at the time, where was the "Pooch and Jackass" team-up?

Joe Kubert
Showcase 53

"The Battlefield Jury"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert and Irv Novick

"Hot Corner"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert
(reprinted from G.I. Combat 59, April 1958)

"Frogman S.O.S.!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Russ Heath
(reprinted from G.I. Combat 60, May 1958)

"Battle Arithmetic!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito
(reprinted from G.I. Combat 52, Sept. 1957)

Jack: This is the first of two issues of Showcase to feature "G.I. Joe," though the inside of the comic includes only four new pages of story and art wrapped around three reprints. The Kubert cover is striking. The stories were all published before July 1959, where our coverage started.

Peter: Was this, perhaps, DC's way of tying itself to the popular Hasbro action figure, which began its decades-long hold on the toy market only months before?



Best Script: Uncredited, "The Only Survivor" (Our Fighting Forces 87)
Best Art: Gene Colan, "The Only Survivor"
Best All-Around Story"The Only Survivor"
Best Cover: All American Men of War 101 (Russ Heath)

Worst Script: France Herron, "TNT Duds" (GI Combat #103)
Worst Art: Jerry Grandenetti, "Battle of the Empty Helmets" (Our Fighting Forces #82)
Worst All-Around Story: "TNT Duds"


  1 "The Only Survivor"
  2 "Blind Man's Radar" (G.I. Combat #104)
  3 "The Iron Sniper" (Our Army at War #138)
  4 "Surrender Ticket" (Our Army at War #149)
  5 "Prisoners of the Runaway Fort" (Our Fighting Forces #82)
  6 "Battle Seas Hitchhiker!" (Our Fighting Forces #86)
  7 "The Last Target" (All American Men of War #104)
  8 "Dinosaur Sub-Catcher" (Star Spangled War Stories #112)
  9 "Dead Man's Trigger" (Our Army at War #141)
10 "A Firing Squad for Easy" (Our Army at War #139)


Best Script: Robert Kanigher, "Suicide Mission! Save Him or Kill Him!" (The Brave and the Bold 52)
Best Art: Joe Kubert, "The Ghost Pipers!" (G.I. Combat 107)
Best All-Around Story: "Suicide Mission! Save Him or Kill Him!"
Best Cover: G.I. Combat 103 (Russ Heath and Jack Adler)

Worst Script: Hank Chapman, "The Battling Mustaches!" (Our Army at War 139)
Worst Art: Jack Abel, "The Return of Sgt. Mule!" (G.I. Combat 104)
Worst All-Around Story: "The Return of Sgt. Mule!"


  1 "Suicide Mission! Save Him or Kill Him!"
  2 "Brass Sergeant!" (Our Army at War 140)
  3 "Dead Man's Trigger!"
  4 "Easy's T.N.T. Crop!" (Our Army at War 143)
  5 "The Sparrow and the Tiger!" (Our Army at War 144)
  6 "The Ghost Pipers!"
  7 "Generals Don't Die!" (Book Two) (Our Army at War 148)
  8 "Surrender Ticket!"
  9  "Easy's Lost Sparrow!" (Our Army at War 138)
10 "The Only Survivor!"

Entering the final year of our DC Horror Coverage,
Jack Seabrook (pictured above) 

reminds us all what reading too many
bad horror comics can do to you!
1976 - the final year - begins in one week!

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