Monday, March 26, 2018

Star Spangled DC War Stories Issue 126: May 1972

The DC War Comics
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook

Star Spangled War Stories 162

"Take My Coward's Hand"
(Reprinted from Our Army at War #91, February 1960;
original title: "No Answer from Sarge!")

"The Ace of Sudden Death!"
(Reprinted from All-American Men of War #113, February 1966)

"Back of Beyond!"
Story by Jerry DeFuccio
Art by John Severin

Peter: DC was milking their war fans for every red cent they could with these (mostly) reprint issues (and, in the case of Weird War, reprint title); it's one thing to present a package of reprints but a whole 'nother thing to deceive the reader by disguising an old story as something new, which is what's going on with the lead-off story in this issue. "Take My Coward's Hand" is a Sgt. Rock tale we reviewed way back in Issue #9 (now a rare, sought-after collector's item that we may reprint some day). Well, we reviewed the first version, not this reboot. Joe has drawn a wrap-around that finds the Unknown Soldier pensive before his brother's grave in Arlington in 1942. We then follow him to his boss's office, where US is ordered to assimilate himself into the Army's basic training course and bring back a full report on how the recruits are handling the pressure. What follows is a slightly redrawn, slightly re-written reboot of "No Answer From Sarge!" Rock has become "Sgt. Theo Jonas" (actually the Unknown Soldier in disguise), but the impact of the story is still there; both Kubert and Kanigher shine on this one. No such mumbo-jumbo is foisted upon the other reprint, a rousing Balloon Buster saga with fabulous Heath art.

The only new material this issue, then, is the DeFuccio/Severin collaboration known as "Back of Beyond!," an enjoyable recruit story about two Brits on the run from the law at the turn of the 20th Century who decide to take a chance and enlist in Her Majesty's fighting forces. Promised the sky, they are, of course, given a boot in the arse and a tongue-lashing upon enlisting. I wonder if this was a script that DeFuccio had lying around since the days he was pumping out this type of story for EC's Two-Fisted Tales with Severin providing the art. Though seventeen years had passed, the journey was seamless and Jerry shows he still has a way with realistic dialogue. Makes me want to pop in my Blu-ray of Zulu.

Jack: I was reading "Back of Beyond!" and enjoying it when all of a sudden the name "Sgt. Tubridy" appeared. Lo and behold, this is a character DeFuccio and Severin used back in their EC War stories! I love seeing this connection between our 1950s EC blog and our 1970s DC blog. The new story is entertaining but you can keep the reprints.

Our Army at War 245

"The Prisoner"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Russ Heath

"Goliath and the Little Tub"
Story and Art by Norman Maurer

"The Unknown Squad"
Story Uncredited
Art by Mort Drucker
(Reprinted from All-American Men of War #61, September 1958)

"Get the Carriers"
(reprinted from G.I. Combat #77, October 1959)

"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the War!"
Story and Art by Sam Glanzman

Jack: Sgt. Rock is kidnapped from a foxhole one night and taken to a hidden Nazi encampment, where he is interrogated by a slick Nazi named Major Zinnser, who has trained a canary to eat food from his tongue. "The Prisoner" won't give anything but his name, rank, and serial number. Major Zinnser goes to shoot Rock point blank, but Rock overpowers him and the major accidentally kills himself with the shot. Rock escapes and makes his way back to Easy Company safely.

Bob Kanigher is credited as writer here, but this story has all the hallmarks of a Russ Heath production, with many evocative, wordless panels. It's definitely creepy to see the Nazi major stick out his tongue and let the canary peck bits of birdseed from it; I guess this is meant to show the major's perversity and corruption. I am never very pleased to see a successful Gun Jump, as Rock executes here, but poetic license is allowed when you're dealing with Nazis. The men of Easy Co. appear to get wiped out by Nazi machine guns when they try to follow Rock, but by the end of the story they're all hale and hearty. They must be indestructible.

In late 1864, a Confederate Ironclad ship named the Albemarle is doing a lot of damage in North Carolina. The Union leaders don't have a good option, so young Lt. Cushing is allowed to try a daring plan to take a small craft right up to the Albemarle and blow it up with a mine placed underneath its wooden bottom. The plan works and the ship is destroyed, along with all but two of the men on the Union craft.

"Goliath and the Little Tub" works up a real head of steam in only four pages, as writer and artist Norman Maurer tells a tale of an unlikely success during the Civil War. The story is interesting enough to overcome the limitations of his art.

Nice work by Mort Drucker
A Marine and his buddies hit the beach and suddenly he doesn't recognize them--they are all transformed by battle. In the end, he doesn't even recognize his own reflection in a pool of water. "The Unknown Squad" suffers a bit from the repetition of the soldier not recognizing one after another of his buddies, but Mort Drucker's photo-realistic art, which always makes me think he's looking at photos of movie character actors as he draws his soldiers, is superb.

"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the War!" finds the U.S.S. Stevens accidentally reported as having been sunk. As a result, they can't get supplies and are forced to trade canned salmon for fresh mutton, which turns bad when the cooling system breaks down. Things are straightened out after a while but no sailor on the ship ever wants to hear about mutton again.

Sam Glanzman's "art"
This is a funny little story but I think Sam Glanzman's art verges on kindergarten scribbling in some of the panels.

Peter: A really good Rock installment this time out, with some dazzling Heath visuals. The only false note, to me, is the scene where it seems as though the rest of Easy is riddled with machine gun fire but, magically, the whole lot show up at the climax with nary a leaky hole amongst them. The whole point of "The Unknown Squad" relies on a throwaway line in the last panel, but I enjoyed the story anyway and it's always great seeing MAD's Mort Drucker on the battlefield.

G.I. Combat 153

"The Armored Ark"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Doug Wildey

"The Lost Battalion"
Story and Art by Norman Maurer

"The Last Flight!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Mort Drucker
(Reprinted from G.I. Combat #66, November 1958)

"Straighten That Line!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert
(Reprinted from Our Fighting Forces #19, March 1957)

"Mail Call"
Story and Art by Sam Glanzman

Could this story get any more childish?
Peter: The General says war is Hell and the only way to win a war is to "stop for no one," so that's just what Jeb and the men of the Jeb Stuart set out to do. The best laid plans of mice and men and all that. Every time the boys seem to get the Haunted Tank sped up, a cute, adorable little animal gets in their way. Not wanting to abandon the piglets, puppies, and ducklings they nearly grind into the dust, our heroes make the Jeb into "The Armored Ark"! But not all of the hitchhikers are furry little pets, as the last to board the Ark is a family of three, whose wagon has been destroyed by the Nazis. All set to take the wanderers to the next town, the crew of the Jeb are forced to destroy a castle, used as a base for the Germans. Luckily, the Jeb Stuart emerges victorious and its precious cargo is delivered safely.

Just about the flimsiest and most unenjoyable Haunted Tank story I've read, seemingly written for the lucrative pre-teen war market, with cutesy-pie dialogue and silly plot devices. Doug Wildey's art, while not hideous, is going to take some getting used to. His crew members look nothing like Russ's; in fact, they all look alike. It's a moot point and, by next issue, I might be wishing Wildey was a regular on the strip since Sam Glanzman will settle in for a run on "Tank" that will last into the 1980s (that's not good news, by the way). I'm assuming that the General in this story is supposed to be Patton, though he's never called by name.

Why, yes it can!

"The Lost Battalion" tells the story of five men (and a pigeon) surrounded by the enemy in a French forest who beat the odds and live to tell their tale. Seriously, I take no pleasure in taking swipes at an artist but Norman Maurer's art is hard to look at; it's hard to imagine Joe Kubert finding anything remotely professional about this chicken scratch. It looks as though Maurer has taken his inspiration for character Major Whittlesey from John Lennon in How I Won the War. Sam Glanzman's best attribute may be his ability to take aspects of the war that haven't really been explored before and give them a spotlight. In "Mail Call," he shows the importance of letters to and from home and what happens when those treasures are threatened.

This special issue of G.I. Animal Combat continues . . .

Of the reprints, "Straighten That Line!" is the more enjoyable (but just by that much); its title is used approximately 300 times and the climax is predictable but Kubert's art pushes it into thumbs-up territory. "The Last Flight!" is another in the seemingly endless narratives from a vehicle, this time out a bomber named "Tin Goose." The plane crows on about keeping its crew safe from harm but if it was me I'd be forcing myself back onto the runway and eluding damage to body parts!

Jack: As I read "The Armored Ark," I wondered about the smell inside the Haunted Tank, what with a pig, a dog, and a chicken along for the ride. I was glad Jeb decided to take the humans along, too. I enjoyed the story's depiction of how kindness and gentleness have a place in war and how help can come from unexpected places. "The Lost Battalion" tells a heroic, exciting story and shows the utter confusion of battle during WWI. I wonder if having a character exclaim, "He is so right" is an anachronism. "The Last Flight!" is a dull story where a plane narrates and Mort Drucker gets to draw almost no people. Joe Kubert contributes outstanding art to "Straighten That Line!" and, though I agree that the title phrase is over-used, it's a good story with a prototype for Sgt. Rock leading a raw group of Marines. Finally, Glanzman's "Mail Call" is an interesting look at priorities, where sailors are upset at a ship's destruction if it means they don't get their letters from home. Once again, Glanzman writes from the perspective of someone who was really there.

Yes! Years before Hogan's Heroes made it fashionable . . .
MAD Magazine showed how
a prisoner of war camp could be fun!
We'll give you our thoughts next week.


John said...

A great series! I devoured as many DC war comics as I could find back in the day. Kubert's art was perfect for these books. My favorite was Enemy Ace.

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, John! Go back and read our reviews of the Enemy Ace comics--we liked them , too!

Anonymous said...

The greatest Sgt. Turbridy story by far, “Parable”, appeared not in the 1950’s EC comics but in DC’s Our Fighting Forces 124. Peter featured “Parable” prominently as in your Best of 1970 blog post last year. I went back and looked at your August 21, 2017 post in which you originally covered this wonderful story, and though Peter did say that it looked like something out of the EC era, you don’t seem to have made the connection at the time that it was about the same character who starred in the Severin/DeFuccio contribution to TFT #33, which you had covered a couple of months earlier. There were four DeFuccio/Severin Sgt. Turbridy stories in total; the fourth one appeared in FC #15. DeFuccio also wrote four text stories about the character for various other issues of Frontline. As one of the most avid living collectors and fans of Kurtzmann’s war comics, even I must admit that the two DC 1970’s stories, “Back of Beyond” and, especially, “Parable”, are both better than TFT #33’s “Outpost” and FC #15’s “Belts ‘N’ Celts”.


Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, Jim! You should be writing this blog instead of us. I was so proud of myself for making the connection. I love that you know this level of detail! Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment.