Monday, April 23, 2018

Star Spangled DC War Stories Issue 128: July 1972

The DC War Comics
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook

Star Spangled War Stories 163

"Kill the General!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Dan Spiegle and Joe Kubert

"The Ace Who Died Twice!"
(Reprinted from All-American Men of War #114, April 1966)

"Sgt. Storm Cloud"
Story by David Kahn
Art by Carmine Infantino
(Reprinted from All-American Men of War #8, January 1954)

Peter: The Unknown Soldier must put the kibosh on a plan to kill Ike in Paris but the Krauts may be just as skilled in deception as our hero. In the end, the Allies use keen war training (a cardboard cut-out of Ike standing in front of the HQ window!) and, of course, masterful make-up and very life-like masks to shut down Der Fuhrer's insane plot.

There seems to be a wild shifting of quality amongst our DC war series every year or so (except for Sgt Rock, which seems to maintain a level of average to high quality month in and out); just when you get used to the Losers being . . . losers, the editors throw a monkey wrench called Severin in. Likewise, the Unknown Soldier which, for its first ten installments, seemed to be a natural replacement for Enemy Ace. Bob Haney, for the most part, has been doing a very good job of fleshing out the character and drawing our interest in much the same way as Kubert and Kanigher enthralled us with the exploits of von Hammer, but "Kill the General!" has a juvenile, almost superhero-ish, quality to its writing. The Soldier's antics have never been what we could describe as "realistic," with his instantly manufactured masks and costumes, but at least the stories kept us involved. Not so here; US is almost a different character and the plot hasn't even been dusted off. The introduction of Dan Spiegle as artist is also a minus (get used to Dan, he'll be around for a while); his work is cartoonish and sketchy, a la Glanzman, Sparling, and Grandenetti. There may be a bit of hope on the horizon, though, in the form of Archie Goodwin.


Fresh off the reservation, "Sgt. Storm Cloud" (no relation to Johnny Cloud) hopes his forest-born skills as a Native American will come in handy against the Nazis. When Cloud and his men are ambushed in the African desert, the sergeant uses all his childhood training to outwit the enemy. Not bad for a mid-'50s war tale and, certainly, much more entertaining than the opener. Again, I must defend the work of Carmine Infantino, whose work here is dazzling and well-choreographed.  This Cloud is a heck of a lot easier to root for than the dour Johnny currently found in the Losers. The issue carries an announcement (reprinted far below) that, beginning next month, the price for a DC comic will drop to 20 cents. Publisher Carmine Infantino explains all the backstage rigmarole and exclaims that "all our magazines will soon contain additional pages of fresh excitement." That remains to be seen.

Jack: After the cool art/photo montage splash page by Kubert opened the Unknown Soldier story, I was pleasantly surprised by Dan Spiegle's art and enjoyed the tale. The Unknown Soldier can impersonate anyone convincingly, from an old man in a wheelchair to a female nurse! I'm with Peter in my admiration for the early '50s work of Carmine Infantino, and "Sgt. Storm Cloud" was an entertaining read and possibly a precursor to the later Johnny Cloud, though this soldier was not a pilot.

Our Army at War 247

"The Vision!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Russ Heath

"Color Me Brave!"
Story and Art by Sam Glanzman

"Old Soldiers Never Run!"
(Reprinted from Our Army at War #91, February 1960)

Jack: Easy Co. is on a mission in France to scout anti-aircraft nests when they are surprised by a spotlight that makes them sitting ducks for a sunken tank turret. Suddenly, resistance fighters join them, led by a beautiful young woman. The tank is destroyed and the young woman reveals that she is Joan of Arc, back from the dead to lead her people to victory against the Nazis. Joan hears voices and awaits "The Vision!" to tell her what her next move will be.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. follow her to a village for some rest. Just before dawn, the soldiers and resistance fighters follow the young woman out of town, where they find the hidden anti-aircraft nest. The allied forces manage to blow up the nest before friendly planes fly overhead into the danger zone, but the young woman is shot and killed in the battle. The villagers gather around her lifeless form and Rock tells his men that he thinks she'll be back the next time she's needed.

Was the young woman really the reincarnation of Joan of Arc? It all depends on what you believe. One thing is for sure--Russ Heath draws her in a skintight outfit with a body like a centerfold model. Kanigher and Heath's latest Easy Co. stories seem straightforward and simple in a good way, allowing the art room to breathe without overloading the panels with type. I like the trend.

After the Japanese planes bombed U.S. ships at Pearl Harbor, the Oklahoma rolled upside down and began to sink. For the men on board ship, it was chaos. One steward's mate named Mac Stringer knew his way around the ship and risked his life in a heroic rescue of several other men who were trapped in a room and not thinking straight. Mac was commended for his bravery but later remained a steward because he was black.

If Sam Glanzman were a better artist, this would be one of the best stories of 1972. As it is, the tale is powerful and the ending completely unexpected. Glanzman manages to make a point without being heavy-handed, something that wasn't always accomplished in the DC comics of the early 1970s.

Peter: Nothing much to say about "The Vision!," other than it's gorgeously illustrated and the script seems overly familiar. I thought for sure we were seeing the latest adventure from Jack's favorite female freedom fighter, Mlle. Marie, but the climax explained the need for the new heroine. It's almost one of those Big Bob scripts that kinda sorta introduces supernatural undertones but pulls away before making a statement. Did I mention that Russ Heath seemingly can do no wrong? I've neglected commenting on the U.S.S. Stevens entries lately as they've all been pretty much the same thing: insightful script but raggedy art but, while the art remains rough, "Color Me Brave!" is one of Sam's best "scripts" of late, four pages overflowing with suspense and bravery. Nicely done.

G.I. Combat 154

"Battle Prize!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Sam Glanzman

"Frogman Battleground!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Russ Heath
(Reprinted from Star Spangled War Stories #59, July 1957)

"Night Attack"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert
(Reprinted from All-American Men of War #53, January 1958)

"Count on Me!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by John Severin
(Reprinted from All-American Men of War #58, June 1958)

The Haunted Tank is captured by the Nazis and Hitler sends the crew of the Jeb on a tour of Germany, pointing out to his lemmings that this "junkyard tank" is "proof that the Allied military are scraping the bottom!!" While on a train bound for the next carnival, freedom fighters save the Jeb and send them on their way. Only problem is that the men find themselves in Russia! There, the boys become allies with Russian rebels camped in the forest and help the fighters win back their village. Casualties are heavy and, in the end, Jeb Stuart wonders how his men and the Haunted Tank will make it back to the front line.


Oh no, no, no, no . . . This will not do. Sam Glanzman may be palatable in small, four-page doses but not in a fourteen-page strip previously illustrated by DC's finest artist, Russ Heath. It's tough to keep the characters sorted out as Sam's sketchy art just blends them all together in a mishmash of pinks and black lines. Gone is the incredible detail and well-staged battle scenes; what we're left with here is what could best be summed up as plastic soldiers in front of a cardboard diorama. Even Dan Spiegle shows more care in his work. Big Bob's patchwork script isn't much better; it bops all around but doesn't seem to get anywhere. I'm not sure I'll survive much more of this.

Double Ugh!

"Frogman Battleground!" details the trials and errors of a newbie fishman trying to avoid, at all costs, that "rock bottom line" frogmen have to be aware of lest they lose their minds and drown. Nice Heath art but the story becomes a little too enamored of the "rock bottom line" (I'm really surprised that this wasn't the title) and our hero becomes a pinball jettisoned from one encounter with the dark deep to another. Much better is the Kanigher/Kubert collab, "Night Attack," which succeeds at illustrating the night fears of a foxholed G.I. and his almost OCD ability to protect his ground from the enemy. "Night Attack" is the best reprint we've had in years. Finally, "Count on Me!" offers up John Severin art that looks nothing like John Severin (uncredited inker?) and a script hanging upon that title.

"Night Attack"

Jack: It's not fair to put a new Sam Glanzman story in the same comic as reprints drawn by Russ Heath, Joe Kubert, and John Severin, even if the Severin story is not an example of his best work. Glanzman's faces are the least successful part of his art, but in a 14-page story that depends on characterization, the inability to draw faces is a big problem. Some of his layouts are passable and the story is more violent than we're used to, but the art is disappointing. There are a few panels where I wonder if he was swiping from Kubert or Heath, because it doesn't look like Kubert the editor redrew them but it also doesn't look like the usual Glanzman faces. I must admit that when mention was made in "Frogman Battleground!" of the aqua lung, my mental jukebox started playing "Sitting on a park bench . . ." "Night Attack" features truly superb work by Kubert. Let's face it, Peter, Kubert is better than Heath. Just admit it.

"We're going to make you love getting less for more!"

Next Week . . .
The purge continues as we take
one last trip down into
the Vault of Horror

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