GI Combat #192: More bicentennial banner blogging

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#27

GI Combat #192

GI_Combat_Vol_1_192

Published monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Luis Dominguez

Editor: Murray Boltinoff, Asst. Ed: Jack C. Harris

            GI Combat was another comic acquired by DC when they bought out Quality Comics. I wrote this in my reviews of the Bicentennial issues of Blackhawk and Freedom Fighters … Quality Comics was a successful comic book company during the medium’s golden age. It introduced Kid Eternity, the Blackhawks, the much-lauded Spirit and Plastic Man to comics. The company closed shop in the mid-1950s and the catalogue of characters was bought by DC/National. They continued only four of Quality’s titles: GI Combat, Plastic Man (although DC would not publish a Plastic Man comic until the 1960s), Blackhawk, and Heart Throbs – all but the latter were still being published by the time of the Bicentennial (Plastic Man would get much more popular in the coming decades).

            GI Combat debuted in October 1952 featuring US soldiers fighting godless commies across the globe. It later featured stories set during World War Two. The first DC issue was #44 (January 1957).

            It was a standard anthology with standard war stories, but eventually a starring feature took over as lead.  The Haunted Tank debuted in issue #87 (May 1961) and continued as the main feature until they shared cover billing with The Mercenaries in the comic’s later issues.

Haunted_Tank_001

 

            Confederate General J.E.B Stuart’s ghost is sent to guard his descendant and name-sake Jeb Stuart during his battles on the European front in World War II. In one story I remember fondly, Stuart’s tank is destroyed and replaced by a Sherman. “Sherman!” The ghostly Stuart was aghast that his descendant would use a tank named after a Union general! A great story, but I cannot find the specific issue.

            With issue #201 (May 1977) GI Combat became a Dollar Comic with increased page count and all-new stories such as Tales of the OSS. It returned to “normal” size with # 282 (March 1986) – making it one of the last Dollar Comics. By now the Haunted Tank was occasionally replaced as the lead feature by The Mercenaries, a fighting troupe set in modern times. The last issue was #288 (March 1987). It was the second-most successful war comic DC produced next to Sgt. Rock.

            The comic is also notable for being the debut vehicle for The Losers, who moved to their own starring feature in Our Fighting Forces. “The Rock”, a one-shot character, arguably the prototype of Sgt. Rock, had his one appearance in a 1959 issue.

            GI Combat was revived as part of the “New 52” line, but was cancelled after seven issues. The Haunted Tank was also revived with Stuart, the WWII descendant, haunting his granddaughter in modern times. A few other revivals also proved unsuccessful.

***

“The General Has Two Faces”, Bob Kanigher ( w ), Sam Glanzman (a)

            The Haunted Tank crew is tasked with killing Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. A squadron of tanks and planes would be expected and fought off, but a single recon tank might make it through.

            As the tank crosses a bridge, it is attacked by two fighters. Jeb is severely injured, leaving Gus to take command and stop the fighter planes. He sees JEB Stuart, who warns him of dangers to come. The other crewmen, Rick and Slim, think Gus is imagining things just like their commander.  They destroy the Krauts and cross the bridge.

            But the tank’s treads bust and they have to hoof it with their injured commander (note the change to a WWII-like vernacular…). They are met by the teenage students of an all-girl school at the Van Maltz castle, led by its Baroness. Helga is angry that the Baroness would allow verdamt Amerikaische soldats into their home. She is locked away until she calms down and the Haunted Tank crew are fed and healed. Jeb and the Baroness share a kiss.

            Someone releases Helga, who immediately gets “help”. The next morning Helga sits in the lead tank of a squadron attacking the school. Sitting beside her in command – Rommel!

            Jeb shoots at the tanks with a crossbow using dynamite sticks instead of bolts – blasting the tanks to smithereens! Rommel’s lead tank makes it to the drawbridge where a mysterious figure is cranking the handle to lift the wooden bridge. Rommel shoot and kills the figure, but too late! The tank falls into the moat – killing all. Jeb discovers the mysterious figure was the Baroness. She saved her enemies from her own people.

            Later the crew discovers it was NOT Rommel in the tank at all, but a double instead.

***

ww-oss

OSS: Office of Strategic Services is a top secret branch of military intelligence. These spy tales were featured throughout GI Combat, especially in its Dollar Comic days. It was also given its own lead feature in the last issue of Showcase (#104). The feature debuts here! Other than the Joker’s Daughter in Batman Family #6 and Earth Man, kind of, in Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes #218, these three were the only “debuts” featured in the Bicentennial comics.

Target for Tonight – Me!” Bart Regan (w), Ric Estrada (a). Victor Lazlo (intentionally to be confused with Paul Henreid’s character from Casablanca …) and two others parachute into occupied Czechoslovakia. His companions are shot while landing and he is captured and taken to Gestapo HQ (which is made to look like a hospital and therefore, not bombed by allied aircraft) and searched. He is Czech and returned to exact revenge on the Nazis for killing his Jewish wife. He is interrogated and ordered to be hung from the gallows when an Allied bomb raid destroys the headquarters and everyone in it – including Lazlo. Seems the Nazis missed the transmitter implanted in his forehead by the OSS. He was captured intentionally and offered his own life to defeat the damned Boche!

 

 

Let’s Make Tracks: letters for #286. A positive letter from Michael Lapsley of Morrow, GA asking about prior crewmembers of the Haunted Tank, Paulo Mariorann of Parma, Ontario asked about the Haunted Tank’s theater of operation – various places in Europe in one issue and Burma the next? The editor explains (as with Sgt Rock) these stories are not in chronological order, Mike Karvalas of Chicago, IL questioned the Tank being in Greece, explaining that there were not many US soldiers in Greece – the editor explains that the Haunted Tank crew were some of the few, Tom Kelleher of Norwalk, Conn. Criticized JEB Stuart’s old man appearance when he was a relatively young man – he is a ghost, says the editor – and he looks like a ghost!

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #28: The Unexpected #174

 

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.

 

 

 

Blitzkrieg #4 – one of DC’s best ideas…

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#20

Blitzkrieg #4

Blitzkrieg 4 

Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist and Editor: Joe Kubert

            Blitzkrieg was a unique idea in comics and a bold move for DC. It ran for five issues (from February 1976 until October 1976) and was a war anthology focused on the Nazi’s view of World War II. Some stories (such as the main story in this issue and in the first) – featured a soldier aghast at the atrocities of war amongst his more leering, villainous comrades. Other stories’ themes included evil Nazis getting their come-uppance, a common theme among DC’s horror books. The Nazis as a whole were never shown in a sympathetic light, although showing the humanity in individual soldiers was common.

            I hope Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert were proud of the series. They should be. In a few months these co-creators would team again for the equally excellent Ragman book.

            The series was cancelled with the next issue.

***

“The Tourists”, Robert Kanigher ( w ), Ric Estrada (a)

            Three Nazi soliders tour Paris. While riding a tour boat on the Seine, they are shot at and subdue a sniper. They shoot down another sniper pair on the Eiffel Tower – a young couple caught in the slow elevator. At a cafe near Notre Dame Cathedral they invite local ladies for a meal. The brother of one of the ladies shoots at them, killing even his own sister. They return fire and kill him. They visit the Louvre. While walking through the Jewish quarter and watching citizens being removed, a woman throws a grenade hidden in a loaf of bread. They give chase and she throws herself in front of an ongoing train rather than be captured (an image depicted on the cover). There are more assassins at the Arc de Triomphe are defeated, but not before they replace the Nazi flag with their French colors. Why do they take such risks with their lives for such foolhardy things, one of the trio asks. Franz, the thoughtful and bookish member of the trio, who is only interested in seeing the sights for likely the only time, says, “Perhaps we must convince them first … that they ARE defeated.”

***

The Souvenir” same creative team.

            The Afrika Korps’ Feldwebbel named Wasser (we never learn his first name) collects souvenirs from every battle to send to his wife. But the British on the road to Cairo have been slim pickings (a watch that has been burning in the sun for days, for example). His company raids a fort and he finds a framed picture of Churchill. Perfect! Not really: the picture is booby trapped and explodes. His comrades joke that he has collected his last souvenir.

***

Battle Album by Sam Glanzman gave us a brief history and overview of the Chance Vought Corsair during WWII and Korea.

 

 

Blitzkrieg Briefs: letters for issue #1 from Craig Kenner of Massillon, OH (positive, and gave the letter column its name); Cadet Captain Ruby S Nelson of Jacksonville, AL criticized anachronistic mistakes on weapons and uniforms; Drury Moore of Springfield, IL told us the German Army was quite democratic among their officers and enlisted while the US Army, who fought for our freedom, was strictly autocratic; and Thomas Edward Bigham of Matt, Mass said the magazine was fair-minded in its portrayal of the Nazis.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #21: Secret Society of Supervillains #2

 

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.

Four Star Bicentennial Comic blog!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#15

Four Star Spectacular #3

fss3

Published bi-monthly, fifty cents, forty-eight pages, August

Cover artist: Ernie Chua

Editor: E. Nelson Bridwell

            Four Star Spectacular ran for 6 issues from March 1976 until February 1977. It was a reprint series, although some of the stories were redrawn to appease our modern sensibilities. Superboy and Wonder Woman appeared in each issue. As the title suggested, each issue starred four superheroes: half the issues featured four stories and half had three stories with heroes “teaming up” – Hawkman and Hawkwoman in one, Superboy and Krypto in another (although I think that’s cheating a bit: that’s like the Lone Ranger teaming up with Silver…) and in this Bicentennial issue.

***

Undersea Trap” starring Wonder Woman, reprinted from Wonder Woman #101, October 1958, Robert Kanigher ( w ), Ross Andru & Mike Esposito (a).  

WW101

            Wonder Woman saves Steve Trevor from crashing his airplane into a burning pylon during a race. Steve bets her that if she rescues him three times in the next 24 hours she will have to marry him. The Amazon accepts.

            Aha! Steve reveals he is scheduled to test pilot aircraft all the next day. All’s fair …

            Aha! Then Steve is reassigned to desk duty all that next day. All’s fair …

            During lunch, Wonder Woman saves Steve from being crushed by space debris … one…

            During a dance, Wonder Woman foils a robbery and saves Steve from a bullet … two …

            Steve ferries a general to an aircraft carrier. He crashed into the ocean and is attacked by a shark! Wonder Woman rescues him. Three? Nope! It is 15 minutes after the 24-hour deadline! Doh!

            One presumes the plane crashed after the delivery of the general to the carrier; otherwise he would have been left in the plane in the briny deep and left to the mercy of a hungry shark. So long, old chum!

            This story is also reprinted in the trade paperback “Showcase Presents: Wonder Woman #1”.

WW showcase 1

***

Superboy’s Workshop. Cut out the provided clown figure, get a little cardboard, a little glue, a pencil and the ability to make a miniature parallel bars and you can make a toy tumbling clown!  Destroying the value of the comic (such as it is) is definitely worth this experiment in perpetual motion.  Whether this one-page craft is a reprint or new for this series is unknown. Art and writing unknown.

***

Superboy in Argo City” starring Supergirl (her logo is at the top of the first page – proving this was published originally as a Supergirl feature, but in this comic Superboy is touted as the star) reprinted from Action Comics #358, January 1968, Cary Bates ( w ), Jim Mooney (a).

action 358

            Superboy heads back to earth after a mission in space (this must be the month for missions in space – both Superman and Justice League of America mention various space missions in its issues…) and stops by a crystal asteroid to create a jewel for a necklace for his mother. He is knocked cold by a space probe gathering mineral samples. How is that possible?

            The probe takes him and the samples to Argo City. Ah! It was a Kryptonian probe – that’s how it could knock out the Boy of Steel. Argo City was blown into space intact from Krypton when the planet exploded leaving survivors, including Superman’s uncle, aunt and cousin – Kara Zor-el! Tweenie Kara races to her father’s probe to find Superboy unconscious. When revived, Superboy has lost his memory!

            Zor-el names him after his deceased nephew Kal-el. Superboy and “Supergirl” fly around Argo City on their jet packs rescuing lost birds and other adventures. A weight ray makes objects weightless: Kal lifts heavy machinery as if he has super-strength!

            Zor-el flies Argo City to a system with a habitable planet. But it is protected by an alien who will accept one sacrifice as penalty for their trespassing. That is the law. Zor-el, blaming himself, offers to go as the sacrifice and walks to the pod that will whisk him to his judgment.

            But Kal-el beats him to the pod! As he leaves with the transport vessel, the alien wipes all memories from the Argonians as the City leaves the system – memories of their trespass AND of Kal-el!

            Somehow, being transported returns Superboy’s memory!  He escapes by flying through the sun to avoid the alien. The last thing he remembers is forging a crystal jewel for his mother.

            “Presently” Supergirl shows the jewel to Superman – who remembers making the jewel but not what happened to it. How did it end up with Supergirl?

            The biggest hole in this story is Superboy’s powers returning. How? If this system had a yellow sun ALL of Argo City would have been imbued with superpowers (this was before Superman became a “solar battery”…), right?

            Superboy’s memory returning to the point at which he lost it is likely, though. That happens with real amnesia victims.

            And this being a “team-up” with Supergirl is a bigger stretch than Superboy and Krypto… hmmph…

            Still, a fun story, which is the point. And it is nice to see Jim Mooney’s art again. His Supergirl was always a cutie!

***

            “Power Ring Peril” starring Green Lantern, reprinted from Green Lantern #32, October 1964, Gardner Fox ( w ), Gil Kane & Sid Greene (a).

GL32

            Tyrant Vant Orl conquered the planet Thronn and entombed its united league of heroes – Energiman, Magicko, Golden Blade and Strong Girl, among unnamed others – in a crystal monolith on the planet’s moon.

            Energiman’s powers work on the same frequency as Green Lantern’s ring. Every time Hal Jordan recharges, Energiman draws a bit of power. Eventually, he sucks GL through his battery and to Thronn’s moon at the cost of Energiman’s life. With his last bit of … er … energy, Energiman tells all to Green Lantern. GL flies to Thronn to confront Vant Orl.

            But Vant Orl also can manipulate the power ring’s energy – he is also on that frequency! Green Lantern covers his ring with a yellow leaf (the ring has a “necessary impurity” and does not affect anything colored yellow, remember…) to regain more control over his ring, defeat Vant Orl and release Thronn’s heroes!

            This story was also reprinted in “Green Lantern Archives #5”, “Showcase Presents: Green Lantern #2” and “Green Lantern Omnibus #2”. 

GL Archives 5GL showcase 2 GL Omnibus 2

 

Four Thought (great title to their letter column for issue #1). Gerald Duit of New Orleans, LA, Arthur Kowalik of Wilmington, DE, David J. Brown of Hammond, IN, and Fred Schnieder of New York, New York all had positive comments and suggestions for reprints. They were especially glad to see solo Superboy since him comic was now a permanent vehicle for the Legion of Superheroes.

***

            Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #16: Karate Kid #3.

 

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.

 

 

 

Our Fighting Forces starring the Losers #168

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#13

Our Fighting Forces #168

 

OFF168 

 

Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Luis Dominguez

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

            Our Fighting Forces ran for 181 issues from October 1951 until September of 1978, a victim of the DC Explosion/Implosion. In the previous year of this Bicentennial issue (1975), Jack Kirby left the magazine after eleven issues.

            It was a typical war anthology in the 1950s and by the 1960s featured specific characters or “stars”, including Gunner and Sarge, Lt. Hunter’s Hellcats and the Fighting Devil Dog Lt. Larry Rock (Sgt. Rock’s brother). The Losers became the star feature in January of 1970 with issue #123.

            The Losers were four DC Comics war heroes from other defunct series or cancelled magazines:  Capt. Storm (Navy) from his own series Capt. Storm which lasted 18 issues, Johnny Cloud (Army Air Corps) from All-American Men of War, and Gunner & Sarge (“Mud”-Marines) who also appeared in All-American Men of War and earlier issues of Our Fighting Forces.

            The Losers “formed” in GI Combat #138 (October 1969) as POWs rescued by the crew of the Haunted Tank – the lead feature of GI Combat. DC (National) kept them together in best “Dirty Dozen” fashion as a strike force or task force with each issue a special mission (somewhere in between the straight-forward military adventures of Sgt. Rock/the Haunted Tank and the espionage/saboteur tales of the Unknown Soldier). In between they resumed their duties in their individual branches as back-up solo stories.

 

 Losers

 

            The Losers were killed off during the Crisis on Infinite Earth … twice: once by the Anti-Monitor’s troops and again, the publisher’s blood lust still unsatisfied, Losers Special #1 by the Nazis. They were brought back briefly in the year 2000 as part of the Creature Commandoes. Don’t ask…

***

“A Cold Day to Die”, Robert (this issue called “Bob”) Kanigher ( w ), George Evans (a)

            In Norway, the Losers are captured and will be hung if they do not reveal their mission. Their accomplice, sometimes Loser Ona Tomsen, a leader of the Norwegian underground, will hang with them!

            Flashback to the beginning – the Losers parachute into Norway fighting off Nazis shooting at them as they land. Gunner is hit. Ona takes them to the plant that they are ordered to destroy – a plant making “heavy water” used in atomic bomb research.

            They plant the explosives but are captured and walked to the gallows. Captain Storm asks for one last cigarette and detonates the explosives with a devise in his wooden leg. The Losers escape the Nazis and rescued by the underground.

 

Navaho Ace Johnny Cloud in “Death Knocks 5 Times”, Ex-Lt. Bart Regan ( w ), ER Cruz (a)

            One kill shy from making Ace, Ben lands his fighter while Johnny Cloud waits. Cloud finds Ben dead in his ship – even dead he brought it down safely.

            The base is strafed by Nazis, Cloud takes Ben’s plane up with Ben still in it and dispatches the Nazi. Lying in wait in the clouds is Ben’s real killer! The Nazi shoot Ben’s plane and Cloud jumps for safety. The Nazi is about to kill the parachuting Cloud when Ben’s plane, with Ben still clutching the stick in a death grip, collides with the Nazi. His fifth kill. Ben made ace after all…

 

 

Mail Call: Jack C. Harris answered the letters of … Eric Ehrlich of North Platte, NE (positive, but spotted a few gaffes), Edward Wojcik of Detroit, Michigan asked for the return of Gunner and Sarge’s dog Pooch (and we were so promised) as well as other unused DC battle stars to join the Losers), and Teddy Arnold of Houston TX asks for a Losers/Blackhawk team-up. The last paragraph is a plug for GI Combat.

*** 

             The Losers were brought back as a gritty modern commando group for 32 issues in the 2000s. 

 new losers

             Remember the movie they made based on the comic? Neither do I…

 

 losers movie

 

            Was the Bicentennial numbering of Our Fighting Forces (unlucky 13) intentional? Doubtful, it seems DC didn’t put much thought into this Bicentennial promotion (going back to the Superman #300 or Star-Spangled War Stories #200 potential…). Too bad. Can you imagine the reaction of this self-deprecating group of characters? “Leave it to the Losers to be Bicentennial Banner #13…”

 ***

            Join me for my next review of one of my favorite comic series: DC’s Bicentennial issue #14: Weird War Tales #47

 

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.

 

Our Army at War #294

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#1

Our Army At War #294

Our_Army_at_War_Vol_1_294

Published monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist and Editor: Joe Kubert

            Our Army At War premiered in August of 1952 and lasted 302 issues until February 1977 when the title was changed to Sgt. Rock to reflect the popularity of its main character. Sgt. Rock would last until July 1988 with issue #422.

            Our Army At War is known for its main character, Sgt. Frank Rock of Easy Company. Although a character nicknamed “The Rock” debuted in GI Combat, Sgt. Rock as we know him debuted in this comic in 1959. He was created by Robert Kanigher.

            Easy Company was the unnumbered regiment he commanded. It saw action in every European theater. Easy contained African-American members – an anachronism for more enlightened times. Some members were given nicknames such as Bulldozer (the second-in-command), Wildman, Jackie Johnson, Little Sure Shot, Ice Cream Soldier and Four Eyes.

            Our Army At War also earns its place in comic book history for the first appearance of Enemy Ace in #151 (February 1965) – the flying ace of WWI who proved very popular as an anti-hero.

            But by July 1976 the Enemy Ace feature was gone and Sgt. Rock and Easy Company dominated the comic.

***

“A Coffin for Easy”, Robert Kanigher ( w ), F. Redondo (a)

            Easy Company runs out of ammunition and prepares to face a troop of Nazis with bayonets. Monks in a hearse drawn by two horses approach – it is Mlle. Marie and her brother Jules, who bring ammunition in the coffin!

            Mlle. Marie, Rock and Easy fight off the Nazis. Rock reveals their mission – find and destroy the secret oil pipeline in the village of Aix. This is the village in which Mlle. Marie’s brother Jules lives! Her brother is a … er … brother in Aix’s church.

            While searching the church, Rock finds the oil pipeline following an underground river. Jules rings the church bells to warn the villagers to evacuate before Easy detonates the explosions. The Nazis investigate and Jules is killed in the battle.

            Rock, Easy and Mlle. Marie make it to the hills as the pipeline explodes, collapsing the village in the river and killing off the Nazis stationed there. The church bells ring one last time as if to honor Jules’ sacrifice.

***

Bob Kanigher’s Gallery of War: “A Pair of Boots”, Robert Kanigher ( w ), Ric Estrada (a).

            Near Warsaw, Pvt. Fritz Vorst Wermacht-is issued boots that are too painful for his feet. He stops to eat and shoos away two cardinals trying to eat his crumbs. He kills a Polish officer and steals his soft leather boots. He tries to assault a village girl and kills her when she tries to run away. He is killed hiding in a farmhouse during a mortar barrage. The two cardinals he shooed away nest in his empty boots (boots, shoos, get it?).

 

 

Take Ten (Letter page): comments for OAAW #289. Walter Green of Wading River, NY (positive), Terry Chadwick of Phoenix, AZ (positive), Wade Sears of Calgary, Alberta (mostly positive, but critical of the lack of Commonwealth soldiers – UK, Canada, Australian, etc. and questioning the accuracy of Nazi tank tactics.), James Parker of Clarksville, TN (negative – questioning the time setting of the story in #289 being only 8 months before the end of the war. The editor explains that the stories depicted are not chronological) and Robert LaChine of Chicago, IL (negative). E. Nelson Bridwell answered the letters.

 

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

 

            Images used are copyright their respective holders and and reproduced here under the “fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.