Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Sgt. Rock Meets The Viking Prince?

Two great warriors, drawn by one great artist, but both historical figures very much defined by their times.

Still, the fates aligned, and these two heroes once met....

...and here is that story, told by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert!

The Prince And The Sergeant

The story begins in Our Army At War #162 (January, 1966), with Little Sure Shot of Easy Company telling the group of the stories of the Viking legends, with their great prince, as mortar fire rang out, ending the tale.  Aboard a British ship, Sgt. Rock would have to lead Easy Company to the shore, and to find the hidden drone base of the Nazis on the beach, as the British ship would continue to provide cover.

As the British ship was found by enemy fire, Easy Company came ashore.  There, they were nearly found by a Nazi patrol, but, Sgt. Rock took to heart the sacrifice of the British commander, planning to lure the Nazis away from his troops so they could complete the mission.

Wounded, Rock continued to fight, leading the troops into a frozen ice cave, where Rock thought he saw a man in the ice.  Things suddenly warmed up as a grenade was tossed into the cave, trying to kill the Sergeant.  Failing, it also freed the Viking Prince from his icy slumber, and Jon quickly dispatched the Nazi troops.  In shock, Rock asked Jon why he through himself into battle wanting to die....and Jon told him.  

Back in the day, the Viking Prince was a mighty warrior, and was taken to Valhalla by a beautiful Valkyrior maiden.  Smitten, Jon wanted her for his own, but she was committed to bringing the dead to Odin.  In the afterlife, Jon faced Haggor, Clefter of Heads, beating him.  At the celebratory feast after, Jon challenged Odin for his Valkyrior, angering Odin, who also realized she brought Jon to Valhalla too soon, thus sent him back to Earth to live, but now cursed to never die by metal, wood, fire or water, entombed in ice until freed by Rock's battle with the Nazis.  The pair were then set upon by a Nazi warplane, which Jon dispatched.  Rock then decided to bring Jon along on his suicide mission, hoping that will end Jon's suffering, allowing him to die (and to complete the mission). 

Kill Me -- Kill Me!

The tale of Jon and Rock continued in Our Army At War #163 (February, 1966), with Jon having renewed happiness to go on a final mission with Sgt. Rock, much to the concern of the sergeant, when the two were beset by Nazi troops, with Jon wading into battle against them.  

As it seemed the troops were to overwhelm the Viking Prince, Sgt. Rock saw spirits of Odin and the Valkyrior above, with Odin promising Jon will never have the maiden.  Jon fought on, with Rock joining the battle, The pair then met Helga, after Jon took out the Nazi tank following her.  Helga claimed to be in the underground, to lead them to the Nazi drone base.  The trio found Easy Company, and headed to the caverns below the base, but Jon's Valkyrior stopped her...

....as Helga was a traitor, leading them to the forces in control of the base.  Jon went into battle to keep the enemy busy, as Rock and Easy Company got their explosives ready, and set them off, destroying the drone base, Nazi troops, and Jon, who would be happy, dying in battle, and ending up with the maiden he loved.

This pair of stories has been reprinted many times, most notably in the Sgt. Rock Special #1 of October, 1988, The Viking Prince collection of September, 2010 and in Showcase Presents: Sgt. Rock #3 of September, 2010, because while nothing is ever easy in Easy, finding stories should be!

Read a little of Rock's end of the war adventures here, as well as a time when the Viking Prince was in another time here!


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving With Alf

Well, we're thankful it is not a cat, though likely that's what Alf would prefer.  

Alf is thankful for something to eat, as his TV show was cancelled, around the time of this cover by Dave Manak for Alf #40 (April, 1991).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Gorilla Warfare

World War II.  A time of epic battles, where the world took sides, with countries all across the world being a part of the Allies or the Axis.

This even extended to the animal kingdom, as gorillas joined in with the U.S soldiers, and the Nazi forces as well.

Here are their stories.

You Can't Pin A Medal On A Gorilla

First up, the Allies, with Star Spangled War Stories #126 (April-May, 1966) by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert, under a Kubert cover, where Charlie, the simian friend of Sgt. Pinky Donovan, gets unintentionally enlisted in war in the Pacific Theater.  

How did this unlikely scenario happen?

Donovan was an entertainer, working with his gorilla, Charlie, to entertain the troops in the Pacific, when he got called back into duty.  Unfortunately, that meant Charlie had to be locked up in the ship's hold as he headed to his assignment.  But, an attack beached the ship, and set Charlie free.  The enemy attacked the soldiers, with Charlie going into action to save the day.  It worked, much to the surprise of Donovan's C.O....who kept demoting Donovan, even with Charlie's successes!  Charlie even helped them take on their original mission, and lead to them flying the American flag in victory, but ending with the tagline that was the title of the story!

This lighter war story was also felt very real thanks to the stylings of artist Joe Kibert, who usually did more realistic war stories with Sgt. Rock (but still great to see him flex his abilities here!).

Primate Patrol

Hearing from the Axis side, is Weird War Tales #89 (July, 1980) by George Kashdan, Ken Landgraf and Dave Simons, under a cover by Jim Starlin, with a whole group of intelligent gorillas working on behalf of the Nazi forces in Africa.

Here's how that happened!

Willy, Jake and the rest of their troop of American soldiers were taken captive by the Nazis, and given to their new jailers...gorillas dressed in Nazi uniforms.  The gorillas were intelligent, and could speak!  They were found by the Germans, and trained to do simple tasks (as they were natural imitators), with those who resisted punished.  But, they didn't take into account animal nature, as they still imitated, and learned from their American prisoners to fight the Nazis, then going to hide better in the jungle after freeing the American soldiers.

Now, whether or not these gorillas were a part of Grodd's Gorilla City, we'll never know.

The results speak for themselves, as to which sides the simians worked with, but one still has to wonder what would have happened had these apes crossed paths on the battlefield?

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Superman Meets The Unknown Soldier


Two men from different worlds, both trying to keep Earth safe, who didn't usually even run in the same circles...

...yet, here is Superman and the Unknown Soldier in DC Comics Presents #42 (February, 1982), under a cover by Rich Buckler and Frank Giacoia, working together to stop a menace that threatens the planet!

Here's how that meeting happened....

The Specter Of War!

This story by Paul Levitz, Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin, starts with Superman worrying about nuclear missile testing, as he funnels the fallout from a test into orbit.  As Clark Kent, he goes to his editor, Perry White, telling him he wants to write a story about the dangers of nuclear war, and why countries are racing towards nuclear war (with Perry letting him know that isn't journalism, but opinion), when a soldier comes in with a seal envelope for Clark.  

As the soldier leaves, Clark quickly checks it out with his X-Ray vision, seeing it is a request for help from Superman.  Clark looks for him, but the soldier had disappeared.  Reading the note, Superman goes to stop the "accidental" explosion of a nuclear missile in the United States reserves.  

Narrowly avoiding disaster, Major Amos and Doctor Klest (the architects behind the near explosion) plan their next moving, now taking into account the interference of Superman.  Clark Kent goes to investigate at the Pentagon, but is taken under arrest.  But, as he is being taken off, he is freed by a general (who, like the soldier who handed him the envelope) is scratching his neck.  The "general" knows Clark's meekness is an act, and gives him directions to help guide Superman. 

Superman, worried that this soldier who is a master of disguise and is following him around with knowledge of his identity, goes to the JLA Satellite to research history with the Red Tornado, finding the files of the World War II secret agent, the Unknown Soldier, who was a master of disguise (who occasionally gave himself away itching at his disguises around his neck).  

Red Tornado locates a military base that could both start a world ending nuclear war and survive it, which are around the North and South Poles, which sends Superman on a hunt to find the right one.  At the secret military base, Amos and Klest are interrogating a man who claims to be a new transfer (who has an itchy neck).  Superman busts in, finding the device they were using to trigger nuclear weapons early, as Amos has set the microwave beamer to set off hundreds of missiles.  Superman goes to stop them, as the Unknown Soldier apprehends the rouge military men.  

After stopping a nuclear war, Superman returns to the base, finding the army had been called in, and they took these villains into custody under the direction of a mysterious soldier who disappeared.  Clark Kent goes to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, to thank him, wondering if he was the original from World War II, as a janitor (with an itchy neck) accepts the thanks.

Now, this story proves there must have been both an Earth-1 and Earth-2 Unknown Soldier with similar careers (as the Earth-2 Batman had worked with the Unknown Soldier as well, but something you didn't have to worry about in the Unknown Soldier's own adventures).  

But, at least Superman succeeded in stopping a nuclear war (which Superman later had to deal with when he met the Atomic Knights, who lived in a world after the Great Disaster!).

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Star Spangled War Stories Unknown Soldier

A name switch.

Something useful if you are working as a spy for your government, which the Unknown Solider was use to doing, but it was the title of the book that changed, going from the Star Spangled War Stories to Unknown Soldier with #205, with covers still by Joe Kubert, and stories written by Bob Haney.

The Unknown Soldier wasn't there from the beginning (or was he?), in Star Spangled War Stories #3 (November, 1952), this coming from 3 issues of Star Spangled War Stories which spun off of Star Spangled Comics....the Unknown Soldier moved in with Star Spangled War Stories #151 (June-July, 1970) from Enemy Ace, slowly taking over the title through Star Spangled War Stories #204 (February-March, 1977), with Unknown Solider #205 (April-May, 1977), continuing his war, hiding his identity to fight his foes through the end, with Unknown Soldier #268 (October, 1982).

Even though it might have seemed aggressive to take over the title, the Unknown Soldier shared his good fortune, and many friends of his would visit, including Sgt. Rock, the crew of the Haunted Tank, Mlle. Marie and the Losers

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Balloon Buster And Enemy Ace In World War I

It's the eternal war of good versus evil...and those who fought those wars were as different as the wars they fought.

But, there were two men on opposite sides of the first World War who had their careers covered in comic books....so, let's take a look at the lives of the Balloon Buster and the Enemy Ace!

Balloon Buster

Lt. Steve Savage got his start in All-American Men Of War #112 (November-December, 1965) by Robert Kanigher and Russ Heath, but the character was born and raised in Mustang River, Wyoming, raised by a poor farmer, who taught junior how to shoot a gun (any gun).  Savage promised his father on his death bed to make his name remembered, enlisting in the Army Air Corps to be a pilot.  Savage was insubordinate, a risk taker, gaining the nickname Balloon Buster as he used German attack ballons as his favorite targets.  

Savage was not the world's best pilot, but his can do attitude and success rate kept him in the air (at least for issues #113, #114 and #116, then Our Fighting Forces #133 of September-October, 1971, his only non cover appearance to this time, before...well, time to introduce the other player on the field....).

Enemy Ace

Hans von Hammer first appeared in Our Army At War #151 (February, 1965) by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert (hidden behind a Sgt. Rock cover), with his first cover being Showcase #57 (July-August, 1965), then moving to a run at Star Spangled War Stories starting with issue #138 (April-May, 1968), Hammer was the son of an aristocratic German family, being one of the first to enlist in German flight training school as World War I began.  An impeccable flyer, Hammer was also guided by an incredible sense of honor, refusing to kill unarmed or wounded opponents.  

Hammer got an impressive record of kills over the years, earning the nickname the Hammer of Hell, but was deeply conflicted about war and killing, appearing in Our Army At War #153 and #155, Showcase #57 and #58, then a run in Star Spangled War Stories from #139 to #150 and #152...at least until he had a confrontation with Balloon Buster!

The Fight!

The Balloon Buster and the Hammer of Hell first met in Star Spangled War Stories #181 (July-August, 1974) to #183 (November-December, 1974) by Robert Kanigher and Frank Thorne (though only the Enemy Ace made the first two covers....barely, so, offered instead a tease of the battle between the two, so instead some interior art including American biplane vs Fokker...which ended with both continuing their battles in World War I later).

After the battle, Balloon Buster only had 3 appearances in Unknown Soldier (#262 to #264) and a bit in Crisis On Infinite Earths, with his tales ending in Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight Annual #7 (1997, with a slightly different history), while the Enemy Ace had only one more appearance in Star Spangled War Stories #200, then for about half the issues of Men of War (time travelling to meet the JLA and JSA during this run), then to back ups in Unknown Soldier from #251 to #253, and #261 to #267, missing the Balloon Buster issues), as well as a bit in Crisis; Post-Crisis, Hammer had many appearances, in the superb Enemy Ace: War Idyll, even post World War I, including meetings with Swamp Thing and Vandal Savage with the battle always continuing...


Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Our Army At War Sgt. Rock

What's in a name?  

DC fans asked that, as after 301 issues of Our Army At War, the title suddenly changed to Sgt. Rock with issue #302 (but they still had Joe Kubert contributing his wonderful covers for the title. with Robert Kanigher providing the words!).

True, Our Army At War #1 (August, 1952), didn't feature Sgt. Rock (he started in Our Army At War #81 in April, 1959), it was Sgt. Rock that was the main feature of the book from then until Our Army At War #301 (February, 1977), with the title becoming Sgt. Rock #302 (March, 1977), and following the adventures of the top kick of Easy Company until Sgt. Rock #422 (July, 1988).

Saluting the Rock of Easy for holding it together for all those years, fighting World War II under what was DC's longest running war title!    

Friday, November 5, 2021

Happy Birthday Jim Steranko

Celebrating the birthday of artist, writer, publisher, magician, film production illustrator and comic historian, Jim Steranko with this December 1983 cover to reprints of a few of his Nick Fury Agent Of SHIELD issues from the 1960s, featuring Nick Fury, Contessa Valentina Allegro de Fontaine, Jasper Sitwell, Jimmy Woo, Gabe Jones and Dum Dum Dugan!

The stories reprinted there were from Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #1 and #2 from June and July, 1968 (along with pages from a Nick Fury story from Strange Tales #168, but Steranko didn't do that cover, as it featured Doctor Strange, the other half of that split book at the time).

A true performer, still touring comic conventions to this day, with the occasional work of art gracing a cover now and then, a living legend in the history of comics!