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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #148

Perhaps other websites take Memorial Day off, but not Comics Should Be Good! It’s the perfect time to remember comics’ favorite fictional veteran, a.k.a. the toughest man in comics!

Oh, and mind your step, or you might trip over the archive.

5/28/07

148. Sgt. Rock

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Sergeant Frank Rock was, yes, the biggest badass to ever appear on a comics page. Really. It’s science. I would go so far as to say that Sgt. Rock rocks. (You may groan, but you know it to be true.)

Created by writer/editor Robert Kanigher and artist Joe Kubert, and also written by Bob Haney quite a bit, Sgt. Rock was the perfect soldier. DC had a few war books and quite often told stories of tough guys in combat, but Rock was the first one to recur and went on to become quite popular. He first appeared in G.I. Combat, but moved onto Our Army at War, where he stayed for nearly thirty years (eventually, the title of the book changed to “Sgt. Rock”).

With his ripped sleeves (after all, he needed to show off his muscles), grim determination, and hatred of the war, Rock tore through the opposition, surviving the most ridiculous, inescapable scrapes, often beating the crap out of Nazis with his bare hands, or blowing up tanks (Oh shit! Bazooka!) with the aid of his crack team of men to whom he was intensely loyal. Of course, he also romanced Mlle. Marie, the toughest lady of WWII (though she later apparently had a kid with Alfred Pennyworth, of all people. Well, in one story, anyway).

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The comics also taught us that Rock loved puppies, was immune to the cold, and was the greatest pimp of the 1940’s. Aside from that, though, we were also given terrific war stories, brilliant anti-war stories, and featured some damn gorgeous covers.

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The debate over whether Rock lived through WWII rages on. Yes, he’s made post-war appearances throughout DC comics, like in Haney’s Brave and the Bold and Giffen’s Suicide Squad, among other things, and even Bob Kanigher himself wrote a few of these kind of stories, but he later changed his mind and declared that Rock never survived the war. As the story goes, Rock was killed by the last bullet fired in WWII. It’s pure poetry; Rock is, after all, the fighting spirit of the period, and works best in that era.

I say it’s high time for a new Sgt. Rock book. He managed to outlive the death of all the non-superhero genres, with his original series lasting well into the 1980’s, but he hasn’t had a regular gig since. There’ve been reprints, guest appearances, graphic novels, and the Prophecy mini-series by Joe Kubert, but that’s about it. Clearly, rock is still in comics consciousness, but dammit, he needs to live again! “Prophecy” only sold an average of units somewhere in the 20,000’s, but DC can sell anything with enough hype. Is there a writer as crazy as Kanigher to make it work? Hmm. I say toss all three Kuberts on it, and rotate some big writers like Ennis and Azzarello in and out. That’d be a damn fine series.

Sgt. Rock has been optioned for a film, but could any actor live up to the titan of the comics page? How about it, readers? Who has enough cajones to portray Frank Rock? Bruce Willis is the only one that comes to my mind. What do you think? Schwarzenegger almost played him once; in fact, the script for that aborted project has just been placed online.

Rock may have starred in the best war comic ever, but there are still plenty of awesome war comics out there. And, yeah– this week, we’re gonna talk about ‘em. Stay tuned.

19 Comments

Rohan Williams

May 28, 2007 at 8:27 pm

There may be other contenders for the title of ‘most bad-ass comic book character’, but Sgt Rock was the subject of an awesome XTC song, so he’s the clear winner.

I’d wager Lee Marvin and the “The Big Red One” already fit the bill.

Andrew Collins

May 28, 2007 at 10:27 pm

[quote]Rohan Williams said:
“There may be other contenders for the title of ‘most bad-ass comic book character’, but Sgt Rock was the subject of an awesome XTC song, so he’s the clear winner.” [/quote]

That is a cool song. It’s a funny coincidence that you mention it too, because I just saw Hot Fuzz today and “Sgt. Rock (Is Going To Help Me)” is used very prominently in one scene. Great stuff…

Also, in Giffen’s Suicide Squad, there was a weird moment in the last issue where it was revealed that the “General Rock” who had been leading the team wasn’t Rock at all, but someone in disguise. It was never revealed who, at least not by Giffen. Does anybody know if they ever followed up on that plot thread in another DC book?

And growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, I’ve been saying for the last few years it felt weird not having a Rock book and a Jonah Hex book on the stands every month. DC remedied that with Hex, I say it’s time to get a good Rock book out there too.

Is there an essential Sgt Rock or any Trades? Would like to read some old school war comics but not sure where to start.

Bruce Willis would be a good choice for the movie. I just hope some clueless studio exec doesn’t come up with the ‘clever’ idea of The Roch as Sgt. Rock

Patrick Joseph

May 29, 2007 at 5:00 am

“Is there an essential Sgt Rock or any Trades? Would like to read some old school war comics but not sure where to start.”- dmo173

There are two or three Archives of Sgt. Rock comics. $50 a pop.

The same month DC debuted their Showcase line of reprints, they began a very short lived series of digest sized reprints. There was a Swamp Thing volume and a Sgt. Rock one. $7.95 for 128 pages of Joe Kubert drawn Rock stories. Out of print, but you may get lucky.

There is a recent OGN by Azzarello and Joe Kubert available in paperback and hardback.

Lastly, The Prophecy is available in a book collecting all six issues.

I agree that there should be a Sgt. Rock series like Jonah Hex. However, I do not think that Ennis or Azzarello are good choices to write it. I think that it should be mature, but not obscene. I like the fact that Joe Kubert would not do the prophecy mini if Azzarello was going to use f-bombs. It’s just not necessary.

Ennis can write war stories without obscenities – his Battler Britton is a good example.

It just occurs to me that the most recent postwar Rock made even less sense than anything Bob Haney ever wrote, and that’s saying something.

I’ve always thought with Sgt. Rock, going into some sort of “black ops” stuff is the *last* thing he’d do. Despite his exploits, he’s more Everyman than Super-Soldier at his core. He’s the G.I. who went off to do his duty, then went back when the war was over.

During the mid90s team ups between Marvel and DC, did Sgt. Rock ever get teamed up with Nick Fury?

Yes–not in their own book, but in the Batman/Captain America crossover, just before Cap goes back to the States on assignment, he teams up briefly with Rock and Fury to stop a Nazi War Wheel. That book is full of similar nods to classic comics of the era.

¿Wasn’t Rock the Secretary of Defense during the Our Worlds at War crossover?

Andrew Collins

May 29, 2007 at 10:41 am

Worst casting idea I ever heard was the one-time plan to cast Arnold Schwarzenegger at Sgt. Rock. This was actually reported in DC’s Inside DC column they used to run in all their books back in the late 80’s. Thankfully that idea never materialized. I don’t know if the world was ready for a German-accented Sgt. Rock taking down Nazis…

Andrew Collins

May 29, 2007 at 10:42 am

Oops, proofreading fails me again. I meant “as Sgt. Rock” not “at Sgt. Rock” :P

Worst casting idea I ever heard was the one-time plan to cast Arnold Schwarzenegger at Sgt. Rock

Yeah, Rock was going to be re-written as a German-American who would sometimes speak German to fool the Nazis.

no one could play rock in a movie! that’s the problem with comic book movies, when i see real people doing things done in comic books it comes off all lame ass.

since i would resent anyone who played sgt rock in a movie i guess bruce willis is a good pick since i already hate that twit.

another great reason to love comics pick mr. reed.

Andrew Collins

May 29, 2007 at 11:09 pm

“no one could play rock in a movie! that’s the problem with comic book movies, when i see real people doing things done in comic books it comes off all lame ass.”

With something like Sgt. Rock, who is just a normal Joe and not a superhero, I think it could translate very well. Heck, we have a million WWII pictures now. The one hitch (which you eluded to) is that Rock’s appearance has become VERY iconic over the years (thanks mainly to Jue Kubert’s grizzled interpretation) and casting someone who could meet it would be difficult, but not impossible.

Andrew Collins

May 29, 2007 at 11:10 pm

Crap. First it was proofreading, now it’s my internal spellcheck. I meant “allude” not “elude.” Time to go to bed…

Are you sure that Kanigher actually created Sgt. Rock? I’ve often heard he did, but Haney wrote the first Sgt. Rock story.

A near perfect actor to play Sgt. Rock would be Russell Crowe. Think, “LA Confidential,” “Gladiator” and “Cinderella Man”. He’d have no problem with Rock’s “haunted look” as well as conveying Rock’s core decency. In fact, Sgt. Rock would be a better fit for him than another action role he has already played i.e. Jack Aubrey in Master & Commander.

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