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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 99

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we continue our look at features in Star Spangled War Stories with a look at the most successful Star Spangled War Stories feature (so successful that it took over the title completely), The Unknown Soldier, specifically the initial run by Joe Kubert (and friends)….

The Unknown Soldier was a concept introduced by Kanigher and Kubert in a Sgt. Rock story. They thought he was interesting enough to make him the lead feature in Star-Spangled War Stories, and they’re really right,as the character fits in really well to the Kanigher style of stories (you know, the same basic story every other month, just done with a twist) because you can adapt him to pretty much any style of war comic that you want.

Here’s the awesome Kubert cover from his first issue as the lead of the comic…

And a quick recap about the history of the Unknown Soldier…


So basically, every issue, the Unknown Soldier would disguise himself as SOMEone different and have an adventure.

It was really that simple – but also that effective.

Initially he was written by Kanigher along with art by Kubert, but for most of Kubert’s run (which lasted for about a year’s worth of stories), Kubert actually wrote as many of the issues as Kanigher – and then Bob Haney pretty much filled in for Kanigher completely.

He also had a few run-ins with other established DC characters, like this one featuring Kubert fave Sgt. Rock…

Simply put, any comic that had regular Joe Kubert art was going to be good, and the Unknown Soldier was no exception.

After Kubert left, Jack Sparling took over for awhile. Archie Goodwin wrote the book for awhile. There were some really good runs later on in the series that I’ll likely get to at some point in this year.

The series continued in Star-Spangled until the early #200s, where it took over the book and ran by itself for another 60 or so issues before finally being canceled in the early 1980s.


What, no puppy-killing in this one?

I never really read the war comics as a kid, so I would only encounter these characters when they popped up in a superhero comic or one of the Year’s Best Comics digests. But every time the Unknown Soldier would pop up in DC Comics Presents or Brave & the Bold, he was totally fascinating to me.

I always really liked that cross-genre interplay in the DCU, and as much I enjoy the Vertigo line I’m always a little sad when the main DCU “loses one” to Vertigo. I prefer a world where the Unknown Soldier, Human Target and Nemesis (just to pick a few masters of disguise who originated in the main timeline and are now on various sides of that fence) can coexist with Wonder Woman, John Constantine, Captain Marvel, Cain and Abel and whoever else.

Kubert was awesome and a bit under-rated. His heavy presence and the weakness of the superhero title with which he was most associated (Hawkman) causes him to be overlooked a bit more than he should.

Awesome! I was in an airport a couple of weeks ago, and the bookstore had a surprisingly great graphic novels section. I picked up an UNKNOWN SOLDIER Showcase, and this really makes me want to crack it open.

Peter Woodhouse

April 10, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Dean – I agree. I must admit I completely overlooked Kubert’s stuff and the DC war line when I was a kid in the 80s. My older brother, who’s 70s collection I devoured, did the same, also didn’t go for the war line.

As a Brit, there were plenty of home-grown war titles such as the famous Battle (Charley’s War by Pat Mills & Joe Colquhoun is one of the best-ever stories to come from the UK, up there with 2000AD’s best- if anyone can track down the TPB collections currently being released by Titan Books, please do so). Gritty & underrated like Kubert.

I like the fact Kubert did his own lettering on covers, so you can instantly recognise one – as if the art hasn’t already given it away.

[…] CBR: A Year of Cool Comics Day #99 […]

For my money, the best Unknown Soldier stories in SSWS were in issues # #183-203, by David Michelinie and drawn by Gerry Talaoc. Kubert is great here as always, but I’m allergic, I think, to Kanigher’s overwrought war scripting…

Showcase Presents seems to be a good format for these DC war titles. I enjoyed the Unknown Soldier volume as well as the Sgt. Rock, Enemy Ace, and Haunted Tank ones. The only one I’ve steered clear of was the dinosaur island stuff. With a third Sgt. Rock due in July and Our Army at War #1-20 being the first pre-code Showcase volume (I think) coming in December, I hope this will open up Showcase to reprint loads of earlier work by Kubert and Heath and several others.

As much as I love his war comics, if you haven’t read Kubert’s Tarzan, you haven’t seen his best work.

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