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Twenty Goofy Moments From DC and Marvel’s Silver Age War Comics

In honor of Memorial Day, I figured we’d do a special edition of Goofiest Moments Month. Instead of ranking the top goofiest moments in a series of issues (like I have done throughout the month), I’m just going to spotlight twenty goofy moments, chosen almost at random, from DC and Marvel’s Silver Age war comics (for the sake of this exercise I used 1972 as my cut-off point for the “Silver Age”). I intentionally avoided the supernatural war comics like Haunted Tank and War That Time Forgot, as those are too easy to find goofy moments (pretty much every issue is goofy).

The comics in question were mostly written by Robert Kanigher and Stan Lee (DC and Marvel, respectively), with Bob Haney, Roy Thomas and Gary Friedrich also being represented. The artwork is by Joe Kubert, Ross Andru/Mike Esposito, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, John Severin, Russ Heath and, I believe Jerry Grandenetti (but don’t hold me to Grandenetti). I’ll provide all the issue numbers, so if you’re curious you can look up the creative teams later on your own.

Enjoy!

As always, this is all in good fun. I don’t mean any of this as a serious criticism of the comics in question. Not only were these writers certainly never imagining people still reading these comics decades after they were written, great comics often have goofy moments (Kirby/Lee’s Fantastic Four is one of the best comic book runs of all-time and there were TONS of goofy stuff in those 100 plus issues!).

In this story from Our Fighting Forces #128, there is a lot of goofy stuff.

First off, that a Native-American would go fight for the Nazis as a pilot. Second, that he can get close enough to drop off a personalized request to a duel. Third…well, that’s already pretty darn goofy, right?
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From the Unknown Soldier’s first appearance in Star Spangled War Stories #151, imagine if the Chinese WEREN’T U.S. allies in World War II, how would they have been depicted?


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In Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos #5, Nick Fury is also duped into having a personal duel with a Nazi. Here, though, the Nazis defeat him just…to take picturs of him for propoganda purposes?

Not exactly one of Baron Von Strucker’s better plans.
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Speaking of “just shoot him already!” check out this scene from #54…

In exactly what prison camp would Izzy Cohen not be shot right on the spot? Stretching credulity a bit far there, Friedrich…
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Really, Rock, any sergeant would hide his deafness on a mission?

Is Easy Company mothering Rock in this bit from Our Army At War #212, really a bigger concern than everyone not knowing that Rock can’t hear?
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I think this Enemy Ace bit from Star Spangled War Stories #142 really captures Kanigher’s over-the-top prose.

In it, Von Hammer kills a man known as the Hangman who had saved his life a few months earlier. Then, of course, the guy’s sister (who is, of course, a master pilot) takes up the cause to get her revenge.

They actually go to the ground to talk it out, where she shows her disapproval.

She then forces Von Hammer to fight an aerial battle, but he (against her wishes) saves her life, leading to an awesome farewell panel…

You have to love the tear drop by Kubert. Awesome stuff. Hilariously over the top, but still awesome.
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In Fury #6, Stan Lee sure was anything but subtle when he added a bigoted member to the Howling Commandos…

His treatment of Izzy during a mission is particularly odd…

So, of course, Gabe saves his life with a blood transfusion, but the bigot’s reaction is priceless…

Now, naturally, this rings a bit weird seeing as how the Army was segregated during World War II, but hey, at least Stan got a good story about why prejudice is wrong. The ending of the tale, though, is the oddest part of it…

Is that really the best way to get people to write to you?
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In Fury #8, we see the introduction of Percival Pinkerton. What is amusing about this sequence…

is that the reaction of the Howling Commandos sure appears to be what Stan Lee was using as his decades-later claim that Pinky was gay. “Look at the way he talks and carries himself!”
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The Losers was a clever attempt by DC to take a bunch of characters who couldn’t make it as solo characters and make them into a team. So the “losers” designation had a bit of a metafictional aspect to it.

In the comic itself, though, the name came from the fact that each of the members of the group had seen some major setbacks (a lost squadron, a lost U-Boat crew, etc.).

That is rough, but they sure did love to yammer on about it. This example from Our Fighting Forces #125 is only SLIGHTLY more over the top than a typical Losers issue…


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This moment from Our Army At War #91 is another one of those great Kanigher Haney bits where, yeah, it is goofy and all, but damned if it isn’t really, really awesome…


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In Fury #34, we have a flashback to Fury and his best friend, Red Hargrove, in the days before the U.S. entered World War II.

Ed Brubaker used Red Hargrove a lot in his Marvels Project series. Thankfully, he did not keep the “cigarette holder just like FDR” affectation…

What a weird character bit by Roy Thomas.
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Speaking of weird character bits, in Fury #61, Fury and the boys come to rescue their commanding officer, Captain Sawyer, only he is already making his escape. He uses a Nazi secretary (we are shown her earlier in the issue enjoying a night out with her boyfriend)…

Sawyer is taking this a little too far, no?

Dude, you’re starting to sound a bit like a psycho. I hope this lady doesn’t end up like the title character of Boxing Helena…

Even Fury seems a bit weirded out by it all…


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I don’t think I ever would have expected this to be Wild Man’s origin (from Our Army At War #120, where we learn the origins of the names of most of the main guys from Easy Company)…


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Silly, Nazis, you can’t fool a baby!

You know how babies could see Al on Quantum Leap? That’s the same way that they can see Nazis. It is too bad the Lone Wolf and Cub approach was only in Our Army at War #132, it would have been pretty funny to see more of it.
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As mentioned in a recent Comic Book Legends Revealed, this is the Sgt. Fury story (#72) that was set during Casablanca that Marvel heavily re-scripted and had real cheesy edits to Dick Ayers’ pencils. Here is a sampling of the issue…


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Not only did Johnny Cloud have fellow Native-American challenging him to battles, he also had to swear a bizarre oath to his dad in Our Army at War #177 (I think this is a reprint of an earlier story)…

“Yeah, sure Dad, I’ll be sure to kill the guy who you fought in WORLD WAR FREAKIN’ ONE!!”

And yet, as luck would have it…


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You can’t beat having a guy dress up in armor and pretend to be St. George (from Star Spangled War Stories #147)…

I love how even Von Hammer is like, “yeah, this dude is nuts.”
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From the very next issue, Von Hammer gets a pet dog…

and then DROPS HIM OUT OF A PLANE!!!

Kanigher, you are a sick dude!!
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It is weird enough that Dino is hitting on an Italian girl we know to be 16 in Sgt. Fury #30, but then we learn she’s Sophia freakin’ Loren?!

Beeezare.
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Although nothing beats the revelation earlier in the issue that she is, in fact, a girl….

Perhaps not the best choice of words, Fury!!

Happy Memorial Day, everybody!!

23 Comments

A few comments:

You don’t seem to understand the bigot’s dislike of Cohen, when the name is (more often than not) a Jewish name. WWII was only a couple decades removed from the high-point of the KKK, and that group was bigoted against everyone not white & Protestant (and, frankly, were even bigoted against a number of the Protestant sects, as well).

Of course, in the scene where Cohen attacks the Japanese guard, he’d not even made it that far, if that had occurred in Europe (where the Germans put Jewish POWs in separate camps, if not actually executing them on the spot, or sending them to the concentration camps, in a few instances).

What about the USAF on Johnny Cloud’s plane, when the USAF didn’t take that name until 1947 (part of transition that included being called the USAAFfor the latter part of the war through 47)? However, while FINDING the pilot was a bit outlandish, the Germans (and Japanese) tended to use up every pilot they had. Instead of rotating pilots out to keep them fresh, they’d keep them in service until they died or were wounded to the point of not being able to fly. This resulted, eventually, in WWI vets (if they hadn’t already volunteered for service at the beginning of the war) and young teens in the cockpits. Said hawk-eyed pilot probably was in his 40s, and might have even been a squadron commander in WWII.

The Piper story is probably inspired by the piper that went onto the beaches of Normandy, playing (on his commander’s orders). The Germans didn’t shoot at him, because they thought he had to be a lunatic to be doing so. That incident was so famous it even made it into “The Longest Day”

The old “getting revenge in WW2 on old WW1 rivalries/wrongs” probably was used twenty to thirty times in postwar comics. And DC even had Johnny Cloud TIME TRAVEL to both WW1 and the Korean War in some of his stories. And there was one story of SGT ROCK in which Easy Company meets a group of black former Doughboys who hid in France during the German occupation, but have redonned their old uniforms to join the fight.

Ted Nomura (of TIGERS OF TERRA and LUFTWAFFE 1946 fame) has speculated that the markings on Johnny Cloud’s plane was the result of using Monogram’s 1/32nd scale model P-51D Mustang as a visual aid. At the time the series began the model kit was only available in POSTWAR markings…and Johnny’s personal symbol is also a squadron symbol for a fighter unit of the Swedish Air Force that had P-51s after WW2.

Heavy-handed liberal writing hasn’t gotten much better in all these years. Pretty hilarious stuff.

I love that the wig that Little Joe yanks off the transsexual Nazi has a “Made in Germany” label. Hitler must have been planning to flood the English-speaking world with cross-dressing assessories.

Sophia Loren would have been like 10 by the time WWII ended, though…

You don’t seem to understand the bigot’s dislike of Cohen, when the name is (more often than not) a Jewish name. WWII was only a couple decades removed from the high-point of the KKK, and that group was bigoted against everyone not white & Protestant (and, frankly, were even bigoted against a number of the Protestant sects, as well).

The “particularly odd” part is that he gets into a fist fight with a guy on his own team in the middle of a mission. Even for a bigot, that’s weird.

Sophia Loren would have been like 10 by the time WWII ended, though…

Even more disturbing for Dino to be hitting on her then. ;)

While I’m not convinced the Schatzi moment is goofy per se, you’ve left out the goofiest part of that comic, which is that the cover flat out showed Schatzi being dropped from a plane.

You might want to go back and correct some of those “Our World at War”s to “Our Army at War” since that’s the name of the book before it was retitled to “Sgt. Rock.”

Otherwise, good piece. I’ve been enjoying all these goofy moments this month.

Phantom Dennis

May 30, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Sophia in boy’s clothes is probably a reference to “Two Women”, a post-WWII drama that earned Loren an Oscar. , I think this was the first major category award to a foreign language film. It’s a fairly high-brow refrence considering what the average comic readership age was considered at the time. I guess Marvel had cottoned how many college-age kids were reading their comics at the time.

I’d love to hear the rationale for making Gabe Jones’s skin gray rather than brown. Because gray wasn’t as “threatening” to white readers?

So Johnny Cloud’s father fought in WW I, but can’t describe an enemy plane better than “black hawk of death”? Study up on your German biplane designs, Chief Cloud.

When you’re engaged in deadly dogfights that involve loop-the-loop maneuvers and machine-gun barrages, I recommend against taking your puppy with you. Unless the puppy is a World War I flying ace like Snoopy, that is.

I’d love to hear the rationale for making Gabe Jones’s skin gray rather than brown. Because gray wasn’t as “threatening” to white readers?

I think it was just poor colors. They fixed it pretty early on.

I’m not convinced that is a girl.

This moment from Our World At War #91 is another one of those great Kanigher bits where, yeah, it is goofy and all, but damned if it isn’t really, really awesome…

The Silent Piper is a Bob Haney story, not a Robert Kanigher one. That’s why it’s so goofy even by Kanigher standards. Kanigher is goofy but not quite THAT goofy.

Great stuff. These stories stand up to the test of time IMHO.

Compare them to some of today’s.

I must admit, even though I think Stan Lee could write circles around DC’s writers when it came to Silver Age superhero books, DC’s Silver Age nonsuperhero books pretty much destroy Marvel’s. I can read tons of Kanigher DC war comics but Lee and Kirby war comics once you get past the novelty of the goofiness just wear thin. It gets even worse when people like Thomas and Friedrich take over.

As soon as I saw today’s title, I immediately thought to myself “There are probably going to be quite a few moments from Sgt. Fury mentioned here!” Don’t get me wrong, Sgt. Fury was a fun comic, with some nice art by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers. I even own the three Marvel Masterworks collections. But no one is ever going to mistake the series for being a serious depiction of World War II.

That said, you did have the occasional issue that had an emotional punch, like the death of Pamela Hawley in #18, Percy Pinkerton’s origin in #23, and the apocalyptic confrontation between Fury and Strucker in #29.

As for the DC war comics, “goofy moments” or not, there is some absolutely stunning Joe Kubert artwork on display here!

Travis Pelkie

May 30, 2011 at 11:06 pm

I HAVE that Star Spangled War Stories with Schatzi the dog. I even almost had Joe Kubert sign it for me at the Boston Comic Con. It’s goofy, yeah, but it made me a bit misty. Great cover, goofy like Thok said, but just great.

Surprised that after the bigot got a blood transfusion, he didn’t get the proportionate strength and agility of Gabe Jones, or something.

Anyhow, aside from that… the bag piper marching in World War II? Apparently not that crazy. I read about a real guy who actually DID that for the U.K.’s forces in WWII once upon a time. It’s an unreal story, to be sure. Check this out:

http://www.badassoftheweek.com/churchill.html

Jack “Commando” Churchill. Balls-to-the-wall insane, but true story.

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I just want to know: Did Rock remember to Pay The Piper? :D

Who cares? There’s a reason Kubert has a comic book artist’s school. The man is a genius.

I know I’m replying almost a year late, but… “George Stonewell?” That pretty much has to be a sidelong callout to American Neo-Nazi figurehead George Lincoln Rockwell. The issue came out in early ’64, and Rockwell had already founded the American Nazi Party by that point.

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