Vintage War Comics

I’m not really a comic collector but when I see one from my youth and it’s not above $5.00 at a rummage sale or second-hand shop I’ll consider purchasing.

Such was the case with these three pictured below. Two were published by Marvel Comics Group in the early 70s but they represent the type of thing I would have read as a ten-year-old in the early 60s. The last one was published by DC Comics in the late 70s.

The first is one from the series title Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos.

Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, early 1970s.

Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, early 1970s.

Sgt. Fury and his men always had an impossible mission and if memory serves me the mission was always against the Nazis. That much was made clear by the prominence of the swastika pasted on every piece of equipment large enough to display one.

In this particular issue the commandos are tasked with taking out “Rommel’s super tank” a fictional Panzer VII-IV and helping the poor Brits survive the Desert Fox.

Frankly, these kind of comics were silly. The German enemies were always Nazis and always idiots. Our allies, like the British usually received little attention and one was left with the impression that the US almost single-handily won WW2.

Having said that though the comics made no pretense of being accurate. They were meant as entertainment for ten-year-olds at a time and place when most of the male population consisted of veterans of WW2. The caricatures and stereotypes of America’s enemies would have represented the same sort of thing our fathers and mothers would have been exposed to in the 40s.

The second one is titled War is Hell. I do not remember the series from the 60s but it looks typical of the war comics of the period. The cover art work was designed to sell the comic and they usually portrayed “our guys” in some desperate situation leaving the viewer to wonder would they survive and destroy the bad guys once and for all.

War is Hell by Marvel Comics early 70s

War is Hell by Marvel Comics early 70s

The War is Hell series differed from a comic like Sgt. Fury in that the issue usually had three or four stories with a variable cast of characters.

In this case two stories featured the war against the Nazis in WW2, one story from WW1 featuring a fearsome German Fokker that was standing in the way of the “yank big offensive.” Another story featured the relationship between a Confederate cavalryman and his beloved horse.

The war comics competed with the super hero type comics but really were largely about the same thing less a super power or two.

This last one titled Men of War is unusual since it featured a black American hero named “Gravediggers” in WW2. The enemy is once again the Nazi’s and the hero nearly dies accomplishing his mission again against impossible odds.

Men of War, Gravediggers series, late 70s

Men of War, Gravediggers series, late 70s

I suppose that by 1978 and five years after the last US troops were withdrawn from Vietnam it was time to recognize the enormous contribution American blacks made to America’s war efforts from the time of Civil War through Vietnam.

I was twenty by 1973 and had grown out of war comics around the time I was 12 or 13. My favorites were Sgt. Rock and Easy Company, Captain Johnny Cloud (an American Indian) and his P-51 Mustang which at times looked like a horse and The Haunted Tank, the story of a M3 Stuart tank guarded by the ghost of Jeb Stuart.

But alas, I have yet to find a favorite in a rummage sale or second-hand store. My guess is that the 60s vintage comics are rare and well out of the range I’d be willing to pay for the trip down memory lane.

11 comments on “Vintage War Comics

  1. There is a 10-year difference in our ages, and my first thought when I saw the posted comic book covers was “Wow! Those were expensive.” Then I realized that my remembrance of war comics dates to the early 50s. I wonder what a comparison of the post WW II war comics and those published at 10-year intervals thereafter would reveal. My guess would be a descent into silliness, but who knows?

    • I don’t know much about comic book collecting but do know there is an elaborate rating system similar to coin collecting with the older stuff being way more valuable than the newer. I have a collection of Classics Illustrated from the 60’s but most are worn so the price difference between one of those and a mint edition is considerable. If I managed to score one of my favorites from the 60s I might pay $10.00 but that’s it! Super hero stuff from the 50s or earlier is untouchable for anyone not a very serious collector. Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Any word on why you are going to write about now that WW2 is over? Blessings, Bruce

      • I don’t know if I will continue to write, i.e., blog, after the conclusion of Wayne’s Journal or not. I do a lot of genealogical research and am active in a number of heritage-related organizations. That takes a lot of my time. I’ve thought of writing some family history articles but I am not yet sure about that. As you know, all this take’s a great deal of time, and right now, I am not sure the reward is worth the effort.

      • I understand. I putz with genealogy too. Could be a full time job 😉

      • I do research for others, and depending upon what is involved, it is like a full-time job.

  2. I can’t believe you found these. Even from the 70’s they have got to be scarce.

  3. The British equivalent, ‘Commando’, generally featured heroes from the British Commonwealth. I don’t recall any that treated the Japanese sympathetically, but they didn’t regard all Germans as being Nazis.

    Several hardback books, each containing 10 or 12 comics, have been reprinted in recent years.

    There was one in which men of the British 8th Army & the German Afrika Korps had to fight together to defend an oasis against Arabs. The Germans were treated sympathetically, but the Arabs were cardboard cutout savages.

    There was even one in which the heroes were Germans. It started with the central character being ordered to blow a bridge with his unit trapped on the other side, trying to hold the Red Army back. After remembering their exploits over the war, he rewired the explosives to blow the bridge from the wrong side and rejoined his comrades. Good Germans, but doomed and not fighting the British.

    I saw an exhibition about WWII comics in a Spanish military museum a few years ago. They would have been published in the 50s or 60s, under Franco, but all featured American or British heroes. Presumably they were translations of UK or US publications.

    • Thanks for stopping by and the comments Martin. A British FB friend posted a few covers of Commando on FB sometime ago and that was the first I heard of the comic. The cover art was similar to the Sgt. Rock and Easy Company of my childhood. I’ll have to search Amazon for the hard back reprints you mention. If reasonable, they would be an interesting addition to my collection. Interesting how the Arabs were the bad guys that forced Germans and Brits to unite. It’s a little ironic and maybe a bit prophetic don’t you think? Thanks again for the comments. Your insights are always special.

  4. I just found the website of Commando, which is still going strong. Now up to issue 4831, having started in 1961. They now go from Ancient Rome to Afghanistan.


    • Neat website! I like the ones that deal with earlier periods. I see they had a Waterloo issue but I can’t figure out how to get one. They want 45# for the print! Whoa. I’ll have to poke around the website again. The American links don’t seem to have early issues. Thanks Martin!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: