DC History Club: DC's Combat Comics, Discussion, Polls, Quiz - July 2020

Combat covers
Intro: DC Comics has always been more than just superheroes. Westerns, romance, science fiction, funnies and more have all been popular genres during DC’s history. But, arguably the longest lasting and most important of these are combat and military comics. When America went to war in 1941, DC Comics soon followed. The Boy Commandos were an instant smash. Hop Harrigan enlisted in the Army Air Forces and jumped from the comic page to the movie screen and radio airwaves. By the 1950s, comic book writers and artists with their own military experience revived the genre with more realistic tales that told of the hardship and heroism of World War II. From the 1950s until the late 1980s, Sgt. Rock and Easy Company, Enemy Ace, the Haunted Tank and more characters appeared in their own series, occasionally appeared with superheroes and stretched the boundaries of the combat genre. Soon robots, creatures and fights against dinosaurs joined the genre. In more recent years, New 52, Wildstorm, and even the opening page of DC’s latest big event Dark Knight: Death Metal all show that this genre and these characters are still relevant today. Join the DC History Club as we explore DC’s combat comics, their characters, and what makes them a fundamental element of the DC Universe.

Each week we will focus on different eras and characters from DC’s combat comics catalog. As always , there are many ways to participate in the History Club. We’ll have character and creator wikis with research to read or add what you’ve found; suggested readings and discussion questions; polls for you to express your opinions; and a quiz to see where your knowledge of DC’s combat comics ranks. There’s so much to unpack here, check back often as we add more content focusing on characters and creators.

Suggested Discussion Topics: Check back each week for potential discussion topics geared toward that week’s focus. As always, talk about what interests you about these comics. Several overall questions you may wish to address include:

  1. What is your personal experience with combat or military comics? Have you read them before or is this your first try? If you have read them, who are your favorite characters?

  2. What do you think combat comics, at their best, do well and where to they fall short?

  3. How important do you think combat comics are in the overall history of DC Comics and the comic industry in general?

What’s on DCU and what’s missing: A significant problem with exploring DC’s non-superhero genre comics is the lack of digitized issues. This is certainly true with combat comics. Thanks to their status as backup features in Detective and other comics, we have access to a significant library of Golden Age stories with the exception of Blackhawk which was not owned by DC at that time. The real shortfall occurs in the Silver and Bronze age titles where none of the series dedicated to these characters have been digitized. Considering the importance and popularity of characters like Sgt. Rock this is in my opinion the most significant gap in DCU’s holding. However, we can still explore these characters from their appearances in titles like Brave and Bold and in newer superhero centered comics in which they appear.

Suggested Viewing: Justice League Season 1, episodes 24-26, The Savage Time. A chance to see Sgt. Rock and the Blackhawks team up with the Justice League to battle Vandal Savage.

DC Universe

Schedule with suggested readings:

Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy (2006). If you only have time to read one combat comic this month, make it Joe Kubert’s tale of Rock and Easy Company. This six issue series represents the best of classic and modern combat comics with a focus on the men of Easy and hard charging action but with a more realistic look at war at its worst. Warning, this series contains graphic depictions of Nazi atrocities against the Jewish people.

History Challenges:

Research Wikis: Check below for wikis on DC combat titles; combat character appearances available on DCU; information on creators and characters. If you’ve got good info, add it in.

Combat Facts: Got some good information on DC’s combat characters, titles, stories or characters, drop a Combat Fact in the thread below.

Week 1: Golden Age military heroes: Hop Harrigan; The Boy Commandos; Blackhawk, Red, White and Blue; and true and propaganda stories.

Suggested Reading;

Detective Comics # 73: The Boy Commandos The Little Tin Box. DC Universe

Comic Cavalcade #8: Heroes in Dungarees, a reality based story of the Merchant Marines containing strong pro-union and anti-racist; followed by Hop Harrigan: The Ace of the American Airways! The Psalms of the K Ration DC Universe

Week 1: Suggested Discussion Topics .

  1. Do you think this 1940s stories hold up today? What about them works well or poorly.

  2. What insight to the era do you take from these stories?

  3. Which characters or story type would you like to read more of? Which could be modernized?

Week 2: Sgt Rock and Easy Company, 1950s to 1980s.

Suggested Reading:

Sgt Rock: The Prophecy. If you only read one thing from the History Club, read this story that demonstrates the raw action and emotional power that combat comics are capable of.

DC Universe

Additional Recommended Readings:

Brave and Bold #84: The Angel, the Rock and the Cowl. Batman, Rock and Easy Co on the eve of D-Day.

https://www.dcuniverse.com/comics/book/the-brave-and-the-bold-1955-84/53d19b65-b304-4d3f-81ef-75aefc211022/

DC Holiday Special 2017 #1: Sgt Rock in “Going down Easy.” A combat tale set during Hanukah.

https://www.dcuniverse.com/comics/book/dc-holiday-special-2017-2017-1/138e3f9c-3a6b-4377-9aea-debdbb9b36db/reader

Week 2: Suggested Discussion Topics:

  1. Do you have experience reading Sgt. Rock in the past? What stories do you remember and how do you generally feel about the character?
  2. What do you think of Sgt Rock: Prophecy in general? Did your opinion of any characters, such as David, change during the course of the story? Do you think the story balanced action and emotional content?
  3. Who’s your favorite member of Easy Company other than Sgt. Rock?
  4. If you got the job of writing a Sgt Rock story what would you do with it? Is it still WWII, what Easy Co. members play a role, what would change or leave the same?

Week 3: Silver and Bronze Age Combat Characters: Enemy Ace, Haunted Tank, Gravedigger, The Losers and more.

Suggested Reading:

Booster Gold (2007) #16: Faces of Evil. Booster finds himself in the Great War facing Enemy Ace

DC Universe

Justice League Unlimited (2014) #13-15. The JLU, time travel and Rock, Enemy Ace and more.

https://www.dcuniverse.com/comics/book/justice-league-united-2014-13/19024afc-734e-411e-bde3-628b3de974e3/reader

Additional Recommended Readings:

Final Frontier #1: The Losers, and Lois and Jimmy in full combat comics mode

Week 3 Suggested Discussion Topics

  1. Which Silver/Bronze age combat characters were you familiar with? Which of those that appeared in JLU most appeal to you?
  2. Do you find any of these characters as compelling or potentially relevant today as Sgt. Rock?

Week 4: Modern DC Combat Characters, New 52 and Beyond
For the final week, we turn to modern interpretations of combat comics. My suggestion is pick on of these series and give it a try for an issue or two. Then think about these potential topics.

  1. What do you think about combat comics or characters in modern comics? Do they still have a place and are they relevant?
  2. When you add superheroes, zombies, etc, are they still combat comics or have they been altered into something else?

Suggested Reading:

Men of War #1-6 (main story)

DC Universe

Star Spangled War Stories #1-2

DC Universe

Team Zero
https://www.dcuniverse.com/comics/series/team-zero/0cf9b5bf-355a-45bb-b43f-8ed52f0e999c

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Combat ComicsThis month’s polls focus on DC’s combat and military comics characters. Vote here, and if you want, post your opinions below.

Other than superhero, what is the next most important during the history of DC Comics?

  • Westerns
  • Detective
  • Romance
  • Combat/military
  • Celebrity tie-ins
  • Funnies

0 voters

Can combat comics or characters be relevant in today’s comics?

  • Absolutely, classic straight military story approach would still work
  • Yes, but only if you integrate them into the superhero world
  • No, they had their run but their time is done.

0 voters

Can you do a Boy Commandos story today?

  • Yes, it’s fantasy
  • No, they’re child soldiers

0 voters

Which character or team that started with DC Comics, other than Sgt. Rock, is the most important military character or team in DC’s history?

  • Enemy Ace
  • Hop Harrigan
  • Boy Commandos
  • Haunted Tank
  • GI Robot
  • The Losers
  • Unknown Soldier
  • Other

0 voters

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Combat Quiz: See how well you know DC’s combat characters and comic series.

  1. Which of the following Golden Age combat characters was not originally a DC creation?
  • Hop Harrigan
  • Blackhawk
  • The Boy Commandos
  • Red, White and Blue

0 voters

  1. Which of the following Golden Age combat characters did not have a radio show and a movie serial?
  • Hop Harrigan
  • Blackhawk
  • The Boy Commandos

0 voters

  1. Sgt. Rock’s rank is?
  • Sergeant
  • Staff Sergeant
  • Master Sergeant
  • Sergeant Major

0 voters

  1. Which Easy Company member is Jewish and was a professor before World War II?
  • Ice Cream Soldier
  • Specs
  • Wildman
  • Bulldozer

0 voters

  1. Which of these was not a DC combat title?
  • All-American Men of War
  • Blitzkrieg
  • Fighting Americans
  • G.I. Combat
  • Our Fighting Forces
  • Star-Spangled War Stories

0 voters

  1. Who is the only DC combat character/s to debut in his own series?
  • Sgt. Rock
  • G.I. Robot
  • Captain Storm
  • Boy Commandos

0 voters

  1. Who is not a member of The Losers?
  • Captain Storm
  • Gunner
  • Rip Carter
  • Johnny Cloud

0 voters

  1. Enemy Ace’s other nickname was what?
  • Flying Death
  • The Red Count
  • The Hammer of Hell
  • Bobby

0 voters

  1. The original Haunted Tank was what model?
  • M1A1 Abrahams
  • T-72
  • M3 Stuart
  • M26 Pershing

0 voters

  1. Star Spangled War Stories relaunched in 2014 with who as the main protagonist?
  • Sgt. Joe Rock
  • A zombie
  • Andrew Bennet Vampire
  • A robot

0 voters

Bonus Question
11. The original American in The Boy Commandos represented where in the states?

  • Brooklyn
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin

0 voters

Answer Key:

  1. Blackhawk
  2. The Boy Commandos
  3. Master Sergeant
  4. Wildman
  5. Fighting Americans
  6. Captain Storm
  7. Rip Carter
  8. The Hammer of Hell
  9. M3 Stuart
  10. A zombie
  11. Brooklyn

Score
1-3: Private First Class: Report for kitchen duty, then read more comics
4-6: Corporal: You’re showing promise, time to take your squad on patrol
7-9: Sergeant: You’re the backbone of the Army! Hoorah!
10+: Master Sergeant: As good as it gets.

DC Combat Titles WikiThis list includes comics that are devoted to combat comics, or carried significant combat character stories for an extended run. Are we missing anything, click on the pencil to the upper right and add.

All-American Comics: #1-71 (1939-1946)
All-American Men of War #127-128; 2-117 (1952-1966)
All-Star Comics: #8-14, 19-22
All-Out War: #1-6 (1979-1982)
Detective Comics: #64-
Blackhawk: #9-250 (1944-1976)
Blackhawks: #1-8 (2011)
Blitzkrieg: #1-5 (1976)
Boy Commandos: #1-36 (1942-1949)
Brave & Bold: #25-27; 37-39 (1959-1964)
Captain Storm: #1-18 (1964-1967)
Four-Star Battle Tales: #1-6 (1973-1977)
G.I. Combat: #1-43; 44-288 (1952-1987)
G.I. Combat: #1-8 (2012)
G.I. War Tales: #1-4 (1973)
Men of War: #1-118 (1977-1966)
Men of War: #1-8 (2011)
Our Army at War: #1-301 (1952-1977)
Our Fighting Forces: #1-181 (1954-1978)
Sgt. Rock: #302-422 (1977-1988)
Sgt Rock: The Prophecy: #1-6 (2006)
Star-Spangled War Stories: #131-204 (1952-1977)
Star-Spangled War Stories: #1-8 (2014)
The War That Time Forgot: #1-12 (2008)
Unknown Soldier: #205-268 (1977-1982)
Weird War Tales: #1-124 (1971-1983)
World’s Finest Comics: (1941-

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DC Combat Characters Available on DCU: It’s more than possible we’ve missed a few. If you know of some, click on the pencil in the upper right and add them.

Title Issues Characters
All-American Comics 16 Red, White and Blue
All-Star Comics 8-14, 19-22, Hop Harrigan
Booster Gold (2007) 16 Enemy Ace
Comic Cavalcade 1, 5, 7, 11, 12 Hop Harrigan; Red, White and Blue
Comic Cavalcade 2 Red, White and Blue
Comic Cavalcade 3, 6, 8, 9, 13 Hop Harrigan, true military story or pro-ally story
Comic Cavalcade 4 Hop Harrigan
DC Comics Presents (1978) 10 Sgt. Rock, Easy Co., Superman
DC Holiday Special 2017 1 Sgt Rock
DCU: Legacies (2010) 4 Cpt Storm, Johnny Cloud, Gravedigger, more
Detective Comics (1942) 64-72, 83-95, 97-98, 100-106, 108-110, 112-132 The Boy Commandos
Joe Kubert Presents (2012) 1-6 USS Stevens, Sgt Rock (#5)
Justice League United (2014) 13-15 Sgt Rock, Enemy Ace, etc
Men of War (2011) 1-8 Joe Rock
New Frontier 1 The Losers
New York World’s Fair Comics 2 Red, White and Blue
Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy (2006) 1-6 Sgt. Rock, Easy Co.
Star Spangled War Stories (2014) 1-8 G.I.Zombie, Gravedigger
Suicide Squad (2001) 1-12 Sgt Rock
Swamp Thing (1985) 82 Sgt Rock
The Brave and the Bold (1955) 84 Sgt. Rock, Batman
The Brave and the Bold (1955) 117 Sgt. Rock, Batman, Blackhawks
The Brave and the Bold (1955) 124 Sgt. Rock, Batman
The Brave and the Bold (1955) 108 Sgt Rock, Batman
The War That Time Forgot (2008) 1-12 Multiple
World’s Finest Comics 1, 7 Red, White and Blue
World’s Finest Comics 11 The Boy Comandos and Air Force story
World’s Finest Comics 20-21 The Boy Comandos and Coast Guard story
World’s Finest Comics 8, 12-19, 22-32 The Boy Commandos
World’s Finest Comics 9-10 The Boy Commandos, Martin of the Marines
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DC Combat Comics Research (General) Wiki: Got some good information sources on combat comics or their creators? Just click on the wiki pencil in the upper right and add them.

https://armyandwarcomics.wordpress.com This website is dedicated to Army and war comics from the serious to humorous from all publishers. It includes pages on more than 140 different titles from DC, Marvel/Timely, Dell, Charlton, Harvey and more with extensive images of comic covers.

Find out why Blackhawk artist Creed Randall was questioned by the FBI during World War II. The Comic Books Go to War | Defense Media Network

Scott, Cord A. Comics and Conflict: War and Patriotically Themed Comics in American Cultural History From World War II Through the Iraq War, Loyola University Chicago, 2011. https://ecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1073&context=luc_diss

Old Soldiers Die: Time Magazine covers the death of Sgt Rock. Weekly Comics Column: The Death of Sgt. Rock | TIME.com

One More Mission for Rock: The New York Times covers Sgt Rock: The Prophecy. COMICS; One More Mission for Sgt. Rock - The New York Times

Rock Against Racism: Examination of the debut Easy Company’s first black soldier, Jackie Johnson. Silver Age Comics: Rock Against Racism

13 Black DC Heroes Before Black Lightning. Includes Easy Co’s Jackie Johnson and a one shot story true story of African-American troops fighting for the “double v”. https://www.dcuniverse.com/news/13-black-dc-heroes-black-lightning/strong text

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DC Combat Characters Wiki

Golden Age

No Who’s Who entry for:
Red, White and Blue: A G-2 Military Intelligence team made up of a U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant, a U.S. Navy Petty Officer, and a U.S. Army Sergeant. They appeared frequently as a backup story in Comics Cavalcade and World’s Finest Comics.









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This is a piece on my general background on military.and combat stories.

I grew up.in the 1950s and 1960s.
The family had no military tradition and was mostly unmarried females

I was a shy fat kid with very weak eyes. My eye doctor told me I had a serious eye condition which could result in blindness in a minute. Terrifying for an eight year old…

What the military meant to me was the draft. It terrified me so I didn’t think of it much. It was not so much the fact that I could get killed as the Vietnam War started, it was that I.could not function in a group serting. In.school, I was educated by nuns, who said we were going to.Hell for even a bad thought, had maybe a high school diploma, did not know how to teach were more than a little sadistic but I quess were well meaning

If I thought about being in.the army, I thought of the Sargent of the unit being an.Uber Nun but in your face for 24/7 with no respite like I had when I came home each day after school

My father served in World War II but never talked about it. He was a military engineer and would made temp bridges and housing units. My mother said he was the sweerest man she ever met but the war changed him. Once she said he had a back injury but hid it so he would not be sent to the Battle of the Bulge where soldiers were sent to their deaths so the Germans would waste bullets and other resources. He had a wide picture on.the wall of all the members in his unit, maybe fifty soldiers. Mon said most of them died in that battle and he felt survivor guilt about it. To me he was a Very Angry Man who did not like how the world was changing, a racist to the core who continually shouted at the Evening News. He had contempt for me because I was very shy and never played outside. He rarely interacted with me, never attending any of my graduations. He taught my sister how to ride a bike and other things but never me. But I wa always scared of learning anything pjysical so I did not blame him

Returning soldiers wanted to forget the war.Most TV shows were Westerns or Private Eyes. I only remember Sgt Bilko Rat Patrol, Hogans Heroes Dirty Dozen and Where Eagles Dare with Richard Burton.and a young Clint Eastwood pretending to be Germans as they inflitrated a Nazi stronghold. None of this was at all realistic.

As for war comics, I enjoyed Lee Kirby and Ayers Sgt Fury and the Howling Commandos. Even though their missions were way over the top, they were a diverse and cohesive unit, where everybody had each other’s back. Each character in the unit stood out. An Italian born Movie Star, a Jewish mechanic, a Black musician, a Southern jockey, a circus syrongman and Fury himself. On a realistic note, major characters died.

In.contrast, in Easy Company I don’t remember any member of the unit except Sgt Rock himself

I guess my major military comic was the Blackhawks. I remember Chop Chop finally getting a new outfit when they changed their uniforms. I enjoyed the runs of Mark.Evanier a nd Howard
and Blackhawk in Sandman Mystery Theater . A remnant of the Blackhawks was Zinda Blake who time traveled as Lady Blsckhawk from Wotld War II to be a member of Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey.

I remember liking loner characters like Enemy Ace by Joe Kubert. Also the Unknown Soldiet who was more a spy and saboteur than soldier.

Combat comics can show more ordinary humans in dangerous situatipns. It can show diversity cohension and death and carrying on despite it all. It fall short when the hero or unit always succeeds

War comics will be remembered for Sgt Fury, the Blackhawks and the art of Joe Kubert in many DC Comics

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It certainly sounds like your father was suffering from PTSD, though that’s still no excuse for his abhorrent behavior. My view of the military and of combat comics was colored in part by our family history. My father was the youngest of 11 kids. All seven of his brothers served in the military. Three in World War II, including the 82nd Airborne at D-Day, two in Korea right after the war, and two in Vietnam including Special Forces in the Highlands. Plus his brother-in-law, my uncle, who fought up and down the Korean Peninsula in the USMC. So, when I read Sgt. Rock and the other DC combat comics available in the 70s, I identified with the hard charging Sergeant who was willing to pay the price to do the right thing.
Now, I did not enlist in the Army because of my uncles or even Sgt. Rock. I did it for a two year hitch to get money for college. But, then I meet my dear sweet wife and I was not dumb enough to let that girl out of my sight by moving back to the Midwest for school. 20+ years later, this Master Sergeant (just like the Rock) retired and managed to take care of the college thing along the way. And since my girl was with me, I didn’t regret a second of it.

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Combat Facts: The Boy Commandos: Working for Timely Comics, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created the popular Young Allies team. But when kids sent in ten cents to join the Sentinels of Liberty club promoted by the series, Timely’s editor pocketed every dime. Simon and Kirby would go on to sign for more money at DC and became the first comic talent to secure royalties. Their two new features recreated their “kid gang” formula and both Newsboy Legion and the Boy Commandos became instant hits.

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For a combat comic novice like me, what would you recommend I read first? Golden Age Boy Commandos sounds sounds good? You also mentioned Hop Harrigan and that they were both available to read here? I haven’t read Sargent Rock since the 1970’s! But I loved it! I’ll come along for the ride here and contribute what I can but this will mostly be an educational journey for me. One of my favorite creators Darwyn Cooke was a huge combat comic fan, so I just know there’s going to be some amazing stories here!

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@flashlites Of the Golden Age biggies, Boy Commandos and Hop Harrigan, the Boy Commandos are a consistently better read. I’d start with Detective #64, 65, and 73. For Hop Harrigan check out Comic Cavalcade # 3, 6, 8, 9 and 13. You get Hop, but even better you get true stories of American fighting men or fictional tales involving America fight alongside Asian allies. This stories are clumsy by today’s standards but are interesting to read.

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My history with combat comics is not as long as some of yours as I am a child of the 80s. G.I. JOE comics were my thing. I used to look for and buy them any chance I could, and of course had tons of 80’s JOE toys laying around. I probably romanticized war/military more than anything. Me and my friends (most likely because of G.I. JOE and movies like Red Dawn, Commando, Delta Force) would go outside and play army all the time. I have never once considered the military as an option for employment. I just loved what I thought was the military in the form of G.I. JOE.

My one DC memory of military comics was one Easter, I got a SGT. ROCK comic in my Easter basket. I really wish I still had it, or could even remember which issue it was. The only thing I remember about it, was that it was a Special or Annual because it was a bigger book than normal, and that it made a connection with my Dad. I remember him saying he used to read SGT. Rock when he was growing up. That was my first connection with my Dad over comics.

It had to be around 83-85. I can’t even remember the story from the book, just that it was SGT. Rock and it was oversized.

All that to say, is that I look forward to learning more about combat comics this month.

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@ashleywilbanks, I hadn’t thought of the G.I. Joe show and comics before, but that has to be the first experience of combat comics for many. Love the idea of getting Sgt. Rock in an Easter basket, and that your dad had read Rock as a kid makes it especially cool.

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@msgtv what makes it even better (IMO) is that my dad had to go to the gas station, look through the spinner rack, and actually picked that one, because it reminded him of his childhood, and he wanted to share that little piece of him with me. That to me is the best part. I am just sad that I can’t remember what issue it was so I can go back and grab a copy.

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Combat Facts, The Boy Commandos: The Boy Commandos debuted in 1942 in Detective #64 and appear on the cover of #65 being welcomed by Batman and Robin. They soon also began appearing in World’s Finest Comics and starred in their eponymous quarterly title from 1942-1945. This title reportedly sold over a million copies and with the Boy Commandos becoming one of DC’s biggest hits Simon and Kirby hired additional writers and artists to keep with the demand. Among those working on the commandos was a young Gil Kane.

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Combat Facts, The Boy Commandos and Blackhawk: The theme of united nations fighting fascism is prevalent throughout combat comics in the Golden Age. No where is this more apparent than in the Boy Commandos being represented by the U.S., U.K., France, and the Netherlands. The Blackhawks mirror this being founded by a Polish pilot and including a Frenchman, a Swede, a Brit and Chinese man, though as a stereotyped houseboy. The international aspect of both teams would fade after the war ended. European Boy Commandos were replaced by American kids like Tex, and Blackhawk’s backstory would be retconned from a Polish pilot, to a Polish immigrant to the U.S., to finally an American of Polish descent.

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Combat Facts, the Blackhawks: Phoenix Studios run by Will Eisner and Jerry Iger produced Blackhawk published in 1941 in Military Comics for Quality Comics. Creation of the Blackhawks is somewhat mixed with Eisner, Chuck Cuidera and Bob Powell all receiving some credit. This international military team was another big hit and would appear in a movie serial, radio series and novel in the 1940s. DC would acquire the Blackhawks first through leasing then eventually buying the characters from Quality after that company ceased publishing in 1956.

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Enemies and Allies in Golden Age Combat Comics: Race and Nationality

Prior to US involvement in World War II, the “enemy” was usually a saboteur or spy and generally depicted as vaguely European or Germanic. They were motivated by greed and a desire to help the “homeland.” The Japanese Empire, despite their brutal occupation of Korea and China, was generally not considered a threat to the U.S. and largely ignored in comics. Following Pearl Harbor, comic publishers across the industry depicted Japanese soldiers in racist stereotypical ways and emphasized their duplicity.

At the same time, depictions of Chinese characters underwent a dramatic shift as China became viewed as a valuable U.S. ally. While previously often used as sinister, mysterious villains, Chinese characters were more sympathetically portrayed, but often in a paternalistic and stereotyped manner. Pacific Islanders in a number of stories, including in Hop Harrigan and The Boy Commandos, appear as a mixture of racist stereotypes that have little to do with actual Pacific Island cultures.

German soldiers and spies tended to fall into two categories. Many stories emphasized the German aristocracy with Barons, Baronesses and the ubiquitous Von Something as a spy or officer. This was meant to show the difference between the European class system and the ideal of the democratic American society. This of course was a dated depiction as the power of the German aristocracy had been greatly diminished by World War I, and ignored class and race distinction in the U.S. The other category that applied to all Germans was a brutality based on racist Nazi beliefs. The falsity of those beliefs were inevitably exposed by the scrappy, resourceful American fighting hero.

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Race and the American Military in Golden Age Combat Comics: In the regularly appearing combat series, DC comics handled race by largely ignoring it. No regular or reoccurring character of color appears in Hop Harrigan, Boy Commandos, or Red, White and Blue in either a negative or positive depiction. As far as the stories I’ve been able to read, no African-American appears as a feature guest in any story of these characters. Despite the segregated nature of the military, it would be nearly impossible accurately depict the U.S. military without including African-Americans in combat support roles in which they were largely employed or in the highly decorated combat units that they formed.

In contrast to this, DC included African-Americans and strong anti-racist messages in their stories based on the exploits of real fighting Americans. An example was highlighted by @hubcityquestion in his great article 13 Black DC Heroes Before Black Lightning. In discussing the feature Johnny Everyman and its focus on African-American artillerymen he says that “In the real world, black men like Ralph Jackson enlisted to join the Allied Forces in droves in hopes of promoting a dream of a “double victory”: one which would defeat both the Nazi regime in Europe, and win new rights for themselves in a divided America.”

My favorite example presents both an anti-racist and a pro-union message, both important themes in wartime America. Comic Cavalcade, home of Hop Harrigan, regularly ran true military tales. Issue #8 focuses on the wartime importance of the Maritime Marines who were critical to keeping not only the U.S. but the entire Allied world supplied. In addition to lauding the National Maritime Union’s successes for worker’s rights, the story highlights the union’s constitution which barred discrimination based on “race, creed, color, or nationality.” It also focuses on Captain Hugh Mulzac, an African-American, who was qualified for captain in 1922 but could only get steward work until 1943 when he captained the Booker T. Washington with an integrated crew.

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