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:
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?
What do you think combat comics, at their best, do well and where to they fall short?
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.
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.
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.
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 .
Do you think this 1940s stories hold up today? What about them works well or poorly.
What insight to the era do you take from these stories?
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.
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.
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.
DC Holiday Special 2017 #1: Sgt Rock in “Going down Easy.” A combat tale set during Hanukah.
Week 2: Suggested Discussion Topics:
- Do you have experience reading Sgt. Rock in the past? What stories do you remember and how do you generally feel about the character?
- 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?
- Who’s your favorite member of Easy Company other than Sgt. Rock?
- 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.
Booster Gold (2007) #16: Faces of Evil. Booster finds himself in the Great War facing Enemy Ace
Justice League Unlimited (2014) #13-15. The JLU, time travel and Rock, Enemy Ace and more.
Additional Recommended Readings:
Final Frontier #1: The Losers, and Lois and Jimmy in full combat comics mode
Week 3 Suggested Discussion Topics
- Which Silver/Bronze age combat characters were you familiar with? Which of those that appeared in JLU most appeal to you?
- 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.
- What do you think about combat comics or characters in modern comics? Do they still have a place and are they relevant?
- When you add superheroes, zombies, etc, are they still combat comics or have they been altered into something else?
Men of War #1-6 (main story)
Star Spangled War Stories #1-2