Friday, July 30, 2021

DC, October 1980 ( wk 2, pt 3)

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This continues my look at the comics at newsstands around July 24, 1980.

Sgt. Rock #345: In the lead story, Kanigher and Frank Redondo almost make you feel sorry for the Iron Major. He's constantly losing to Rock (and presumably other Allied forces) and seems to keenly feel his men's deaths. At one point, Rock stops him from killing himself! It's an interesting tack to take, not because it strives to portray a German officer with some positive traits (that's not uncommon in Kanigher's war books that often focus on how bad war is for everyone), but that this supposed arch-nemesis of Sgt. Rock is portrayed as kind of a sad sack.

The next story is set in Korea and is written by its protagonist Sgt. Major Richard J. Bissette, who I assume is the father of the artist, Steve R. Bissette. Bissette's group is ordered to stay back and clear the way for a brigade to cross a bridge before it is blown. Bissette's team has to hold on until after the bridge is blown and swim the river. Pretty harrowing stuff! "The Bridge" (creators aren't credited) is the story of a selfless GI trying to get a group of Japanese civilians, including women and children, to surrender rather than commit suicide after the U.S. takes an island. He succeeds but only at the cost of his own life. In the last story (also uncredited, but maybe the same artist) a doughboy in the trenches of WWI thinks the pilots have it easy until he's forced to witness the mercy killing of one who is burning alive in his crashed plane. 

Super Friends #37: The main story has that comic book trope of the villain who is barely a match for one hero in a solo hero book becomes a challenge for an entire team in a team book. In this case, it's the Weather Wizard who's up to some nonsense, but the real story is about Supergirl being jealous that Linda Danver's students lavishing so much attention on the Justice League while Supergirl does most of the issue's heroics. It all works out in the end, of course. The backup story by Bridwell and Tanghal presents the origin of the Global Guardians member, Jack o' Lantern. It backs a lot of Irish cliches into one story.

Unexpected #203: The horror host Judge Gallows returns courtesy of Seeger and Patricio who offer up a penal theme horror story, which is unsettling in 2021 for reasons the author didn't intend. Murderer Joe Mundy gets his mother to plead for leniency at his trial, so he gets life in prison rather than the electric chair, which the guards assigned to him think is a complete travesty. So do the ghosts of his victims who torment him in his cell. The horrific part is the guards standby and watch him do this in response to unseen entities only thinking maybe they should intervene when it's too late. One of them quips upon finding that Mundy is indeed dead that maybe he was just "energy conscious" in avoiding the chair. 

The second story by Wessler and Patricio is a kind of Frankenstein movie riff only with the twist that the corpses are reanimated by clone tissue and there's a good one and a bad one. The final tale, also be Wessler, opens with a well-rendered scene by Malgapo where a Gadwin, about to be burned at the stake defends himself by claiming he's a sorcerer not a necromancer (he might have wanted to consult a lawyer there). Anyway, he burns, but not before cursing Joshua Xerxes Tabor, his accuser, and vowing to destroy his family 300 years from that day. Why he waits so long to enact his vengeance and allow generations of Tabor's to live and die in great wealth is beyond me, but eventually a Tabor is in line to be President, only the other baby, Lester Colt, saved from a fire in the hospital years ago and supported by the Tabor family is his challenger. When Colt seems to be winning the Tabor patriarch decides to shoot him. As he gets the electric chair, the ghost of Gadwin reveals that the man he shot and killed was his real son and the man about to win the presidency was the real Lester Colt. Revenge! This issue is a big step down from last month, I think.

Unknown Soldier #244: Haney and Ayers pit the Soldier against a Japanese "ghost sub" and throw in Captain Storm of The Losers as a guest star. The solution to this one is pretty convoluted: a German sub crew is pretending to be Americans and actually impersonating a Japanese sub. Haney's  approach to his book is very different from Kanigher's over at Sgt. Rock. We get to compare the two side by side, because the lead story is followed up by a Kanigher/Yeates story told from the point of view of an American bomber that flies on after it's crew is dead to crash into the intended target. The Dateline: Frontline feature by Burkett and Estrada continues to be not on the frontlines. Instead, this installment looks at the jobs women took over on the homefront for the war effort as the correspondent Clifford meets a woman mail carrier who wants to join the WAC.

1 comment:

Dick McGee said...

I think I remember that story about the bomber that gets revenge for its crew, although the rest of the issue's a blank to me. Maybe it was reprinted somewhere, or I read a friend's copy, or maybe they re-used the idea at some point. Might have been inspired by the (probably) real story of an unmanned B-17 that managed a (very) rough landing at an Allied airbase in Belgium in 1944 after the crew bailed out from what they thought was a doomed aircraft.

"The Bridge" story in Sgt. Rock was probably also inspired by the mass suicides at Okinawa, although I don't know of any instance where a GI was killed in the process of trying to save civilians, although there were a very few who were talked out of killing themselves or rescued from the sea after jumping. Telling the real story would likely have been far too ugly for any comic. The Japanese government is still partly in denial about the incident even in 2021, and the incredibly bloody (on all sides, including the civilians) Okinawan campaign was almost certainly a deciding factor in the decision to use the A-Bomb.

We could use some war comics that stuck closer to ugly realties and historical fact if you ask me. But then again, who would read them?