Superman’s Greatest Team-Ups


By Mike W. Barr, Cary Bates, E. Nelson Bridwell, Gary Cohn, Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart, Steve Gerber, Paul Levitz, Dan Mishkin, Denny O’Neil, Martin Pasko, Len Wein, Murphy Anderson, Rich Buckler, Dick Dillin, Don Heck, Alex Saviuk, Jim Starlin, Joe Staton, Curt Swan, Rick Veitch & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-7795-0486-9 (HB/Digital edition)

From the moment a kid first sees his second superhero, the only thing they wants is to see how the new gaudy gladiator stacks up against the first one. From the earliest days of the comics industry (and according to DC Comics Presents editor Julie Schwartz it was the same with the pulps and dime novels that preceded it) we’ve wanted our idols to meet, associate, battle together – and if you follow the Timely/Marvel model, that means against each other – far more than we want to see them trounce their archenemies in a united front…

The concept of team-up books – an established star pairing or battling (usually both) with less well-selling company characters – was far from new when DC awarded their then-biggest gun. DCCP was launched in the publicity-drenched weeks preceding the release of Superman: The Movie: a regular arena to have adventures with other stars of their firmament, just as the Gotham Guardian had been doing since the mid-1960s in The Brave and the Bold.

In truth, the Action Ace had already enjoyed the serial sharing experience once before, when World’s Finest Comics briefly ejected the Caped Crusader and Superman battled beside a coterie of heroes including Flash, Robin, Wonder Woman, Teen Titans, Hawkman, Green Arrow, Dr. Fate and others (issues #198-214; November 1970 to October/November 1972) before the original status quo was re-established.

This is something of a companion volume to the previously published Adventures of Superman: José Luis García-López volume 1, in that it also publishes team-ups from DC Comics Presents, but these are stories he didn’t illustrate. Instead. a host of talented individuals devised fun, thrilling and even amusing adventures represented here by material from DCCP #5, 9-10, 12, 14, 19, 28, 30, 35, 38-39, 45, 50, 58, 63, 67, 71 and 97, spanning January 1979 to September 1986. The stories are augmented by covers by Ross Andru, Dick Giordano, Dick Dillin, Jim Starlin, Rich Buckler, Steve Mitchell, George Pérez, Frank Giacoia, Gil Kane, Ernie Colón, José Luis García-López, Eduardo Barreto, Rick Veitch & Bob Smith.

We begin with Sea King Aquaman who is embroiled in ‘The War of the Undersea Cities’ (by Len Wein, Paul Levitz & Murphy Anderson) when his subjects re-open ancient hostilities with the mer-folk of undersea neighbour Tritonis, home of Superman’s old college girlfriend Lori Lemaris. Fortunately, cooler heads prevail when Ocean Master is revealed to be meddling in their sub-sea politics…

Next, Marty Pasko, Joe Staton & Jack Abel expose the ‘Invasion of the Ice People!’ (#9, May 1979) wherein Wonder Woman assists in repelling an attack by malign disembodied intellects before a 2-part tale commences with ‘The Miracle Man of Easy Company’ (Cary Bates, Staton & Abel, #10, June)…

When a super-bomb blasts Superman back to World War II it results in a momentous meeting with indomitable everyman soldier Sgt. Rock and a battle that changes the course of the war.

Cover-dated August 1979, DCCP #12 offered a duel between the Action Ace and New God Mister Miracle in ‘Winner Take Metropolis’ – by Steve Englehart, Buckler & Giordano before Levitz finishes a time-travel epic not actually included here. That ambitious continued epic saw the Legion of Super-Heroes stop Superman saving a little boy from alien abduction to preserve the integrity of the time-line. It didn’t help that the lad was Jon Ross, son of Clark Kent’s oldest friend and most trusted confidante…

Deranged by loss, Pete Ross here risks the destruction of all reality by enlisting the aid of Superboy to battle his older self in ‘Judge, Jury… and No Justice!’ (Levitz, Dillin & Giordano from October 1979 cover-dated DCCP #14, whilst March 1980 saw Batgirl help solve eerie mystery ‘Who Haunts This House?’ (by Dennis O’Neil, Staton & Frank Chiaramonte) before we catapult to #28 and the concluding chapter of a cosmic epic which involved Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz, and the debut of intergalactic brute Mongul.

Here the aftermath of the affair sees Supergirl join her Kryptonian cousin in scouring the cosmos for the vanished tyrant and ancient doom weapon ‘Warworld!’ (Wein, Jim Starlin & Romeo Tanghal). Unfortunately, once they found it, Mongul unleashed all its resources to destroy his annoying adversaries and in the resultant cataclysm the mobile gun-planet was demolished. The resultant detonation blasted Kara Zor-El literally out of existence…

Issue #30 (February 1981) saw Black Canary plagued by nightmares starring her deceased husband, but upon closer investigation Superman proved that diabolical Dr. Destiny was behind ‘A Dream of Demons!’, whilst some semblance of sanity returned in #35 (July) as Superman and Man-Bat hunted for ‘The Metamorphosis Machine!’ (Pasko, Swan & Vince Colletta) which might save chiropterist Kirk Langstrom’s baby daughter from death. All they had to do was beat murderous maniac Atomic Skull and his minions to the device…

DC Comics Presents #38 (October) united Man of Steel and Fastest Man Alive as an extra-dimensional tyrant attempted to foment a high velocity war between Earth’s fastest heroes in ‘Stop the World – I Want to Get Off Go Home!’ (Pasko & Don Heck), after which #39 catapulted Superman into the weirdest case of his career as he and Plastic Man trailed ‘The Thing That Goes Woof in the Night!’ (Pasko, Staton & Smith) to a Toymakers Convention where third-rate super-villains Fliptop and Dollface were trying to rob freshly reformed, barely recovering maniac Toyman…

Firestorm the Nuclear Man stole the show in #45 (May 1982) as Gerry Conway, Buckler & Smith teamed him and Superman against terrorist Kriss-Kross – who took over the nation’s electronic military defences to implement ‘The Chaos Network’.

The anniversary DC Comics Presents #50 (October) features ‘When You Wish Upon a Planetoid!’ by Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn, Swan & Kurt Schaffenberger, which saw a cosmic calamity split Superman and Clark Kent into separate entities…

Courtesy of Mike W. Barr, Swan & Dave Hunt, Robin and Elongated Man joined the Action Ace in #58 (June 1983) to foil devious tech-savvy bandits employing ‘The Deadly Touch of the Intangibles’ after which overnight sensation Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld and the Man of Steel battled debase extradimensional tyrant Black Opal in #63 (November 1983).

Scripted by Mishkin & Cohn, ‘Worlds to Conquer!’ was illustrated by Alex Saviuk, Colón, Smith & Gary Martin, capitalising on the contemporary fad for fantasy, with an Earth-raised magical alien princess helping save humanity from roaming space-warps, super-criminals and her personal pantheon of mystic miscreants…

Cover-dated March 1984, DCCP #67 proffered traditional seasonal fare from Wein, E. Nelson Bridwell and veteran Superman dream team Swan & Anderson. ‘Twas the Fright Before Christmas!’ finds maniacal original Toyman Winslow Schott seeking to sabotage festivities and a debilitated Man of Tomorrow teaming with a hairy bearded guy in a red suit…

Hunt substituted for Anderson in #71’s ‘The Mark of Bizarro!’ (July 1984) as Superman joins his zany doppelganger to save square planet Htrae and embattled Earth from a bizarro version of power-parasite Amazo. Ultimately, it comes down to Bizarro employing his wits to win!…

We close with the final story in DC Comics Presents’ run.

In 1986 DC celebrated its 50th year with the groundbreaking Crisis on Infinite Earths: radically overhauling its convoluted multiversal continuity and starting afresh. In the aftermath of making many planes into one singular universe, all Superman titles were cancelled or suspended pending a back-to-basics reboot courtesy of John Byrne. The process allowed opportunity for a number of very special farewells to the old mythology…

One of the most intriguing and challenging came in the last issue (#97, September 1986) wherein Steve Gerber, Rick Veitch & Smith offered a creepy adieu to many of Superman’s greatest foes in ‘Phantom Zone: the Final Chapter’…

Tracing Jor-El’s discovery of the Phantom Zone through to the imminent end of the multiverse, this dark yarn built on Gerber’s potent miniseries The Phantom Zone, revealing the dread region of nothingness was in fact the sentient echo of a dead universe which had always regarded the creatures deposited within it as irritants and agonising intruders.

Now, as cosmic carnage reigned, Aethyr, served by Kryptonian mage Thul-Kar, caused the destruction of Bizarro World Htrae and deification/corruption of Fifth Dimensional pest Mr. Mxyzptlk, as well as the subsequent crashing of Krypton’s Argo City on Metropolis.

As a result, General Zod and his fellow immaterial inmates were liberated to wreak havoc upon Earth – but only until the now-crystalline pocket dimension merged with and absorbed the felons before implausibly abandoning Superman to face his uncertain future as the very Last Son of Krypton…

Designed as introductions to lesser-known DC stars, these tales are wonderfully accessible to newcomers and readers unfamiliar with burdensome continuity. They provide an ideal jumping on point for anybody who just wants a few moments of easy comic book fun and thrills.

These short, pithy adventures were and remain a perfect shop window for DC’s fascinating catalogue of characters and creators. DC Comics Presents delivered a breadth and variety of self-contained and satisfying entertainments ranging from the merely excellent to utterly indispensable. This book is a perfect introduction to the DC Universe for every kid of any age and another delightful slice of captivating Costumed Dramas from simpler, more inviting times…
© 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 2021 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Crisis on Infinite Earths


By Marv Wolfman & George Pérez, with Jerry Ordway, Dick Giordano, Mike DeCarlo & various (DC Comics) 
ISBN: 978-1-4012-5841-2 (HB/Digital edition) 978-1-56389-750-4 (TPB) 

Once more I’m compelled to dash out another swiftly modified reprinted review to mark the passing of one of our industry and art form’s most prolific and irreplaceable master creators. George Pérez died on May 6th from the complications of pancreatic cancer. He was 67 years old.  

His triumphs as penciller, writer and an always in-demand inker made him a force to be reckoned with and earned a vast number of awards in a career spanning almost fifty years. Pérez worked for dozens of publishers large and small; self-published his own creations, redeemed and restored many moribund characters and features (like the (New) Teen Titans), Nightwing and Wonder Woman) and co-created many breakthrough characters such as The White Tiger (first Puerto Rican superhero), The Maestro, Deathstroke the Terminator, Terra, The Monitor and Anti-Monitor.  

He will be most warmly remembered for his incredible facility in portraying big teams and cataclysmic events. Pérez probably drew every DC and Marvel superhero of his era, with major runs on The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, The Justice League of America, Legion of Super-Heroes and numerous iterations of Teen Titans as well as stints on The Inhumans, X-Men, JSA, All-Star Squadron, Thunderbolts and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. He will be immortalised for the comic book series covered below. A fuller appreciation will follow as soon as I can sort it… 

In 1985 the Editorial Powers-That-Be at DC Comics were about to celebrate fifty years of publishing, and enjoying a creative upswing that had been a long time coming. A crucial part of the festivities, and purported attempt to simplify five decades of often conflicting stories, was a truly epic year-long saga that would impact every single DC title and reconstruct the entire landscape and history of the DC Universe, with an appearance – however brief – by every character the company had ever published. Easy-peasy, Huh? 

Additionally, this new start would seek to end an apparent confusion of multiple Earths with similarly named and themed heroes. This – it had been decided – was deterring (sic) new readers. Happily, since then (primarily thanks to movie rom-coms like Sliding Doors) we’ve all become well aware of string theory and parallel universes and can revel in the most basic TV show or kids cartoon proffering the concept of multiples incidences of me and you… 

Way back then, the result of those good intentions was a groundbreaking 12-part miniseries that spearheaded a vast crossover event: eventually culminating in a hefty graphic novel collection (plus latterly three companion volumes reprinting all the crossovers). 

The experiment was a huge success, both critically and commercially, and enabled the company to reinvigorate many of their most cherished properties: many of which had been in dire need or some regeneration and renewal. Many fans would argue that DC have been trying to change it back ever since… 

Plotted long in advance of launch, threads and portents appeared for months in DC’s regular titles, mostly regarding a mysterious arms-and-information broker known as The Monitor. With his beautiful assistant Lyla Michaels/Harbinger he had been gauging each and every being on Earths beyond counting with a view to saving all of Reality. At this juncture, that consisted of uncountable variations of universes existing “side-by-side”, each exhibiting differences varying from minor to monumental.  

Building on long-established continuity collaborators Marv Wolfman and George Pérez – aided and abetted by Dick Giordano, Mike DeCarlo and Jerry Ordway – began by tweaking things fans knew before taking them on a journey nobody anticipated… It transpired that at the very beginning of time an influence from the future caused Reality to fracture. Rogue Guardian of the Universe Krona obsessively sought to unravel the secret of creation and his probing cause a perfect singular universe to shatter into innumerable self-perpetuating cracked reflections of itself… 

Now, a wave of antimatter scythes through the Cosmic All, eradicating these separate universes. Before each Armageddon, a tormented immortal named Pariah materialises on an inhabited but doomed world of each Existence. As the story opens, he arrives on an Earth, as its closest dimensional neighbours are experiencing monumental geo-physical disruptions. It’s the end of the World, but The Monitor has a plan. It involves death on a mammoth scale, sacrifice beyond measure, a gathering of the best and worst beings of the surviving Earths and the remaking of time itself to deflect cosmic catastrophe and defeat the being that caused it… 

Action is tinged with tragedy as many major heroic figures – from the nondescript and forgotten to high, mighty and grand – perish valiantly, falling in apparently futile struggle to preserve some measure of life from the doomed multiverse. 

Full of plot twists and intrigue, this cosmic comicbook spectacle set the benchmark for all future crossover events, not just DC’s, and is still a qualitative high point seldom reached and never yet surpassed. As well as being a superb blockbuster in its own right and accessible to even the greenest neophyte reader, it is the foundation of all DC’s in-continuity stories since 1985, the basis of a TV phenomenon and absolutely vital reading.  

More than any other work in a truly stellar career, Crisis on Infinite Earths is the magnum opus George Pérez will be remembered for: It might not be fair, but it’s inescapably true… 
© 1985, 1986, 2001, 2008, 2015 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved. 

Batman: Illustrated by Neal Adams volume 1 


By Neal Adams with Bob Haney, Leo Dorfman, Cary Bates & various (DDC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0041-1 (HC): 978-1-4012-3537-6 (2003 PB) 978-1-4012-7782-6 (2018 TPB edition)   

I’m doing this far too frequently, these days, but here’s a swiftly modified reprinted review to mark the sudden passing of one of our industry and art form’s last true titans. Neal Adams died on the 28th of April. As well as a creator and innovator who changed the entire direction of comics and sequential narrative, he was a tireless activist and advocate whose efforts secured rights for workers and creators long victimised by an unfair, stacked, system. A fuller appreciation and more comprehensive review will follow as soon as I can sort it… 

Neal Adams was born on Governors Island, New York City, on June 15th 1941. His family were career military and he grew up on bases across the world. In the late 1950s he studied at the High School of Industrial Art in Manhattan, graduating in 1959. 

As the turbulent, revolutionary 1960s began, Adams was a young illustrator who had worked in advertising and ghosted some newspaper strips whilst trying to break into comics. As he pursued a career in advertising and “real art”, he did a few comics pages for Joe Simon at Archie Comics (The Fly and that red-headed kid too) before subsequently becoming one of the youngest artists to co-create and illustrate a major licensed newspaper strip – Ben Casey (based on a popular TV medical drama series). His first attempts to find work at DC were not successful… 

That comic book fascination never faded however, and as the decade progressed, Adams drifted back to National/DC doing a few covers as inker or penciller. After “breaking in” via anthological war comics he eventually found himself at the vanguard of a revolution in pictorial storytelling… 

He made such a mark that DC chose celebrate his contributions by reprinting every piece of work Adams ever did for them in a series of commemorative collections. We’re still waiting for a definitive collection of his horror comics stories and covers, but will probably never see his sterling efforts on licensed titles such as Hot Wheels, The Adventures of Bob Hope and The Adventures of Jerry Lewis. That’s a real shame too: the display a wry facility for gag staging and small drama… 

Batman: Illustrated by Neal Adams was the first of 3 tomes available in  variety of formats and editions featuring the “Darknight Detective” – as he was dubbed back then – and featuring every cover, story and issue in original publication order. 

Here then, ‘From Me to You: An Introduction’ gives you the history of his early triumphs in the writer/artist’s own words, after which covers from Detective Comics #370 (December 1967, inking Carmine Infantino) and the all-Adams Brave and the Bold #75 (January 1968), Detective #372 (February), B&B #76 (February/March), Batman #200 and World’s Finest Comics #174 (both March) serve as tasters for the first full-length narrative… 

The iconoclastic penciller first started seriously making waves with a couple of enthralling Cape & Cowl capers beginning with World’s Finest Comics #175 (April 1968): ‘The Superman-Batman Revenge Squads!’ Scripted by Leo Dorfman and inked by long-term collaborator Dick Giordano, the story detailed how an annual – and friendly – battle of wits between the crimebusters is infiltrated by alien and Earthly criminal groups intent on killing their foes whilst they are off-guard… 

WFC #176 (June) featured a beguiling enigma in ‘The Superman-Batman Split!’ – written by fellow newcomer Cary Bates. Ostensibly just another alien mystery yarn, this twisty little gem conceals a surprise ending for all, plus guest stars Robin, Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl and Batgirl, with Adams’ hyper-dynamic realism lending an aura of solid credibility to even the most fanciful situations. 

It also ushered in an era of gritty veracity to replace previously anodyne and frequently frivolous Costumed Dramas… 

More Dynamite Covers follow: Batman #203 (July/August) leads to Brave and the Bold #79 (August/September); heralding Adams’ assumption of interior art chores and launching a groundbreaking run that rewrote the rulebook for strip illustration… 

‘The Track of the Hook’ – written by Bob Haney and inked Giordano – paired the Gotham Guardian with justice-obsessed ghost Deadman: formerly trapeze artist Boston Brand who was hunting his own killer, and whose earthy, human tragedy elevated the series’ costume theatrics into deeper, more mature realms of drama and action. At this period Adams was writing and illustrating Brand’s solo stories in Strange Adventures…  

The B&B stories matured overnight, instantly became every discerning fan’s favourite read.  

Covers for World’s Finest Comics #178-180 (September through November) segue sweetly into Brave and the Bold #80 (October/November 1968) where ‘And Hellgrammite is his Name’ finds Batman and The Creeper clashing with a monstrous, insect-themed super-hitman, again courtesy of Haney, Adams & Giordano, whilst #81 saw The Flash aid Batman against an unbeatable thug in ‘But Bork Can Hurt You!’ (inked by Giordano & Vince Colletta) before Aquaman became ‘The Sleepwalker from the Sea’ in an eerie tale of mind-control and sibling rivalry. 

Interwoven through those thrillers are the covers for World’s Finest #182 (February 1969, inking Curt Swan’s pencils), #183 (March, inking over Infantino), Batman #210 and Detective #385 (both March and all Adams). 

B&B # 83 took a radical turn (and is the only story herein without a cover since that one was limned by Irv Novick) as The Teen Titans try to save Bruce Wayne’s latest foster-son from his own inner demons in ‘Punish Not my Evil Son!’ (Haney & Giordano) but the next team-up was one that got many fans in a real tizzy in 1969. 

First though comes the fabulous frontage for World’s Finest #185 (June 1969) after which ‘The Angel, the Rock and the Cowl’ recounts a World War II exploit where Batman and Sgt. Rock of Easy Company hunt Nazi gold together, only closing that case 25 years later. 

Try to ignore kvetching about relative ages and which Earth we’re on: you should really focus on the fact that this is a startlingly gripping tale of great intensity, beautifully realised, and one which has been criminally discounted for decades as “non-canonical”. 

Detective Comics #389 (July), and World’s Finest #186 (August and pencilled by Infantino) precede Brave and the Bold #85. Here, behind a stunning cover, is arguably the best of an incredible run of action adventures… 

‘The Senator’s Been Shot!’ unites Batman and Green Arrow in a superb multi-layered thriller of politics, corruption and cast-iron integrity, with Bruce Wayne being appointed as a stand-in for a law-maker whilst the Emerald Archer receives a radical make-over that turned him into a fiery liberal gadfly and champion of the relevancy generation: a remake that still informs his character today, both in funnybooks and on TV screens… 

Wrapping up this initial artistic extravaganza come covers for Detective Comics #391 and 392 (September & October 196), completing a delirious run of comics masterpieces no ardent art lover or fanatical Fights ‘n’ Tights aficionado can do without and confirming the unique and indisputable contribution Adams made to comics.s.
© 1967, 1968, 1969, 2003, 2018 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved. 

Showcase Presents Sgt. Rock volume 3


By Robert Kanigher, Joe Kubert, Russ Heath & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2771-5 (TPB)

In America after the demise of EC Comics in the mid-1950’s and prior to the game-changing Blazing Combat, the only certain place to find controversial, challenging and entertaining American war comics was at DC.

In fact, even whilst Archie Goodwin’s stunning but tragically mis-marketed quartet of classics were waking up a generation, the home of Flash, Green Arrow and the Justice League of America was a veritable cornucopia of gritty, intriguing and beautifully illustrated battle tales presenting combat on a variety of fronts and from differing points of view.

Whilst the Vietnam War escalated, 1960s America increasingly endured a Homefront death-struggle pitting deeply-ingrained Establishment social attitudes against a youth-oriented generation with a radical new sensibility. In response DC’s (or rather National Periodical Publishing, as it then was) military-themed comicbooks became even more bold and innovative…

Sgt Rock and the “combat-happy Joes” of Easy Company are one of the great and enduring creations of the American comic book industry. The gritty meta-realism of Robert Kanigher’s ordinary guys in a constant welter of life-or-death situations captured the imaginations of generations of readers, young and old.

So pervasive is this icon of comics combat that’s it’s hard to grasp that Rock is not an immortal industry prototype like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman – with us since the earliest moments of the industry – but is in fact a late addition to and child of the Silver Age of Comics: debuting as just another Kanigher & Joe Kubert tale in war anthology G.I. Combat (#68, January 1959).

The archetypal and ideal sergeant was an anonymous boxer who wasn’t particularly skilled but simply refused to be beaten, absorbing any and all punishment dealt out to him. When ‘The Rock!’ enlisted, that same Horatian quality attained mythic proportions as he held back an overwhelming Nazi attack by sheer grit and determination, remaining bloody but unbowed on a field littered with dead and broken men. The tale inspired an instant sequel or two before, in Our Army at War #83 (June 1959), the mythmaking truly began…

This third monumental military milestone collects in chronological publishing order and stark, stunning monochrome more of the groundbreaking classics which made Rock a comics legend. These grim and gritty, epically poetic war stories were taken from the still-anthological Our Army at War #149-180 (bracketing December 1964 to May 1967), a period when American comics were undergoing a spectacular renaissance in style, theme and quality even as the Vietnam war took over the nation’s consciousness and conscience.

They are also still criminally unavailable in modern colour and/or digital editions…

Scripted throughout by Writer/Editor Kanigher and illustrated primarily by Kubert, the terse episodes herein begin with ‘Surrender Ticket!’ as the German High Command randomly pick an American Company to endure unrelenting pressure until they crack, thereby proving Nazi superiority. They really should have picked again after selecting Easy Company…

In ‘Flytrap Hill!’, Rock is forced to request a retreat before instead leading his brutalised men to unlikely victory. They all found fresh inspiration through the example of a messenger who gave his life to reach them…

‘War Party!’ then sees the Sarge undertaking a trial organised by Little Sure Shot to become an “honorary Apache Indian”, with the always-advancing Germans inadvertently spoiling his chances at every turn.

OAAW #152 is a full-length yarn in which a shipment of green replacements find themselves frozen under fire, until Rock recounts the tales of Ziggy and Hopeless, who found courage with their final breaths in ‘Last Man – Last Shot!’ This narrative device of incorporating brief past-action episodes into a baptism of fire scenario played over and over again in Sgt. Rock but never got old.

‘Easy’s Last Stand!’ saw the stony serviceman battling alone in the mistaken belief he was the only one left alive, whilst ‘Boobytrap Mascot’ found Easy accompanying boy soldier Andre Lune in search of hidden artillery emplacements as the lad tried to live up to – and die for – the pressure of generations of warrior ancestors who gave their lives for France…

‘No Stripes for Me!’ found the non-com in the middle of a family feud as a valiant GI continually refuses well-earned battlefield promotions his father – the General – keeps foisting upon him, after which a bumbling medic deemed unfit for combat fatally proves his worth, saving Easy as ‘The Human Tank Trap!’

The shell-shocked last survivor of an eradicated relief company goes through hell at Rock’s side as the topkick strives to prove that ‘Nothin’s Ever Lost in War!’ before OAAW #158 introduces some insight into the pre-war world of civilian Frank Rock, as well as an antithesis and arch-enemy for Easy’s front man in ‘Iron Major – Rock Sergeant!’

With the American captured, tortured and used as bait in a blizzard by a steel-handed master strategist, it takes sheer guts and unflinching to save Easy from a deadly ambush…

Wounded in combat, hunted by a German kill-team and guided by the sister of a nurse he feels responsible for killing, Rock becomes ‘The Blind Gun!’ before recovering his sight and finding a measure of solace in groundbreaking epic ‘What’s the Colour of Your Blood?’

Here black G.I. – it’s a comic book making a point about a crucial point in modern US history: please ignore the appalling and sordid truth about US Army segregation during WWII – and former boxer Jackie Johnson is forced to bare-knuckle battle the racist Aryan prize-fighter he trounced in the years before the war.

Of course, if he raises his hands to defend himself in this impromptu rematch, Storm Trooper Uhlan’s comrades will shoot Jackie’s Easy Co. buddies… until the right word from Rock changes all the odds…

An over-eager replacement almost dies to prove he’s not a coward like his court-martialled brother in ‘Dead End for a Dog Face!’ before ‘The Prince and the Sergeant!’ revives an old DC star for a truly bizarre team-up.

When superheroes were in decline during the 1950s, comicbook companies sought different types of action hero. In 1955 Kanigher devised traditional adventure comic The Brave and the Bold which featured historical strips and stalwarts such as Golden Gladiator, Robin Hood and Silent Knight. Already legendary, Joe Kubert drew the fantastic exploits of a dynamic Norseman dubbed the Viking Prince.

He appeared in nearly every issue, eventually monopolising Brave and the Bold entirely, until the resurgent superhero boom saw the comic retooled as a try-out title with the 25th issue. Before that, however, those fanciful Scandi-sagas were among some of the finest adventure comics of all time (and they’re still too long overdue for a definitive collection of their own).

In Our Army at War #162, Easy Company are sent to Norway on a proverbial suicide mission and subsequently separated under fire. Taking cover in a cave, Rock discovers a warrior frozen in ice moments before an explosion shatters the frigid tomb. Soon the revived Prince Jon is slicing his way through the modern “Huns”, determined to sell his life dearly.

Before his entombment, he had fallen in love with a Valkyrie and had to die gloriously in battle to reunite with her in Valhalla. Of course, offended Odin had stacked the odds and decreed no mortal weapon could now harm him…

Despite his best efforts, Jon and Rock kept winning and so the saga continued in the next issue as the doughty comrades complete the suicide mission with the Viking crying ‘Kill Me – Kill Me!’… until a seeming martial miracle occurred…

Our Army at War #164 was an 80-page Giant reprint issue (not included here) and #165 heralded the ‘Return of the Iron Major!’ with the Nazi Superman back from the dead and seeking revenge, only to find Rock kissing his former fiancée Contessa Helga von Hohenschlag-Lowenburg…

That results in another brutal death-duel after which ‘Half a Sergeant!’ saw the indomitable human force-of-nature suffer a crack-up, until an inconsolable loss on the battlefield shocks him back to normal, after which ‘Kill One – Save One!’extends the psycho-dramas as Rock shoots a sniper and discovers he’s killed a child. The guilt cripples him so completely he can’t raise a hand against the boy’s even younger comrade who takes the topkick prisoner…

An element of supernatural mystery flavoured ‘I Knew the Unknown Soldier!’ in Our Army at War #168, as Rock proudly recalls an enigmatic G.I. who repeatedly saved and inspired Easy to overcome impossible odds. This short yarn would be the genesis of future combat superstar The Unknown Soldier…

Again blinded in battle, Rock unwittingly treks across the African desert towards German lines with an American-educated ‘Nazi on My Back!’ in #169 but is back in Europe for ‘No One Comes Down Alive from – Buzzard Bait Hill!’: dealing with a shell-shocked veteran who had been reliving the war since the last time Germans invaded France.

War’s insanity was a recurring theme and in ‘The Sergeant Must Die!’ Easy had to steal a relic of huge symbolic importance from a mediaeval castle defended by a deranged Nazi who believed himself the reincarnation of legendary Hun Barbarosa. A perilous stalemate is only broken by vicious single combat; a situation echoed in ‘A Slug for a Sergeant!’ as Russ Heath slowly began to take over illuminating Rock’s sorties.

German Sgt. Schlum is every inch Rock’s equal and when the hostage American chooses to duel his counterpart rather than betray Easy into ambush, the outcome is anything but certain…

Our Army at War #173 was another reprint – also omitted here – and Kubert returned in #174 as ‘One Kill Too Many!’sees the Sarge suffer another breakdown and freezing under fire after reliving the moment he shot that child-sniper. His inaction leads to Easy’s medic being killed and the broken soldier gives up fighting to take his place… until the wounded men he treats show Rock where he truly belongs…

Heath was back in #175 to deliver the ‘T.N.T. Letter!’ from Rock’s stateside sweetheart Mary which leaves him broken and suicidal until he meets a battlefield gamin who restores his perspective, and Kubert limned the strange saga of Crusher Cole: a beefy replacement who wanted the sergeant’s job and kept crying ‘Give Me Your Stripes!’

Following another 80-Page Giant in #177, ‘Only One Medal for Easy’ (Heath, #178) returned to the series’ picaresque, portmanteau traditions as Rock is given one gong and a Pass to dispense to Easy’s most outstanding combatant. Of course, the medal is passed around the entire company as every time the enemy attacks, a different hero saves the day…

Kubert was back reprising that landmark tale of bigotry and tolerance in OAAW #179 as white supremacist Sharkey joins Easy and makes things tough for the unit’s only black soldier. Even Rock can’t change his attitudes but the trials of war and the patience of a truly noble man finally crush racist views of a soldier who wouldn’t give ‘A Penny for Jackie Johnson!’

Russ Heath ends this cataclysmic comics campaign with another stunning moral quandary as Rock captures a German officer and has to endure unbearable provocation as he escorts his prisoner to base: coming within an inch of breaking all the rules as the cunning monster brags ‘You Can’t Kill a General!’…

Robert Kanigher at his worst was a declarative, heavy-handed and formulaic writer, but when writing his best stuff – as here – his work was imaginative, evocative, iconoclastic and heart-rending. He was a unique reporter and observer of the warrior’s way and the unchanging condition of the dedicated and so very human ordinary foot-slogging G.I. He was also a strident and early advocate of equality and integration.

With superb combat covers from Kubert fronting each episode, this battle-book is a visually vital compendium and a certain delight for any jaded comics fan looking for something more than flash and dazzle. A perfect example of true Shock and Awe; these are stories every comics fan and combat collector should see and one day we’ll have them in the full archival dress and trimmings they deserve…
© 1964-1967, 2010 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Showcase Presents Sgt. Rock volume 2


By Robert Kanigher, Joe Kubert, Bob Haney, Russ Heath, Jerry Grandenetti & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1984-0 (TPB)

Sgt Rock and the “combat-happy Joes” of Easy Company are one of the great and enduring creations of the American comic-book industry. The gritty meta-realism of Robert Kanigher’s ordinary guys in life-or-death situations captured the imaginations of generations of readers, young and old. So pervasive is this icon of comicbook combat that’s it’s hard to grasp that Rock is not an immortal industry prototype like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman – with us since the earliest moments of the industry – but is in fact a late addition to and child of the Silver Age of Comics: debuting as just another tale in war anthology G.I. Combat (#68, January 1959, by Kanigher & Joe Kubert).

The archetypal sergeant was an anonymous boxer who wasn’t particularly skilled but simply refused to be beaten, absorbing any and all the punishment dealt out to him.

When ‘The Rock!’ enlisted in the US Army, however, that same Horatian quality attained mythic proportions as he held back an overwhelming Nazi attack by sheer grit and determination, remaining bloody but unbowed on a field littered with dead and broken men.

The tale inspired an instant sequel or two before, in Our Army at War #83 (June 1959), the story really began…

This second titanic tour of duty collects as a paperback and in stark and stunning monochrome the groundbreaking tales which made Sgt Rock a comics legend. These grim and gritty, epically poetic war stories are taken from the then still-anthological Our Army at War #118-148, bracketing May 1962 to November 1964, a period when American comics were undergoing a renaissance in style, theme and quality. Sadly, there’s no news on when these classic yarns will enter the 21st century either in modern colour editions or in digital formats…

Scripted throughout by then-editor Kanigher, the terse episodes herein begin with ‘The Tank vs. the Tin Soldier!’ – illustrated by the magnificent Russ Heath – wherein movie idol Randy Booth is mustered in to Easy Company and spends all his snobbish energy trying to get out again. By the time he learns how to be a real soldier, his moment in the limelight has turned from cinematic melodrama to Greek tragedy…

The artist most closely associated with Rock is Joe Kubert, who illustrated #119’s memorable fable ‘A Bazooka for Babyface!’ as a kid who lied about his age makes it to the Front, but doesn’t fool the indomitable topkick. Of course, by the time the fighting dies down enough to send him back, the Babyface is a seasoned combat veteran…

Kubert superbly limned the majority of stories in this volume, such as #120’s ‘Battle Tags for Easy Co.!’, which deployed brief vignettes to illustrate how squad stalwarts Ice Cream Soldier, Wild Man and Bulldozer earned their nicknames, before showing the latest “Green Apple” recruit why the Sarge was called Rock, after which ‘New Boy in Easy!’ (#121) introduced a chess-obsessed replacement who takes a lot of convincing that war is no hobby and men aren’t just pawns…

This narrative device of incorporating brief past-action episodes into a baptism of fire scenario played over and over again in Sgt. Rock and never got old. OAAW #122 featured ‘Battle of the Pyjama Commandoes!’, comprising more portmanteau tales as a number of Easy Joes recuperate in a field hospital, until the Germans break through and the wounded must pick up their weapons again…

High-energy stylist Jerry Grandenetti illustrated ‘Battle Brass Ring!’ in #123 as a pushy new replacement antagonises the entire unit until he learns to his cost the value of teamwork and price of command, after which Kubert returned for ‘Target – Sgt. Rock!’

When the indomitable warrior is captured and brainwashed by a Nazi tank commander into leading an attack on Easy, Bulldozer has to balance Rock’s life against his beloved sergeant’s unflinching standing orders…

More moral dilemmas punish the valiant warriors in #125 (illustrated by Heath) as the unit is cut off from the main Allied force and ordered to ‘Hold – At All Costs!’, whilst ‘The End of Easy Company!’ (#126 and illustrated by Kubert) pits the unstoppable dogfaces against impassable fortifications and a veritable mountain of Germans who severely underestimate the sheer stubbornness of tired, angry GIs…

With Kubert settling in for the long haul as regular artist on the strip, issue #127 offered an epic 25-page blitz of stories-within-a-story, as a quartet of combat-happy Joes relate personal tales of their unbeatable boss in ‘4 Faces of Sgt. Rock’.

OAAW #128 headlined ‘The Battle of the Sergeants!’ as Rock meets his Nazi counterpart in the deserts of Africa, after which #129 reveals that ‘Heroes Need Cowards!’: exploring Rock’s earliest days in the Army, whilst ‘No Hill for Easy!’ in #130 sees the battered band of brothers go above and beyond to placate a shell-shocked Major and finish the suicide mission of a deranged last man standing…

In #131 ‘One Pair of Dogtags … For Sale’ introduces Easy to a woman warrior every inch their equal, who literally spills her own blood to keep Rock alive, whilst in ‘Young Soldiers Never Cry!’ the sergeant becomes a combat babysitter after rescuing a toddler on the battlefield of Normandy.

In #133 ‘Yesterday’s Hero!’ depicts how a decorated veteran joins Easy to a rapturous welcome, but flounders, unable to escape the shocking circumstances that made him an unwilling example of both heroism and cowardice, after which, in ‘The T.N.T. Book’ another replacement insists on playing the odds in war as he had on the track… until discovering the true stakes of battle…

Our Army at War #135 pits Rock against a German non-com who was in almost every way his ‘Battlefield Double!’, whilst in #136 a desperately frightened new kid arrives, begging the indomitable topkick to ‘Make Me a Hero!’

Issue #137 sees a cavalry holdover from WWI finally achieve his long-delayed charge to glory in ‘Too Many Sergeants!’, before close skirmish separates Rock from his greenest new man in #138, and the weary warrior goes through combat hell to find ‘Easy’s Lost Sparrow!’ The next mission results in capture for four of the unit’s best and a ‘A Firing Squad for Easy!’ at a German Submarine dock. Happily, the team of Frogmen they’d been protecting return the favour…

OAAW #140 offers another full-length thriller – with cameos from fellow comicbook combatants Captain Johnny Cloud and French Resistance fighter Mademoiselle Marie – revealing the wry story of how Rock keeps winning deserved but wholly unwelcome battlefield promotions. His dilemma as a ‘Brass Sergeant!’ is only resolved after reuniting a misunderstood son with his “spit-and-polish” General father under most exceptional circumstances…

An timid old school friend turns up in #141, still needing Rock’s protection until “Shaker” finally pulls the ‘Dead Man’s Trigger!’, whilst in the next issue Kanigher pushed the envelope with the tale of a boy who held the sergeant to ransom and became ‘Easy’s New Topkick!’ in order to finish his dead Maquis comrades’ last mission. This stirring saga inspired the creation of Unit 3 – a French Resistance squad of battle-hardened children who appeared sporadically in later issues.

In #143, the US soldiers are back in the desert where embattled dogfaces honour fallen comrade Farmer Boy by planting ‘Easy’s T.N.T. Crop!’ to harvest a victory built on sand, after which ‘The Sparrow and the Tiger!’ sees Rock at last succumb to battle fatigue and the constant loss of his “kids” until a scared replacement shows him the true value of persistence and grace under fire…

Our Army at War #145 offers the backstory on the squad’s Native American rifleman in ‘A Feather for Little Sure-Shot!’, whilst in #146 imagination runs wild as ‘The Fighting Guns of Easy!’ compare stories about the men who fire them.

This second searing selection of combat actions concludes with a rare 2-part yarn, beginning in #147 as ‘Generals Don’t Die! Book One’ finds the hands-on topkick the envy of all his commanding officers. However, after helping desk-jockey General Bentley die in glorious battle, Rock is obliged to fulfil a promise to a dying man and forced to impersonate Bentley.

Things get even trickier when the impostor must lead the troops in breaking a stalled advance: a classic conundrum spectacularly resolved in the blockbuster conclusion ‘Generals Don’t Die! Book Two: Generals are Sergeants with Stars!’ Here Rock keeps a dead man’s secret and maintains the Bentley family honour until he can pass on those unearned “brass stars” to the next Bentley generation…

Kanigher at his worst was a declarative, heavy-handed and formulaic writer, but when writing his best stuff – as here – his work was imaginative, evocative, iconoclastic and heart-rending. He was a unique reporter and observer of the warrior’s way and the unchanging condition of the dedicated and so very human ordinary foot-slogging G.I.

With superb combat covers from Kubert, Grandenetti, and Heath fronting each episode, this battle-book is a visually perfect compendium and a certain delight for any jaded comics fan looking for something more than flash and dazzle.

A perfect example of true Shock and Awe; these are stories every comics fan and combat collector should see, and are too long overdue for collection in modern archival editions
© 1963, 1964, 2008 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Showcase Presents Sgt. Rock volume 1


By Robert Kanigher, Joe Kubert, Bob Haney, Ross Andru, Mort Drucker, Irv Novick, Russ Heath & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1713-6

Sgt Rock and the “combat-happy Joes” of Easy Company are one of the great and enduring creations of the American comic-book industry. The gritty meta-realism of Robert Kanigher’s ordinary guys in life-or-death situations captured the imaginations of generations of readers, young and old. So pervasive is this icon of comicbook combat, that’s it’s hard to grasp that Rock is not an immortal industry prototype like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman – with us since the earliest moments of the industry – but is, in fact, a late addition to and child of the Silver Age of Comics.

This initial compendium collects in stunning black and white the tentative first steps in the character’s evolution from G.I. Combat #68 and Our Army at War #81-82 to the first full barrage of battle blockbusters from OAAW #83-117, covering January 1959 (and many happy returns to you, Sarge!) through April 1962: a period wherein the American comicbook market was undergoing a staggering revolution in style, theme and quality.

Behind the stunning Jerry Grandenetti cover (the first of many in this bulky and impressive monochrome paperback tome) for G.I. Combat #68 lurks a quiet, moodily unassuming story (by Kanigher & Joe Kubert) of an anonymous boxer who wasn’t particularly skilled but simply refused to be beaten. When ‘The Rock!’ enlisted in the US Army, however, that same Horatian quality attained mythic proportions as he held back an overwhelming Nazi attack by sheer grit and determination, remaining bloody but unbowed on a field littered with dead and broken men.

Dubbed “Rocky” the character returned as a sergeant in the April Our Army at War (#81) again facing superior German forces as ‘The Rock of Easy Co.!’ in a brief but telling vignette by Bob Haney, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito before finally winning a personal and extremely individualistic identity as Sgt. Rock in the next issue. This was the Mort Drucker illustrated ‘Hold Up Easy!’: another harsh and declarative mini-epic from Kanigher which saw hard-luck heroes Easy Company delayed and then saved by callow replacements who eventually came good…

Our Army at War #83 (June 1959) saw the true launch of the immortal everyman hero in Kanigher & Kubert’s ‘The Rock and the Wall!’: a tough-love, battlefield tutor shepherding his men to competence and survival amidst the constant perils of war. Here the grizzled nomcom meets a rival for his men’s admiration in the equally impressive Joe Wall…

Irv Novick illustrated ‘Laughter on Snakehead Hill!’ as the embattled dog-faces of Easy fight to take a heavily-fortified citadel before OAAW #85 introduces the first continuing cast member in the Kubert-limned ‘Ice Cream Soldier!’ Here Rock assuages a fearful replacement’s jangled nerves with tales of another hopeless “green apple” who grew into his job.

This ploy of incorporating brief past-action episodes into a baptism of fire scenario would play over and over again, and never got old…

Haney returned in #86 to script ‘Tank 711’ for Kubert as the terse top-kick educated another newbie in combat etiquette. Kanigher returned to describe the taking of “No-Return-Hill” and the initiation of four more raw recruits in ‘Calling Easy Co.!’ after which Grandenetti illustrated a brace of tales in #88 and 89: ‘The Hard Way’, in which Rock suffers a shocking crisis of confidence and ‘No Shot from Easy!’ wherein the indomitable sergeant is forced to give his toughest ever order…

Issue #90 offered classic Kubert as ‘Three Stripes Hill!’ revealed the story of how Rock won his stripes after which the traditionally anthological Our Army at War offered three complete Sgt. Rock sagas in #91, beginning with ‘No Answer From Sarge!’ as the NCO risks everything to drag a recruit out of a crippling funk; ‘Old Soldiers Never Run!’ where he has to weigh an old man’s pride against Easy’s continued existence, and the Haney-scripted tragic fable of a sole-surviving Scottish soldier in ‘The Silent Piper!’

OAAW #92 saw Kanigher & Kubert tackle battlefield superstitions in ‘Luck of Easy!’, and ‘Deliver One Airfield!’ introduces Zack Nolan, a son of privilege who has to learn teamwork the hard way before #94’s ‘Target… Easy Company’ pits the unit against a German General determined to eradicate the increasingly high-profile heroes.

Issue #95 debuted charismatic and ambitious Bulldozer Nichols who wants Rock’s rank and position in ‘Battle of the Stripes!’, after which ‘Last Stand for Easy!’ sees the still in-charge topkick compelled to relinquish his lead-from-the-front position and ‘What Makes a Sergeant Run?’ finds him again sharing his hard-earned war wisdom with the young and the hapless.

Haney penned ‘Soldiers Never Die!’ in #98, with Rock forced to overcome his team’s trauma at losing a beloved comrade whilst Kanigher described ‘Easy’s Hardest Battle!’ in #99, as the weary warrior recalls a number of instances which all qualified, before once more triumphing over insurmountable odds and adding one more clash to the list.

The Stalwart Sergeant risked everything to save a broken replacement in #100’s ‘No Exit for Easy!’ and repeated the task in ‘End of Easy!’ as a parachute drop goes tragically awry, before #102’s ‘The Big Star!’ concedes the consequences of depending on a young man utterly unsuited for combat…

‘Easy’s Had It!’ in #103 was another Haney contribution, exploring what happens when Rock is wounded and the company has to fight without their guiding light and lucky talisman, after which Kanigher assumed regular scripting duties beginning with #104 and ‘A New Kind of War!’ depicting the grizzled vet totally outgunned by a valiant nurse who refuses to retreat and never surrenders.

In #105 a ‘TNT Birthday!’ has Rock worried about the underage kid who had somehow got past all the instructors to join Easy under terrifying fire whilst ‘Meet Lt. Rock!’ (illustrated by Novick) sees the dedicated noncom forcibly promoted until he manages to undo the horrifying prospect after which #107’s ‘Doom Over Easy!’ again sees the savvy soldiers afflicted by crippling superstition…

The superb Russ Heath drew his first Rock strip in OAAW #108: ‘The Unknown Sergeant!’ has the squad passing through a French village with a statue of a WWI Yank “doughboy” bearing an uncanny resemblance to their own indomitable leader – provoking some very uncomfortable historical hallucinations – before Kubert’s return in #109’s ‘Roll Call of Heroes!’ signals a dose of grim reality when Rock recalls his own deadly baptism of fire and lost comrades, after which a green Lieutenant almost provokes mutiny and murder until he learns the rules of Combat Arithmetic in ‘That’s An Order!’

‘What’s the Price of a Dogtag?’ is painfully answered in the occupied streets and on seemingly deserted beaches in #111, whilst ‘Battle Shadow!’ focuses on the burgeoning supporting cast in a blisteringly explosive extravaganza that heralds African American soldier Jackie Johnson taking centre stage (in a bold early example of comicbook affirmative action) for a memorable last-stand moment in ‘Eyes of a Blind Gunner’ in #113 (December 1961).

The incessant toll of lost comrades hits hard in ‘Killer Sergeant!’, whilst civilian survivors and partisans who comprise ‘Rock’s Battle Family!’ help him survive the worst the war can throw at him – featuring a cameo from French Resistance star Mademoiselle Marie – before the ragged warrior finds himself all alone when he answers #116’s ‘S.O.S. Sgt. Rock!’ to save lost comrade Ice Cream Soldier…

This inaugural battle-book concludes with a dramatic tale of three hopelessly square pegs who finally find their deep, round holes in #117’s traumatic saga of ‘The Snafu Squad!’

Robert Kanigher at his worst was a declarative, heavy-handed and formulaic writer, but when writing his best stuff – as he does here – remains an imaginative, evocative, iconoclastic and heart-rending reporter and observer of the warrior’s way and the unchanging condition of the dedicated and so very human ordinary foot-slogging G.I.

With superb combat covers from Kubert, Grandenetti, and Heath fronting each episode, this battle-book is a visually perfect compendium and is a lost delight for any jaded comics fan looking for something more than flash and dazzle.

A perfect example of true Shock and Awe, these are stories every fan should see, especially as modern tastes in books and digital compilations haven’t quite remembered that star warriors and superheroes are not the only flavours…
© 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Showcase Presents Men of War


By David Michelinie, Robert Kanigher, Roger McKenzie, Jack C. Harris, Cary Burkett, Paul Kupperberg, Ed Davis, Dick Ayers, Jerry Grandenetti, Howard Chaykin, Arvell Jones, Larry Hama, & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-4388-3

In America after the demise of EC Comics in the mid-1950’s and prior to the game-changing Blazing Combat, the only certain place to find controversial, challenging and entertaining American war comics was DC.

In fact, even whilst Archie Goodwin’s stunning but tragically mis-marketed quartet of classics were waking up a generation, the home of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman was a veritable cornucopia of gritty, intriguing and beautifully illustrated battle tales presenting combat on a variety of fronts and from many differing points of view.

Whilst the Vietnam War escalated, 1960s America increasingly endured a Home Front death-struggle pitting deeply-ingrained Establishment social attitudes against a youth-oriented generation with a radical new sensibility. In response DC’s (or rather National Periodical Publishing, as it then was) military-themed comicbooks became even more bold and innovative…

That stellar and challenging creative period came to an end as all strip trends do, but a few of the more impressive and popular features (Sgt. Rock, Haunted Tank, The Losers) survived well into the second superhero revival. One of the most engaging wartime wonders was a notional espionage thriller starring a faceless, nameless hero perpetually in the right place at the right time, ready, willing and so very able to turn the tide one battle at a time…

Currently English-reading fans of war stories are grievously underserved in both print and digital formats, but this magnificent monochrome reprint compendium is still readily available online. It collects the entire contents of Men of War: an all-new new anthology comicbook which debuted in August 1977 and ran 26 issues until March 1980.

Although offering the usual a variety of alternating back-up strips, Men of War controversially starred and cover-featured Gravedigger, a black American GI in WWII fighting prejudice, segregationist policies and blinkered authority as much as Fascist aggression.

The series was originated by scripter David Michelinie with art on the first episode by Ed Davis & Romeo Tanghal as MoW #1 introduced ‘Codename: Gravedigger’: grumbling US soldier Sergeant Ulysses Hazard in France and under fire in the Summer of 1942.

Of course, he had a lot to complain about. Being a negro, Hazard was not permitted to fight beside white enlisted men and could only be assigned to catering services or the Graves Registration team, marking and recovering the fallen.

A hard pill to swallow for a tough-minded ghetto kid who overcame polio, privation, bigots and bullies, and – through sheer determination – turned his body into a physically perfect human weapon.

When he single-handedly saves a French family from a gang of brutal Germans, white soldiers led by Lieutenant Gage claim the credit. The next day Hazard again displays his military superiority by saving the entire unit from a strafing attack, only to be told once more black men can’t fight.

When Ulysses realises he was saving racists whilst his best pal Andy died in the raid, Hazard fixes upon a desperate plan…

Arvell Jones & Tanghal illustrate the next chapter in #2 as Hazard goes AWOL: sneaking back into America to fight ‘The Five-Walled War!’. Breaking into the newly-constructed Pentagon, the outraged warrior battles his way past an army of troops to confront the astounded Undersecretary of War.

A shrewd and ruthless opportunist, the politico sees a chance to create a different kind of soldier and maybe even buy black votes in the next election cycle. Decreeing Hazard a top secret, one-man strike-force and personal suicide squad, with typical unforced irony the demagogue designates his new, extremely expendable toy ‘Codename: Gravedigger’…

Issue #3 finds newly-promoted Captain Hazard back in France within days; rescuing Gage and the soldiers who took credit for his actions. Even after they try to arrest him for desertion, Hazard pushes on with his first mission: ‘The Suicide Stratagem’ demanding he invade a mountain-top fortress to clear out a nest of Nazis holding up the entire war effort. No sooner has he done so than Gage and crew burst in to wipe out the survivors… especially any black soldiers who might get in the way…

Evergreen WWI anti-war feature Enemy Ace copped the first tranche of back-up slots for issues #1-3. Executed by Robert Kanigher, Ed Davis & Juan Ortiz, opening chapter ‘Death is a Wild Beast!’ has conflicted, honourable fighter pilot Hans Von Hammer downing a devil-themed British pilot who accomplishes a miraculous ‘Return from Hell!’ in the second instalment before experiencing ‘The Three Faces of Death’ in the final instalment.

As ever, the real meat of the macabre missions is the toll on the minds and bodies of the merely mortal fliers who die while Von Hammer lives on in guilty anguish…

The next triptych of back-ups (in #4-6) introduced New York Courier reporter Wayne Clifford, arriving in London in June 1940 to cover the “European War” for the still-neutral folks back home.

Crafted by Cary Burkett & Jerry Grandenetti ‘Dateline: Frontline’ focuses on the stories behind the war as neophyte Clifford is taken under the wing of veteran wordsmith Ed Barnes and learns some hard truths about propaganda, integrity and necessity after he tries to send back his account of a friendly-fire incident…

More gritty revelations add to the innocent’s education during an air raid spent with hard-pressed Londoners in a tube station in ‘Dateline: Frontline: Human Interest Story’ whilst #7 found the plucky news-hawk at ground zero on top of an unexploded bomb in ‘Dateline: Frontline Countdown!’

In Men of War #4 Dick Ayers took over as penciler as Gravedigger’s ‘Trial by Fire’ explosively ends with the pariah destroying the mountaintop Nazi base and saving Gage’s unit, only to be reviled and attacked by the man he humiliatingly saved, after which #5 welcomed Roger McKenzie as new writer.

Here Gravedigger enters the ‘Valley of the Shadow’ in an Alpine village turned impregnable German stronghold. His mission is to start an avalanche and eradicate the Nazi artillery nest but no one warned him of the captive populace held in the church…

MoW #6 then offers ‘A Choice of Deaths’ (McKenzie, Ayers & Tanghal) as the loner’s daring raid on a prison to free hostages is almost thwarted by the internees’ reluctance to leave behind certain works of art…

Men of War #7 featured Gravedigger’s first full-length exploit. ‘Milkrun’ sees the one-man army ordered to England for further intensive training at the hands of British expert Major Birch, but the journey back with mild-mannered clerk-turned-jeep driver Boston proves to be one of the most eventful rides Hazard has ever taken…

‘Death-Stroke’ leads in #8, as the American’s intensive training includes a potent degree of brainwashing. Unknow to anybody, Birch has been replaced by a Nazi agent who primes Ulysses to murder Winston Churchill…

Another Enemy Ace triptych began in the back of #8 and ‘Silent Sky… Screaming Death!!’ (illustrated by Larry Hama & Bob Smith) details a trenchant tale of a family at war. Howard Chaykin took over the illustration as a regulation clash in the sky resulted in attack by vengeful siblings and the return of Von Hammer’s father in ‘Brother Killers!’ (#9), revealing aspects of the German Ace’s own childhood and culminating in a fateful and final ‘Duel at Dawn!’ in #10.

MoW #9’s ‘Gravedigger – R.I.P.’ exposed layer upon layer of deceit and deception. Thanks to a tip-off by investigative reporter Wayne Clifford, Hazard’s assassination attempt is foiled by the Allies’ own master-of-disguise super-agent (no prizes for guessing who) and the brainwashed killer is captured and de-programmed. His death then faked, Hazard clandestinely heads to Berlin to rescue the real Birch…

This issue included extra feature ‘Dateline: Frontline: Bathtub Blues’ by Burkett & Grandenetti. Now stationed in North Africa, Clifford is attached to the British Army and sees for himself the nauseating difference between a braggart and a hero…

Men of War #10 opened with a ‘Crossroads’ reached by Codename: Gravedigger when he is shot down miles short of his Berlin destination and meets a fugitive Jewish family torn apart less by the war than the hatred and horrors that sparked it…

Supplementing the Enemy Ace back-up cited above is another stark and moving Wayne Clifford yarn by Burkett & Grandenetti. ‘Dateline: Frontline: Glory Soldier’ sees the writer caught in the bloody orbit of a gung-ho suicidal British corporal…

In #11 Hazard and his new Jewish comrades invade top secret death camp ‘Berkstaten’ and discovering to his shock and relief that not all Germans are monsters, whilst ‘Dateline: Frontline: Funeral Pyre’ sees Wayne lose his journalistic distance and impartiality after rescuing a baby and being captured by Arab raiders who consider both Germans and British as ruthless invaders…

Jack C. Harris took over writing the lead feature in MoW #12 as ‘Where is Gravedigger?’ sees the black soldier and his youthful Jewish allies finally enter Germany’s capital, even with the entire German army hunting for them. Unfortunately for the hunters, the one place they neglect to check is the torture chamber holding Major Birch…

Kanigher & Chaykin began another doleful, doom-laden Enemy Ace drama in the same issue. ‘Banner of Blood!’ sees the troubled Rittmeister striving to retrieve the Von Hammer family standard from a cunning French air ace who is the latest scion of an ancestral foe.

The tale continued in #13 as Von Hammer’s face-to-face confrontation with ‘The Last Baron!’ leads to the final clash in a centuries-long vendetta with the Comtes de Burgundy ending forever in one last honourable ‘Duel!’…

‘Project Gravedigger…Plus One’ was the blockbusting main attraction in #13 as Hazard and Birch blaze and blast their way out of Berlin and back to Britain, where a confrontation with original sponsor the US Undersecretary of War leads to the black warrior taking on a new and freer role in his own affairs.

In Germany, however, outraged bigot and madman Joseph Goebbels takes personal charge of punishing the “subhuman inferior” who has shamed the entire Reich…

Despatched to Egypt in #14, Hazard faces ‘The Swirling Sounds of Death’ when the interception of a crucial Nazi courier is briefly derailed after Gravedigger is captured by Arab bandits. By the time he resumes stalking his target, Ulysses rules the Tuaregs but leads them into disastrously battle with British tanks before being himself taken by his elusive enemy Eric Von King‘The Man with the Opened Eye’…

Rounding out the issue are a brace of short combat yarns: underwater demolitions thriller ‘Wolf Pack’ by Bill Kelley, Hama & Jack Abel and American Civil War vignette ‘The Sentry’ by artist Bill Payne and an unknown writer.

A minor visual overhaul for Gravedigger comes with #16’s book-length thriller ‘Hide and Seek the Spy’ as Von King uses Hazard as a human shield during a Panzer assault on the British lines. Although the lone wolf escapes, he will forever bear the scars of his close shave. Worst of all, the slippery courier again eludes him with the critical plans known as Defense Packet 6…

Never quitting, Hazard and an elite commando team continue their pursuit in MoW #17 reaching the Nile where a German mini U-boat turns the majestic waterway into ‘The River of Death’. Meanwhile in Germany, Goebbels’ top scientists edge closer to completing the perfect antidote to the Gravedigger’s perpetual interference…

In the back of the issue Paul Kupperberg & Grandenetti introduced a new historical star as ‘Rosa: The Castle Rhinehart Affair Part One’ depicts a 19th century secret agent and international man of mystery tasked in 1870 with ending the Franco-Prussian War by assassinating Bismarck’s top advisor…

The fraught and frantic mission in a strategically vital Schloss concludes in ‘Rosa: The Castle Rhinehart Affair Part Two’ with the master-spy completing his task and consequently uncovering top-level double-dealing amongst his own superiors. A creature of implacable moral fortitude, Rosa has his own cure for treachery…

Gravedigger’s apparent failure is rewarded with another suicidal solo mission in MoW #18 as ‘The Amiens Assault’ covertly returns him to France to extract atomic scientist Monsieur Noir; another doomed mission that gets a miraculous helping hand from French Resistance fighters and ‘An Angel Named Marie’ in #19.

Issues #19-20 (August and September 1979) also featured another Kanigher/Chaykin Enemy Ace back-up tale of nobly idiotic honour and wasted young lives as Von Hammer makes ‘A Promise to the Dying’ and seeks to restore a contentious souvenir to its rightful owner in ‘Death Must Wait!’

For Ulysses Hazard #20 meant a short trip to Sicily to find and destroy a munitions dump reinforcing German forces battling General Patton’s advance in ‘Cry: Jericho’…

Men of War #21 provided a novel change of pace and locale as ‘Home – Is Where the Hell Is’ takes Hazard back to America after his mother is taken ill. Even a one-man army despised and reviled by his superiors is eligible for compassionate leave, but nobody realises the entire scheme has been concocted by Goebbels using surgically created doppelgangers to eliminate the black super soldier…

Taking up the rear, the most harrowing phase of Wayne Clifford’s career begins when Burkett & Grandenetti point his nose for news towards the Eastern Front in ‘Dateline: Frontline: Mother Russia’.

Barely surviving passage on a convoy ship and limping into a battered port, the journalist realises the true import of his next story only after meeting starving Russian children…

Ambushed in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Gravedigger opens issue #22 by killing his assailants, sinking a Nazi U-boat and causing a ‘Blackout on the Boardwalk’, after which ‘Dateline: Frontline: Scorched Earth, Crimson Snow’ further explores the Eastern hell as Clifford experiences first hand and up close the siege of Moscow…

Gravedigger’s ‘Mission: Six Feet Under!’ sees him plying his old trade with the Graves Registration unit during a highly suspicious trade of bodies with the Germans. It doesn’t take him long to determine that the American cadavers he’s retrieving have been gimmicked with the vilest form of biological weapon and respond accordingly…

Burkett & Grandenetti then record that ‘Dateline: Frontline: A Quiet Day in Leningrad’ is anything but…

MoW #24 starts a 2-part tale of ‘The Presidential Peril’ as Hazard is detailed to safeguard Franklin Delano Roosevelt on a trip to England that has all manner of Nazi spy and maniac crawling out of the woodwork…

‘Rosa: The Ambassador’s Son Affair Part One’ (Kupperberg & Grandenetti and concluding in the next issue) finds the master of intrigue sharing his (possible) origins with an imperilled junior dignitary in Mexico circa 1867 before #25 sees Gravedigger ‘Save the President’ through a phenomenal display of ingenuity and martial prowess only to be rewarded with an even more impossible mission…

Men of War was cancelled with #26 but went out in a blaze of glory as ‘Night on Nickname Hill’ (Harris, Ayers & Tanghal) sees Hazard despatched to Tunis in March 1943 to link up with Sgt Rock and lead Easy Company against a fortified artillery position: a critical battle that would determine the outcome of the Allies’ campaign in Africa…

With stunning covers by Joe Kubert, Ed Davis and George Evans, this mighty black-&-white treasure trove of combat classics is a type and style of storytelling we’re all the poorer without. Hopefully publishers will wise up soon and begin restoring their like to the wide variety of genre sagas currently available in graphic collections.
© 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 2014 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Sgt. Rock Archive Edition Volume 1


By Robert Kanigher, Joe Kubert, Bob Haney, Ross Andru, Irv Novick, Jerry Grandenetti & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-56389-841-9

Sgt Rock and his “combat-happy Joes” of Easy Company are one of the great and most enduring creations of the American comicbook industry. The gritty meta-realism of Robert Kanigher’s ordinary guys in life-or-death situations captured the imaginations of generations of readers, young and old.

So pervasive is this icon of comicbook combat, that it’s hard to grasp that Rock is not an immortal industry prototype like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman – with us since the earliest moments of the industry – but is in fact a late addition to and child of the Silver Age of Comics.

This gloriously gritty, full-colour hardcover collection musters all pertinent material in the evolution of the immortal “topkick” from the early salvo of battle blockbusters from Our Army at War #83-96 (including the tentative first steps in the character’s evolution from G.I. Combat #68 and Our Army at War #81-82): a period spanning the dog-days of 1958 to the summer of 1960, wherein the entire field of American comics was just beginning a staggering revolution in style, theme and quality.

Following a fascinating reminiscence from co-creator and comics legend Joe Kubert (and this inaugural battle-book also includes detailed creator profiles), the pictorial action commences with a stunning Jerry Grandenetti cover – the first of many in this impressive tome – from G.I. Combat #68 (cover-dated January 1959), and the simple, unassuming filler story by Robert Kanigher & Joe Kubert, of an anonymous boxer who wasn’t particularly skilled but simply, stubbornly refused to be lie down and be beaten…

When ‘The Rock!’ enlisted in the US Army, however, that same Horatian quality attained mythic proportions as he held back an overwhelming Nazi attack by sheer grit and determination, remaining bloody but unbowed on a field littered with dead and broken men…

Although no more than another straight “ordinary guy finds his heroic niche” yarn for the anthology mill that proliferated in war comics of the era, something in this tale – other than the superbly taut script and stunning illustration – caught the attention of both the public and the editors…

Christened “Rocky”, the character returned as a sergeant in the Our Army at War (#81, April 1959), again facing overwhelmingly superior German forces as ‘The Rock of Easy Co.!’ in a brief but telling vignette by Bob Haney, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito before finally evolving an actual persona as Sgt. Rock in the next issue, with the Mort Drucker illustrated ‘Hold Up Easy!’: another harsh and declarative pocket-epic from Kanigher which saw everyman hard-luck heroes Easy Company delayed and then saved by callow replacements who eventually came good in the life-changing crucible of combat…

Our Army at War #83 (June 1959) then housed the true launch of the ordinary hero in ‘The Rock and the Wall!’ (by Kanigher & Kubert): wherein a tough-love, battlefield tutor shepherded his callow men to competence and survival amidst the constant perils of war. Here he met a rival for his men’s admiration in the equally impressive warrior Joe Wall…

Irv Novick illustrated ‘Laughter on Snakehead Hill!’ as the embattled dog-faces of Easy fought to take a heavily fortified citadel whilst OAAW#85 introduced the first continuing and marginally less-disposable cast member in the Kubert-limned ‘Ice Cream Soldier!’, wherein Rock assuaged a fearful replacement’s jangled nerves with tales of another hopeless “green apple” who grew into his job.

This ploy of incorporating brief past-action episodes into a baptism-of-fire scenario would play over and over again and never get old…

Following a magnificent cover by master of realism Russ Heath, Haney returned in #86 to script ‘Tank 711’ for Kubert as the terse top-kick educated another newbie in combat etiquette. Kanigher returned to describe the taking of “No-Return-Hill” and the initiation of four more raw recruits in ‘Calling Easy Co.!’ after which Grandenetti illustrated a brace of tales in #88 and 89: ‘The Hard Way’ in which Rock suffered a shocking crisis of confidence and ‘No Shot from Easy!’ wherein the indomitable sergeant was forced to give his toughest ever order…

Issue #90 is classic Kubert from start to finish as ‘Three Stripes Hill!’ revealed the story of how Rock won his stripes, after which the traditionally anthological Our Army at War instead offered three complete Sgt. Rock stories in #91. These began with ‘No Answer From Sarge!’ as the NCO risked everything to drag a recruit out of a crippling funk, continued in ‘Old Soldiers Never Run!’ where he had to weigh an old man’s pride against Easy’s continued existence, and concluded with Haney’s tragic fable of a sole-surviving Scottish soldier in ‘The Silent Piper!’

Issue #92 saw Kanigher & Kubert tackle battlefield superstitions in ‘Luck of Easy!’, after which ‘Deliver One Air Field!’ introduced Zack Nolan, a son of privilege who had to learn teamwork the hard way whilst #94’s ‘Target… Easy Company’ pitted the battle-weary Company against a German General determined to eradicate the high-profile heroes at all costs…

OAAW #95 debuted the charismatic and ambitious Bulldozer Nichols in ‘Battle of the Stripes!’: the hulking giant wanted Rock’s rank and position but grew to become the second most-recognisable character of the entire series, and this premier deluxe edition closes its preliminary campaign with ‘Last Stand for Easy!’ which saw the still in-charge non-com compelled to relinquish his lead-from-the-front position after a by-the-book officer deems him too valuable to waste on a battlefield…

Robert Kanigher at his worst was a declarative, heavy-handed and formulaic writer, but when writing his best stuff – as he does here – was an imaginative, evocative, iconoclastic and heart-rending observer of the warrior’s way and the unchanging condition of the dedicated and so very human ordinary foot-slogging G.I. He is a writer no comics fan should ignore or dismiss.

With superb combat covers from Grandenetti, Kubert or Heath fronting each episode, this titanic tome is a visually intoxicating compendium and brilliant tonic for any jaded fan looking for something more substantial than simple flash and dazzle. It’s also long overdue for revival and translation to digital formats.

A perfect example of true Shock and Awe; these are stories every fan should know.
© 1959, 1960, 2002 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Sgt. Rock: Between Hell & a Hard Place


By Joe Kubert & Brian Azzarello (Vertigo)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0053-4 (HC)                   978-1-4012-0054-1 (PB)

Sgt Rock and Easy Company rank amongst the greatest and most influential – if not enduring – creations of the American comic-book industry. The gritty meta-realism of Robert Kanigher’s ordinary guys in life-or-death situations captured the imaginations of generations of readers, young and old.

Most closely associated with those characters is legendary creator Joe Kubert, who worked as artist, writer, editor and educator since the earliest days of the medium. So, after a hiatus of many years, when a new Rock edition was announced in the early days of the 21st century, the artist was never in doubt.

Brian Azzarello was one of a vanishingly small pool of potential scripters for the proposed venture and the results of their collaboration was a powerful, if simplistic, morality play about the nature of killing. And, most importantly, it’s a damn’ fine read.

War is hell, but the killings are somehow justifiable if your country tells you so. How then does a moral man, a soldier, react when the life-taking moves beyond the acceptable parameters laid down by his superiors?

When Rock and his men capture four enemy officers after a frantic battle, the Nazis are taken prisoner and treated according to the Articles of War. The next morning three are dead and the fourth is missing. The Germans have all been executed at close range whilst confined…

Immediately a cloud of suspicion descends on the previously close-knit unit of G.I.s. Was it the missing prisoner, or is one of their own capable of the kind of atrocity they’re all fighting to end?

…And even so, don’t these monsters possibly deserve it? Rock must find all the answers. Not simply to restore his faith and trust, but because it’s the right thing to do.

As much detective mystery as war story, this is a searching and haunting re-examination of the most telling quandary of conflict. Why is dealing death right sometimes and not others? I can’t promise you answers, but the questions have seldom been asked in as striking or beautiful a manner.

Miraculously still available in both hardcover and paperback editions – but you’re plain out of luck if you like to revel in the delights of an electronic reader – challenging combat tales such as this one seem set to make a comeback considering the parlous state of world affairs, so why not get ahead of the curve now?
© 2003 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Star Wars: The Marvel Covers


By Jess Harrold & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-9838-3

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Perfect Last-Minute Stocking-Stuffer… 9/10

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the mythology of Star Wars. What you might not know is that the first sight future fanatics got of its breathtakingly expansive continuity and the mythology-in-the-making way back in 1977 was the premier issue of the Marvel comicbook tie-in. It hit shelves two weeks before the film launched in cinemas, setting the scene for a legion of kids and beginning a mini-phenomenon which encompassed the initial movie trilogy and expanded those already vast imaginative horizons.

Marvel had an illustrious run with the franchise – nine years’ worth of comics, specials and paperback collections – before the option was left to die.

Comicbook exploits were reinstated in 1993 by Dark Horse Comics who built on the film legacy with numerous titles – and a three more movies – until Disney acquired the rights to Star Wars in 2012. Around the same time, the home of Donald & Mickey also bought Marvel Comics and before long the original magic was being rekindled…

When Marvel relaunched the enterprise, they included not just a core title but also solo books for the lead stars. Star Wars #1 debuted on January 14th 2015, with Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and Poe Damaron coming soon after.

That auspicious, eagerly-anticipated event was supplemented by a crucial component of modern comics publishing: variant covers. These are alternative frontages for the same comicbook, usually by big-name artists of as part of sub-tropes of the medium such as images “homaging” earlier covers or as part of an ongoing event, commemoration or even trends such as Skottie Young’s occasional series of star characters as comedic babies…

Star Wars #1 had a staggering 70 individual variant covers. Successive issues also had a plethora of the same. What is most interesting here is how many of the name artists – and writers – were inspired by the comics they had read as kids as well as the films. Thus this gleefully exuberant hardcover art-collection, gathering those myriad covers for the new launch and interviewing the creators responsible…

Following an Introduction from Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonzo, writer Jess Harold and those writers and artists discuss their childhood memories of the phenomenon and current revival in ‘The Force is Strong with This #1’. There are reviews of the media’s reaction to the relaunch in ‘Search Your Feelings’ whilst ‘Never Tell Me the Odds’ analyses the breakdown in percentages of which character made the most appearances on the variant covers.

Then John Cassaday provides monochrome art and intimate secrets in ‘You Cannot Escape Your Destiny’ before the first tranche of covers is revealed in ‘The Force is Strong with This One’. The variants deluge includes black-&-white versions or pencils-only iterations of fully-coloured covers and both are seen side by side here.

That stunning parade includes work from Cassaday, Laura Martin, Joe Quesada, Daniel Acuña, Simone Bianchi, Mark Brooks, J. Scott Campbell, Nei Ruffino, Pascal Campion, Frank Cho, Jason Keith and John Tyler Christopher plus photo-still movie variants.

‘I Have a Bad Feeling About This…’ concentrates on John Tyler Christopher’s faux action-figure packages and is followed by a feature on comics-only creation Jaxxon (a giant green rabbit) with photo covers and more variations on the theme from Amanda Conner, Paul Mounts, Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, Muntsa Vicente, Gabriele Dell’Otto,  Mike Del Mundo, Mike Deodato Jr., Frank Martin, Dave Dorman, Pasqual Ferry, Frank D’Armata, Jenny Frison, Stephanie Hans, Adi Granov, Greg Horn, Dale Keown, Jason Keith, Justin Ponsor, Salvador Larroca, Edgar Delgado, Alex Maleev, Mike Mayhew, Rainier Beredo, Mike McKone, Bob McLeod, Mike Perkins, Andy Troy, David Petersen, Sara Pichelli, Joe Quinones, Humberto Ramos, Paul Renaud, Alex Ross, Stan Sakai, Mico Suayan and Chris Sotomayor.

The aforementioned jovial junior japes of Skottie Young are then explored and exhibited in ‘Aren’t You a Little Short for a Stormtrooper?’ before ‘Chapter Two: Star Wars #2-6’ dissects successive releases in ‘The Circle is Now Complete’ with Jordan D. White talking to writers Jason Aaron (Star Wars), Kieron Gillen (Darth Vader) and Mark Waid (Princess Leia) about their formative years and the franchise. This is augmented by covers-&-variants by Cassaday & Martin, Sergio Aragonés, Howard Chaykin & Jesus Aburtov, Tyler Christopher, Ramos & Delgado, Leinil Francis Yu, Keith, Marte Gracia, Nick Bradshaw, Giuseppe Camuncoli & Israel Gonzalez and Phil Noto.

‘Chapter Three: Darth Vader #1-6’ concentrates on the Sith Lord’s series with ‘Give Yourself to the Dark Side…’ supplemented by covers from Granov, Bianchi, Mark Brooks, J. Scott Campbell & Ruffino and movie stills whilst ‘Never tell Me the Odds’ features images from Cassaday & Martin, Tyler Christopher, Del Mundo, Horn, Land, Larroca & Delgado and Whilce Portacio & Sotomayor.

‘There is No Try…’ concentrates on the contributions of mega-star illustrator Alex Ross with numerous covers and an in-depth examination of his working process from posed models to pencils to finished work, before a gallery of more Vader pieces by Suayan, Sotomayor, Young, Granov, Dave Dorman, Larroca & Delgado and Noto.

‘Chapter Four: Princess Leia #1-6’ concentrates on the avenger from Alderaan as ‘There is Another…’ offers background and a wealth of original art by series illustrators Terry & Rachel Dodson. Then comes their covers plus more from Brooks, Campbell & Ruffino, Cassaday & Martin, Tyler Christopher, Amanda Conner, Dell’Otto, Granov, Jackson Guice, Horn, Land & Ponsor, Ross, Suayan, Sotomayor, Young, Maleev, Francesco Francavilla, Noto and more movie photo-covers.

Wrapping up the fabulous picture-fest is a stroll down memory lane in ‘Star Wars: The Original Marvel Years’ harking back to ‘A Long Time Ago’ with a short selection of classic covers by Rick Hoberg & Dave Cockrum, Chaykin, Carmine Infantino, Walter Simonson, Ron Frenz, Cynthia Martin, Bill Sienkiewicz and Klaus Janson, plus a range of modern tributes by Granov, Chaykin, Greg Hildebrandt, Gene Day & Delgado and Tom Palmer.

It would appear that there is an inexhaustible appetite for views of “A Galaxy Far, Far Away…” and the Star Wars franchise has spawned an awful lot of comics. This fascinating art compendium celebrates the verve, vitality and sheer impact of the printed material in a way no fan could possibly resist – especially as the latest cinematic chapter is about to unfold…
STAR WARS and related text and illustrations ™ and/or © of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or its affiliates. © & ™ of Lucasfilm Ltd.  All rights reserved.