In honor of Veteran’s Day, we’re looking at some impactful books for the DC era of mighty war books. For years, war tales have told tales of larger-than-life figures as they make their way through battle. Let’s dive into a couple books that earn their spot in this DC War Anthologies blog.
Our Army at War and G.I. Combat
Both of these classic DC series, Our Army at War and G.I. Combat, are tributes to the popularity and importance of the stories they tell. For over 35 years, each of these series presented mostly one-shot stories full of action.
If you were a collector in the 70s, you certainly have a few of these books nestled into a long box somewhere. It is worth taking a moment to reflect on why Sgt. Rock, Easy Company and the crew of the Haunted Tank touched us.
They weren’t saving the multi-verse or preserving the time continuum. They were doing something imminently more relatable. These were heroes, men who looked like our fathers and grandfathers, and even a bit like what we might hope to be if called upon.
The Haunted Tank Cometh
G.I. Combat is one of the best known of this genre. Started in 1952 by Quality Comics and taken over by DC in 1956 with issue #44, it presented a monthly installment of action. While early efforts were Cold War propaganda, the gritty war stories often depicted the unglamorous side of war and eventually found their footing with WW II stories.
G.I. Combat would run until 1987 with the best regular feature being The Haunted Tank. Led by Lt. Jeb Stuart and assisted by a general ghost, the crew of the Haunted Tank managed to fight their way across the North African and European theaters. Besides G.I Combat #44, their first appearance in G.I. Combat #87 is the most investible book in the series with steady valuations and sales. The series (issue #68) also gives birth to the most iconic war comic hero of our age, Sgt. Rock.
By 1959 “The Rock” appears in the other long-running DC war anthology, Our Army at War. Also started in 1952 and running until 1988, the series cranked out a graphic depiction of battles and struggles during war. In 1977, DC decided to rename the Our Army at War series with the moniker of its best-known character, Sgt. Rock.
Created by Joe Kubert, Sgt. Rock leads the men of Easy Co. through realistic and quick-paced stories. But, are the comics still relevant and worth remembering today or maybe even owning? To answer that, we have to understand why Sgt. Rock was popular enough to run hundreds of issues.
It is what we love about shows such as Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers. Sgt. Rock is enviable and relatable. Rock is an everyman character, tossed from his job in a Pennsylvanian steel mill into battles where he leads by bravery and humility. He is unshakeable, he is humble and he is the leader we all want to be. At the very least, he is the type of person we want to be in charge when the chips are on the table. That is the beauty of storytelling. We get to imagine these situations, which, in the 1950s and 60s, was not that long in the past. Through them, we might grasp the struggles of war.
“Make War No More”
Part of what we need to remember now, over three decades since these series stopped publication, is that these are not glorifications of war, they are hero tales as old as time. Sgt. Rock is not superhuman, he is every human. These are stories more linked to the ancient tradition of storytelling than tales of mutant superheroes or symbiote-controlled teenagers.
You can’t close a book in the series without wanting to give thanks to the men and women who serve in these types of situations. The creator of the series often spoke of them as cautionary tales, almost anti-war, which is why, in 1967, he started including a four-word slogan a the closing of many Sgt. Rock stories – Make War No More. That’s worth remembering.