In the first four parts of this series on war comics, we’ve delved into the depths of the Golden and Atomic Ages to showcase the key books you should focus on if you’re interested in collecting comics featuring fighting men. All have been mere preludes until now, however, for bursting into the Silver Age come the mightiest of the war comics. Join us for the dawn of the sergeants!
Sgt. Rock and Easy Company
Despite their success updating their super-heroes beginning with the Flash in Showcase #4, DC was still very much in the war comics game. While the new versions of old heroes would prove to be popular, war comics were the bread and butter of the company – solid sellers with proven track records. This was proven beginning in June 1959 when Sgt. Rock made his debut in Our Army at War #83, written by Bob Kanigher and penciled by Joe Kubert.
The character, along with Easy Company, would be so successful that DC would eventually change the name of the title to reflect its star beginning with Sgt. Rock #302. In fact, the title would continue for another 120 issues before finally shutting down with Sgt. Rock #422 in July 1988, long after most war comics had sounded their last taps.
Our Army at War #83
For collectors of DC war titles, there is no greater grail than Our Army at War #83. This is not an easy comic to find, particularly in higher grades. There are only 200 copies in the CGC census. Of those, only one comes in at the highest grade, a 9.0 that has never sold.
There are three copies in the next highest grade: 8.0. Of those three, two copies have sold – one for $16,730 in a Heritage auction in November 2011, and the other for the exact same price in a Heritage auction in August 2015. No 8.0 graded copy has sold since. The most recent sale was of a 2.5 graded copy which sold for $3,120 in a Heritage auction on March 15, and it’s that grade where we’ll look for any trends.
The previous high price paid for a 2.5 graded copy of Our Army at War #83 was $1,500 way back in August 2013. While the price waxed and waned over the ensuing nine years, its floor would never fall below $900 and its peak would never rise above that $1,500 threshold – until this year. It’s an odd thing in a year of comic prices correcting from highs in 2021 to see a comic reach its highest selling point – more than double its previous high – and in a low grade as well. Yet, here we have Our Army at War #83.
Only time will tell if this price is an anomaly or if we’ll see this reflecting upward into the higher grades. If you collect war comics, or you’re looking into collecting war comics, this is one of the great treasures, one of the mighty keys. You’ll pay handsomely for it, but it will be a worthy book in your collection.
Sgt. Rock Prototypes
Before we get to our next top-selling sarge, it should be noted that there were a few issues with prototypes of Sgt. Rock prior to his first appearance in Our Army at War #83. G.I. Combat #68, published in January 1959, featured “The Rock.” This issue was also created by the Kanigher/Kubert team and was, for many years, considered the first appearance of Sgt. Rock, despite not being the same character.
Our Army at War #81 and Our Army at War #82 both featured prototypes of Sgt. Rock, one even coming so close as to be named Sgt. Rocky. Neither was produced by the Kanigher/Kubert creative team, however. While of historical note, these prototype issues are less sought-after by collectors.
Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos
Just because they’d changed their name from Atlas to Marvel and had success with their own superheroes, didn’t mean that Stan Lee and company weren’t still serious mimics of others’ success. Beginning with Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #1, published in May 1963, Marvel would introduce their own sergeant into comic book lore, as well as his own company, known as the Howling Commandos, and created by the Lee/Kirby team that was responsible for so much of Marvel’s Silver Age output.
As with Sgt. Rock, the character would prove to be extremely popular, with his first series lasting until Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #167, released in December 1981. Sgt. Fury would go on to become Nick Fury, leader of S.H.I.E.L.D., and would eventually show up in the MCU, albeit in a different guise.
Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #1
The first thing you notice when looking at Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #1 as a collector and investor is how many more copies there are of this book in the CGC census than Our Army at War #83 – 1,078 to be precise. While it doesn’t sit on the top of the Marvel Silver Age heap, it is still a mega key that commands top dollar and a great deal of interest from collectors of war comics.
This a comic frequently available for sale, as evidenced below by the four sales in June alone:
However, it was just back on March 18 that this book went for its highest sale ever – a 9.2 graded copy selling for $80,500 in a ComicConnect auction. That’s 181% higher than the previous high sale of a copy graded 9.0 or higher – a 9.4 graded copy selling in a Heritage auction in November 2013 for $28,680. If you’re one of the fortunate holders of one of the seven copies of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #1 that has received a 9.4 grade from CGC, your comic is likely worth six figures.
Next Time: Silver Age War Comics – Part 2
DC wasn’t done with their output of war comics in the Silver Age, not by a long shot. Nor was Marvel. Next time we’ll take a look at a number of other Silver Age Marvel and DC war comics.