Friday, January 8, 2010

Our Fighting Forces #124

Our Fighting Forces #124 (On Sale: January 8, 1970) has a Losers cover by Joe Kubert.

This issue begins with The Losers in "Losers Take All" by Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. The Losers sneak in through Nazi-occupied France to another, unnamed Nazi-occupied country to rescue a king from the hands of the Nazis. There is a modicum of action along their way to the castle where the king is being held, but they eventually make it. There they find that the king is only a child.

As the Nazis storm the castle ("Have good time stormin' the castle!"), the Losers escape with the boy-king by making parachutes out of the royal curtains ("No, not the curtains!"). After blowing up a statue of Hitler in the town plaza the Losers turn the boy over to Allied forces. I'm not quite sure I see the purpose in this story existing, but I feel that way after reading many Kanigher books.

There is a nice two-page Battle Album on the "Killer Flying Fish of the North Atlantic" by Ken Barr.

We end with the "find' of the issue: "Parable" by Jerry DeFuccio and John Severin. This is the first of five war stories that Jerry DeFuccio would write for DC and it is wonderful in its richness of character and place. This may be due to Jerry's tenure at EC Comics where he was an assistant editor and researcher for Harvey Kurtzman's war books, Frontline Combat and Two-Fisted Tales, books for which Jerry also wrote stories. But Jerry is mainly known for his long career as a writer at Mad Magazine, where was was also an associate editor for 25 years. Jerry DeFuccio died of cancer in August, 2001.

The "Parable" takes place in British-occupied Kandahar Afghanistan in the 1880s and tells the tale of one Private Shelley, a tightrope walker turned British soldier who fell in love with Afghanistan and after his discharge went to live with one of the local tribes. There he made the tribesmen's lives better, lowering the infant mortality rate and turning the men to a more peaceful way of life. But they believed that Shelley was a saint and as such would serve them better in paradise looking after their black souls, so one day they gutted him and left him on the side of the road for dead while they rushed home to pray for his released spirit in paradise.

But he wasn't quite dead yet and a British patrol finds him and brings him to their fort, where none of them recognize him since his appearance had changed so much since joining the tribe. When they ask him through a translator if his wound is deep he answers with a quote from Romeo and Juliet, "Tis not deep as a well nor wide as a church-door" and they realize that he is an Englishman. As one of the men put it, "He died as an Englishman...without denying his people of the Hindu-Kush!" This story was reprinted in Sgt. Rock Special #3.

This story also marked the first work at DC by John Severin since 1958, his first work with the company being in 1948 on a Boy Commandos story. Severin has had four good runs at DC, the first in 1957-1958 doing war stories. The second begins with this story and continues a year from now when he takes over the reigns of the Losers from 1971-1974. The third begins in late 1980 and really picks up steam in 1981 when he draws Enemy Ace for two years. His fourth run began in 2000 and contains runs on Desperadoes Quiet of the Grave, Caper, and Bat Lash.

John Severin is well known for his stint at EC Comics working on Two-Fisted Tales and of course as one of the five artists who began Mad. When EC folded John worked for years at Atlas/Marvel and was well regarded as an inker for Dick Ayers in Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos and Herb Trimpe on The Incredible Hulk. In the 1970s he worked with his sister Marie Severin on King Kull.

Many people know John Severin from his years of association with Cracked Magazine, where he did countless movie and TV parodies and tons of covers.

Edited by Joe Kubert.


Captain Zorikh said...

Thanks for posting this up. I always liked war comics, and DC's were always pretty good. Less jingoistic than Charlton, less comic-opera that Sgt. Fury. The Losers were a particularly interesting bunch, I have a couple of Kirby issue which are non-stop action!.

I enjoy your Monty Python and Princess Bride references. They make these reviews a true pleasure to read!

Captain Zorikh said...

Oh yeah, John Severin is one of my favorite artists, I always believed that his drawings were of things that could actually exist and trusted his historical accuracy. He never succumbed to the '60's-'70's trend for crazy and "innovative" page design (which I love when done well ie: Neal Adams or Gene Colan, and hate when done badly ie: much of the early '90's), but kept his simple, box-panel structure that allowed the story to be told on its own merits. I would study his pictures in "Blazing Combat" and "Savage Tales" for hours!

Steven said...

the DeFuccio stories were intended for his own Creepy-format magazine, which had the working name "Chevrons". he claimed he only sold DC first printing rights.