As a kid, I wasn’t into war comics, but I sure did love the “war comic for people who hate comics”: Marvel’s Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. That was the tagline that Marvel developed for this offbeat war comic. (I assume Stan Lee, as both writer and in-house ad agency, wrote that line.)
This series quickly became the print version of a WWII buddy movie. The Howling Commandos were a special task force, more like Army Rangers than the British commandos, who were dispatched on fantastic, all-odds-against-them missions. The Howling Commandos joked and kidded their way through every adventure. It all seemed like great fun, and in contrast to real war, downright happy and hilarious.
As we all got older, it was harder to choke down Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. We learned about the horrors and atrocities of war, and the meandering silliness of this comic seemed to trivialize an admittedly awful subject. We could draw the line at glamorizing war, especially when used for macho adventure, but before long, treating it too lightheartedly was verboten. In fact, in the waning days of the Sgt. Fury series, Marvel began swinging the pendulum in the other direction, most notably with titles like War Is Hell.
Still, there was so much to love about that series. Especially when it really hit its stride with Gary Friedrich scripts, Dick Ayers pencils, and John Severin inks. Those were gripping, dense and clever comics. One of my all-time favorite covers depicted on character on his way to a court-martial. Not the standard stuff of war comics.
That was then, and this is now. And I have some good news! Ron Marz and Darryl Banks have reunited (You will remember them from their groundbreaking Green Lantern series.) to collaborate on a new “war comic”: Harken’s Raiders.