Book of the Day - 3/27/04

Star Spangled War Stories #158 Aug-Sep 1971

- Overstreet 2006 (9.2) NM- Price: $28 -



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DC and war comics.  For anyone that collects Silver and Bronze comics, those two words are almost synonymous.   The other comic publishers had their various war titles also but none matched the quality or output of DC's titles which included Our Army At War, Our Fighting Forces, GI Combat, and Star Spangled War Stories.   The reason in my opinion?  No other publisher was able to depict war in any realistic way other than DC.  Similar to their horror titles, DC had the right mix of creators working certain genres that boosted the quality of those titles far ahead of the competition.  It's true that in 1971, Marvel, and their associated "realistic" superhero universe, would soon pass DC as the #1 comics publisher but it I would argue that DC during the early 70s was a much more varied comics publisher; excelling in all genres outside of strict superhero stories.  Star Spangled War Stories #158 is just one example of why.....

 The issue features an early appearance of the Unknown Soldier (1st appearance SSWS #151), an unidentified army vet who injured his face during battle and now uses his talent as a master of disguise to battle the Axis during World War II.  In this story, he infiltrates a Nazi concentration camp to assist a captured Underground leader in escaping by disguising himself as her husband.  The Camp Commandant, who doesn't know the captured woman's real identity and has taken a fancy to her, puts Unknown to work immediately and threatens his life in an attempt to control the woman as his concubine.  Evidentially, Unknown will have to impersonate Adolph Eichmann himself to gain release for the two and their final escape to Switzerland.

The story was written by Bob Haney but the star of the story and one of the most important aspects to the success of DC war titles is artist Joe Kubert.  A glance at the cover will tell you why.  His style captures gritty emotion better than perhaps any artist to ever have worked in comics.  While he occasionally drew superhero comics, Kubert's style fit "real life" stories much better and war stories make his art really shine.  While many other great artists worked on DC's war line, such as Russ Heath, Alex Toth, Sam Glanzman, and Doug Wildey, Kubert's work on the titles is what is remembered most fondly by fans.  And Kubert is still doing war comics.  His recent Yossel graphic novel, an semi-autobiographical "What-If" look at life in a concentration camp after the Warsaw uprising. is one of the best comics of the year in my opinion.  Run out and get a copy as it gets my highest recommendation!

I would be remiss not to mention writer and editor Bob Kanigher as instrumental to the success of the war titles as well.  Though he didn't write this issue, his writing and vision is evident across the whole line.  And what a line it was!  If you aren't too picky about condition, these comics can be had for cheap.  For true comics entertainment value, the DC war line is hard to beat....