Book of the Day - 3/29/05

Blazing Battle Tales #1 July 1975

- Overstreet 2006 (9.2) NM- Price: $14 -

 

 

Click for Larger View

I'm a big fan of the comics produced for a very short time by Atlas/Seaboard in the mid-70s.  For those unaware, Atlas/Seaboard, founded by former Marvel owner Martin Goodman, published a wide range of comics in 1975.  Word has it that Goodman started the company to directly compete against Marvel due to a failed promise of keeping his son installed in an editorial capacity at the House of Ideas.  And Atlas/Seaboard went full-bore into the endeavor publishing 23 different comics titles and 5 black and white magazines from January to October 1975.  These titles also represented a wide range of genres to include superheroes, martial arts, Conan-clones, horror, humor, westerns, and, finally, war.  Blazing Battle Tales #1 being one example...

Blazing Battle Tales #1 (BBT) wasn't the first war title the company released,  Savage Combat Tales cover dated February 1975 would be the first, but BBT possibly had more known veteran comic creators contribute to a single issue than any of the company's other comics offerings.  First off is the very nice cover drawn by Frank Thorne.  Other than Neal Adams' contributions to Ironjaw and Planet of the Vampires, this is by far my favorite Atlas Seaboard cover.

The cover is taken from the issue's first story, One Armed Beast, which also introduces the star of the comic, SGT Hawk.  The story, written by John Albano with art by Pat Broderick and inks by Jack Sparling, brings the reader quickly up to speed with SGT Hawk and his Killer Platoon.  They are obviously GI grunts who do their jobs quite well as they are personally picked to rescue an important French Resistance leader who's been captured by a notorious Nazi, the "One Armed Beast" of the title.  Hawk and two of his men infiltrate behind enemy lines, quickly rescue the French hottie (aren't they all in these stories), and blast their way out.  Eventually Hawk finds Lefty and eliminates him without prejudice.   Frankly, ff you replaced "Hawk" with "Rock", you'd be wondering why the DC logo and Joe Kubert were missing from the cover...

The second story, the Sky Demon, was written by Albano with art by Al Williams and featured Captain Gunner, a crack US P-51 pilot.  The focus of the story is Gunner's tendency to work alone which doesn't sit well with his superiors.  He's ordered to assist other squadron planes on a mission and during their return to base, Gunner is ordered to not attack a train despite him having a "sixth sense" something important is aboard.  Apparently his "sense" is well served as intelligence reveals the train was carrying none other than Hitler.  His superiors eat crow and give Gunner back his independence.  I should note that Williams can draw a very nice P-51 which a fair number of artists have gotten wrong over the years...

The final story of the issue is a two pager recognizing the acts of a real World War II veteran, PVT William Swanson.  The salute was, again, written by Albano with wonderful art by John Severin and lettered by none other than Alan Kupperberg.

As far as being a quality war title, this issue compares favorably with others on the stands at the time.  If I had to rate it though, I'd say it was much better than Marvel's SGT Fury but lags a little against the DC war heavyweights.  This isn't surprising seeing how many of the artists have worked on war titles during their careers.

Blazing Battle Tales #1 would be the one and only issue released.  Not surprising as Atlas/Seaboard reportedly started having financial trouble during this time.  The reasons given for the publisher's demise have been many.  Being crowded off the stands by the Big Two, releasing too many titles at once without an established fan base, and Goodman starting the endeavor from a financial point of weakness being a few.  Regardless, as a kid picking up these issues off the stands, oblivious to all the mentioned background factors, I loved the line.  I believe I bought most all the issues, with the exception of Vicki, off the stands and wondered where the next issues were when the issues started being delayed.  When I realized the line was canceled, this is one reader who was seriously disappointed.  But there are the issues that were published and 30 years later I still like these issues as much as then.  Maybe it's nostalgia talking but not a bad thing to have in this hobby...