Sgt. Rock #382,November 1983. The feature story was written by Robert Kanigher; the artist is Dan Spiegle. I haven’t read a lot of Sgt. Rock comics, so maybe this is typical. But this book seems like the editors said, “We don’t have a story for this month? Well, see what bits and pieces we have lying around and let’s put something together!” The cover is totally cool. But in the meantime . . .
The feature story, which is just a few pages long involves the men of Easy Company taking a city from the Nazis which has been impenetrable to all of the other U.S. soldiers who have tried. Maybe it’s because Easy Company is a cross section of America. There’s a an Irishman, a Native American, an African American, a guy with glasses, a really big guy with a beard, etc. Plus, Easy used a bazooka to blast through the barricade, something none of the other groups had thought of. After blowing up the barricade and all of the snipers who were hiding behind it, they make quick business of the few remaining soldiers in the town. Finally they overpower a group of children led by a bloodthirsty fanatical teen Nazi (my new favorite band), forcing them to surrender. That’s the crazed teen on the cover. The story ends with him dying and the rest of the kids as POWs. And then this cryptic comment.
I have no idea what that means.
There are five, count ’em, five other short pieces in this book. One of them is a story about the Native American soldier, Little Sure Shot, saving some civilians from the Nazis while earning the right to wear a shorter feather on his helmet. The best part of this story is the opening when Little Sure Shot is playing with a grenade and thinking about what his ancestors could have done if they’d had such a thing 500 years ago.
Of the other four pieces, one is a single page joke, the art and the joke being not quite the standards of Family Circus. You can hear the trombone Waaa waaaa-ing after the punch line. The other three are labeled “Battle Album.” One double page spread gives a short history of the Native American Ghost Dance and the resulting slaughter of women and children at Wounded Knee. Another two-page spread gives a brief history of the mercenary wars in Europe in the 1600’s that resulted in the death tens of thousands. “The mercenary knights fought and killed not for honor . . . or home . . . or country! Only for money!” (Today’s discussion question–Have people ever really fought for anything else?) The last Battle Album is a single page about how cool the F-111 fighter plane is.
Sgt. Rock is an interesting book tonally. The theme throughout seems to be that war is really terrible,
but also really cool at the same time.
I think that’s a theme that is difficult for an artist to avoid when dealing with war in a thoughtful way. Movies, like Apocalypse Down or Full Metal Jacket, for example, movies that the film makers set out to make as anti-war, are often embraced by soldiers as inspiring rather than challenging. That probably speaks to how people resist challenges to important and strongly held beliefs. But it also is about how big machines, and big guns, and big explosions, and big men are cool. Sgt. Rock is not a mindless Kill-Em-All–America-Rules! book. It knows war is terrible. But it’s a comic book. And it’s entertainment. And just as the characters of Sgt. Rock and Easy Company are pretty cool and bad-ass, it seems like war might be that way some too.
One bazooka up.