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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

War Comics Key Issues Part 2

Here we are with Part 2 to this war comics key issues series. As stated before, this list will deal with actual war comics that came out during the early 50s and all the way up 'til the present.

Comics have always been vocal about war since the infancy of what's known as the modern comic industry that was spawned in New York City. Even before the U.S. actually declared war or entered any theater during the World War II, comic superheroes were already fighting the Nazis and Imperial Japan.

Much of this has to do with the fact that many of those who birthed and worked in the comic industry in America during that time were Jewish. Even at that time, there were those who were pro U.S. involvement and those against it. The comic industry before World War II were obviously pro and many comic legends did serve in World War II.

The same applies for the actual war comics that permeated the market during the early Korean War conflict. Much of the war comics that came out were pretty much overtly selling the war to the public, and many comic historians will note many of these war comics were pretty much propaganda pieces and obviously one-sided.

While the heroes of the stories were always justified and moral, barbaric depictions of brutal atrocities were only committed by the enemy in these early war comics. The Copper Age war comics dealing with the Vietnam War would be much different than these early comics of the genre.

This was a time where most of the U.S. were extremely anti-communist and feared the evil scourge of the Red Horde would take over the Earth. That attitude within the U.S. would somewhat change during the Vietnam War, but it was still strong long after that. After all, the Cold War would still persist well after Vietnam.

Not saying this a good or bad thing nor is this meant to be criticism in anyway. I'm just saying that's how the time was and how many of these war comics reflected that time and mentality. 

If you missed Part 1, click the link to go back. If not, here's more great American war comics that captured a mentality and era not all that long ago.

Title of comic changed
Begins war format

Before the title was longer, it was just "Young Men". When war comics came the rage, it wasn't any surprise that comic publishers often changed the format of certain titles.

So Young Men became Young Men on the Battlefield, and the title became a solely dedicated war comic. Prior to this change in format, the title did start to see some war stories slipped in here and there.

It wasn't like the change was abrupt and all the sudden. Young Men on the Battlefield's war format would only last until issue #20 before superheroes would eventually take over again.

Young Men on the Battlefield #12 has the cover date of December, 1951. The comic was published by Atlas.

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1st issue to war comic series

Once again Atlas would pump out yet another war comic during the early years of this genre. Battle Action started off as a non-specific character anthology, but it would spawn the creation of a specific character who was somewhat popular during the era.

That character's introduction would be in issue #5, and we'll be getting to it soon. Battle Action #1 has the cover date of February, 1952.

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1st issue to war comic title

It's true that Atlas pumped out a crap load of war titles during the early war rage of the time. What is true is that many of their war comics weren't long running titles.

In the current market today, most Atlas (Marvel) war titles aren't as valuable as their DC Comics counterparts. I'm thinking that DC may have put out better quality or memorable war comics.

Either way, the Atlas stuff is a lot less valuable than most of the DC war titles. Either they're overlooked or they weren't as good to fans of the genre.

Men in Action is just one of the many war titles Atlas pumped out. However, the title would change to headline a specific character.

The series total would only last 14 issues despite the title change. Men in Action #1 has the cover date of April, 1952.

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1st issue to comic series 

Definitely one of DC most popular of war comics even today since the popular character of Sgt. Rock was introduced in this comic series. This title would also see legendary comic artist Neal Adams make his DC Comic debut in the Our Army at War title as well.

Eventually the title would be renamed to star Sgt. Rock as the featured headliner of the series, but that would not happen until the later Bronze Age. Atlas may have beat DC Comics to the war punch, but many of the DC war titles are a lot more popular, valuable, and would be longer running.

This title here is a good example of that. We will definitely get to those other Our Army at War key issues, but this is issue #1.

Our Army at War #1 has the cover date of August, 1952, and it is definitely one of the more valuable and sought out war comics in the current market.

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1st issue to comic series
Title changed with this issue

Bring on DC into the war craze! Just like other comic publishers during the time, some of DC Comics titles got a change in format and name. The title use to be Star-Spangled Comics.

Although DC continued the numbering from Star-Spangled Comics with this issue until #133, they did reboot the numbering starting at #3. So, yes, there are two #131, #132, and #133 issues under this title. This comic series would later see the Unknown Soldier become the lead featured character..

The series had an all-star group of talent that worked on this title. Legendary writers included David Micheline, Ed Herron, Bill Finger, and Bob Haney.

Legendary artists that worked on the comic were Neal Adams, Ross Andru, Gene Colan, Mort Drucker, Mike Esposito, Russ Heath, Carmine Infantino, Bernard Krigstein, Joe Kubert, Leonard Starr, and Curt Swan. Star-Spangled War Stories #131 has the cover date of August, 1952.

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1st issue to titled series
Titled changed with this issue

This is another DC title that switched it's format to tell heroic tales of courage, honor, and bravery of the U.S. Armed Forces. This comic used to be All-American Western and before that All-American Comics.

Once again, this title published #127 and #128 with the All-American Men of War brand and then rebooted it's numbering with issue #2. The comic was a long running series as well, and the comic series would influence and give inspiration to several of well-known, pop artist  Roy Lichtenstein's art pieces during the 60s.

We shall see the comic issue and panel that inspired Roy Lichtenstein as this war comics key issues series unfolds further. All-American Men of War is a popular war comic and this 1st issue to the titled series is one of the more valuable war comics out there. Cover date for All-American Men of War #127 is September, 1952.

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1st appearance Battle Brady
1st appearance Socko Swenski
Another Atlas title here and another character specific lead is born. Battle Brady's 1st appearance is in Battle Action #5.

Brady served under Sergeant Socko Swenski during the Korean War, and the character would eventually headline his own comic. However, he was not a long-running character, but he is one of the few specific characters to be featured in war comics under the Atlas brand.

Battle Brady was created by Hank Chapman and Joe Maneely, and Battle Action #5 has the cover date of October, 1952.

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1st appearance of Combat Casey
1st appearance of Penny Pennington

Combat Casey is another heroic American G.I. that was introduced as a recurring specific character in the Altas world of war comics. Like Combat Kelly, he and his sidekick Penny Pennington both served in World War II before Korea.

Casey and Penny fought in Dog Company under the command of Captain Rocke. Penny is a physically weak soldier who relies more on his intelligence in the field. Combat Casey, of course, is burly man of action who is fearless entering into the thick of combat.

Combat Casey would eventually headline his own series and take over the War Combat comic series in the following issue. The series would only last #34 issues with him headlining it. War Combat #5 has the cover date of November, 1952.

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When it comes to most war comics, there were a slew of pretty uneventful titles and issues. It seems that key issue preferences are very similar to the Golden Age horror comics.

Both genres in the early years have few 1st appearances and most of the importance for many issues were usually delegated to artist, classic stories and comic covers, and some #1 issues. Many of the Golden Age legends did produce art for this genre of comics.

Once again, I'm not quite sure why most of the Marvel (Atlas) war comics are so undervalued compared to DC Comics. Battle #1 seems to be one of the most valuable for Atlas. Either way, they are pretty scarce out there in the market currently.

Part 2 is done, but there are more to cover. However, I think I'm going to switch hit and work on another key issues list simultaneous with this one.

There are quite a bit of war comics, and even though they lose most of its muster in the Bronze Age, the genre does continue well into the Copper Age as well. So see ya at Part 3, and just click that blue link below to continue.


  1. Hey Mayhem,

    important point you are bringing up here. I think those comics who have certain panels which influenced pop art artists have a bright future in terms of investment value. I tried to hunt down a few but had no success. So, what I' m really trying to say, could you make a key issue list to that theme? It would have to feature romance and war comics which had panels that leaped directly on the canvas of Lichtenstein, Warhol and others.

    Max Rebo

  2. Cool idea! You would have to ad Richard Hamilton for sure, the founder of the term POP ART did use quite a few comics for his art.

    Speculation Jones

  3. I' m definitely all in! Would support such a list. These comics are great to collect. I mean, just think of it as having the first print of a multi million dollar painting...


  4. Mayhem,
    Thanks for doing the War articles. I love reading the articles. Look forward to the next installment. Also, funny to see the Lichtenstein association.

    1. No problem, they're pretty interesting and captures an era and mentality in America of the time. It will be continued.