Tuesday, August 10, 2010

68: Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #2

Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #2
May 2, 1963

  • First off, a correction: Last issue, I mentioned the problem of Gabe having been miscolored as a white guy throughout the bulk of the first issue. The oft-cited story (which seems to have originated with Stan, or at least is attributed to commentary by Stan) is that the error occurred after it left Marvel's hands - though I pointed out that such a story seemed suspect. Far from the error owing to sinister or unsavory reasons, however, reader Nick Caputo convincingly suggests that the mistake might have originated much closer to home, as the original artwork to this second issue bears a margin note to Stan Goldberg, the colorist, stating "Stan G - this is Gabe". And so, a cautionary lesson about too-eager conclusions: Sometimes a mistake is just a mistake!

    Nick Fury accepts his new marching orders.  Barely.

  • Sgt. Fury's first issue began with the cast being introduced to the reader and brought into the field. No hard introduction is needed now, though, so the issue opens with the Howlers finishing a mission before heading back to their camp for some richly-deserved R&R. Little peace is had, however, before they're almost immediately drafted by their commanding officer - "Happy Sam" Sawyer - into another assignment, and a vital one at that: The Germans have been developing their own version of our Manhattan Project, and are quickly on the way to achieving the atomic bomb. Note that not only does this give their next mission an urgency that cannot be denied, but it also allows Stan to deftly combine a World War II comic with one of his current pet obsessions: Nuclear paranoia.

    The comedy with which Kirby infuses this scene is priceless.
    Dugan clutching his hat is a particularly good touch!

  • To Marvel readers who are more familiar with Nick Fury's later occupation as cool-and-collected, ultra-serious spymaster - in other words, about every single one - it's a bit surprising to see him at this earlier stage in his career. The grimace with which he receives a chewing out from "Happy Sam" is an expression you can't really conceive on Nick once he's with SHIELD, and his over-the-top bluster which rallies the Commandos can be likewise arresting. But it's clearly a raucous and rowdy group he leads - they're not called "Howling" for nothing - and the mutual ribbing, as well as such comedic turns as Dugan's running joke about the wife his service has freed him from, illustrates a close-knit family bond from which they derive their strength.

    Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos raise some hell,
    as the energy of the scene seems to explode off the page.

  • Still and all, it is a Silver Age Marvel, so the plotting remains goofy. Setting out disguised in a fishing boat, they meet up with and capture a German E-boat in short order. No sooner have they made the mainland, however, than Dum-Dum Dugan is captured - so they divert to free him, of course! But here's where it turns screwy: Having liberated Dugan, they then arrange for their entire group to be captured, since being taken to the labor site that borders the weapons development base seems the speediest way to their goal. This is sure to raise an eyebrow or two, and the reader might understandably wonder if this wild bunch casually suggesting they be thrown into a concentration camp is in questionable taste. But you stop for a moment, and you think of how Stan Lee and Jack Kirby both served in World War II, and you recall their real names - Stanly Lieber and Jacob Kurtzberg - and you know what? You're somehow inclined to give them a pass.

    Last issue featured a full-page backup showcasing the various guns of wartime;
    this time there's another weapons page as well as this "Know your enemy" feature.