Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Review: Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos

 No, I’m not reviewing a new self-published comic this week.  Rather, I will be discussing the classic Marvel Age series known as Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos!  I recently had the opportunity to pick up the Essential collection of Fury’s squad’s first adventures and reading them has been an absolute pleasure.  For anyone reading who does not know, Sgt. Fury is the very same Nick Fury who would eventually become the head of the counter-terrorist agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D.  In a slightly different incarnation he has been featured in the Marvel movies of the past few years.  The Howling Commandos (minus Fury) also made an appearance in Captain America: First Avenger.

Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos was the Marvel Age of comics’ entry into the war genre.  Comics covering action during World War II have existed since the war was actually being fought, but there has always been nostalgia about the efforts of the good men who fought against Hitler and his ilk.  Stan Lee with Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers created a group of WWII combatants unlike any seen before or since.  The Howling Commandos were completely off the wall and extreme in their personalities and looks.  They weren’t by-the-book soldiers, but rather a strange assortment of characters that were the best anti-Nazi force the allied forces had.  They took on great challenges and succeeded despite overwhelming odds by using their unique talents and quick thinking to fool their opponents and pull off win after win.

I’ll try to give you somewhat of a feel for the individual members, but they’re hard to describe. (It’s better to go ahead and read the comics.)  Nick Fury works his men hard and never smiles, though we know he really cares for the men.  Dum Dum Dugan is huge and always complains about his wife and mother-in-law.  Dino is a famous American actor who uses his talents, including his ability to speak Italian and German, to infiltrate the enemy lines.  Percy is the proper British gentleman, who wields an umbrella in addition to a smg. Izzy is a great mechanic and munitions expert.  Reb is a southerner and has some ridin’ and ropin’ skills.   And Gabe is a jazz trumpeter who plays a bugle to distract and intimidate the opposition.  The group is known for being rather diverse, especially because Gabe is black and the US Army wasn’t desegregated until well after WWII.  But it works to perfection in this comic.  Just ignore the historical inaccuracy.

The Commandos manage to be light-hearted and fun while tackling some serious issues, including war and death and the toll upon people in occupied countries.  The Commandos often subdue their opponents without killing them, and the violence is very toned down.  Having been created in the 60s, there wasn’t a lot of violence allowed in comics.  Stan, Jack, Dick, and the others involved in this comic have been praised by many a fan over the years, and I don’t know if I’ve said anything new, but I’m glad I got around to reading these comics and I’d say it’s the best non-superhero comic Stan Lee helped create.  One last note: the final comic in the Essential collection is a Howlers’ reunion during the Korean War.  It was amazing the feeling of nostalgia I had despite the fact that I hadn’t waited years between this tale and the WWII stories!  Excelsior indeed!!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Review: The Serial Squad

I was at the Sandusky Art Walk (a local art-in-the-park type event) this summer and someone was looking at some sketches I had done of the Serial Squad.  As I was trying to explain the concept to him he asked “So it’s stuff like Captain Crunch?”  I had no idea where he had gotten that idea.  Then, a few hours later, it hit me!

Anyway, the Serial Squad is an excellent independent comic created by Paul Schultz, and is another comic I picked up at a recent convention.  Actually, I filled up my Serial Squad collection this year, as I had some issues from previous encounters with Paul.  Obviously, if I’m picking up more I like the book.  I’d say it’s my favorite independent super-group book.  And there’s a good reason why.

You ever read something, or even see a movie or TV show and think: What a great idea!  Why didn’t I think of that?!  That’s the Serial Squad to me.  The Serial Squad takes place in the 1940’s during World War II.  The US government has put together a group of costumed heroes to instill hope in America and defeat the Nazis (the most evil group of villains in history!).  The costumed heroes consist of actors who play costumed heroes in movie serials.  If you didn’t know, a movie serial is a story broken down into short episodes that was popular in the early days of Hollywood, including during WWII.  New episodes of a serial were usually shown every week in the local theater before the “main feature”.   Many of these serial involved heroic characters in action-oriented tales and some involved costumes.  Anyway, the government puts together a group of these Hollywood guys and sends them into real action using the abilities they’ve honed while doing their own stunts in the movies.  This leads to lots of high adventure in the classic Hollywood style and encounters with Nazi scientists and other weirdness that turns out to be more than just Hollywood special effects!  The story is gripping and I’ll warn you not to get too attached to any one character…they don’t all have happy endings!

As I noted above I have some Serial Squad sketches in my sketch book.  This Is because I am working on drawing a serial squad story, written by Paul.  I won’t say more about that here however.  You’ll have to check back here at another time.  First, you should go to Paul’s Site or his blog and order some Serial Squad comics!  You do support the allies cause, right?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Falcon vs Arnim Zola: 3 stages of art

I love it when I get the chance to scan a piece as I complete each stage.  I've been reading Jack Kirby's 70's Captain America run recently. It's one of my favorite Kirby runs.