Thursday, June 6, 2019

75th Anniversary of D-Day : 3 Atlas War Stories




Today, June 6, 2019, is the 75th anniversary of the most critical juncture of the Second World War, "Operation Overlord," the Allied amphibian assault of 160,000 troops on the beaches at Normandy, France. Facing withering, dug-in Nazi opposition, 10,000 Allied casualties paved the way to turning the tide of war and liberating Europe from the dark half-decade grip of Fascism. On this solemn day, with the average age of a World War II veteran approaching 93, we salute their heroic sacrifice and thank them for their service from the bottom of our hearts.

Six years ago on this blog, I wrote a long, detailed history of Atlas war comics HERE.  What jump-started the genre in 1950 was not the Second World War, but the Korean conflict. As the industry dove into war comics, Atlas took it to the extreme, promulgating scores of titles across the newsstands, titles written and drawn by veterans of WWII, giving the stories a riveting, often first-hand intensity. 

Today, I simply want to present three stories dealing with D-Day

1) The first below, titled simply, "D-Day", appeared in the prime pre-code years of the genre, published in WAR COMICS #19 (May/53), and illustrated by Joe Certa, a veteran artist who got his start in 1946 working in the Lloyd Jacquet shop. Certa would work all over the industry eventually doing his most notable work at D.C., including the Martian Manhunter.

The story is a condensation of the events of the day, told from both Allied and German perspectives, with a bit of corny Nazi dialogue thrown in. The writer is unknown.











2) The second story in WAR COMICS #43 (Sept/56) is fronted by a D-Day cover rendered by Carl Burgos, one of the most prolific Atlas cover artists of the post-code period. In fact, Burgos had an unofficial title as "cover editor". His covers are usually quite stark and moody.

The story is titled "Decision on D-Day" and the artist is the great Mort Drucker, a future giant of the DC Big 5 war titles and master caricaturist for Mad Magazine. Drucker drew around 65 stories for Atlas from 1954 up to the Atlas Implosion in the Spring of 1957, 23 of them were War stories. Although handcuffed by bland post-code content restrictions, the story of a tank's survival told from her crew's perspective, Drucker was nevertheless able to provide exciting visuals, quick-cutting the action across small panels. A very neat little story.












3) Our third and final story appears in a Post-Implosion issue of BATTLE, #60 (Oct/58). By post-implosion, I mean a title that survived the wave of cancellations caused by publisher Martin Goodman's distribution fiasco. In the War comics genre, from 15 titles running in early 1957, only 3 survived the Implosion, and all three (Battle, Marines in Battle and Navy Combat) published nothing but inventory for the next year. By 1959 only Battle remained and began publishing new stories, including art by Jack Kirby, starting cover date June.

"D-Day Minus 1" was drawn by Johnny Craig, one of the former titans of the EC line, now out of work and freelancing for Stan Lee on a tiny handful of stories. And when I say handful, I mean handful. I count only two stories by Craig, both published in the post-implosion period, inventory fillers from the time of the Atlas implosion.

After a colorful, early-morning splash panel, the plot of the story shows the day-before preparation of the troops leading up to D-Day itself. The writer is unknown.









Epilogue:


I want to finish away from Timely/Atlas with the greatest D-Day comic image ever put to paper, the quintessential war cover by the greatest creator the field ever had, Jack Kirby's FOXHOLE #1 (Oct/54), published by Mainline. The horrors of war are juxtaposed against the irony of the human condition in a way only a master could compose. Kirby based the image on the painting "High Visibility Wrap" by Joseph Hirsch, published in the book Men Without Guns (The Blakeston Company, 1945).


The painting got even more mileage in 1951 when Martin Goodman put it on the cover of his men's magazine STAG (2nd version) Volume 2, #1 (June).





Epilogue #2: 


I came across this brand new book last week. It's part of a series of illustrated history comic books on the second world war. Written by Jay Wertz and drawn by Sean Carlson, it's really a tour-de-force in visually depicting the subject matter. The narrative is compelling and the artwork gorgeous. I recommend it highly and will try to acquire the other volumes concerning other campaigns. From the inside front cover, "Pearl Harbor," "Bataan," "Midway," and "Guadalcanal" are all available. I'm going to look for all of them! Their website is www.worldwariicomix.com





A 2-page centerfold spread will give you an idea of how beautifully rendered this series is....




Bibliography:

  1. War Comics #19 (May/53), "D-Day" (6 pages), art by Joe Certa
  2. War Comics #43 (Sept/56), "Decision on D-Day" (5 pages), art by Mort Drucker
  3. War Comics #43 (Sept/56, cover art by Carl Burgos.
  4. Battle #60 (Oct/58), "D-Day Minus 1" (5 pages), art by Johnny Craig
  5. Foxhole #1 (Oct/54), cover art by Jack Kirby
  6. Stag Vol 2, #1 (June/51), cover painting by Joseph Hirsch
  7. D-Day (2019), World War II Comics 



4 comments:

  1. Enjoyed re-reading these! Wish I still had the originals. Thanks!

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