|Captain America Comics #1 (Mar/41) - Red Skull debut|
As a "solo" genre, war-themed comics occupied a tiny Golden-Age niche, spurred on, like the cover to Cap #1, by the run-up to the war. Early notables were Fiction House’s Fight Comics and Dell’s War Comics in 1940. Dell was well represented with four war-themed titles including War Heroes, War Stories, and America in Action in 1942, the latter not really a comic book but prose stories with supporting illustrations. Additionally, Centaur gave us Man of War Comics and Quality released Uncle Sam Quarterly in 1941, Harvey published War Victory Comics and War Victory Adventures in 1941 and 1943, Standard produced The Fighting Yank in 1942 and Quality returned with Blackhawk in 1944. Many of these titles (and several others) cross over into war stories depicting heroes of some sort and are not strictly anthology war comics but actually blended genres.
Timely's roster was resplendent with war-themed stories and covers from 1941 to 1945. Everyone has seen the familiar Alex Schomburg war covers on titles featuring Timely's "big 3" characters of The Human Torch, Sub-Mariner and Captain America (in their own solo titles and in Marvel Mystery Comics), as well as Simon & Kirby, Al Avison and then Syd Shores' war covers on Cap's own title. Heck! The Red Skull was a Nazi war villain at the beck and call of Adolf Hitler, who also made his way onto many covers.
|Captain America Comics #2 (Apr/41)|
|Captain America Comics #3 (May/41)|
|Captain America Comics #13 (Apr/42) - The 1st issue after Pearl Harbor (noted on cover)|
|Human Torch #9 (Fall/42)|
|Human Torch #12 (Summer/43)|
|Marvel Mystery Comics #46 (Aug/43)|
|Marvel Mystery Comics #51 (Jan/44)|
|Sub-Mariner Comics #1 (Spring/41)|
|Sub-Mariner Comics #14 (Fall/44)|
Titles like Young Allies, USA Comics and even All Winners Comics were titles solely produced to prop morale and stoke patriotic fervor (and make money, of course).
|Young Allies Comics #1 (Summer/41)|
|USA Comics #6 (Dec/42)|
|All Winners Comics #4 (Spring/42)|
|Complete Comics #2 (Winter/44)|
Even the kids got involved! The Victory Boys appearing in USA Comics #5 (Summer/42) took on Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito all by themselves! The artwork here is primarily Ernie Hart, probably with an inker.
|USA Comics #5 (Summer/42)|
At the very same time, they also appeared in Comedy Comics #10 (June/42). The artist here is Ernie Hart, this time looking like pencils and inks.
|Comedy #10 (June/42) Victory Boys p.1 - Ernie Hart artwork|
|Comedy #10 (June/42) Victory Boys p.2 - Ernie Hart artwork|
|Comedy #10 (June/42) Victory Boys p.3 - Ernie Hart artwork|
|Comedy #10 (June/42) Victory Boys p.4 - Ernie Hart artwork|
|Comedy #10 (June/42) Victory Boys p.5 - Ernie Hart artwork|
|Comedy #10 (June/42) Victory Boys p.6 - Ernie Hart artwork|
|Comedy #10 (June/42) Victory Boys p.7 - Ernie Hart artwork|
|Comedy #10 (June/42) Victory Boys p.8 - Ernie Hart artwork|
While the youthful Victory Boys only saw two appearances, other "kids" got into the act. The aforementioned Young Allies also moonlighted in Kid Komics:
|Kid Komics #1 (Feb/43)|
|Kid Komics #5 (Summer/44)|
Another war inspired character, launched amidst the anger and frustration of the attach on Pearl Harbor, pulled no punches on depicting who we were fighting and who the enemy was. His name said it all : Jap-Buster Johnson. Debuting in USA Comics #6 (Dec/42), the character was initially drawn by Dennis Neville and was popular enough to run 18 installments over the course of 4 different titles; All-Select Comics, Complete Comics, Kid Comics and USA Comics. Authors Patricia Highsmith and Mickey Spillane are known to have scripted entries in this series, the latter's script drawn by a young Allen Bellman, who recalled to me in 2004 when I interviewed him:
"Mickey Spillane wrote quite a bit there. I remember the first time I met him. I had just finished up an assignment, I walked over to Stan Lee's office and knocked on the door. "Come in", says a voice from inside, Stan's voice. There's a GI standing there talking to Stan. Stan introduces me ... "Allen, I want you to meet Mickey Spillane. Mickey, I want you to meet Allen Bellman." I shook his hand. he had a crew-cut and was in an army uniform. Then Stan handed me a script to draw that was my next assignment. In those days, as soon as you finished one job you turned in, you were handed another script. Spillane had just brought it in and it was turned over to me. It was a Jap-Buster Johnson script."
|Jap-Buster Johnson in USA Comics #6 (Dec/42) - art by Dennis Neville|
|All Select Comics #2 (Winter/43-44) Jap Buster Johnson p.1|
|All Select Comics #8 (Summer/45) Jap Buster Johnson p.1|
|All Select Comics #9 (Summer/45) Jap Buster Johnson p.1|
|All Select Comics #9 (Summer/45) Jap Buster Johnson p.2|
|All Select Comics #9 (Summer/45) Jap Buster Johnson p.3|
|All Select Comics #9 (Summer/45) Jap Buster Johnson p.4|
|All Select Comics #9 (Summer/45) Jap Buster Johnson p.5|
|All Select Comics #9 (Summer/45) Jap Buster Johnson p.6|
The costumed heroes of the war years fought Axis villains, often stereotypically depicted as extreme, gruesome caricatures. When Timely debuted their humor and funny-animal line of titles starting cover date May/42, even these characters got into the action! While the funny animals rarely went to war, they did their stateside jobs rooting out Fifth Columnists and skulking anthropomorphic Axis saboteurs.
|Terry-Toons #1 (Oct/42) - Mike Sekowsky (?) cover artwork|
Timely's funny-animals even joined Captain America and other heroes in selling War Stamps! Here is a rarely seen spot utilizing Paul Terry's Gandy Goose and Bertie Mouse, written by Stan Lee at the dawn of his career, penciled by Ed Winiarski and inked by George Klein.
|Terrytoons #2 (Nov/42) p.1 - Winiarski/Klein art, Stan Lee script|
|Terrytoons #2 (Nov/42) p.2 - Winiarski/Klein art, Stan Lee script|
|Terrytoons #2 (Nov/42) p.3 - Winiarski/Klein art, Stan Lee script|
|Terrytoons #2 (Nov/42) p.4 - Winiarski/Klein art, Stan Lee script|
|Comedy Comics #17 (July/43)|
|Comedy Comics #21 (Jan/44)|
|Comedy Comics #22 (Mar/44) - note the Atlas Globe!!!|
|Super Rabbit Comics #1 (Fall/44)|
|Ideal Comics #1 (Fall/44)|
|All Surprise Comics #5 (Winter/44-45)|
All these titles came and went, most vanishing after the war ended as even super hero comics began to falter. Fathers were returning to their waiting families and new families were aborning. The long underwear crowd no longer held sway as lingering uncertainty in the wake of the war fostered an uneasiness that was magnified as the cold war's roots were being set down in a post-atomic, precarious world. By the decade’s near-end, with the market looking for new areas of exploitation and interest, romance comics in 1947 (created by Simon & Kirby in Young Romance #1) provided a welcome spark for a new direction, although it lead to the industry-wide romance glut by 1949.
Crime comics (led by Lev Gleason's Crime Does Not Pay, begun back in 1942) likewise were becoming entrenched and exploited by Timely starting cover date Fall/47 when Official True Crime Cases and Justice Comics began.
|Official True Crime Cases #24 (#1) (Fall/47)|
(Syd Shores cover art)
|Justice Comics #7 (#1) (Fall/47)|
(Syd Shores cover art)
By 1949, horror was setting down roots (although launched by Avon's Eerie Comics #1 in the fall of 1946 with a Jan/47 cover date, it did not immediately blossom until 1949-50).
|Eerie Comics #1 (Jan/47)|
Add to this teen humor and Westerns, the resulting palette was a newsstand completely different in appearance from just five years earlier.
By 1950 there was still one notable genre missing — war comics. With this in mind, cover-date Dec/49 saw Timely introduce something new to its roster, an “adventure” genre, with the debut of Man Comics #1, published under Goodman's original debut sub-publishing entity, Newsstand Publications, Inc. Newsstand Publications as a company name hailed back to 1933 and the dawn of Goodman's entry into pulp publishing. This was the very first time it was ever used in a comic book and one of only 5 comic book titles to ever do so (really 4 and a one-shot).
|Man Comics #1 (Dec/49) - John Buscema cover art|
Sporting a cover penciled by John Buscema, two 18-page stories each by George Tuska and Syd
Shores respectively, and a Let's Play Detective filler by Allen Bellman, Man Comics would last 28 total issues and inaugurated a genre at Timely of "he-man" type adventures and exciting thrill stories, simultaneously being launched in Goodman's magazine line starting with the second run of Stag, Vol 1, #1 (Dec/49).
|Stag Vol 1,#1 (Dec/49) [bedsheet size magazine] - Albert Fisher cover art|
One of the finest early issues of Man Comics (and a personal favorite) was #5 (Dec/50). This featured an early absolutely spectacular cover by Joe Maneely and presented the classic "Laugh Fool, Laugh", a 12 page story of a sad clown and unrequited love freely borrowed from the 1928 MGM film "Laugh, Clown, Laugh" starring Lon Chaney, Sr. and Loretta Young.
|Man Comics #5 (Dec/50) - Joe Maneely cover art|
Almost immediately the imitations followed. True Adventures was next, starting with #3 (May/50) and immediately changed title to Men's Adventures #4 (Aug/50), similarly lasting through issue #28. The next adventure title was Young Men, starting with issue #4 (June/50), and also lasting through issue #28. (What's with this 28 issues thing??)
All three of these new adventure titles debuted as thick 52 page issues and display the red bulleted Marvel Comics circular logo stolen from Martin Goodman's old Red Circle pulp colophon.
This Marvel Comic logo really was an attempt to brand the line but inexplicably did not click. The biggest question I have is why the red center of the Marvel Comic logo is never aligned properly? Look above and below. The registration is always off!
|Ad from Western Winners #7 (Dec/49)|
Man Comics would stay at this size for 7 issues, True Adventures/Men's Adventures for 2 issues and Young Men would publish as a 52 pager only for a single issue. But these were not war comics. As mentioned,these were launched in the shadow of Martin Goodman launching his adventure/soon-to-be men's sweat line.
|True Adventures #3 (#1) (May/50)|
|Men's Adventures #4 (Aug/50) - Syd Shores cover art|
|Young Men #4 (#1) (June/50)|
Almost concurrently, Timely introduced the splinter genre “spy comics” with Spy Cases #26 (Sept/50), actually issue #1 but numbered as such (continuing from The Kellys #25) under the assumption higher numbered issues conveyed quality and reliability (and also saving post office registration fees!), soon to be followed by Spy Fighters #1 (Mar/51) and Kent Blake of the Secret Service #1 (May/51) in 1951. These books started out as a hybrid of crime/adventure and spy/intrigue stories, but like the adventure titles previously mentioned, were not war comics, at least not yet. .
|Spy Cases #26 (#1) (Sept/50)|
|Spy Fighters #1 (Mar/51)|
|Kent Blake of the Secret Service #1 (May/51)|
Kent Blake of the Secret Service was one of the earliest venues for artist Joe Sinnott, who got the job not from Stan Lee, but from Tom Gill, in whose studio he was employed at the time. The first issue was scripted by Hank Chapman and Sinnott was intimately involved with this feature from the very start, penciling all the Kent Blake stories in issue #1, 2, 4 and two of three in issue #5, with Tom Gill inking. In issue #3 the roles were reversed, with Gill penciling and Sinnott inking! To give you an idea how long the work-up to an actual published cover date is, the debut story above has a May/51 cover date, was on the newsstands in Feb/51, and was actually penciled by Joe Sinnott on 11/16/50 (according to Joe's work records). When Sinnott leaves after issue #5, Tom Gill produced the next 6 issues in his studio before Bob Fujitani primarily closes out the series for the last 3 issues (with 2 unknown stories in the last issue).
|#7923 Kent Blake #1 (May/51) - Sinnott/Gill artwork|
So what prompted the coming war comics deluge? Very simply, it was the Korean War. 63 years ago as of this writing, on June 25, 1950, North Korea (backed by Soviet built tanks) poured over the border into South Korea, and the United States (with the United Nations) was put to the test in its strategy of containing communism.
Within weeks after the start of hostilities, Martin Goodman smelled a new trend. He directed Stan Lee and his editorial/writing staff to begin planning war stories dealing with contemporaneous newspaper and newsreel reports of the conflict.
Cover date Dec/50 (on the newsstands in September of 1950 and actually produced two to three months
earlier) saw the release of War Comics #1, and the genre was on! Simultaneously, EC Comics released Two-Fisted Tales, and over the next two to three years war comics promulgated across the pre-code newsstands. (It took almost 6 months for Goodman's men's adventure line to follow suit.)
|Stag Vol 3, #6 (July/52) - George Mayers cover art|
The debut cover below appears to have been drawn by Al Hartley, who would be a key cog in the early Atlas war comic machine, depicting violent scenes of action across at least 30 stories as well as simultaneously drawing Doug Grant in Spy Cases #27 (#2) (Dec/50), this very same month.
|War Comics #1 (Dec/50) - Al Hartley cover artwork|
Hartley would also draw 11 installments of Combat Kelly in 1952 and 1953 in both Combat Kelly and Battlefront. His very first war story was in Battle #5 (Nov/51) and here is the original art to the splash page:
|#8896 Battle #5 (Nov/51) p.1 - original art by Al Hartley|
The lead story in War Comics #1 set the stage for the entire genre’s birth as “Peril in Korea” told the story of exactly why the United States was involved in the conflict. A real propaganda piece, this was a proto-McCartyistic attempt to sell the war to American readers and prove the North Koreans were only dupes for the Red conquest of the world. As best as I can tell, the artwork appears to be from the Tom Gill shop. Many of these Korean War stories were flagrantly politically incorrect by today’s standards, with the North Koreans and Chinese Communists depicted in stereotypical fashion and committing brutal atrocities, although not as caricatured as the Second World War comics’ depictions of the Japanese.
|#7702 "Peril In Korea", debut war story in War Comics #1 (Dec/50)|
In 1951 Battle and Combat Kelly were added to the line. Battle would be Atlas’ longest running war title, lasting 70 issues through the Comics Code, the Atlas implosion, the post-implosion era, and into the pre-hero period, finally ending cover dated June/60. This title was exclusively an anthology non-character title for the entirety of its 70 issue run, with a handful of exceptions:
- Three installments of the humorous Private Tim O'Toole running in #4 (Sept/51), #5 (Nov/51) and #6 (Jan/52), drawn by Joe Maneely.
- Straggler character feature inventory consisting of Battle Brady in #25 (Jan/54), Combat Casey in #61 (Dec/58) and #64 (June/59), and Combat Kelly in #61 (Dec/58) and #62 (Feb/59).
|#8901 Battle #5 (Nov/51) p.1 - Joe Maneely artwork|
|#9040 Battle #6 (Jan/52) p.1 - Joe Maneely artwork|
Combat Kelly, an often violent single-character war feature, would run 44 issues and feature the artwork of Al Hartley, Joe Maneely and then Dave Berg, who would draw the feature during the vast majority of its run. Hank Chapman was the primary writer during the first 13 issues.
This title is also notable for the fact that all 44 issues sport the below seen cover breakdown into 4 panels. The entire run is this way and I'm not sure exactly "why". Timely/Atlas used this cover design on Jungle Tales and an even different 3-tier display on Jungle Action and Rugged Action.
|Combat Kelly #1 (Nov/51)|
|#9058 Combat Kelly #1 (Nov/51) p.1 - debut story|
|Combat Kelly #21 (Apr/54) p.1 - original art by Dave Berg|
|Combat Kelly #21 (Apr/54) p.5 - original art by Dave Berg|
|Combat Kelly #21 (Apr/54) p.6 - original art by Dave Berg|
1951 also shows the slow, partial infiltration of war stories and/or covers on previously “non-war” adventure titles like Young Men, Spy Cases, Spy Fighters and Kent Blake, all while Man Comics, Men’s Adventures, and by the end of the year, Young Men, totally convert to war titles with full war content.
|Young Men #10 (Aug/51) - Joe Maneely cover artwork|
converts to war cover and content in 1951
|Spy Cases #7 (Oct/51) - Joe Maneely cover artwork|
converts to "partial" war content in 1951
|Spy Fighters #4 (Sept/51)|
converts to "partial" war content in 1951
|Kent Blake #3 (Sept/51) - Joe Maneely cover artwork|
converts to war content in 1951
|Men's Adventures #10 (Oct/51) - Joe Maneely cover artwork|
converts to war cover and content in 1951
|Man Comics #10 (Oct/51) - Joe Maneely cover artwork|
converts to war cover and contents by late 1951
1952 was a busy year for pre-Code war at Timely, now called Atlas (since the appearance of the Atlas globe on the covers circa late 1951, a logo that doubled as both a brand "and" a distributor mark). The peak years of this Atlas pre-Code war barrage consisted of a twelve-month period stretching from cover date May/52 to April/53 (February 1952 to January 1953 newsstand time), where 153 war issues were released spread among 17 different titles, 19 if you count two title changes.
|Full page ad for Atlas war titles in Battle Action #8 (Jan/53)|
The year saw the immediate addition of eight new titles: War Adventures (Jan/52), Battle Action (Feb/52), War Combat (Mar/52), Battlefield (Apr/52), Men in Action (Apr/52), War Action (Apr/52), Battlefront (June/52) and Combat (June/52), the latter four completely monthly publications. The early months also saw Spy Cases, Spy Fighters and Kent Blake finally completely convert to full war content, after toying with war content for a while, adding to the burgeoning war line.
|War Adventures #1 (Jan/52)|
|Battle Action #1 (Feb/52)|
|War Combat #1 (Mar/52)|
|Battlefield #1 (Apr/52)|
|Men In Action #1 (Apr/52)|
|War Action #1 (Apr/52)|
|Battlefront #1 (June/52) - Russ Heath cover artwork|
|Combat #1 (June/52) - Russ Heath cover artwork|
Battlefield in particular was a brutal no-holds-barred run of 11 action-packed issues, advertised throughout the line in the form of house ads...(below ads both from Wild Western #22, June 1952)
Issues #2, #3 & #4 were thick 52 page issues and #2 in particular may in fact be the best single Atlas war issue of them all. Russ Heath provides the grim cover and the highlight of the issue is Hank Chapman and Paul Reinman's "Atrocity Story", a screaming indoctrination into the horrors perpetrated by the Communists throughout the world. In fact, "Atrocity Story" is not really a story at all, but rather a body of exposition in narrative form conveying information, and in this case completely overwhelms the reader with a blaring story title at the top of every single page. Chapman starts off with screaming headlines of brutal communist atrocities done to U.S. and U.N. troops and unarmed civilians. He then draws comparisons to Nazi atrocities perpetrated by the Third Reich in their concentration camps and the deserved justice meted out to their leaders. The screed ends with a question as to exactly what the present solution to Red atrocities should be, including contemplation of the mushroom cloud's specter in the last panel.
Paul Reinman renders this broadcast in newsreel fashion starting off with a magnificent full-page splash depicting a score of inhumanly bound and slaughtered U.S. Marines. The tempo picks up and using smaller and smaller panels, Reinman displays one atrocity after another. The panel-to-panel progression is swift and Reinman's art is crisp and starkly grim with dark shadowing in the inks. Page 5 is a disturbing eight-panel review of the atrocities on the Nazi concentration camps depicting dead camp victims and riveting single panels of hollow-eyed, skeletal survivors. This single story is Paul Reinman's finest hour and I'd suggest it's one of the most challenging and intensely illustrated stories in the Atlas war comics line. A brilliant effort.
|#A-141 Battlefield #2 (June/52) p.1|
|#A-141 Battlefield #2 (June/52) p.2|
|#A-141 Battlefield #2 (June/52) p.3|
|#A-141 Battlefield #2 (June/52) p.4|
|#A-141 Battlefield #2 (June/52) p.5|
|#A-141 Battlefield #2 (June/52) p.6|
|#A-141 Battlefield #2 (June/52) p.7|
A recent fascinating article detailing a journey to track down information on Reinman's German Jewish roots in Europe can be found here:
Reinman has several other excellent stories spread across many of the concurrent pre-Code war titles, often dealing in harsh World War II and Nazi subject matter.
|#D-662 Battle #26 (Feb/54) p.1 - artwork by Paul Reinman|
|#D-662 Battle #26 (Feb/54) p.2 - artwork by Paul Reinman|
|#D-662 Battle #26 (Feb/54) p.3 - artwork by Paul Reinman|
|#D-662 Battle #26 (Feb/54) p.4 - artwork by Paul Reinman|
|#D-662 Battle #26 (Feb/54) p.5 - artwork by Paul Reinman|
|#D-662 Battle #26 (Feb/54) p.6 - artwork by Paul Reinman|
Reinman also drew a story dealing with the formation of the state of Israel in an issue of War Comics in 1952, issue #15 (Feb/53).
|#B-700 War Comics #15 (Feb/53) p.1 - Paul Reinman artwork|
|#B-700 War Comics #15 (Feb/53) p.2 - Paul Reinman artwork|
|#B-700 War Comics #15 (Feb/53) p.3 - Paul Reinman artwork|
|#B-700 War Comics #15 (Feb/53) p.4 - Paul Reinman artwork|
|#B-700 War Comics #15 (Feb/53) p.5 - Paul Reinman artwork|
|#B-700 War Comics #15 (Feb/53) p.6 - Paul Reinman artwork|
And keep in mind that Martin Goodman loved the title Battlefield so much he named his new war -themed men's sweat magazine Battlefield in 1957. This magazine may in fact be a one-shot as I've never seen another issue past #1.
|Battlefield Vol 1, #1 (1957)|
Cover date Jan/53 saw the change of War Combat to Combat Casey with issue #6. The Combat Casey feature had debuted in the final issue of War Combat, #5 (Nov/52), prior to the title change.
|War Combat #5 (Nov/52) - Robert Q. Sale artwork|
|#B-055 War Combat #5 (Nov/52) p.1 - Combat Casey debut - Robert Q. Sale|
Combat Casey was a vehicle for Robert Q. Sale, who drew the feature for its entire run until the near end when Bob Powell and Jay Scott Pike took over. It would last through issue #34 (July/57).
|Combat Casey #6 (Jan/53) (debut title issue)|
Men in Action changed title to to Battle Brady with issue #10, adding two additional “character” titles to the already seen Combat Kelly and Combat Casey. The idea was that "character driven" titles may be better for sales. The result was a moderate success but cooled off before long.
Battle Brady was written by Hank Chapman and co-produced by Syd Shores and Norman Steinberg, who shared a studio together for a while on Long Island, alternating the feature between themselves, often in the same issues. The "feature" debuted in Battle Action #5 (Oct/52), launched by Joe Maneely, ran through #8 and then shifted over to his own title, Battle Brady #10 (Jan/53), continuing the numbering from the aforementioned Men in Action. As a solo title, it lasted only 5 issues through #14 (June/53), but still appeared concurrently in Battle Action and later in Battlefront, as the inventory held for quite a while. In total, 33 Battle Brady stories appeared from 1952 to 1954 across 7 different titles.
|Battle Brady #10 (Jan/53) - Syd Shores cover artwork|
Early-to mid-1953 saw the first wave of retractions and adjustments as Battle Brady, War Adventures, Battlefield, War Action and Combat ended their respective runs, while Spy Cases, Spy Fighters and Kent Blake all converted back to non-war spy/intrigue content. Similarly, Man Comics, Men’s Adventures and Young Men reverted back to their previous adventure/action-thrills subject matter, leaving the end of 1953 with only five ongoing war titles: War Comics, Battle, Combat Kelly, Combat Casey and Battlefront.
This all coincides with the end of the Korean War in July., as seen in this July 27, 1953 cover to the New York Daily News.....
Prior to Man Comics' reversion to non-war content, Joe Sinnott drew 3 consecutive biographical installments on Napoleon Bonaparte that ran in issues #22, 23, & 24. Sinnott enjoyed these assignments and rendered them with care and precision right down to period decor and settings.
|# B-724 Man Comics #22 (Jan/53) p.1 - Joe Sinnott artwork|
|#B-771 Man Comics #23 (Feb/53) p.1 - Joe Sinnott artwork|
|#C-048 Man Comics #24 (Mar/53) p.1 - Joe Sinnott artwork|
Unlike the romance glut (where Timely cancelled 27 romance titles within a few month’s time, including two title changes, which were also immediately cancelled), in 1954 five more war titles were added to replace the recently canceled war books, including the one-shot 3-D Action (Jan/54), one of two Atlas attempts to milk the 3-D comics craze, the other being 3-D Tales of the West. These new titles were added within the climax of the swirling crucible of Frederic Wertham’s anti-comics crusade (although the war comics genre mostly fell below Wertham’s radar. Perhaps Dr. Wertham didn't want to take on the U.S. armed forces!).
These titles were Marines in Battle (Aug/54), Navy Action (Aug/54), Battleground (Sept/54) and Rugged Action (Dec/54), the latter never having complete war content in any issue, including covers, and was really an adventure title, but mentioned because the first and last issues had one and four war stories each, respectively. So we can call it a "partial" war title.
|3-D Action #1 (Jan/54) - Carl Burgos (?) cover artwork|
|3-D Action #1 original 3-D glasses!|
|Marines in Battle #1 (Aug/54) - Russ Heath cover artwork|
|Navy Action #1 (Aug/54) - Russ Heath cover artwork|
|Rugged Action #1 (Dec/54) - Carl Burgos cover artwork|
|Battleground #1 (Sept/54) - Joe Maneely cover artwork|
Battleground, while a pretty much nondescript, bland, generic, mostly post-code 20 issue war title, is interesting for only one reason. When artist Jack Kirby returned to Marvel he first freelanced in 1956 and 1957 on 23 stories spread across 8 different titles. (The subject of a future blog post here!). The "very" first story he drew for Stan Lee since he left the company in 1942 was a war story published in Battleground #14 (Nov/56), Mine Field! (5 pages). This appears to have been both written and inked by Kirby.
|#K-282 Battleground #14 (Nov/56) p.1 - Jack Kirby artwork|
|#K-282 Battleground #14 (Nov/56) p.2 - Jack Kirby artwork|
|#K-282 Battleground #14 (Nov/56) p.3 - Jack Kirby artwork|
|#K-282 Battleground #14 (Nov/56) p.4 - Jack Kirby artwork|
|#K-282 Battleground #14 (Nov/56) p.5 - Jack Kirby artwork|
As the Comics Code cleaved the industry cover date Feb-March/55, similar to his pattern in the horror/fantasy titles, Atlas publisher Martin Goodman, rather than retrench, continued to increase his war line as Marines in Action (June/55) and Navy Combat (June/55) were added, although now the hard-hitting content and storytelling were muted and diminished. These were now war comics without any overt, visual violence. They were "code-approved" war comics!
|Marines In Action #1 (June/55) - Joe Maneely cover artwork|
|Navy Combat #1 (June/55) - Joe Maneely cover artwork|
In 1956 Navy Action became Sailor Sweeney (July/56) for a short spell of three issues before returning to Navy Action (Jan/57) again, and Devil Dog Dugan (July/56) was added (changing title to Tales of he Marines for its final issue, Feb/57). Dugan was initially drawn by Jim McLaughlin in issue #1, before being taken over by Joe Sinnott in #2, #3 and the title change to Tales of the Marines #4.
|Sailor Sweeney #12 (July/56) - Joe Maneely cover artwork|
|Devil-Dog Dugan #1 (July/56) - John Severin cover artwork|
|#J-736 Devil-Dog Dugan #1 (July/56) p.1 - Jim Mclaughlin art|
|Tales of the Marines #4 (Feb/57) - John Severin cover artwork|
We also get Sergeant Barney Barker (Aug/56), a humorous war title patterned after comedian Phil Silvers’ Sgt. Bilko persona. Barker was drawn by master caricaturist John Severin. In 1957, Sergeant Barney Barker became G.I. Tales (Feb/57), while the generic Navy Tales (Jan/57) and finally Commando Adventures (June/57) were added to the line. This gave Atlas 15 post-Code war titles at the time of the Atlas implosion, all produced bi-monthly in frequency.
|Sergeant Barney Barker #1 (Aug/56) - John Severin cover artwork|
|Sergeant Barney Barker #2 (Oct/56) - John Severin cover artwork|
|Sergeant Barney Barker #3 (Dec/56) - John Severin cover artwork|
|G.I. Tales #4 (Feb/57)|
|G.I. Tales #5 (Apr/57) - Carl Burgos cover artwork|
|G.I. Tales #6 (July/57) - Carl Burgos cover artwork|
|Navy Tales #1 (Jan/57) - Bill Everett cover artwork|
Here is the original Bill Everett cover artwork to the above Navy Tales #1. Notice that the ship on the water is completely different and re-positioned as well as several underwater swimmers missing (which may have been past-ups that have long fallen off).
|Navy Tales #1 (Jan/57) - original artwork by Bill Everett|
(courtesy Heritage Auction)
|Commando Adventures #1 (June/57) - John Severin cover artwork|
|Commando Adventures #2 (Aug/57) - John Severin cover artwork|
Like every other genre, the Atlas implosion decimated Martin Goodman’s enormous comic book line. Three war titles survived the destruction—Battle, Marines in Battle and Navy Combat. Considering how successful his men's sweat magazine line was (Stag, Man's World, Male, Men, For Men Only, Hunting Adventures, Battlefield, Adventure Trails/Adventure Life, etc.), it was a given that he'd retain at least three men/adventure/war type comic book titles. The men's magazines' audience was primarily WW II veterans (and Goodman cornered the market) while the comic book audience, especially post-code, was primarily children (and his comics probably were lost among the rack space clutter). Also, the difference between Goodman and his main competitor in the men's sweat market, Stanley Morse, was the fact that Morse directed his main attention to his magazines while Goodman continued to churn out more and more comic book product, backed by a much larger company than the fly-by-night Morse.
Navy Combat was a wonderful vehicle for artist Don Heck, having jumped ship to Atlas upon the demise of Comic Media, where he was the defacto primary pre-code horror cover artist. Heck's covers there depicted some of the genre's most riveting graphics. It will always be a puzzle to me why Stan Lee never utilized Don Heck as an Atlas cover artist in the post-code period. One idea is that the covers were primarily produced by staffers. This is why there are so many by Joe Maneely, Bill Everett, John Severin and Carl Burgos. Those 4 as a group produced, in my estimate, 90% of all the post-code genre (non-romance, non-humor) covers published by the company.
|Horrific #3 (Jan/53) [Comic Media] - Don Heck cover artwork|
|Horrific #7 (Sept/53) [Comic Media] - Don Heck cover artwork|
|Weird Terror #9 (Jan/54) [Comic Media] - Don Heck cover artwork|
And of course their war titles:
|War Fury #2 (Nov/52) - [Comic Media] Don Heck cover art|
Heck drew 58 total Atlas war stories and his very first story for Stan Lee was an adventure story in Rugged Action #3 (Aug/55), "The Red Pirate"
|#F-467 Rugged Action #3 (Aug/555) p.1 - Heck's debut for Atlas|
Almost immediately after he began the Torpedo Taylor feature in Navy Combat and produced some of the finest work of his career on this feature, drawing 25 installments in issues 1-14, 16 & 19. The final story was a Heck splash page only, the rest having to be completed by Joe Maneely after the Atlas implosion stopped production after the first page was rendered.
|#G-003 Navy Combat #1 (June/55) p.1 - 1st Torpedo Taylor story|
Marines in Battle featured “Iron Mike” McGraw, drawn initially by Russ Heath then taken over by Bob Forgione for 15 issues before Joe Sinnott finished off the run on the character.
Battle remained a purely anthology war title although the implosion did leave unpublished character feature “stragglers” that ended up in all three titles on occasion.
There was also an exclusively "post-code" anthology sub-feature called “The Fight For Freedom” that ran 60 installments in 7 post-code titles in 1956 & 1957 (Battle, Battle Action, Battlefront, Battleground, Commando Adventures, GI Tales and War Comics). A single inventory installment appeared in Marines in Battle in 1958.
Here's an installment illustrated by Al Williamson in early 1957:
|#M-254 Battleground #18 (July/57) p.1 - art by Al Williamson with Ralph Mayo|
This one was drawn by Gene Colan:
|#M-122 War Comics #48 (July/57) p.1 - art by Gene Colan|
Other artists in this series include: Bill Benulis, Dave Berg, Vic Carrabotta, Gene Colan, Tony DiPreta, Richard Doxsee, Mort Drucker, Bob Forgione (w/Jack Abel), Don Heck, Joe Maneely, Charles F. Miller, Pete Morisi, Mac Pakula, Jay Scott Pike, Bob Powell, Paul Reinman, John Romita, Robert Q. Sale, Syd Shores, Joe Sinnott, Angelo Torres, George Tuska, Bill Walton, the aforementioned Al Williamson (w/Ralph Mayo), George Woodbridge, and 4 entries I cannot currently identify.
By 1959, Battle remained as the last surviving Timely/Atlas/Marvel war title (and would remain so until Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos in 1963), lasting until issue #70 (June/60) and ending with seven issues of covers and art by Jack Kirby (and other dawn-of-the-Marvel age artists), in the mid pre-hero period. I'm going to look closely at these issues because they are an interesting, rarely seen survey of issues in a period we usually associate more with "monster/fantasy" or western comics. Most of the post-implosion issues consisted of inventory held over from early 1957. These "inventory" issues lasted until issue #63 (Apr/59). In this very last post-implosion issue, Steve Ditko illustrated a story with the job #O-365 "The Hidden Doom!". The job number places it right at the week of the work stoppage in April of 1957. The date of publication places it "after" Steve Ditko returned to Stan Lee in June of 1958 at the time of Strange Worlds #1, Tales to Astonish #1 and Tales of Suspense #1. I haven't decided whether this was simply inventory from Apr/57 or Ditko drawing an inventory "script" in late 1958. My feeling is that it was most likely the latter.
|Battle #63 (Apr/59) - Carl Burgos cover artwork [final inventory issue]|
|#O-365 Battle #63 (Apr/59) p.1 - artwork by Steve Ditko|
|#O-365 Battle #63 (Apr/59) p.2 - artwork by Steve Ditko|
|#O-365 Battle #63 (Apr/59) p.3 - artwork by Steve Ditko|
|#O-365 Battle #63 (Apr/59) p.4 - artwork by Steve Ditko|
And finally, the last 7 pre-hero issues of Battle. These books are important for the contributions of Jack Kirby, who penciled all 7 covers and 10 interior stories. The primary inker on Kirby here is Christopher Rule, who was concurrently inking most of his stories in the sci-fi/fantasy titles of 1959. Other inkers will be mentioned, when known. Kirby most likely scripted all these stories himself and they are action-filled mini-epics. Here are the highlights:
Issue #64 sports a Kirby/Rule cover and two new stories by Kirby/Rule and one by Carl Burgos inside with "T" job numbers. The Paul Reinman and Joe Sinnott stories are O-381 and O-325. By virture of Joe Sinnott's work records, we know that O-325 was drawn on November 21-25, 1958. This concludes the script was an inventory pre-implosion script drawn "new" in late 1958 and corroborates the same idea towards the Ditko story in issue #63 above. The same can be concluded for the Paul Reinman story.
|Battle #64 (June/59) - Kirby/Rule cover artwork|
|#T-266 Battle #64 (June/59) p.1 - Kirby/Rule artwork|
|Battle #65 (Aug/59) - Kirby/Rule cover artwork|
|#T-800 Battle #65 (Aug/59) p.1 - Kirby/Rule artwork|
|#T-328 Battle #328 Battle #65 (Aug/59) p.1 - Joe Sinnott artwork|
|#T-329 Battle #65 (Aug/59) p.1 - Joe Sinnott artwork|
|Battle #66 (Dec/59) - Kirby/Rule cover artwork|
|#T-411 Battle #66 (Oct/59) p.1 - Kirby/Rule artwork|
|#O-084 Battle #66 (Oct/59) p.1 - Jack Davis story artwork|
|#T-394 Battle #66 (Oct/59) p.1 - Joe Sinnott story artwork|
|#T-394 Battle #66 (Oct/59) p.2 - Joe Sinnott story artwork|
|#T-394 Battle #66 (Oct/59) p.3 - Joe Sinnott story artwork|
|#T-394 Battle #66 (Oct/59) p.3 - Joe Sinnott story artwork|
|Battle #67 (Dec/59) - Kirby/Kirby (?) cover artwork|
|#T-453 Battle #67 (Dec/59) p.1 - Kirby/Rule artwork|
|#T-454 Battle #67 (Dec/59) p.1 - Williamson/Crandall artwork|
|#T-466 Battle #67 (Dec/59) p.1 - Jack Davis artwork|
|Battle #68 (Feb/60) - Kirby/? cover artwork|
|#T-529 Battle #68 (Feb/60) p.1 - Kirby/Williamson (?) story artwork|
|#T-530 Battle #68 (Feb/60) p.1 - Kirby/Ditko storty artwork|
Issue #69 starts with a Jack Kirby cover could have George Klein inking but I'm really not sure about this. Russ Heath, Carl Burgos, John Severin and a 6 page Kirby story that looks like Chris Rule may have inked it but as before, I'm not 100% certain about this one.
|Battle #69 (Apr/60) - Kirby/Klein (?) cover artwork|
|#T-600 Battle #69 (Apr/60) p.1 - Kirby/Rule(?) story artwork|
Finally, the very last Timely/Atlas war issue, the classic Battle #70 (June/60). A Jack Kirby cover with an unknown inker, maybe Joe Sinnott starts us off. Two titanic Kirby stories this issue, one inked by Joe Sinnott and the best story of the entire 7 issue survey is the wonderful "A Tank Knows No Mercy!", written by Kirby and inked incredibly by Steve Ditko. This art combination is one of the grittiest and expressive you'll ever see with Ditko's inks giving an almost three-dimensional "weighty" effect to the images The splash itself is incredible. Carl Burgos, Don Heck and even a cameo story by none other than Bill Everett, his final story until his return to Marvel in 1966. Concurrently he has stories in Tales of Suspense #8 (Mar/60) and Kid Colt #90 (May/60). This surprising gem rounds out the issue and put a final close on Atlas war comics.
|Battle #70 (June/60) - Kirby/? cover artwork|
|#T-707 Battle #70 (June/60) p.1 - Kirby/Sinnott story artwork|
|#T-708 Battle #70 (June/60) p.1 - Bill Everett story artwork|
|#T-692 Battle #70 (June/60) p.1 - Kirby/Ditko story artwork|
|#T-692 Battle #70 (June/60) p.2 - Kirby/Ditko story artwork|
|#T-692 Battle #70 (June/60) p.3 - Kirby/Ditko story artwork|
|#T-692 Battle #70 (June/60) p.4 - Kirby/Ditko story artwork|
|#T-692 Battle #70 (June/60) p.5 - Kirby/Ditko story artwork|
Here are the statistics:
From War Comics #1 (Dec/50) to Battle #70 (June/60), Timely/Atlas produced (by “my” count, and I own and have personally indexed every issue), 512 full war comic issues, with 21 additional partial war content issues (in the months leading up to full war content conversion) in titles like Man Comics, Men’s Adventures, Young Men, Spy Cases, Spy Fighters and Kent Blake. As seen, the total number of partial or complete war titles during this span is 30 (plus Rugged Action, a “barely” partial war title with four war stories spread across only two of the four issues).
- WAR COMICS #1- 49 (49 issues) (Dec/50 - Sept/57)
- BATTLE #1-70 (70 issues) (Mar/51 - June/60)
- MAN COMICS #9-25 (17 issues) (Aug/51 - May/53)
- MEN'S ADVENTURES #9-20) (12 issues) (Aug/51 - Apr/53)
- COMBAT KELLY #1-44 (44 issues) (Nov/51 - Aug/57)
- YOUNG MEN #12-20 (9 issues) (Dec/51 - Apr/53)
- WAR ADVENTURES #1-13 (13 issues) (Jan/52 - Feb/53)
- BATTLE ACTION #1-30 (30 issues) (Feb/52 - Aug/57)
- WAR COMBAT #1-5 (5 issues) (Mar/52 - Nov/52) ... becomes...
- COMBAT CASEY #6-34 (29 issues) (Jan/53 - July/57)
- SPY FIGHTERS #7-13 (7 issues) (Mar/52 - Mar/53)
- KENT BLAKE #6-12 (7 issues) (Mar/52 - Mar/53)
- BATTLEFIELD #1-11 (11 issues) (Apr/52 - May/53)
- MEN IN ACTION #1-9 (9 issues) Apr/52 - Dec/52) ... becomes...
- BATTLE BRADY #10-14 (5 issues)(Jan/53- June/53)
- WAR ACTION #1-14 (14 issues) (Apr/52 - June/53)
- BATTLEFRONT #1-48 (48 issues) (June/52 - Aug/57)
- COMBAT #1-11 (11 issues) (June/52 - Apr/53)
- SPY CASES #11-15 (5 issues) (June/52 - Feb/53)
- 3-D ACTION #1 (1 issue) (Jan/54)
- MARINES IN BATTLE #1-25 (25 issues) (Aug/54 - Sept/58)
- NAVY ACTION #1-11, 15-18 (15 issues) (Aug/54 - Apr/56), (Jan/57 - Aug/57) ... becomes...
- SAILOR SWEENEY #12-14 (3 issues) (July/56 - Nov/56)
- BATTLEGROUND #1-20 (20 issues) (Sept/54 - Sept/57)
- ** RUGGED ACTION** #1-4 (4 issues) Dec/54 - June/55) [no issue with full war content]
- MARINES IN ACTION #1-14 (14 issues) (June/55 - Sept/57)
- NAVY COMBAT #1-20 (20 issues) (June/55 - Oct/58)
- DEVIL DOG DUGAN #1-3 (3 issues) (July/56 - Nov/56) ... becomes ...
- TALES OF THE MARINES #4 (1 issue) #4 (Feb/57) ... becomes ...
- MARINES AT WAR #5-7 (3 issues) (Apr/57 - Aug/57)
- SERGEANT BARNEY BARKER #1-3 (3 issues) (Aug/56 - Dec/56) ... becomes ...
- G.I. TALES #4-6 (3 issues) (Feb/57 - July/57)
- NAVY TALES #1-4 (4 issues) (Jan/57 - July/57)
- COMMANDO ADVENTURES #1-2 (2 issues) (June/57 - Aug/57)
Kent Blake #3, 5, 6, 12, 13, 14
Rugged Action #1, 2, 3, 4
Spy Cases #28 (#3), 5, 9, 10, 16
Spy Fighters #4, 6, 13
Young Men #9, 10, 11
The very peak months were Nov/52 through Mar/53, where 14 war issues were released each month. 1952 led with 121 (plus four partial) issues, followed by 1953 with 81 (plus six partial) issues.
1951: 19 + 9 partial
1952: 121 + 4 partial
1953: 81 + 6 partial
1954: 58 + 1 partial
1955: 72 + 1 partial
Sergeant Barney Barker #3; G.I. Tales #4
BUZZ BRAND: 1 story in 1 issue.
War Comics #24
War Combat #5; Combat Casey #6-34; Battle #61,64, Combat Kelly #17
COMBAT CASEY TELLS WW1 STORIES: 10 stories in 10 different issues
Combat Casey #15, 20,21,22,26,28,30,32,33,34
COMBAT KELLY: 122 stories in 52 different issues.
Combat Kelly #1-44; Battle #61,62; Battlefront #6-11
COMBAT KELLY'S COMBAT COURSE: 1 story in 1 issue.
Combat Kelly #18
COOKIE: 13 stories in 13 different issues.
Combat Kelly #7-11,13,14,15,16,17,20,21,23
COOKIE'S COMBAT COURSE: 17 stories in 17 different issues.
Combat Kelly #19,24-39
COOKIE'S COMBAT TALES: 6 stories in 6 different issues.
Combat Kelly #40-44,60
DEVIL-DOG DUGAN: 17 stories in 5 different issues.
Devil-Dog Dugan #1-3; Tales of the Marines #4; Navy Action #16
IRON MIKE MCGRAW: 29 stories in 21 different issues.
Marines in Battle #1-20,23
PRIVATE PENNY: 18 stories in 18 different issues.
Combat Casey #7-10,13-22,25,27,28,30
PRIVATE TIM O'TOOLE: 3 stories in 3 different issues.
ROCK MURDOCK, THE FIGHTING GYRENE: 23 stories in 15 different issues.
Marines in Action #1-14; Marines in Battle #22
SAILOR SWEENEY: 14 stories in 5 different issues.
Sailor Sweeney #12,13,14; Navy Tales #1,2
SERGEANT BARNEY BARKER: 16 stories in 4 different issues.
Sergeant Barney Barker #1,2,3; G.I. Tales #4
SGT. SOCKO SWENSKI'S COMBAT COURSE: 5 stories in 5 different issues.
Battle Brady #10-14
TORPEDO TAYLOR: 26 stories in 16 different issues.
Navy Combat #1-14,16, 19
OUR FIGHTING FLEET: 15 stories in 15 issues.
Navy Combat #1,3-14,16,17
THE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM: 60 stories in 60 different issues.
THE HISTORY OF THE U.S.M.C.: 20 stories in 20 different issues.
Marines in Battle #1,2,4-20,23
TRUE WAR STORIES: 22 stories in 22 different issues.
Combat Kelly #22,23,25-44
Creator-wise, Stan Lee scripted exactly six stories, four serious stories in 1952-53, and two humorous fillers on Devil Dog Dugan and Sergeant Barney Barker in 1956-57. That’s it.
#9927 "Cycle!" in War Adventures #3 (Apr/52) - Joe Maneely art (3 pages)
#A-968 "Troop Movement" in Battle #13 (Oct/52) - Cal Massey art (5 pages)
#A-993 "The Mistake of General Ming" in Combat #4 (Sept/52) - Fred Kida art (5 pages)
#B-794 "The Last Command of Colonel Fong" in Battle #17 (Feb/53) - Werner Roth art (7 pages)
NN Feature: "Barker's Belly-Laughs" in Sergeant Barney Barker #3 (Dec/56) - John Severin (1p)
#L-024 " Feature: "Dugan Does it Again!" in Tales of the Marines #4 (Feb/57) - Joe Sinnott art (1p)
|War Adventures #3 (Apr/52) - First Stan Lee Atlas war story|
"Cycle" is a very dark, very somber and very quickly told story of a mother's worse nightmare. It's about as blunt of a story as you can get, told almost callously and economically with no extraneous diversion from it's main point. For this matter, I believe it works. And Joe Maneely depicts the dark, grittiness and grimness superbly.
|#9927 War Adventures #3 (Apr/52) p.1 - Stan Lee & Joe Maneely|
|#9927 War Adventures #3 (Apr/52) p.2 - Stan Lee & Joe Maneely|
|#9927 War Adventures #3 (Apr/52) p.2 - Stan Lee & Joe Maneely|
The most prolific Atlas war comics scribe that we have evidence for was Hank Chapman, who scripted exactly 175 war stories between cover date Feb/52 and Feb/54, in all titles, including takes on character features like Battle Brady, Combat Kelly and Combat Casey. There is certainly a possibility that there are additional unsigned Chapman stories but I do not feel qualified in trying to identify them. His stories were hard-hitting, often extremely violent and occasionally preachy (see "Atrocity Story" above in Battlefield #2). Other writers we have direct evidence of, by way of signatures or record books, were Don Rico, Carl Wessler, Paul S. Newman, Ernie Hart and Robert Bernstein.
The artists ran the gamut of everyone who was working for Atlas in the 1950s. Stunning work was turned in by Joe Maneely, Bill Everett, Russ Heath, Jerry Robinson, John Severin, Syd Shores, Gene Colan, Norman Steinberg, Robert Q. Sale, Jack Katz, Sam Kweskin and especially in the pre-Code period, Paul Reinman, who hit a peak he never achieved either before or after.
All told, not including persistent unknowns, I've counted 121 different war artists in total across the line. I'll post a full list at the very end of this blog post.
The primary cover artists were Joe Maneely, Russ Heath, John Severin, Sol Brodsky, and Carl Burgos, but lesser amounts were brilliantly turned in by Harry Anderson, Bill Everett, Jerry Robinson, Syd Shores, Robert Q. Sale, Fred Kida and Jack Kirby, on the last pre-hero Battle issues. 1951 still has a ton of unknown cover identifications.
The great Jerry Robinson did an exhaustive amount of fantastic work, so much so I covered it here:
Jerry Robinson (1922-2011) - The Timely Years
Robinson drew 9 Atlas war covers and 27 stories (all drawn in 1952), the stories appearing in only 12 total issues as he drew all 4 stories in the first 5 issues of Battlefront (making them essentially "all-Robinson" issues). Go see the Robinson link above for the full course, while I present some samples below:
|Battlefront #4 (Sept/52) - Jerry Robinson cover art|
|Battlefront #5 (Oct/52) - Jerry Robinson cover art|
|Battle Action #6 (Nov/52) - Jerry Robinson cover art|
|Combat #6 (Nov/52) - Jerry Robinson cover art|
|Men in Action #8 (Nov/52) - Jerry Robinson cover art|
|War Adventures #10 (Nov/52) - Jerry Robinson cover art|
|War Comics #13 (Nov/52) - Jerry Robinson cover art|
|Young Men #18 (Dec/52) - Jerry Robinson cover art|
|Men's Adventures #19 (Mar/53) - Jerry Robinson cover art|
|#9931 War Adventures #3 (Apr/52) p.1 - Jerry Robinson art|
|#A-361 Battlefront #1 (June/52) p.1 - Jerry Robinson art|
|#A-364 Battlefront #1 (Apr/52) p.1 - Jerry Robinson original art|
My late friend, the wonderful Sam Kweskin, drew 8 war stories for Atlas but one the finest stories of his comic book career isn't even included in this number as it appeared in a spy issue of Kent Blake of the Secret Service, #14 (July/53), the final issue of the run, after a conversion back to spy thriller type stories. The non-feature filler in this issue is the powerful and evocative "The Butcher of Wulfhausen!", a 6-page tale of comeuppance about an ex concentration camp commander predating both Feldstein and Krigstein's "Master Race" in Impact #1 (Apr/55) and the Twilight Zone episode "Death's Head Revisited" written by Rod Serling and broadcast in November of 1961.
"The Butcher of Wulfhausen!" is rendered in a rainy, dark and noir-like atmosphere with a masterful climax almost suited in a pre-code horror comic book.
|#C-445 Kent Blake #14 (July/53) p.1 - Sam Kweskin art|
|#C-445 Kent Blake #14 (July/53) p.2 - Sam Kweskin art|
|#C-445 Kent Blake #14 (July/53) p.3 - Sam Kweskin art|
|#C-445 Kent Blake #14 (July/53) p.4 - Sam Kweskin art|
|#C-445 Kent Blake #14 (July/53) p.5 - Sam Kweskin art|
The particular subject matter was very personal to Kweskin, who had Polish Jewish ancestry on his mother's side and had served in WWII with the 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion. Kweskin's unit was involved in the actual liberation of the Dachau camp and in Battlefield #9 (Mar/53), Kweskin outdoes himself with this very subject matter on "City of Slaves", a story about the Dachau camp and liberation.
|#C-056 Battlefield #9 (Mar/53) p.1 - Sam Kweskin art|
|#C-056 Battlefield #9 (Mar/53) p.2 - Sam Kweskin art|
|#C-056 Battlefield #9 (Mar/53) p.3 - Sam Kweskin art|
|#C-056 Battlefield #9 (Mar/53) p.4 - Sam Kweskin art|
|#C-056 Battlefield #9 (Mar/53) p.5 - Sam Kweskin art|
|#C-056 Battlefield #9 (Mar/53) p.6 - Sam Kweskin art|
Gene Colan was extremely prolific in the war genre, drawing 135 total stories between 1952 and 1957, with 106 of them coming in the post code years of 1955-1957. Nearly all of his post code covers begin with full page splashes. Here's a nice montage of Gene Colan war splashes through the years:
|Battle Action #4 (Aug/52) - Gene Colan cover artwork|
|War Comics #17 (Mar/53) - Gene Colan cover artwork|
|#9531 Man Comics #13 (Apr/52) p.1 - Gene Colan artwork|
|#B-544 Man Comics #21 (Dec/52) p.1 - Gene Colan artwork|
|#B-833 Man Comics #23 (Feb/53) p.1 - Gene Colan artwork|
|#F-154 Battleground #3 (Jan/55) p.1 - Gene Colan artwork|
|#H-373 Marines in Battle #10 (Feb/56) p.1 - Gene Colan artwork|
|#M-147 War Comics #48 (July/57) p.1 - Gene Colan artwork|
|#M-834 Battle #55 (Dec/57) p.1 - Gene Colan artwork|
Russ Heath drew 99 Atlas war covers (19% of them all) and 54 stories.These covers were intense, often stunning and in the pre-Code issues, often extremely violent. An example, the horrific flame-thrower cover to War Comics #11, where American soldiers are torching a North Korean machine gun nest, and quite possibly one of the most graphically shocking pre-code war covers of all time.
|War Comics #11 (Aug/52) - Russ Heath cover art|
|Men in Action #2 (June/52) - Russ Heath cover art|
|Battle Action #3 (June/52) - Russ Heath cover art|
|Original artwork to the cover of Battle Action #3 (June/52) by Russ Heath|
|Combat #2 (July/52) - Russ Heath cover art|
|Combat #5 (Oct/52) - Russ Heath cover art|
|Combat #9 (Feb/53) - Russ Heath cover art|
|Battle #18 (Mar/53) - Russ Heath cover art (with Carl Burgos)|
|War Adventures #5 (June/52) - Russ Heath cover art|
|Navy Action #2 (Oct/54) - Russ Heath cover art|
|Battleground #4 (Mar/55) - Russ Heath cover art|
|#9671 Man Comics #13 (Apr/52) p.1 - Russ Heath art|
|#A-457 Man Comics #16 (July/52) p.1 - Russ Heath art|
|#A-684 Man Comics #17 (Aug/52) p.1 - Russ Heath art|
|#A-193 War Combat #1 (Apr/52) p.1 - Russ Heath art|
Bill Everett drew 22 war stories and 17 covers (mostly in the "Navy" books) for Atlas. He also contributed to Goodman's short-lived war pulp revival, drawing lush pen and ink black and white illustrations. (These will be seen in my upcoming Secret History of Marvel Comics book due out within one or two months from Fantagraphics).We saw the Navy Tales #1 (and the original art) above in the body of the blog text. Here are some others:
|Man Comics #22 (Jan/53) - Bill Everett cover art|
|Men's Adventures #14 (June/52) - Bill Everett cover art|
|Navy Combat #8 (Aug/56) - Bill Everett cover art|
|Navy Combat #14 (Aug/57) - Bill Everett cover art|
|Navy Action #16 (Apr/57) - Bill Everett cover art|
|Navy Action #17 (June/57) - Bill Everett cover art|
|Battle #57 (Apr/58) - Bill Everett cover art|
And in sterling black and white (the better to see Everett's lush ink lines), the not exactly 100% accurate biographical piece from Battlefield #8 (Feb/53), "Il Duce".
|#B-801 Battlefront #10 (Mar/53) p.1 - John Romita art|
|#J-379 War Comics #42 (July/56) p.1 - John Romita art|
|#O-108 Battle #57 (Apr/58) p.1 - John Romita art|
|#8247 War Comics #4 (June/51) p.1 - Allen Bellman art|
|#8723 Battle #4 (Sept/51) p.1 - Allen Bellman art|
|#8723 Battle #4 (Sept/51) p.2 - Allen Bellman art|
|#8723 Battle #4 (Sept/51) p.3 - Allen Bellman art|
|#8723 Battle #4 (Sept/51) p.4 - Allen Bellman art|
|#A-245 Spy Fighters #9 (July/52) p.1 - Allen Bellman art|
|#A-245 Spy Fighters #9 (July/52) p.2 - Allen Bellman art|
|#A-245 Spy Fighters #9 (July/52) p.3 - Allen Bellman art|
|#A-245 Spy Fighters #9 (July/52) p.4 - Allen Bellman art|
|#A-556 Spy Cases #12 (Aug/52) p.1 - Allen Bellman art|
|#A-556 Spy Cases #12 (Aug/52) p.2 - Allen Bellman art|
|#A-556 Spy Cases #12 (Aug/52) p.3 - Allen Bellman art|
|#A-556 Spy Cases #12 (Aug/52) p.4 - Allen Bellman art|
|#A-556 Spy Cases #12 (Aug/52) p.5 - Allen Bellman art|
|#A-556 Spy Cases #12 (Aug/52) p.6 - Allen Bellman art|
|#A-761 Men's Adventures #16 (Oct/52) p.1 - Allen Bellman art|
|#A-761 Men's Adventures #16 (Oct/52) p.2 - Allen Bellman art|
|#A-761 Men's Adventures #16 (Oct/52) p.3 - Allen Bellman art|
|#A-761 Men's Adventures #16 (Oct/52) p.4 - Allen Bellman art|
|#A-761 Men's Adventures #16 (Oct/52) p.5 - Allen Bellman art|
|#A-887 War Adventures #8 (Sept/52) p.1 - Allen Bellman art|
|#J-300 War Comics #42 (July/56) p.1 - Joe Orlando art|
|#K-098 Marines In Battle #14 (Oct/56) p.1 - Joe Orlando art|
The prolific Robert Q. Sale drew almost 140 war stories alone between the years 1951 and 1956, the bulk coming from his long run on Combat Casey. Sale's art in the pre-code period is extraordinarily violent and his depictions of the Korean War's horror pulled no punches.
|#9183 Kent Blake #5 (Jan/52) p.2 - Robert Q. Sale art|
|#9211 Men's Adventures #12 (Feb/52) p.1 - Robert Q. Sale art|
|#9277 Man Comics #12 (Feb/52) p.1 - Robert Q. Sale art|
|#A-980 Man Comics #18 (Sept/52) p.1 - Robert Q. Sale art|
|#B-078 War Combat #5 (Nov52) - Robert Q. Sale|
Cal Massey drew 26 war stories and one cover for Atlas from 1951-53, 56-57. One of my favorite artists, Cal hailed from Philadelphia and was a contemporary of Joe Maneely, working with him at several different companies in the early 1950's. Along with Matt Baker, Cal Massey was one of the finest African-American artists working in the industry
|#A-491 Man Comics #16 (July/52) p.1 - Cal Massey art|
|#A-757 Man Comics #18 (Sept/52) p.1 - Cal Massey art|
|#A-882 Man Comics #17 (Aug/52) p.1 - Cal Massey art|
|#C-257 Man Comics #25 (Apr/53) p.1 - Cal Massey art|
|#7673 Spy Cases #27 (Dec/50) p.1 - Al Hartley art|
|#9065 Combat Kelly #2 (Jan/52) p.1 - Al Hartley art|
|#9190 Combat Kelly #2 (Jan/52) p.1 - Al Hartley art|
|#9244 Men's Adventures #12 (Feb/52) p.1 - Al Hartley art|
|#B-331 Man Comics #20 (Nov/52) p.1 - Al Hartley Art|
|#B-660 Combat Kelly #9 (Jan/53) p.1 - Al Hartley art|
|#A-406 Man Comics #15 (June/52) p.1 - Vern Henkel art|
|#B-159 War Combat #6 (Nov/52) p.1 - Vern Henkel art|
|#C-040 Men's Adventures #20 (Apr/53) p.1 - Vern Henkel art|
Gil Evans was another gritty war artist who drew 18 stories from 1952 to 1954.
|#B-206 MAN COMICS #20 (Nov52) p.1 - Gil Evans art|
Al Eadeh only drew 3 war stories but this hidden 3-pager in a non-war early issue of Kent Blake is perfectly representative of why I always like Eadeh's art.
|#8722 Kent Blake #3 (Sept/51) p.1 - Al Eadeh art|
|#8722 Kent Blake #3 (Sept/51) p.2 - Al Eadeh art|
|#8722 Kent Blake #3 (Sept/51) p.3 - Al Eadeh art|
Only 5 war stories for Bob Brown. Here is one of the splashes:
|#K-145 Marines in Battle #14 (Oct/56) p.1 - Bob Brown art|
The prolific Sy Barry did very little for Timely/Atlas, only 8 total stories I know of. Three of them were war stories.
|#C-030 Man Comics #25 (Apr/53) p.1 - Sy Barry art|
Dick Ayers was extremely prolific in the Atlas war titles, drawing 80 stories between 1952 and 1957 (9 stories kept in inventory continued to appear up to 1959). Two were Battleship Burke stories, the rest straight war. The first 40 or so were inked by Ernie Bache.
|#B-244 Men in Action #9 (Dec/52) p.1 - 1st Ayers Atlas war story|
|#C-201 Men's Adventures #20 (Apr/53) p.1 - Ayers/ Bache art|
The prolific Dave Berg drew 189 incredible war stories for Atlas between 1951 and 1957, seven of them appearing as inventory in the post-implosion period into 1958. He was the long-running Combat Kelly artist from issue #12 to #44, taking over from Al Hartley (#2) and Joe Maneely (#3 - #11). Anyone only knowing Berg's work in Mad Magazine will be in for a surprise here! Here are his 3 covers and a slew of splashes.
This first cover below surprised me as I was certain the soldier in the foreground was drawn by Sol Brodsky. It still may be so but it's signed by Berg. Sol certainly could have assisted/inked.
|Young Men #17 (Oct/52) - Dave Berg cover art|
|War Action #11 (Feb/53) - Dave Berg cover art|
|Combat Kelly #37 (June/56) - Dave Berg cover art|
|#7743 Young Men #7 (Feb/51) p.1 - Dave Berg art|
|#9728 Man Comics#13 (Apr/52) p.1 - Dave Berg art|
|#B-021 Man Comics #19 (Oct/52) p.1 - Dave Berg art|
|#B-47 War Combat #6 (Nov/52) p.1 - Dave Berg art|
|#K-157 Marines in Battle #14 (Oct/56) p.1 - Dave Berg art|
Fred Kida drew 10 Atlas war stories from 1952-55, 57 and 4 definite covers in all within a 2-month period in 1953 (with 3 more "alleged" to be his in 1957).
|#B-573 Man Comics #22 (Jan/53) p.1 - Fred Kida art|
|War Action #10 (Jan/53) - Fred Kida cover art|
|Battle #17 (Feb/53) - Fred Kida cover art|
|Battle Action #9 (Feb/53) - Fred Kida cover art|
|Man Comics #23 (Feb/53) - Fred Kida cover art|
Bernie Krigstein is known as possibly drawing the most important war-themed comic story of all time, the masterpiece of storytelling and panel composition titled "Master Race" for EC's Impact #1 (Apr/55). I'm going to post that story here just for its historical value along with Krigstein's first war story for Atlas in 1952. All told, Krigstein drew 13 Atlas war stories in 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1957.
|#A-921 War Adventures #8 (Sept/52) p.1 - Bernie Krigstein art|
|#A-921 War Adventures #8 (Sept/52) p.2 - Bernie Krigstein art|
|#A-921 War Adventures #8 (Sept/52) p.3 - Bernie Krigstein art|
|#A-921 War Adventures #8 (Sept/52) p.4 - Bernie Krigstein art|
|#A-921 War Adventures #8 (Sept/52) p.5 - Bernie Krigstein art|
|#B-562 Battle Action #8 (Jan/53) p.1 - Bernie Krigstein art|
|#C-148 Battle #23 (Nov/53) p.1 - Bernie Krigstein art|
|#H-110 Battleground #9 (Jan/56) p.1 - Bernie Krigstein art|
EC's "Master Race" by Al Feldstein and Bernie Krigstein. Published in Inpact #1 (Apr/55).
Timely/Atlas legend Syd Shores drew 73 war stories and 14 war covers for Atlas. Along the way he was the long-time artist on both Battle Brady and Sailor Sweeney. We saw the cover to Battle Brady #10 already above so here are a few more!
|Battle Brady #11 (Feb/53) - cover art by Syd Shores|
|Battle Brady #12 (Mar/53) - cover art by Syd Shores|
|Battle Brady #13 (Apr/53) - cover art by Syd Shores|
|Battle Brady #14 (June/53) - cover art by Syd Shores|
|Battle Action #10 (Mar/53) - cover art by Syd Shores|
|Battle Action #11 (Apr/53) - cover art by Syd Shores|
|Battle Action #12 (May/53) - cover art by Syd Shores|
|Battlefront #37 (Nov/55) - cover art by Syd Shores|
|Men in Action #9 (Dec/52) - cover art by Syd Shores|
Carl Burgos has long been a cipher in the annals of Atlas genre books. The creator of the Human Torch returned to the Timely staff after the war and then joined the Atlas staff of the 1950's when the Timely bullpen was dissolved. According to John Romita, Burgos was a sort of "unofficial" cover editor of the Atlas years who turned out a ton of unsigned covers (except for a handful of Mad-imitation Atlas humor signed covers) as well as laying out covers for other artists and tinkering with covers turned in by the small cache of Atlas cover artists. You can find his distinctive "hay" on post-code covers by Joe Maneely, Bill Everett, Russ Heath, you name it! Usually, his tinkering and clash of styles detracts from the work and I wish he'd have left his hands off, but his own solo covers were often exceptional. What took me so long to iron out his work was the fact that he often worked in different styles. It took locating a huge amount of "signed" black and white pulp illustrations for me to back-track and now be able to assign a significant body of work to him, an assignment that is still a work in progress for me. By the post-code period Burgos settles into an extremely "hay" like inking style that is absent in the pre-code period and the quality of the covers often dropped as the figures become static statues.
(*** A full look at the life and career of Carl Burgos on the occasion of his 100th birthday can be found "HERE"***)
So I have no Atlas war totals for him as of this writing but can present a nice survey of samples of his work. His covers are actually perfect for the war books as his rendering exudes a grim and gritty coarseness that I find works very well. There is often an intense feeling of isolation in his covers. I already posted a few in this blog above. Here are a few more.
|War Comics #12 (Oct/52) - Carl Burgos cover art|
|Battle Action #8 (Jan/53) - Carl Burgos cover art|
|Combat #8 (Jan/53) - Carl Burgos cover art|
|Men's Adventures #18 (Feb/53) - Carl Burgos cover art|
|War Comics #19 (May/53) - Carl Burgos cover art|
|Battle Action #20 (Dec/55) - Carl Burgos cover art|
|Battle #45 (Mar/56) - Carl Burgos cover art|
|Battle #46 (May/56) - Carl Burgos cover art|
The great Harry Anderson drew 2 Atlas war covers (with a 3rd I wonder about) and 5 stories. many of these stories are historical pieces and exceptionally well done.
|Battlefront #19 (May/54) - Harry Anderson cover art|
|Battle Action #13 (Oct/54) - Harry Anderson cover art|
|Battle #34 (Nov/54) - Harry Anderson cover art|
|#D-699 Battle #26 (Feb/54) p.1 - Harry Anderson art|
|#D-699 Battle #26 (Feb/54) p.2 - Harry Anderson art|
|#D-699 Battle #26 (Feb/54) p.3 - Harry Anderson art|
|#D-699 Battle #26 (Feb/54) p.4 - Harry Anderson art|
|#D-699 Battle #26 (Feb/54) p.5 - Harry Anderson art|
|#F-??? Battle #36 (Jan/55) p.1 - Harry Anderson art|
|#F-??? Battle #36 (Jan/55) p.2 - Harry Anderson art|
|#F-??? Battle #36 (Jan/55) p.3 - Harry Anderson art|
|#F-??? Battle #36 (Jan/55) p.4 - Harry Anderson art|
|#F-??? Battle #36 (Jan/55) p.5 - Harry Anderson art|
|#F-??? Battle #36 (Jan/55) p.6 - Harry Anderson art|
Joe Sinnott was enormously busy in the Atlas war books, drawing 107 stories and two covers. We already saw his earliest stories penciling Kent Blake for Joe Gill as well as Joe's biographical story about Fidel Castro and 3-part Napoleon Bonaparte epic in Battle above in the blog text. Joe was also very busy in the Atlas war character features, where he drew the exploits of Devil-Dog Dugan in issues #2, #3 and Tales of the Marines #4. He also handled Iron Mike McGraw in Marines in Battle #17-20, 23.
Here are two more splashes and his two covers:
|#J-415 War Comics #42 (July/56) p.1 - Joe Sinnott art|
|#M-096 War Comics #48 (July/57) p.1 - Joe Sinnott art|
|Devil-Dog Dugan #3 (Nov/56) - Joe Sinnott cover art|
|Battle #62 (Feb/59) - Joe Sinnott cover art|
John Severin drew 52 Atlas war covers and only 20 stories. We saw a number of them above in the post-code period. Here is one of his very best stories, influenced by his great work at EC.
|#E-852 Battle #33 (Oct/54) p.1 - John Severin art|
|#E-852 Battle #33 (Oct/54) p.2 - John Severin art|
|#E-852 Battle #33 (Oct/54) p.3 - John Severin art|
|#E-852 Battle #33 (Oct/54) p.4 - John Severin art|
|#E-852 Battle #33 (Oct/54) p.5 - John Severin art|
|#E-852 Battle #33 (Oct/54) p.6 - John Severin art|
|Original artwork to the cover of Marines in Action #14 (Sept/57) by John Severin|
Joe Maneely was the most important artist Atlas had between the years 1950 and 1958. He was Stan Lee's Jack Kirby of the 1950's, called upon to launch a large part of all character features of the decade and like Kirby in the 1960's, pass them off to someone else to continue. He was the fastest artist in the fold and worked the closest with Stan, drawing the majority of genre stories Stan scripted in the decade. His death in June of 1958 changed comics history because he would have been a large part of the Marvel silver-age, in what capacity, to be debated forever. I posted a lot of Maneely's work in this blog post but am saving a lot for his own post and a Maneely biography art book I'm writing. His war comics stats come in this way:
108 covers (21% of the total!) and 86 stories, including tenures on Combat Kelly, Battle Brady, Battleship Burke, Private Tim O'Toole, and finishing the very last Torpedo Taylor story that Don Heck left unfinished after the work stoppage in April of 1957. [Maneely's 108 and Russ Heath's 99 covers are 40% of the total!]
Here is a survey of splashes and a few more covers. In no way can Maneely's full war comics contributions be covered here.
|Original artwork to the cover of Navy Combat #5 (Feb/56) by Joe Maneely|
|Original artwork to the cover of Navy Combat #6 (Apr/56) by Joe Maneely|
|#8971 Man Comics #11 (Dec/51) p.1 - Joe Maneely art|
|#9249 Man Comics #12 (Feb/52) p.1 - Joe Maneely art|
|#B-561 Combat Kelly #9 (Jan/53) p.1 - Joe Maneely art|
|#B-566 Combat Kelly #9 (Jan/53) p.1 - Joe Maneely art|
|#9613 Man Comics #13 (Apr/52) p.1 - Joe Maneely art|
|#A-173 War Combat #1 (Apr/52) p.1 - Joe Maneely art|
|#B-465 Combat Kelly #8 (Dec/52) p.1 - Joe Maneely art|
From one of the earliest....
|Battle #4 (Sept/51) - Joe Maneely cover art|
To one of the last...
A special cover for Atlas artist aficionados. The backs of the seamen's shirts have familiar names to them! From the left, "Ward, G" is George Ward, Hussian Art School friend of Joe Maneely who was assisting Walt Kelly on Pogo. "Lee, S" is Stan Lee, with "Maneely, J." and "Severin, J." following.
Except for Ward, this was pretty much the post-implosion staff in 1958 when this book came out and a perfect place to close this post, as Maneely's death for the most past closes off the Atlas period definitively
|Navy Combat #19 (Aug/58) - Joe Maneely cover art|
La Cava, Bill
LoPrieno, Dan (LoPrino also)
Meskin, Mort (?)
Miller, Charles F.
Pike, Jay Scott
Sale, Robert Q.
- Battle #5 p.1 Al Hartley splash - Doc V. collection
- Combat Kelley #21 p.1 Dave Berg splash - Heritage Auctions
- Combat Kelley #21 p.5 Dave Berg splash - Doc V. collection
- Combat Kelley #21 p.6 Dave Berg splash - Doc V. collection
- Navy Tales #1 cover Bill Everett - Heritage Auctions
- Battlefront #1 p.1 Jerry Robinson splash - Jerry Robinson estate
- Battle Action #3 cover by RussHeath - Terry Doyle collection
- Marines in Action #14 cover by John Severin - Terry Doyle collection
- Navy Combat #5 cover by Joe Maneely - Doc V. collection
- Navy Combat #6 cover by Joe Maneely - Doc V. collection