Saturday, April 25, 2015

Weird(cool) Panels: Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos

You know I love a good offbeat issue of comic book heroics. Whether it's Captain America and Backlash fighting bears, date night or a bachelor party, random weirdcool comics is one of my things. Working through the stack of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos acquired from Seattle's Emerald City Comicon I came across the offbeat adventure that is 1968's # 51. Gary Friedrich writes as Dick Ayers pencils with inks by John Severin, lettering by Gaspar Saladino and editing from Stan "The Man" Lee himself. In the opening pages, great German sharpshooter Jorgen Kline is taken by Nazi's for a special mission for Hitler himself. Objective? Kill the big three leaders opposing Germany: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin! If he doesn't do it, his wife and kid are goners.

The Howling Commandos are recruited to provide some security detail so instead of fighting in their fatigues on some bombed out battlefield, they're cleaned up and dispatched to the secret meeting site. Dum Dum isn't too keen on the civilian attire until he's provided a new bowler hat and Fury swaps his cigars for a pipe. Dino Manelli, the movie star Howler who was wounded then set up with a sleeper Nazi agent who can't complete her mission because she loves him, can't partake in the mission and goes to a local watering hole. Not wanting to drink alone he singles out a seemingly nice fella to chew the fat with. That guy? Yup, Jorgen! Things get not so much offbeat as they do sad. Fury and his Howlers fight off some SS bums at the conference then Dino tries to talk some sense into Jorgen when they realize who is who. With his family's safety and the world in the balance, Jorgen takes his own life, knowing Hitler is evil. This leads to a bit of a existential discussion on the meaning of war and how the strength of one nation may or may not be worth the life of a single man. If that weren't enough guts and thoughts for a comic book, Jorgen's now widowed wife has her son taken away by the Nazi's and the issue ends with her holding a gun to her head as death may be the only escape!

Sgt. Fury has always mixed derring-do, action, adventure, banter and bromance with a touch of war torn reality as racism is addressed and a fellow Howler along with a ladyfriend get killed. The stakes actually mean something and can even teach the reader a thing or two about life. I laughed at Dum Dum getting a new bowler and thinking he was fancy and then took a moment to think about people I've lost in life when Dino explains that Jorgen killed himself and how helpless that made the Howler feel. Fury somehow manages to lose his blazer and half his shirt as usual then we end on Jorgen's wife weeping and ready for death. Art imitating life I of the fan letters discuses the Walter Mitty style storytelling of the comics and that also got me thinking about how maybe reading comic books and watching fantasy movies of the 80's might have spoiled me in a sense. With dynamic characters fighting the good fight and doing something because they can with an underlying thread of optimism; I sometimes feel out of place in today's rat race of latest trends, gadgets and material items along with the media's negative depiction of the world.  At least my imagination still works as I can go to another world while still remembering the one I'm in. Until next time keep questioning authority and sticking it to the man while getting the job done, Howling Commando style.

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