DC Comics Goes to War

Mon, May 31st, 2010 at 8:58am PDT | Updated: June 1st, 2010 at 9:11am

Comic Books
Jeffrey Renaud, Staff Writer

Geoff Darrow covers "G.I. Combat,' featuring a Haunted Tank story

On the eve of Memorial Day weekend, DC Comics fittingly announced a series of one-shots for September, which will revisit and celebrate some of the publisher's most illustrious war-themed comic books from the fifties, sixties and seventies.

Darwyn Cooke ["DC: The New Frontier"] and Ivan Brandon ["Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape"] are joining forces on "Weird War Tales" with each creator contributing an individual story.  

"Weird War Tales" originally ran from 1971 to 1983 and featured classic recurring characters like the Creature Commandos and G.I. Robot.  

Drawing on his complete run of "Weird War Tales" from the seventies for both inspiration and ammunition, Cooke told CBR News he loved the two genres of horror and war spliced together into monthly doses.  

"There were also great writers like [Robert] Kanigher and [Archie] Goodwin working with some of my favorite artists like [Joe] Kubert and [Alex] Toth," said Cooke. "By the way, I had the thrill to spend dinner with Joe Kubert in San Francisco this year. He seemed delighted "Weird War" was coming back. I really killed myself on the cover, actually painting it and working a bit with [DC Comics Editorial Art Director] Mark Chi [Chiarello]. I slapped Joe’s classic logo illustration – dozens of GIs writhing in horror within the word ‘Weird’ – onto my cover and sent it thru to Mark with the hope we could also ‘resurrect’ this great hand drawn logo by Joe. Mark and Joey C [Cavalieri] loved it, so I'm going to achieve some kind of professional high water mark here having my art share a cover with Joe Kubert's." 

Cooke said his story will be a little more ‘nuanced’ than the original tales and he will also include a fair dash of his trademark dark humor.  

"I suppose the humor takes it more into the weird area than full blown horror. I've also known Ivan for forever now, and it's a kick to share a book with such a talented friend," said Cooke. 

Brandon is equally pleased to be sharing the marquee with Cooke.  

"I'm a fan of the old [war] stuff and even the more recent incarnations when Vertigo was working with the title," said Brandon. "That line brought some excellent talent onto the scene, Marcelo Frusin, Miles Gunter... it had people stretching their creative legs in ways the modern mainstream comics fan doesn't always get to see.

"I’ve been keeping a secret that DC would bring these properties back out, so when I got the call it was a really nice surprise. And of course, getting to share a stage with Darwyn is an absolute treat." 

Staying true to the original concept, Brandon said he didn’t want to over think his story's context too much because he tends to get derailed from the meat of the storytelling.   

"I just dug in and tried to do good work. I think a lot of the charm of the book through the ages – and any good work, really – is that it hopefully transcends the context of the year that it happened to be produced," he explained.

Rising star writer Matt Sturges ("JSA All-Stars") and British artist Phil Winslade ("The Flash") will team on "G.I. Combat," and Sturges told CBR News exclusively that their one-shot will feature a Haunted Tank story.

Originally featured in the war anthology "G.I. Combat" from 1961 through 1987, the Haunted Tank was created by writer and editor Robert Kanigher and artist Russ Heath.

Darwyn Cooke's "Weird War Tales" cover

"I'm an enormous World War II buff, and have been for years. So when I got the chance to do a Haunted Tank story, I leaped at it," said Sturges. "I've always been particularly interested in the post D-Day European theater, and so that's where I set my story. In the original 'G.I. Combat' stories, the Haunted Tank crew started out in North Africa but eventually moved to Europe. It's a little dicey historically, because the M3 Stuart tank was hardly in use by the end of the war, and its 37mm main gun couldn't actually pierce the armor of a German Tiger anyway, but that's hardly the least realistic element of the story."

Sturges said there was no need or pressure to do a modern day re-telling of Haunted Tank as the feat had already been accomplished by Frank Marraffino and Henry Flint in 2008 for Vertigo Comics.

"In the story I wrote, my goal was to walk the fine line between a modern sensibility and the charm that made the original stories so successful. The original stories were pretty lighthearted, but the lightheartedness depends on the characters – and the story – ignoring the dire gravity of what they're actually doing.

"The use of black comedy and feigned indifference to violence during war is something that's always intrigued me, and that's more or less what this story is about. But that's all subtext. Mainly it's a story about good guys in tanks blowing up bad guys in tanks; that's what the original Haunted Tank stories were, at the end of the day. Why mess with success?"

Billy Tucci ("Shi") said, like Sturges, there was no reason to bring his "Star-Spangled War Stories" one-shot into the 21st Century, but he added that he will approach the tale like Quentin Tarantino did with "Inglourious Basterds."

"It, too, is inspired by true events, but it's also chock full of sex, guns, humor and lots and lots of bullet riddled, shrapnel shredded bodies," Tucci told CBR News. "The story may take place in 1944, but the key that turns it out is very 2010, and I'm really fortunate to be a part of such an amazing team."

The writer wouldn't reveal which character or characters would be featured in his one-shot, though, during its original run from 1952 to 1977, The War that Time Forgot, Enemy Ace and The Unknown Soldier each had tours of duty as the headliner of "Star-Spangled War Stories."

Tucci, who visited actual battlegrounds and interviewed the men who fought in the war for his 2008-09 miniseries, "Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion," offered, "My particular story takes place behind enemy lines during World War II, but has a real modern edge to it. We're also incredibly fortunate to have cutting-edge superhero and detail freaks like artists Justiano and Andrew Mangum tackling the pages with a vengeance."

Adding that he is primarily known as someone who writes and draws 'chick' books, Tucci said if you were to ask anyone who knows him, they'd tell you that war comics were his favorite genre.

"I'd rather draw a paratrooper dropping from a C-47 than the hottest rendition of Black Cat," laughed Tucci. "I still cherish my copy of 'Sgt. Rock' #278 that was given to me in the late seventies. I'm a huge fan of all the great war books and all the artists, from Joe Kubert to Russ Heath and from Wally Wood to John Severin. Hell, the list goes on and on."

From the floor of Phoenix Comicon, B. Clay Moore said simply that when he and Chad Hardin attack "Our Fighting Forces," The Losers will be front and center in a story that will resonate with longtime followers of the title and newfound readers.

"The 'Can't Win for Losing' theme of their stories still resonates, and I think it certainly meshes with modern perceptions of the futility of war," said Moore, a self-professed fan of DC's war comics.

"It's great to be able to handle characters that had previously been written by Bob Kanigher and Jack Kirby," he explained.

"Our Army at War" will also get a one-shot, but while no creative team were announced DC Comics did share that Cooke, Mark Schultz, Geof Darrow, Joe Kubert and Brian Bolland would provide covers for the one-shots.

TAGS:  dc comics, geof darrow, darwyn cooke, matthew sturges, phil winslade, billy tucci

 
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