Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos (Vol. 1) 1963 Year In Review

Original art from Sgt. Fury and His Jowling Commandos #3, found at WhatIfKirby.

How Many Issues?

Four issues, Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #1-4, published bimonthly.

Creative Team:

Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Dick Ayers (#1-3), George Roussos (#4)

Was It Good?

Sgt. Fury certainly has its charm, but it wasn’t a great title in 1963. The heroes were reckless to a cartoonish degree, and the odds they overcome in these issues (usually without a scratch!) are hilariously implausible. The machismo on display in these stories is relentless. That’s not bad, mind you, but it does get monotonous and undercuts any semblance of human drama in the plot.

And yet, there are signs that this comic will improve. Sgt. Fury #4 was a major step toward a more complex sort of war story. Not only did a member of the Howling Commandos die in that issue —- keep in mind that heroic comic book characters simply didn’t die in the early 60’s —- but the seemingly invincible Nick Fury acted damn near human twice in the same issue. Fury’s sense of helplessness during an air raid was refreshing, and the sympathetic lies he told Pamela Hawley showed a tenderness that hadn’t even been hinted at before.

What About the Sub-Plots and Continuity?

It can be fun to track the minor story points throughout a year’s worth of comics to see what ideas were developed, which were quietly dropped, and what weird trends emerged.

  • One of the nice things about this title is how diverse the Howling Commandos are, despite being that diversity being historically inaccurate.
  • Gabriel Jones is the first black hero (and perhaps even black character, period) of Marvel’s Silver Age.
  • The death toll in these issues is ridiculously high, but it is mostly implied. There are some bizarre choices being made here (presumably to not violate the Comics Code Authority); it is okay to see characters like Lord Ha-Ha or Junior Juniper get gunned down, but not others. The weirdest instance involved Dum-Dum throwing a grenade at a plane, and the German pilot bailing out just in time.
  • Dum-Dum Dugan has a Wile E. Coyote-level love of explosives.
  • Gabe Jones is rarely shown in a panel without his horn. Even in fight scenes, it’s not unusual to see him playing his horn with one hand and (maybe) firing a gun with the other.
  • The death of Junior Juniper could have a major impact on the brash Howling Commandos. Time will tell.

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