Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos (Vol. 1) 1964 Year In Review

Interior artwork from Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #7, found at Heritage Auctions

How Many Issues?

Nine issues: Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #5-13. The title was bimonthly until July 1964, at which point it switched to being published monthly.

Creative Team:

Plotters: Stan Lee (5-13), Jack Kirby (5-7, 13), Dick Ayers (8-12)

Scripter: Stan Lee (5-13)

Penciller: Jack Kirby (5-7, 13), Dick Ayers (8-12)

Inkers: George Roussos (5-12), Dick Ayers (13)

Was It Good?

Sometimes, it was very good! Other times, it was fun, but really really dumb and/or offensive. The Jack Kirby issues were all very good this year. They combined reckless machismo with adventure, without getting repetitive. The Dick Ayers issues were definitely more formulaic, and the plots were oftentimes too ridiculous for my liking. But even the worst issues had at least the redeeming quality of action.

One story I’d like to single out is issue #6, where George Stonewell joins the Howling Commandos for a mission. This was a story about bigotry, which could easily have been preachy. But it worked surprisingly well, probably because it was presented in the context of a war comic, where the characters value bravery above all else. Honestly, this was one of Stan Lee’s most well-written comics to date.

The art was pretty consistent in 1964. Either Jack Kirby or Dick Ayers drew it, and George Roussos inked all but the last issue. That definitely helped the quality of these issues. Ayers doesn’t compare too favorably to Kirby’s work, but he can tell a story well enough.

There were some interesting guest characters this year. Baron von Strucker made a few appearances, as did a young Baron Zemo, and a young Captain America and Bucky —- so these stories have some historical importance in the Marvel Universe. We also saw historical characters like Erwin Rommel and Adolf Hitler, and those stories were kind of surreal.  Still, I like that the inclusion of Zemo and Captain America tie this title closer to the main Marvel Universe; it helps flesh out the idea that Marvel was the world outside your door.

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.

  • Junior Juniper died in Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #4. He wasn’t mentioned much in 1964 —- only in issues #5 and 8 —- but all references were meant to imply that his death was ever-present in the thoughts of the Howlers.
  • It becomes obvious that these stories are not told in an order that corresponds to real-world chronology. The first issue was set in late May/early June of 1944, but #6 (which happens after Junior died) had to take place prior to March 1943.
  • Junior Juniper was replaced by Percival Pinkerton in Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #8.
  • Nick Fury continues to date Pamela Hawley.
  • Nick Fury and Happy Sam Sawyer get a bit of background added to their stories. Sawyer was a tough soldier before he got promoted up the ranks; Fury was motivated by the death of a friend at Pearl Harbor to enlist.
  • Frequent minor headache Bull McGiveney makes his debut in Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #7, and he pops up from time to time to annoy Fury.
  • There are a lot of instances where Nazis are not killed by the Howling Commandos. I assume these were edits made to comply with the Comics Code. There is still a lot of implied killing, but if there are bodies on the page, there was usually a dialogue bubble explaining that the Nazis has been knocked out.

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