Cover Date: March 1965
Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Chic Stone
“A Fortress in the Desert Stands!”
Plotters: Stan Lee, Dick Ayers
Scripter: Stan Lee
Penciller: Dick Ayers
Inker: Frank Giacoia
What’s Going On?
The Howling Commandos are sent to the desert of North Africa to hunt down a secret Nazi weapon.
- The Allies receive an interrupted distress call from North Africa, warning them of a new German super-weapon. Naturally, it has to be investigated. Even more naturally, the Howling Commandos are sent to do the job.
- When they arrive at the spot where the distress signal was sent from, they find a wrecked radio and (maybe) a hint to check the nearby abandoned French Foreign Legion fort.
- Bingo! It looks like the Nazis are doing something in the old fort, but it is a very secure location.
- While reconnoitering, Rebel gets hurt. The Howlers manage to escape with their wounded, but Dum-Dum gets captured.
- In the desert, the Howlers find an oasis and some Bedouins. After a brief misunderstanding —- the Bedouin men thought Dino was trying to steal their women, so they tied him up in the desert and left him to die —- Fury convinces then to help attack the Nazis.
- Meanwhile, the captured Dum-Dum learns what the Nazi secret weapon is: missiles that can’t be tracked to their launch point!
- The Howling Commandos sneak into the base, dressed as part of a Bedouin supply caravan. When they find Dum-Dum, they mount a surprise attack.
- The Howlers and the Bedouin made short work of the Nazis, and the desert fortress was destroyed, along with the missiles.
Is It Good?
On the one hand, I appreciate the change of pace. Desert warfare in WWII was significantly different than the Western Front, and the notion of showing friendly Arabic characters in a 1965 comic impresses me.
On the other hand, this story grates on my nerves. White savior themes are always dicey, but the Bedouin in this story seemed just plain ignorant. That said, the plot (for what it is) was okay. But the dialogue was terrible! I am so incredibly tired of Stan Lee’s phonetic spelling for Germans and the Howling Commandos. It’s just so obnoxious:
- Hans Rooten is officially the mascot of the Howling Commandos.
Comics Are Goofy:
- In any other comic, I would assume that a character’s accessory being used incorrectly or at the wrong moment would play into the story. I had no illusions about Percy’s umbrella, though; it is only open to remind readers that he’s got an umbrella.
- Hans is destined to be in some terrible relationships.
Well, That Aged Poorly:
- “Gosh all hemlock” is a thing that people actually said. I looked it up! It’s called a “minced oath.” It’s basically a “I won’t get in trouble because this isn’t a curse,” along the lines of “dagnabit” and “gosh darn it.” It is hilarious putting it in the mouth of a WWII soldier like Fury, though.
- Is “Jerry” an offensive term for Germans? It seems kind of mild to me, but I’m not German.
- It took me a minute to realize that “woah” means “war.” I hate phonetic spelling.
- Okay, this one I know is considered offensive.
- Marvel’s stereotypes of Arabic people are confusing. Men wear long tunics with headdresses, and they invoke the name of Allah frequently; okay, that’s pretty reasonable. Oh, and the men are always proud and easily offended. That’s less nice, but at least it’s not overtly racist —- and we know Marvel is pretty okay with racist overtones in this period! But then we see Bedouin women with more revealing clothes than their menfolk (which seems unlikely in WWII), and everyone has fair skin. Again, neither are bad or impossible, but they add up to something odd, if not problematic.