Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos (Vol. 1) Annual #1

Credits:

Cover Date: October 1965

Cover Artist: Dick Ayers

“Commission in Korea!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Dick Ayers

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Dick Ayers

Inker: Frank Giacoia (credited as Frankie Ray)

What’s Going On?

Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos are sent on another nearly impossible mission behind enemy lines — this time, though, they are fighting the Communist forces in North Korea in the 1950s.

Details:

  • The Howling Commandos have re-enlisted in the Army to fight the Communists in the Korean War. Their first task: destroy an airbase behind enemy lines.

  • Captain “Happy” Sam Sawyer is going to accompany the Howlers on their mission. Nick Fury worries that Sam is too old for this sort of mission.

  • The mission proceeds in typical Howling Commando fashion: they steamroll the enemy whenever and wherever they find them. At one point, though, Captain Sawyer gets shot. He agrees to stay behind and rest, as the others continue with the mission.

  • They plant the bombs easily enough, but have to fight their way out of the base soon after.

  • Captain Sawyer was given a remote detonator to use if the Commandos didn’t return within a specific time-frame. He waited as long as he could, but Sawyer eventually detonated the charges, destroying the base —- and maybe the Commandos, too!

  • Or maybe not! The Howling Commandos make it back to the rendezvous point, and head back to friendly territory with Sawyer.

  • Captain Sawyer then took the opportunity to promote Fury to a Lieutenant.

Is It Good?

This is a pretty standard Howling Commandos story. They go in half-cocked and completely cocky, and they beat the living hell out of the enemy anyways.

Setting this in the Korean War was a truly bizarre choice. By flashing forward and seeing that all of the current Commando squad survived WWII with no apparent ill-effects, it robs the series of some drama. There’s no real reason why Fury would need to serve in Korea to get a promotion, so I don’t see why Lee and Ayers decided to make it happen after WWII. It is also strange to put the “pull off the impossible” Howling Commandos in a war that did not have a definite winner or loser. This might have been more interesting if Fury, Happy Sam, and maybe Dum-Dum teamed up for this mission with some new hotshots.

Continuity:

  • This issue contains reprints of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #4 and #5.
  • This story takes place in the Korean War, presumably during the Battle of Chongju in 1950.
  • Apparently, all of the Howlers (except, of course, Junior Juniper) survived World War II and did not rise significantly in rank. They all re-enlisted for the Korean War and were allowed to reform the Howling Commandos.
  • It’s worth pointing out that Nick Fury still has both eyes in the Korean War.
  • Sgt. Fury is promoted to Lt. Fury in this issue.
  • “The Skipper” (Captain Simon Savage) last appeared in Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #14. He, too, re-enlisted without rising through the military ranks.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • That’s a lot of dialogue, Stan Lee.

  • “Oh no! The Howling Commandos are here, and they are punching soldiers into submission! Leaping to my death is the only reasonable choice!” – this guy, probably

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • War: where there are clear-cut “good guys” and “bad guys,” and nothing in-between.

  • Phonetic spelling is still a bad idea.

  • With this story taking place in Korea, and Marvel’s history of drawing and writing all Asians…isn’t great. But how racist was this issue?
    • Instead of referring to North Koreans by name, they are simply called “the Reds.” That is better than using ethnic slurs! I’ll grade that as “jingoistic, but not racist.”
    • The colorist for this issue gave the North Korean soldiers the same skin tone as the Howling Commandos (which has been Marvel’s standard for most of 1964 & 1965). That’s not a great choice, but it is true that color art was severely limited with regards to realistic skin tones in 1965 (just look at Gabe Jones in this issue for an example). It is better than the pale yellow skin used in Journey Into Mystery #93, though. I’ll say this is racist, but mostly because Marvel doesn’t seem to care about it.

  • Dick Ayers draws the North Koreans with heavily-lidded eyes and slightly large teeth. It’s better than the Yellow Peril stuff Marvel was doing a few years earlier, but it’s still racist.

  • A faux-Asian font used only when a Korean soldier is falling to the superior might of an American soldier? Yeah, that seems racist.

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