Cover Date: October 1965
Cover Artist: Dick Ayers
“The Man Who Failed!”
Plotters: Stan Lee, Dick Ayers
Scripter: Stan Lee
Penciller: Dick Ayers
Inker: Frank Giacoia (credited as Frank Ray)
What’s Going On?
The Howling Commandos must save a group of orphans from the merciless Japanese army!
- The Howling Commandos have been sent on a mission to save a nun and some orphans from the Japanese forces along the Burma Road. The Japanese believe the nun has secret war plans that must not be shared with the Allies. She doesn’t, but that’s what they believe.
- Rather than heading for the coast with the civilians, the plan is to head inland and meet up with a British squad that can keep them protected. The name of the squad, the Burma Dragons, throws Pinky for a loop.
- The plan isn’t great —- they have a long way to go, and the enemy isn’t far behind them —- but things get worse when one of the orphans blows Gabe’s horn in the jungle. Now, anyone within hearing distance knows the approximate location of the Howlers and their charges!
- With the Commandos taking heavy fire, Pinky volunteers to lead a risky maneuver; he will try to sneak the nun and orphans past the Japanese. Despite the Commandos best efforts to distract their enemy, Pinky and the civilians are captured with ease.
- Facing execution by the Japanese soldiers, Pinky tries to stall for time. He lies and says that the nun doesn’t have the secret Japanese war plans —- the Howling Commandos do! The Japanese leader dismisses Pinky’s claim, though; he admits that the war plans were simply a ruse to excuse the destruction of the nun and her mission!
- Thankfully, the Howlers arrive just in time to save their friend.
- When the Howlers finally meet up with the Burma Dragon squad, Pinky meets up with his Officer-material brother for the first time in ages, and is shocked to learn that the entire Pinkerton family is proud of his war exploits.
Is It Good?
No, this issue is pretty awful. Setting aside the blatantly racist and stereotypical stuff that is pervasive in the script, the story is just crap. The Japanese forces put this much effort into killing a nun and some freaking orphans? And then we find out it’s because they hate the effectiveness of her Catholic mission? I get that this is a war comic, but Stan and Dick are making the Japanese seem far more monstrous than the Germans, and that feels very strange to me.
I also didn’t like the bizarre suicide run mentality shown off by Pinky in this issue. The fetishization of military exploits is par for the course in this comic, but they don’t typically give their characters a death wish. The concept of death before dishonor has been dismissed in other issues, but this one time it is perfectly acceptable for reasons no one provides.
This issue features a lot more killing that your average issue of Sgt. Fury. Typically, the Howling Commandos shoot things to make them explode, and punch out their enemies. In this issue, we see them firing at their foes in close quarters, and doing a lot less punching. You don’t see blood or corpses, but you do see a lot of implied death.
Is this a sign that the Comics Code Authority is relaxing their standards, or is Marvel allowed to get away with this because the enemy isn’t Caucasian?
- The “Burma Road” is mostly in present-day Myanmar, but parts of this story could have also taken place in China. I’m guessing that this story takes place after the Japanese invaded the area in 1942.
- We learn about Percival Pinkerton’s past in this issue. He’s from a long line of British soldiers, but he disgraced his family by failing out of military school. He became a commando to try and earn back his honor.
Comics Are Goofy:
- Just once, could the enemy not be in awe of the Howlers?
- Shut up, Rebel. No one says things like that.
- I guess Dum-Dum can throw a person holding a grenade far enough so that the explosion doesn’t endanger himself. That seems unlikely.
- “I need someone to do something risky, and then I’m going to immediately question the person that volunteers!”
Well, That Aged Poorly:
- If he fails, and kills himself, how will anyone know that his honor was restored? I thought —- and I could be wrong here —- that performing harakiri/seppuku in front of those you failed was a key part of showing contrition and regaining your honor.
- “Right naeow”? Has Stan Lee ever been to the South?
- Man, this issue has a ton of racist and stereotypical stuff. The Japanese soldiers are called “Japs” or “Nips” or “Charlie.” They make references to samurais and harakiri. They speak broken English (thankfully, not “Engrish”) and scream “Banzai.” This is a lot to swallow 50+ years later, and it makes for a very unpleasant read.
- When respect for your enemy and condescension towards their culture intersect, you get scenes like this:
- “Yonkee”? Why do only the kids have trouble with this word?