DigestCast #8 – Sgt. Rock’s Prize Battle Tales

Ten-Hut! DigestCast is back just in time for Veterans Day, and Shag and Rob are inspecting DC SPECIAL BLUE RIBBON DIGEST #7: SGT. ROCK’S PRIZE BATTLE TALES! Remember, use the hashtag #warcomicsmonth when discussing this issue online!

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15 responses to “DigestCast #8 – Sgt. Rock’s Prize Battle Tales

  1. Another great episode guys!

    Although I had a ton of the digests when they first came out, I very rarely, if ever, bought the non-superhero related issues. Once I decided to collect the entire digest series I was glad to be introduced to the different genres that were published by DC. I was always impressed by the War digests (5 in total – plus some stories featured in the ‘Years Best Comics Stories’ collections) and am glad to have read them. Beforehand I always thought that they would glorify war and be nothing more than propaganda tools, but much more often than not they are a study of the human condition and I enjoy that.

    At the risk of causing a divorce between my Earth 2 marriage with Rob, I am not a big fan of Joe Kubert. I know he is beloved and I appreciate that he is talented – but it is just not an art style that catches my eye. Having said that, I absolutely LOVE the art in the Enemy Ace story ‘The Bull’. It’s my favorite story in this issue. I’ll echo your statements that the laughing panel on digest page 66 is spectacular!

    I thought that ‘The War That Time Forgot’ story The Big House Of Monsters was great too. I’m sad that the DC Universe animated movies no longer have the ‘DC Showcase Presents’ shorts anymore because I think that would be a great idea for that format!

    I’d like to thank all of the other Digest fans who have written in to DigestCast to share their thoughts and stories. I’ve learned new information from nearly everyone and love hearing from them!

    I’m a HUGE superhero Christmas story fan so I’m eager to re-read and hear your thought about the Super Jrs. story.

    Regarding my collection of digests that you are coveting: The shelves that hold my digest collection are hidden safely in a space that is guarded by a HUGE heavy yellow key disguised as an airplane marker so I’m pretty secure in the knowledge that they are safe!

  2. A couple of quick thoughts while I’m in the midst of this fine episode:

    1. It was revealed in the 1980s that Mlle. Marie had a brief encounter with Alfred Pennyworth during the war and produced a daughter: Julia (who later went on to briefly date Bruce Wayne).

    2. Superman and his son recently returned to Dinosaur Island in Superman #8 & 9 plus the “Escape from Dinosaur Island” special. The issues are a quasi-sequel to Cooke’s New Frontier. They are lots of fun and a nice footnote to Cooke’s classic tale.

    3. Bob Haney brought Sgt Rock back during his Brave & the Bold run several times. It’s an older Rock during the 1970s. Love the issue where he and Batman chase Hitler.

    4. I’m a big Kubert fan, but I think my favorite Rock image was done a few years back by Brian Bolland. It’s very much in the Kubert vein. Bolland also did a spectacular Mlle. Marie too.
    https://www.comicartfans.com/gallerypiece.asp?piece=995064

    http://brianmichaelbendis.tumblr.com/image/42848808273

  3. Hu, and apparently the Enemy Ace meets or is in Manfred von Richthofen squadron as his red Fokker Dr.1 is there also putting this no earlier than August 1917.

  4. Another great episode guys! Thanks for sharing! I almost never got War books as a kid and only encountered them in things like this.

    Within the last year, I found the hard cover Enemy Ace Archives for $15 and loved that book to bits. The hard line ethics of The Hammer makes the whole thing an interesting read. I also love how Hammer is a tortured soul, often walking into the woods post-battle to be alone, feeling most akin to a wolf. This story is a great way to showcase the formula of his stories.

    The Toth story is wonderful. Just amazing stuff.

    And finally Mlle. Marie. (sigh) We’ll always have Paris …

  5. Great episode! As a kid, I mostly followed the war characters when they intersected with my super heroes. When I first heard my dad say that his brother, my uncle Leonard, had served in World War II, I responded with “Cool! Just like Sgt. Rock!” My dad quickly informed me that war was not a comic book, and not to mention it to my uncle, unless he started the conversation. Obviously, I never forgot that brief conversation, but I think DC’s war titles were almost always reverent and serious-minded about their depiction of war. Never really glorifying it, and always using it as a vehicle for some kind of morality tale.

    I’m really disturbed by that shot of the dog being shot at. Looks a lot like my Beagle, Forest. You give them Nazis Hell, Rock!!!

    The art in this book is just gorgeous. I agree that Kubert’s Enemy Ace art looks a bit broader than normal. Maybe he was experimenting a bit back then. I was never really crazy about Taloc’s art either, as it seemed very loose and amorphous, but when he did draw the Unknown Soldier’s face, man, he nailed the horror of his disfigurement!

    Super Juniors… is that a kids clothing chain or something?

    Chris

  6. As a lover of digests, I remember having several of the non-superhero volumes, including a few featuring war comics, but the cover of this one doesn’t ring any bells. However, after listening to your summaries, and looking over the gallery post, I realized I had read a few of these stories somewhere – not sure if it was this digest or in some other reprint book…
    Regardless, I really enjoyed the show – as usual. It was another great conversation about what seems like a really good digest, and I’m happy that we were treated to another Digest Cast so soon after the last one.

    I was, however, quite upset about the news that the Marvel digest line is being cancelled. At this point, I have almost every one (except for the third one featuring Thor and the latest one) and I love them – I think I just love the idea of Marvel digests more than anything else. By the way, I bought the last one I have, the Avengers with special focus on Ant Man and the Wasp, when I was visiting my sister in the US last July – I found it at the checkout line in a Walmart in Salem, OR, and later saw it in a few other stories, so they weren’t that hard to find. However, they didn’t appear in any stores there on their official release date – it took about a week for them to start showing up.
    Anyway, it’s too bad that Archie is apparently pulling the plug, and also too bad that Marvel’s parent Disney, with all of its own massive marketing and distribution channels, apparently doesn’t see this as a potential revenue stream worth continuing in some other way. Oh, well. It was nice while it lasted…

    1. Oh, yeah, forgot to mention – another digest with a poor dog getting killed. This is becoming some kind of trend with you guys…

  7. I have to agree with Shagg, The War That Time Forgot is huge fun. I think I may have read the whole Showcase too, and a good chunk of Haunted Tank. Somehow, Kanigher can make repetitive concepts fun with just enough variation on the theme, and he’s usually paired with amazing artists.

    Here in Canada, like many other countries, we commemorate the WWI Armistice still (it’s the equivalent of your Memorial Day and call it Remembrance Day). I suppose it’s because WWI was OUR war, the one that had the most impact on our country, even if our forces fought in others. Street names, Canadian cinema, monuments, Flanders Field iconography, the Great War looms large in our history and culture.

  8. First off, I want to echo Shag and Rob’s comments about our veterans. Never forget the sacrifices made by the brave men and women in uniform.

    I am very eager to listen to this episode, but I am going to have to hold off on the main feature for at least a few days because I am waiting on the digest to arrive in the mail! I also have Blue Ribbon Special #18 coming, which is another Sgt Rock collection.

    Also thank you for hyping the #warcomicsmonth hashtag. There has been some amazing posts out there this month and I am having a lot of fun with the campaign this year.

  9. Sounds like a good issue with lots of great art. I must say though, I’m not keen on the Alex Toth dogfights – the planes look good but I can’t easily parse the panel-to-panel continuity. Give me Toth people over planes any day.

    I still miss the war books, good on DC for at least trying to revive them a few years back.

    Make war no more! (But do make war comics.)

  10. Great discussion Shagg and Rob. I have gotten a few of the Showcase Presents War volumes (The War that Time Forgot, Haunted Tank, the 2 Unknown Soldiers volumes and one volume of Sgt Rock) and these were all excellent to read. War comics would not have been something I would have been inclined to read when I was younger, but reading them in recent years has been great fun. You would have thought the stories would be a tad repetitive but the writers managed to give you something new each time.

    As mentioned by Shagg and by Martin in the comments, you have to give the New 52 credit for trying to bring back war comics to the masses; unfortunately, it does not look like it was a genre that has many supporters in this day and age. There has been some nice modern takes on the war story though – I remember a very good appearance in Garth Ennis and John McCrea’s Demon series, while Len Wein and Joe Kubert had the old war heroes meet up in 1976 for a reunion where Mme. Marie arrived with an unnamed son who looked suspiciously like Sgt Rock – Sgt Rock had died in a flashback in that story with the last bullet fired in World War II.

    I know Sgt Rock was brought back in modern times – he was Head of the Joint Chiefs during the President Luthor storyline where he was thought dead after the Imperix War but then turned up again in the Giffen Suicide Squad series. Looking back at the end of it, with Sgt Rock disappearing and a mask left behind, I wonder was it meant to be the Unknown Soldier masquerading as Rock in that series? In any case, I think it was best to have Rock die in World War II – that was his era and the character does belong there.

    Great episode again and look forward to the next one.

    1. @Jimmy, that was my thought as well when Shag said that, a rubber mask would be the trademark of the Unknown Soldier. Do we know if “Rock” was ever shown to be scratching at his face during that Suicide Squad run?

      1. Hi Luke, had a quick flick through the series (!2 issues so very easy to review!) – could not see any sign of Rock scratching but Giffen did do a few flashback once-offs where the Unknown Soldier drafted Rock to do a “Suicide squad” mission at the end of 1945, so maybe a hint that he was involved?

  11. Finally getting a chance to listen to this episode, as I had the opportunity to sit down and read the digest last week.

    The Rock story is wonderful, and I like the multiple scenes in one story which popped up more often than you might think in these Kubert Rock strips. I very much like the framing device of Rock shaving, which is both useful from a narrative standpoint as well as a reference to the importance of shaving to American GIs in WW2.

    The Flying Tigers short is the type of story which would normally be the back up story after one of the more common lead features. Stories like this are one of the big reasons for buying War Comics single issues over collections, because those back-ups (even at the short page counts) are almost always great reads.

    The Haunted Tank/Mme. Marie team up was fantastic! Marie rarely crossed paths with the other War characters, so this was a treat for me. Most Haunted Tank stories have a lot of tank battles in them, and this one was no different. Great action start to finish.

    Mme. Marie is a great character. Let’s face it — super tough female French Resistance fighter operating against the Nazis, Vichy French, and Milice Française? This stuff writes itself! There’s a great one-shot in Star-Spangled War Stories volume 2 from 2010 which is like a prototypical modern Mme. Marie story.

    http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Star-Spangled_War_Stories_Vol_2_1

    I always love The War That Time Forgot! “Big House of Monsters” was a delightful “Twilight Zone” style WTTF strip and I loved it! WTTF was essentially a militarized version of Burroughs’ Caspak stories (which begin with “The Land That Time Forgot”) and never fails to bring a smile to my face.

    Enemy Ace was far ahead of its time (and ahead of the curve) in terms of depicting a German character as a hero in a War comic, even if set in WW1. This to me is similar to the way that DC’s War creators would often use WW2 to tell stories about Vietnam, here using WW1 to tell stories about WW2. Hans von Hammer is an honorable, patriotic, thoughtful, and introspective character, and these traits let the creators examine the emotions and feelings of the German soldiers 30 years later in WW2.

    The scene of Karl smashing his plane into the French fliers is just amazing, full stop. When The Bull cheats in the duel, I legitimately became angry! I was very glad to see Bull get his comeuppance! Kubert’s art is just astounding even at the smaller scale, and the layouts and panel composition are just second to none.

    The Unknown Soldier is my favorite War character, and as such I am always eager to read his feature. David Michelinie and Gerry Talaoc to me are the second major creative team on the Soldier, and they take the stories in a slightly different direction than Kubert, Archie Goodwin, and Jack Sparling. Talaoc was the first to really show the Soldier’s scarred up face, and Michelinie added a bit more moral grey-area to the stories.

    Great episode guys! Really enjoyed hearing about (and reading!) this digest! And thank you again for hyping the hashtag #warcomicsmonth — please go out there, read and post about your favorite War Comics, old and new!

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