BHOC: SGT FURY #148

This issue of SGT FURY was another book that my younger brother Ken purchased for himself on some trip to a local card store or the 7-11 or some such. He had a dalliance with war comics for a few months, and bought a number of random issues along the way. Eventually, all of those books wound up with me, the magnetic pull of my collection and the indifference of my brothers ultimately being the deciding factor. While it lasted for a good long time, SGT FURY didn’t really appeal to me, for all that it was applying the same formula that I liked in super hero titles to a war series. But soldiers weren’t what I was looking for in my comic books, they were somehow too mundane. And the fantasy that I could ever be a two-fisted, hard-fighting member of the Howling Commandos was too remote as to grant any vicarious thrills. That was for other kids in my area, the more physical ones, the more violent ones, really. I didn’t not like any issue of SGT. FURY that I read, but neither did they do anything much for me.

By this point in the original run–SGT FURY had become entirely a reprint title several years earlier, re-presenting stories originally produced in the 1960s–Stan Lee had left the building as writer, and the series was ultimately turned over to Gary Friedrich, a relative newcomer to the House of Ideas back then. The war and western and girls books were considered a good training ground for new talent. Gary, though, had an affinity for the strip, and once he got his sea legs under him, he wrote a number of compelling stories for the title that are well-remembered today, in particular ones that focused on subject matter that was perhaps of greater interest and relevance to the youth-culture of the day that was grappling with their own unpopular war.

On the artistic side, Jack Kirby had also given up the strip early on in its life-cycle, handing over the reins to Dick Ayers, who stayed with the series for a good long time. Ayers was a journeyman who did a little bit of everything in the early Marvel era, but who is perhaps best remembered as Kirby’s first regular inker in the earliest super hero days. Dick was also a penciler, but he couldn’t ever quite get the hang of the sort of Kirby dynamism that was the foundation of the Marvel approach. Accordingly, a series such as SGT FURY was much more in his wheelhouse, as his storytelling was always straightforward and he didn’t seem to mind the need to draw a half-dozen Howling Commandos in every other panel. This issue comes from perhaps the best-looking run in the series, as Ayers’ work was being finished by the great John Severin. Like Ayers, Severin was never entirely comfortable with the Kirby approach, but he was an immaculate illustrator, and his fine finish elevated Ayers’ work to a great degree.

So what was on the agenda for Fury and his Howlers this issue? More of the usual, really. After an opening training sequence that serves to introduce and establish the large cast, the story gets down to brass tacks as Fury is summoned to C.O. “Happy” Sam Sawyer’s office. There, the men meet with an O.S.S. operative that the Howlers had encountered in an earlier story. That operative, Lee Mayer, has a mission for the Howlers: he wants Fury and company to break into a castle in the Bavarian Alps and abduct one Otto Froebe, a top military strategist who is responsible for a string of recent Axis victories. On paper, this task seems impossible–but Fury and his boys are comic book characters, they’re super heroes in khaki, so it’s simply another day on the job for them.

But as the Howlers parachute into Bavaria, Reb Ralston runs into a little mishap. Both his parachute and his back-up parachute are shot off, causing him to plummet to the ground. Fury, though, is so tough that he’s able to catch this falling soldier with a full pack with one outstretched arm. What a guy! As absurd as that is, what follows is even more so, as Fury and Dum Dum are able to easily enter the castle undetected. How they do this is left up to the imagination, because when we next see Fury, he’s surprising Froebe in his basement workshop and forcing him to climb to the top of one of the parapets. There, Dum Dum has set up a winch line to where the Howlers are positioned below, somehow without anybody else within the base detecting that he was doing it. In a Sgt. Fury story, you really had to be ready to suspend your disbelief at a moment’s notice.

Of course, by this point the other soldiers within the castle are starting to become wise, and so Fury is forced to remain behind to fight a delaying action while Dum Dum gets their prisoner down the line and to the extraction point. Fury sets up ina stairwell, from which he’s able to single-handedly battle back an absolute mob of attacking soldiers. Fortunately, nobody thinks to shoot him. I’m actually a little bit surprised that the third panel on the page I showed you before this one was permitted to get past the Comics Code of the mid-1960s, as it clearly shows Fury gunning down too Nazis. The Code typically didn’t like it when characters did murder so blatantly within their books, although in this case, the context may have helped. Anyway, As Fury’s position is overrun, he makes a leap of life by jumping out of the window.

Fury is somehow able to break his multi-floor plunge by landing on the back of a passing Nazi motorcycle, which he promptly steals, tossing its rider into a nearby haystack in the approved G.I.Joe manner. But Nicholas isn’t out of the woods yet, and his pursuers guide him towards a huge gorge. Fury attempts to leap his bike across it Evel Knievel style, but things don’t work out any better for him, and he plunges into the ravine. Fortunately, having just survived one multi-story fall, a second one is a cakewalk, and Fury is able to get a toehold on the far end of the gorge and then use his belt and torn-up shirt as a lasso to help pull himself up to safety. By this point, the evac plane is coming in, and Fury is able to grab onto its landing gear and use it to fly himself to safety,. Seriously, it’s a ridiculous escapade by any stretch, but it’s presented in such a matter-of-fact manner that a reader really has no choice but to go along with it all. And the issue winds up as so many of them do, with Hitler shaking his fist and cursing the incompetence of his men, having been beaten by the Howlers once again.

2 thoughts on “BHOC: SGT FURY #148

  1. The scene with Sgt. Fury jumping out the window while holding his rifle ready to shoot anything in his path looks like it could have come from the early Mad or Panic comics, especially with the John Severin inks. Very funny stuff.

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  2. I never minded Ayers as a penciler on more fantastical stories. If the arist is good butthe genre they’re drawing doesn’t traditionally suit their style, I find it grounds the whole product more. My favorite example was Don Perlin on Defenders (though Calmee came close on Alpha Flight) where in addition to his fantastic storytelling skills and emotion clear on the character’s faces, his more down to Earth art style made events feel more real and visceral. That could just be me though.

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