Sunday, May 29, 2016


Today’s bloggy thing continues my 136-part “flying high” series on  comic books that hit the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my comic-book career because it was the month when the spectacular Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.  
All-American Men of War #99 [September-October 1963] is one of what fans have dubbed DC’s “Big Five” war titles. The others were G.I. Combat, Our Army at War, Our Fighting Forces and Star Spangled War Stories. The cover is by Irv Novick and features Johnny Cloud, the Navaho Ace. Cloud appeared in AAMOW #82–115 (1960–1966).

The inside front cover advertised the “Magic Art Reproducer” that was discussed in earlier installments of this “July 1963" series.

Cloud stars in “The Empty Cockpit” (15 pages) by Robert Kanigher (who was also the editor of DC’s war titles) with Novick art.  This story is told in two parts and the bottom third of the final page of each part, as well as the issue’s non-series tale, has an ad for a Tootsie Roll product. More on these ads in a bit.

The story opens with a nightmare. During a dog fight with Germans over the English Channel, Cloud spots a terror rocket heading right for London. The only plane that can stop it is a Spitfire, but the cockpit of the British plane is empty and the bomb gets past it to wreck death and destruction below.

Johnny had this terrible dream night after night. He remembers his father, the chief, taking him to see the Smoke-Maker when he was a boy. The Navajo mystic told him then: Heed the warning of dreams! The moon must rise on a dream coming true!

Johnny is grounded by his commanding officer and the squad doctor: Cloud--you’ve flown yourself into exhaustion! You’re grounded--until you’ve rested enough to shake off that nightmare that’s flying inside your head.

Johnny is ordered to take a week off in London. He arrives just as one of the German terror rockets hits the street in front of him. That’s where part one of the story ends.

DC comic books of this era often ran paid advertising on the bottom third of the last page of their stories.  When they didn’t have an paid to fill the space, they ran house ads. I’ve often wondered how profitable these ads were for the company. I would dearly love to hear from any bloggy thing reader who knows what kind of money the ads brought in, what the page rates of the era were for the writers and artists and if the writers and artists were paid less for those pages that were but two-thirds the size of the regular story pages.

Before we get to the second part of “The Empty Cockpit,” there are two pages of other DC Comics content. The first is a subscription ad offering two-year subscriptions for various DC titles, most of them edited by Kanigher. The titles: Our Army at War, Our Fighting Forces, G.I. Combat, All-American Men of War, Star Spangled War Stories, Metal Men, Sea Devils, Wonder Woman, Blackhawk and Flash.

That’s followed by teen humor character Binky showing readers “How to Spend a Summer Week!” It’s a public service announcement in the form of a one-page comic strip. Many of these were written by Jack Schiff, but the Grand Comics Database doesn’t have writer or artist credits for this one.

The first five panels show Binky and other kids visiting a museum, working a part-time job, going to a band concert, getting books at the library and going to the beach.  Pete finds excuses to refrain from any of these activities.  He concludes: Gosh, summer’s no fun when you have to stay home. Nothing to do in this old town.

The wise-for-his-years Binky has another view: Don’t be like Pete. There’s summer fun in your own home town! Look for it and you’ll find it!

Part two of “The Empty Cockpit” opens with a stunned Johnny having his terror-rocket nightmare. He’s revived by a young R.A.F. pilot and, together, they rescue a kid and his kitten from a building on fire and about to collapse.

Allan, the pilot, is also an earl. He invites Johnny to visit his field. During the drive, Johnny has the nightmare again and recalls the long-ago words of the Smoke-Maker. When they get to the field, Cloud discovers that Allan flies a Spitfire.

Allan’s squad gets sent out into battle during Johnny’s visit and Allan doesn’t come back. Later, when these British fliers go out a second time and the field is empty, Allan and his Spitfire return. Allan is on his last breath and dies in front of Johnny.

A third scramble is called. As the only pilot on the field, Johnny climbs into Allan’s Spitfire and takes off. Everything is the same as in his nightmare, but, in reality, he’s in the “empty” cockpit. He spots the terror-rocked from his nightmare, but Allan used all his ammo attacking the German bombers. The Spitfire leader yells at Johnny to shoot that rocket down, but Johnny has to try something else. His narration:

I winged against the terror rocket again and if it were a stampeding buffalo snorting fire. I had to turn out of its insane flight...

The terror rocket swerves hard enough to flip Johnny’s plane over and then hurtles into the German bombers with a satisfying BLAAM! The physics of the plane being able to catch up with that missile might be a little shaky, but you can’t beat the lettering on the sound effects.

After his leave, Johnny returns to his own field.

C.O.: You look great, Cloud! The rest did the trick! No more dreams, eh?

JOHNNY: Yes, sir! No more dreams!

CLOSING CAPTION: The skies hold mysteries as well as combat when Johnny Cloud, the Navajo Ace, flies in All-American Men of War!

The next two pages are filled with half-page ads we’ve discussed in earlier installments: Missile Attack (a game) for $1.25, 104 cards for $1.49, a free pass and two free ride coupons for the Palisades Amusement Part in New Jersey and 207 stamps for a quarter.

“Sgt. Rock’s Combat Corner” (one page) is a letters column in which ask questions about combat-related stuff. Jerry Gorman of New York, New York asks about the firepower of guns from the 1300s and 1400s. Jack Peterson of Chicago has questions about mortars. From Holland, Ohio, Gerald Doumas wants to know what is the highest decoration for bravery given by the Navy and Army...and how many of these were given out in World War II. Finally, Dory Cohen of Los Angeles asks about the fall of Sicily in World War II. It’s an informative page and, hopefully, the above shot of it will enlarge enough for you to read it.

Next up...

Three G.I.’s were blasted out of World War Two - back into World War One - and they had to take an enemy-held town today - with an...ATTACK FROM YESTERDAY!

The ten-page story was written by Hank Chapman, a prolific writer for Atlas (Marvel) in the 1950s and the DC Comics war books of the 1960s. He was a great writer who signed many of the stories he wrote for Atlas. Jack Abel penciled and inked the tale. Abel’s work is terrific; he was “able” to hold his own as part of an artistic rotation that included Novick, Joe Kubert, Russ Heath, Gene Colan and the Ross Andru/Mike Esposito team.

The title page shows a World War I Spad, tank and doughboy going at a German gun emplacement. The story proper opens with a reunion of the Hall family. Infantry Captain Willard Hall fought in World War I and says today’s war will never be as rough as that one. His two sons - tank jockey Rick and pilot Ken - scoff at the very notion of that. A few months later, they’re all involved in a battle to take a heavily fortified French town.  It doesn’t go well.

From the rooftops, the enemy’s gun stop Captain Hall’s platoon in its tracks. The older soldier covers his men as they retreat.  He takes cover in a war museum that has “everything from the big war! From a British tank to a French Spad.”

Before you can say “foreshadowing,” the Captain must go mano-a-mano with a Nazi SS trooper. He wins.

Rick’s tank scores some hits on the German guns before those guns knock his tank out of action. In front of that war museum. You can cut the foreshadowing with a knife.

Ken’s P-51 takes out some more guns before his plane gets tagged. He chutes to safety, but the German commandant sees him fall into the war museum. The Halls are reunited and Dad experiences a huge thought balloon:

My World War II infantry failed to take the town! Your modern tank, Rick, failed to knock out the guns! And your flashy new plane, Ken, failed to blast the batteries! In my war--the great war-–it would’ve been different with these weapons–-now just museum pieces!

That’s when the bilingual Rick spots a sign:

This sign says that all the weapons and machines in this museum are battle-ready! Just as they were in the first world war!

Dad Hall starts barking orders. He and Rick drive the tank through a wall so Ken can take off in the Spad. The tank protects the old plane until it gains the sky.

The Spad flies too slowly for the German gunners to adjust.  Score a bunch for our side.

The tank crashes through the remaining buildings, causing them to collapse around the Germans and their guns. The fight is over in a matter of panels.

Afterward, Dad tells his boys they are now veterans of his war and asks them how it feels:


The rest of the issue are paid advertisements for toy soldiers and such. From here on in, when I write about comics from this month, I’m only going to discuss those ads I haven’t discussed previously.

There’ll be another installment of this JULY 1963 series tomorrow. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

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