I have many fond childhood memories of reading Silver and Bronze Age comics. One of those is Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, a premiere war comic of that era. My Sgt. Furys were so beat up by the time of my adulthood that I sold them cheap in a garage sale. Well, I found some good condition copies cheap at another garage sale allowing me a return to those nostalgic retro days. Here is a survey of three issues I just read back to back which gives a good overview of what to expect in this series.
Sgt. Fury # 51 - (1967) This one is from the Gary Friedrich / Dick Ayers run. Friedrich and Ayers both found their signature series on this book. I met Friedrich at a comic convention where some signed back issues were reasonably priced at his booth. I was unemployed at the time, but if that were to happen again I'd snatch them up. Anyhow, issue # 51 takes place in England, Germany, and the Middle East. In the latter location the Howlers must protect Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin from a Nazi assassin. This story explores some of the negative impact of the Nazi regime on German families during World War II.
Marvel was ahead of its time on such stories with emotional and human interest appeal. Marvel was also the leader in sub-plot continuity which companies like DC typically lacked at the time. But in this issue we learn that a member of the Howlers is currently a P.O.W. in Japan and another is struggling with a break-up from his girlfriend. The stories were good enough for an adult to read, but without the gore and profanity you could expect today. They were also educational regarding WW II history.
Sgt. Fury # 92 - Written by Al Kurzrok, this one deals with the plight of Japanese Americans during the War. While some fought heroically for their adopted country, others were confined to internment camps. This was quite an issue for an early 70s comic. But Sgt. Fury says to a Japanese family, "Someday...I guarantee you that most Americans will look back on these camps and hang their heads in shame." Fury shows that he was ahead of his time as a WW II caucasion American, but the comic published in 1971 was even long before compensation and formal apologies were given to affected families.
A back-up story reprints one from the earlier Roy Thomas run in which the Howlers must rescue their Captain Sawyer from an S. S. stronghold in occupied France as the S. S. attempts to extract information regarding the upcoming D-Day invasion. I love the references in conversation to the stars of the day such as Johnny Weismuller and the Three Stooges.
Sgt. Fury # 120- Pictured here, this was the final issue of new material before the exclusive reprint run going through # 167. This 1974 story features Larry Lieber on the story and Dick Ayers on the art. By this time Roy Thomas is editing. The story deals with the capture of Gabe Jones, the only African-American member of the Howlers. This special force was well integrated, also including an Englishman, a Jew, an Irishman, a Southerner, and fictional movie star Dino Manelli. Any of these guys would lay down their lives for the others. Troops weren't really integrated in this manner during the War, but the Howlers served as good role models for readers. in this issue, they plan a rescue from a concentration camp in Holland.
Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos were good role models in an educational War era comic that is even fit for all ages. Back issues, especially from the reprint era won't usually break the bank and two volumes of Marvel Masterworks have been dedicated to the Holwing Commandos.