War is not among my favourite genres, but it has been the subject matter for some great comics over the years. It’s also been the genre for probably the most successful British comics over the years, the apparently endless Commando series, which have had some good stories here and there (the world-great Hugo Pratt drew at least one of these), but I’ve never really been interested in them.


EC was best known for the horror titles which led to the big crackdown on comics in the mid-50s, and for starting Mad magazine, but the originator of the latter, the wonderful Harvey Kurtzman, was also behind a couple of great war comics, Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat. Kurtzman wrote and laid out just about everything, for an exceptional crew of artists to finish. This includes one of my favourite short stories ever, artistically, in which the great Alex Toth (my favourite comic artist ever) shows the difficulty of jet pilots in even knowing which way up they are while flying through clouds – the g-force of the engines overcomes the feeling of gravity. There are a fair number of dull, worthy stories here, especially ones based on real history, but everything is excuted with immense skill, and there are lots of winners too.

There are great hardback collections of these, but I’m not sure whether there are cheap ways of sampling this, unless your library has something.


DC tended more towards heroic adventure in their war titles, especially the series with continuing characters, so these are mostly not terribly realistic. There are exceptions to that, including another magnificent short gem with art by Toth, written by Robert Kanigher, called White Devil, Yellow Devil. Kanigher wrote most of the stories in this line: he was a superb craftsman, with an unusual grasp of literary ideas such as motif for a traditional comics writer. Sgt Rock is the big lead character, an ultra-tough veteran soldier (there are some Kirby Sgt Furys at Marvel, which are even less realistic, and not yet cheaply reprinted, though I have hopes). The stories drawn by Joe Kubert are often great – Kubert is one of the best comics artists ever, his work full of vigour and a roughness well suited to this material. Possibly even better is the same pair’s Enemy Ace, about a German WWI pilot. The earlier stories, before some repetition sets in, are particularly powerful, and include some of the very best art DC has ever had. (My review of an Enemy Ace collection.)

If your war story tastes (if you have any) lean more towards documentary realism, DC also hosted a lengthy autobiographical series of shorts written and drawn by Sam Glanzman, named U.S.S. Stevens, about his experiences on a ship in WWII. His work is similar enough in look to Kubert’s to suffer by the comparison, but he’s a fine artist in his own right, and has some interesting stories to tell.

DC have put out a collection each of Sgt Rock and Enemy Ace in their cheap B&W Showcase Presents series, over 500 pages for about £11 (probably less via Amazon).

Warning: there is some dull and rubbish DC war material too, as available as the best, including the very stupid The War That Time Forgot, which is soldiers vs dinosaurs to far less effect than you might think.