The old saying is, War Is Hell. That is a fact and it can’t be disputed, but war is also necessary part of human life. We often think that war is evil, but it can also lead to good. People fight for their freedom, they fight to protect the innocent, they fight to keep the oppressors at bay. For decades it has become depicted in movies, TV, novels, and nowadays video games, but I feel it’s best portrayed in comics.
Sure we all have the images of the opening of Saving Private Ryan embedded in our brain, but with still pictures or artwork we can come back to it again and again. The anguish and blood staring us right back in our face. The silent bullets on the page suddenly make a horrific noise that only we can create. Comic fanboys have read Sgt. Rock or The Howling Commandos which are realistic in many ways, but there was a time when a comic mag got down right truthful. I’m speaking of Blazing Combat #1-4 (1965-66, Warren) and recently Fantagraphics collected the run in both hardcover and softcover.
Blazing Combat was an anthology comic that showed the very dark and very real side of war. A loose followup to the EC Comics War genre books, it showed US G. I.’s dying in terrible ways, commanders giving orders with little regard for consequences and the militaristic definition of collateral damage. Jim Warren let it all hangout when it came to editing Archie Goodwin’s writing, who worked on every single story except for three. Of course Goodwin is a genius and I’m usually more of a word-man when it comes to comics, but this time it’s the art that captured my attention. It’s a who’s-who of monster talent including Alex Toth, Wally Wood, Gray Morrow, Joe Orlando, Reed Crandall, Angelo Torres, Gene Colon, George Evens, John Severin, and Russ Heath. It’s the Live-Aid of Pencilers! Need I say more?
You could say that Blazing Combat was ahead of its time or that it came out at the right time. Big Brother Washington did take notice by issue #2 and it was all shut down with #4 and some even labeled it anti-war propaganda. There my be some truth to that because there was so much opposition to Vietnam at the time. Jim Warren and Archie Goodwin hints at this in two separate interviews conducted by Michael Cantron. Also included are all four, full color covers and other selected artwork and photographs.
Today is 9/11 and we should never forget – any war – and with works like this, thankfully, we never will.
Blazing Combat HC
Written by Archie Goodwin and others
Art by Various
Introductions and notes by Michael Cantron
208 pages, $28.99, 2009, Fantagraphic Books
Collects Bazing Combat #1-4 (1965-66, Warren Publishing)
2010 Eisner Award Nominee: Best Archival Collection — Comic Books