J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Going Way Back with Blazing Combat

The Warren company started publishing Blazing Combat in 1965. It was a quarterly comics magazine—larger than a typical comic book, without color, and thus not under the Comics Code Authority. It lasted only four issues before being canceled for lack of sales.

Some people said that Blazing Combat failed because military officers wouldn’t allow the magazine to be sold in PX stores since it offered a jaundiced view of war. Others say it was simply too gruesome for a mass audience. The entire run has been collected in one volume.

All of the stories were written or co-written by editor Archie Goodwin, who worked with some of the medium’s stellar artists. Most of the tales were set during America’s mid-20th-century wars, but in each issue Goodwin reached further back into the past as well. There were two Revolutionary War comics.

The first, “Mad Anthony,” features Gen. Anthony Wayne, but as a supporting character, and hardly mad at all. The tale is really about two fictional soldiers putting out each other’s eye. The pictures suffer from the mustache problem I’ve noted elsewhere, with Wayne drawn like Errol Flynn.

The other Revolutionary tale is “Saratoga!”, illustrated by Reed Crandall. That story is a straightforward retelling of the battle’s crucial American counterattack, with the final panel’s twist being that the general who carried the day was Benedict Arnold. But the story’s real stunner is the art. Click on the panels above for a larger image, and just look at that hatching!

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