Monday, April 23, 2018

Number 2171: “There is only one rule in war...kill!”

Although fighting ended in 1953 between forces of China, siding with North Korea, and United Nations troops, including the United States, the war has never officially ended. And while the shooting was going on, American war comics gave their comic book version of the conflict. There were commies and good guys, and we were the good guys.

This is a good example of a bloody war tale from that era, written by Hank Chapman for Atlas Comics’ Battle #10 (1952). The “Butcher” makes his own rules for war, as he claims. The captured American troops wish to be treated in accord with the rules of war. “Rules of war” always seemed an oxymoron to me. When I was in the U.S. Army in the mid-sixties our drill sergeants told us what the rules were to them: kill the enemy and let him die for his country.* The past few years have seen saber-rattling coming from that part of the world. and more belligerent and bellicose talk from ours. In real life things just don’t wrap up in seven pages like “The Butcher of Yingkow!”

I like Paul Reinman’s artwork for this tale. Reinman, who died in 1988, was a journeyman who spent many years drawing comics. It looks like he put more into this job than I have usually seen from him.

*For the record, I served as an orderly room clerk in an artillery unit in Germany. I went where they sent me. The only shooting I did was on a rifle range.


Brian Barnes said...

One thing I haven't seen much of is Atlas era war tales, and I have to say, I don't like the writing on this one. It's not very graphic, and I don't mean graphic in murder, I mean graphic in action. Most of the action takes place off panel, 5 enemy soldiers are defeated off panel, we only see the aftermath of the Butcher.

Basically, there's not a lot of impact. I liked reading it, but it just didn't seem to be written well at all.

Pappy said...

Brian, I suggest it may have been self-censored, like war movies. If you ever watch old war movies a soldier gets hit by a bullet, clutches his chest and drops dead, Hollywood fashion. Nice and clean! Not like real war as many of the men who drew the comics had experienced. Killing, crime and horror were OK in comics, but not realistic wartime horrors. I believe it was also considered unpatriotic, because the gruesome details might turn people against the war.

I showed this story because Paul Reinman's artwork runs through the history of comics from the forties through the mid-seventies. I have seen his name signed to work for years, and never really cared for what he drew. I am sure he was like a lot of artists to whom I am indifferent; got his work in before deadline, dependable, not a prima donna. But when I saw this story I thought I was at last looking at a Paul Reinman story with artwork I liked! I barely looked at the story. Hank Chapman was a writer who did a lot for Atlas, but most war comics look and read alike to me.

libraryguy said...

The only good Commie is a dead Commie.