Tuesday, 21 August 2012

DC Big 5 War Comics: All-American Men of War

All-American Comics is one of the most important titles in DC history as it shared its title with its original publisher All-American Publications which alongside National Allied Publications and Detective Comics evolved into what we now know as DC Comics.  The first issue was cover dated April 1939 and was an anthology covering humour and adventure stories.
All-American Comics #1 (April 1939)
Art by Sheldon Mayer
No single character dominated the cover until the debut of Green Lantern in #16 (July 1940).
All-American Comics #16 (July 1940)
Art by Sheldon Moldoff
The Atom made his debut in #19 (October 1940) and Dr Mid-Nite in #25 (April 1941) but Green Lantern remained the star until #100 (August 1948) when Julius Schwartz took over as editor and introduced Johnny Thunder by Bob Kanigher and Alex Toth  to capitalise on the interest in the western genre.
All-American Comics #100 (August 1948)
Art by Alex Toth
The success of the switch to westerns brought about a name change and so starting with #103 (November 1948) the comic was titled All-American Western.
All-American Western #103 (November 1948)
Pencil art by Alex Toth, inks: Frank Giacioa
The interest in the western genre faded and war comics was the next trend so All-American Western became All-American Men of War with #127 (August/September 1952) coinciding with the release of Our Army at War and the re-naming of Star-Spangled Comics under the editorship of the man who shared an office with Julius Schwartz, Bob Kanigher.
All-American Men of War #127 (August/September 1952)
Pencil Art by Jerry Grandenetti, inks: Bernard Sachs
As they did with Star-Spangled War Stories DC decided to renumber the series starting with the December 1952 issue which was numbered as #2.  Once again avoiding the #1 as at the time it was felt that readers would avoid a new title!  How times have changed!
All-American Men of War #2 (December 1952/January 1953)
Art by Jerry Grandenetti
Kanigher used his team of top artists including Jerry Grandenetti, Russ Heath, Irv Novick, Alex Toth and Joe Kubert to produce a high quality war anthology comic. Gunner and Sarge made their debut in #67 (March 1959) in a story by Bob Kanigher, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito although these characters did not continue in the pages of All-American Men of War but went on to have a long run in Our Fighting Forces.  The longest running star feature made his debut in #82 (November/December 1960). Johnny Cloud was a Native American World War II pilot created by Bob Kanigher and Irv Novick who continued to feature in the title until cancellation with #117 (September/October 1966).  Johnny Cloud later became a member of The Losers alongside Gunner and Sarge and Captain Storm, initially in G I Combat and subsequently in Our Fighting Forces.
All-American Men of War #82 (November/December 1960)
Art by Irv Novick
Irv Novick's art for Johnny Cloud was used as a template for Whaam! by Roy Lichtenstein, an early example of  "Pop-Art".
Panel from All-American Men of War #89 (January/February 1962)
Art by Irv Novick, words: Bob Kanigher
Swipe by Roy Lichtenstein
Whaam! (1963)
Towards the end of the title's life there was an attempt to launch another star feature, Lt. Steve Savage, Balloon Buster, who was an American counterpoint to Enemy Ace.  His first appearance was in #112 (November/December 1965) in a story by Bob Kanigher and Russ Heath.
All-American Men of War #112 (November/December 1965)
Art by Russ Heath
Unfortunately Balloon Buster and Johnny Cloud were not strong enough to sustain the title and it was cancelled with #117 (September/October 1966).  The failure to find a popular star feature had caused the demise of this classic title.  Attempts to revive it were tried with a Men of War comic which sometimes featured Enemy Ace, but starred Codename: Gravedigger, #1 (August 1977) - #26 (March 1980).  More recently the New 52 relaunch by DC saw eight issues of Men of War released with an updated Sgt. Rock, it failed to find an audience.


  1. "How times have changed!" is right. Back then, they would avoid numbering an issue at #1 if they could. Another example is the Flash. The Silver Age series started with #105, continuing the numbering sequence from the Golden Age version. They reasoned that a kid who saw the #105 would think it must be a good comic to have lasted over a hundred issues, while a #1 would be an unknown quantity. Today, they cancel and reboot a series just to start the numbering over and publish a new #1. Which just shows how the market has changed, becoming geared more toward collectors and investors instead of casual readers.

    1. Indeed, I was very grumpy when DC relaunched Detective, Action, Batman and Superman with new #1. I saw no reason for this with the plethora of new Batman comics they could have left the numbering alone on Batman and 'Tec. Adventure Comics had resurfaced and been given its old numbering only to disappear. They have thrown away their publishing history!

  2. I love seeing these old DC's. I have to admit, I'm a bit of a DC junkie. I'd like to see some stories about the DC westerns some time in the future...Great Stuff!!

    1. I don't know a lot about Western Comics, I have a few Tomahawk comics by Fred Ray and I know that Gil Kane, Infantino and other great artists worked on Westerns. I will have to investigate! Too many comics and not enough time!