Old Comics Wednesday: When Nazis Insult

I'm still down with heart/breathing problems, but I had these clipped panels ready, so what the hell. From SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS #90's heart, I stab at thee:

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This week's amusements come from an issue of the long-running series' first year of living death; one of the stranger, less examined aspects of Marvel's 1970s publishing history is the company's practice of continuing a number of poorly selling series in reprints. The best-known example is UNCANNY X-MEN #67-93, but SGT. FURY [apparently a slightly better sales performer, if these 1969 numbers from Publishers' Statements of Ownership are to be believed, than X-MEN and even THE AVENGERS] did it one better with a publishing strategy that probably was conceived in a methadone clinic: Beginning with issue #80, SGT. FURY featured sorta-sequential reprints in every-other issue ... except for seasons when they published two or three new comics in a row for no discernable reason.

After publishing five new stories in a row, SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS was canceled for six months before being brought back as one of Marvel's mid-'70s reprint titles. It ended for good 48 bi-monthly issues later in 1981, crushing the hopes and dreams of all comics nerds who yearn for cultural diversity and the phrase "Ratzis" in their corporate funnybooks.

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"And One Must Die," by letterer-briefly-turned-writer Al Kurzrok and the art team of Dick Ayers and Syd Shores, illustrates what happens when you borrow from THE DEFIANT ONES without noting that it doesn't really make sense transposed to WWII, even if you have a witty black guy like Gabe Jones on one end of the chain. Also, titling it "And One Must Die" telegraphs the ending even harder than the usual Howlers story. Entertainingly rude racism aside, the issue is pretty rote stuff until this grabs one's attention with both hands:

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Wait .... "BLACK BOY" is the most insulting comment of all? I'm no expert, but that copy doesn't quite look like it was the original lettering for that balloon.

Also: The scripter of this story, who is also lettering it, intentionally wrote the let-me-describe-what-I'm-doing-in-this-panel dialogue in the second panel above? In 1971?

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Well, OK, that "BLACK BOY" does look like it was lettered with the rest of that copy, although there's some unfortunate copy placement in several of these balloons. It's shocking to see such sloppy work in an underperforming '70s Marvel comic book. Shocking. I do rather enjoy seeing Gabe backhand the doomed Ratzi halfway to Krigsteinlund in the last panel.

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OK, maybe this was the panel that got me clipping out the rest of this bunch for a blog post. NO MAN CAN SAY.


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