Our Artists At War by Richard J. Arndt and Steven Fears (book review).

January 7, 2022 | By | Reply More

I never really followed the American war comics. Age and lack of appeal compared to super-heroes never struck me, although I did read the British version from time to time but I was a compulsive reader. Authors Richard J. Arndt and Steven Fears in this book, ‘Our Artists At War’, point out that the creators involved never glamourised war. Some if not most of the artists had combat experience in WW2 and, later, Viet Nam, so they knew the score.

There was also some emphasis at EC Comics on getting accurate uniforms and weapons that percolated through the rest of the industry than many letters pointing out mistakes. When you consider the number of war comics in the 1950s, Timely alone had 25 war titles, there was a lot of them about when super-hero titles were in decline. Something that I became aware of as I read was the number of artists more than writers moved over to super-hero titles might make some of you after all their comics might find this book a source to track them down.

Don’t just think that much of this book is devoted to the likes of EC Comics, Warren, Marvel and DC Comics. The section on Charlton Comics, where their war comics slipped under their radar simply because it was used to keep their printing presses working gave their creators a lot more freedom despite being low-paid. Oddly, for all, what curtailed the depiction of violence was the Comic Code Authority. I’ve always felt that showing violence and its after-effects gives a stronger message that it can hurt, maim or kill has a stronger preventive message than thinking it can be shrugged off. The writers do point out that the characters themselves do reflect the right emotions but it can lose its impact.

There is some focus on significant people like Sam Glanzman, Joe Kubert, Harvey Kurtzman, Robert Kanigher, Archie Goodwin and Will Franz. With war titles becoming less frequent, it appears that Garth Ennis is the only leading writer now and he isn’t American but Irish. The artists involved are still kept busy from time to time so the titles still come out from time

I do agree with the authors that there needs to be a certain amount of motivation and being actually there which led the early creators to display what it was literally like in the trenches and often away from the officers. Equally, it also needs the right kind of reader as well.

Likewise, I should also point out that both authors don’t hold back any punches on the occasional absurdities that popped up in some of the comicbooks. Certain tropes, like shooting down planes with tommy guns, unlikely. Oh, I did catch one error on page, I thought it was Jonathan ‘Junior’ Juniper not Junior Jupiter who was the only one of Nick Fury’s ‘commandoes’ to die.

Although I’m not sure if I’m that type of reader, there hasn’t been any books looking at American war comics until this one and, if nothing else, has filled in some gaps in my knowledge on the subject. Saying that, there are a lot of niche subjects on comicbook history that still needs to be explored so, hopefully, this book will lead the way.

GF Willmetts

January 2022

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing, 2021. 160 page large softcover. Price: $27.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-60549-108-0)

check out website: www.TwoMorrows.com and https://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=95_94&products_id=1635

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Category: Comics

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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