Column: The Art of War – Before ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ Captain America Already Led a Team of Heroes: The Howling Commandos

In my opinion, one of the greatest war comic books was Sgt.Fury and the Howling Commandos. It was published from 1963-1981 for 167 issues. Stan Lee of Marvel created the comic. The main character was Sgt. Nick Fury, who would later become the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. He called his men “Lunkheads” and always smoked a cigar. The cover of issue #1 from 1963, had a quotation.”Think you’ve read war stories before? Mister, wait till you see what’s in store for you here!”  It’s only the greatest.

“The name “howling,” came from the real Army Unit called “The Screaming Eagles.” The howling was meant to strike fear into the minds of the enemy.

Issue #13 of the comic, featured a surprise guest star. He was Captain America. For the first time in comic book history, the Marvel readers requested this issue. They loved Captain America and wanted him to team up with the Commandos during WWII.

 The Howling Commandos were a very unique mixture of men for the time period. For the first time, the commandos were a racially and ethnically integrated unit. Remember, the Army did not fully integrate until 1948, which was after the war. The commandos were: Dum Dum Dugan, who was a circus strongman. Izzy Cohan,  who was a master mechanic and a Jew.

He became the first Jewish comic book hero. Another member was, Gabriel Jones, who was African American. This comic was written during the Civil Rights Movement in America. Dizzy Manelli was an Italian movie star. Rebel Ralston from the South was an ex jockey. Pinky Pinkerton was another actor. Eric Koenig was a defector from Nazi Germany. Junior Juniper was the youngest member of the unit. Each member of the team was featured in different issues.                                                            

It must be stressed, that the Fury comics were about WWII battles, but written during the Vietnam Era. Stan Lee tried to balance the present day issues against the “just war” of WWII. Marvel Comics wanted a larger morality to prevail in their stories. Stan Lee was deeply involved with the huge superhero comics, Spider-Man and Fantastic Four. He could not keep up with the demand for more Sgt.Fury and the Commandos. For the first time in comic book history, reprints of the Commandos sold as well as the original copies. As a matter of fact, the very last Sgt.Fury comic was a reprint of Issue #1.

 In a daring move for the time period, the youngest member of the commandos , Junior Juniper was killed in action. This was difficult for the public to accept because of the deaths in Vietnam. Over the years  Marvel  came out with annuals for Sgt.Fury. They were longer issues to tell stories of special missions for the commandos. Some of them were from the Normandy Invasion and the Battle of the Bulge. Two of my favorites were the commandos in the Korean War and even Vietnam.

 The Howling Commandos even appear unnamed in the movie Captain America: The First Avenger. At one point they even “howl.”  In 2005, a second Howling Commandos team was introduced as a unit of S.H.I.E.L.D. A third team was created in the Mighty Avengers #13. Sgt.Fury and the Howling Commandos has to be made into a major motion picture as soon as possible. It would be a massive hit!!!!

Leave a Reply