Written by: Archie Goodwin
Art by: John Severin, Wally Wood, George Evans, Reed Crandall, Russ Heath, Al Williamson, Joe Orlando.
Cover art by: Frank Frazetta
Published by: Fantagraphics
As hard as it may be to believe in this era when superhero films make billions of dollars at the box office, there was a time when superhero comics had largely fallen out of favor with fans. After World War II ended, the tastes of comic fans began to change. In the late 1940s and late 1950s nearly all superhero titles disappeared from the racks except those featuring Batman, Superman, and Wonder woman.
In their place, other genres rose up to capture the imaginations of fans including westerm comics, humor titles, horror, drama and romance…and war titles. Having grown more mature, fans wanted to see more realistic depictions of war. They wanted stories featuring real soldiers instead of mystery men in capes and masks. Some of the most popular of the time would be Frontline Combat (1951-1954) and Two-Fisted Tales (1950 – 1955), both produced by legendary publisher, EC Comics. These titles featured humanistic and gritty wartime stories unlike the industry had ever seen previously. EC comics, however, would become the target of crusading censors and eventually cancel all their titles except for Mad Magazine.
In 1965, Warren Puublishing, who had already made a splash in the market with the black and white horror magazine Creepy, put out the first issue of Blazing Combat, a magazine featuring war stores in the EC vein. Nearly all of the stories were writtn by Archie Goodwin and featured art by John Severin, Wally Wood, two of the primary Frontline Combat artists, along with several other former EC Artists including George Evans, Reed Crandall, Russ Heath, Al Williamson, and Joe Orlando. Oh, and the cherry on top is that the covers were all painted by Frank Frazetta.
While the bulk of the tales were set during World War II, other settings were covered including the Revolutionary War, Civil War, Korean War and Vietnam War. It was the stories dealing with Vietnam that led to the magazine’s cancellation after just four issues. Outrage over the anti-war sentiment in some of the Vietnam stories eventually led to distributors refusing to ship the title to retailers. The army also refused to sell the magazine on its bases.
Its short run and abrupt cancelation has given Blazing Combat an almost mythical status and made it highly collectible. But Fantagraphics has you covered with all four issues of the magazine included in this outstanding hardcover book.
The action begins with “Viet-Cong”, a harrowing tale of one U.S. soldier’s battle of survival, illustrated by Joe Orlando. “Landscape”, also illustrated by Orlando, is the story that James Warren marks as the one that led to Blazing Combat’s end as it looks at the Viet Nam war through the eyes of an elder Vietnamese farmer who sees no good on either side. It’s a powerful story and one can see why the Army and groups like the American Legion protested it so vehemently.
In addition to reprinting all of the original stories the book also features a 1993 interview with Jim Warren himself as he goes into great detail about why the magazine was canceled. Also included is a 1993 with Archie Goodwin where he discusses how the magazine came about and its tulmultuous four-issue run.
This is a spectacular book and should be required for any comic book fan, especially those haven’t left the security and comfort of the superhero genre. These stories, written over fifty years ago and illustrated by some of the all-time greats, still pack as potent a punch today as they did in the 1960s.