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Sgt. Rock: Past and Present

Sgt. Rock: Past and Present

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Published by Edward Carey
A panel on the past and present of DC's Sgt. Rock, featuring artists Russ Heath and Dick Ayers from the original run, and Billy Tucci and Mark Sparacio from Sgt Rock: The Lost Battalion. Moderated by Mark Evanier. Held at Big Apple Con in 2008.
A panel on the past and present of DC's Sgt. Rock, featuring artists Russ Heath and Dick Ayers from the original run, and Billy Tucci and Mark Sparacio from Sgt Rock: The Lost Battalion. Moderated by Mark Evanier. Held at Big Apple Con in 2008.

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Published by: Edward Carey on Jan 19, 2010
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04/20/2014

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Sgt. Rock: Past and Present
 by Edward Carey November 2008DC’s eponymous war hero
Sgt. Rock 
has endured for more than half a century in theannals of DC war comics. Artists from
Sgt. Rock 
past and present were brought together in a discussion panel at Big Apple Comic Con last weekend.Mark Evanier [“Kirby: King of Comics”] moderated the panel that featured artists from the original run of 
Sgt. Rock 
, Russ Heath and Dick Ayers, as well as the creativeteam of DC’s new
Sgt. Rock 
mini-series, Billy Tucci andMark Sparacio [
Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion
].Heath and Ayers began their long comic book careers inthe 40s after coming home from World War II. They were both asked how they got started in comics.After returning from the Air Force, Heath went to work for various ad agencies, but didn’t make enough to support hisnew family. While others were on their lunch break, Heathwent looking for work and ended up at the offices of Timely Comics (predecessor to Marvel), where editor StanLee offered him a job where he’d make “three times what Iwas making.”Ayers worked for Marvel Comics during the 60s, inkingover Jack Kirby’s pencils on
Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos
, another World War II-era comic, but would later work on
Sgt. Rock 
in the70s.“I just came out of the Army and wasn’t too keen ondoing all this stuff . . . and along came Sgt. Fury, whichI didn’t think much of. Here were guys who didn’tshave and wore a derby hat and all kinds of crazy stuff,so I did a couple of issues and dropped out of it. AndStan [Lee] kept after me. It wasn’t until I starteddrawing them in combat that I remembered what I hadworn when I was in Normandy. I would wear whatever I could get that was different, whether it was a scarf, ashoulder holster, whatever made me look different fromthe other guys,” said Ayers.When asked about his Army experiences, Ayers talkedabout joining the Air Corp. While at basic training in
Sgt Fury and his Howling Commandos
#1; art by Kirby andAyers
Sgt Rock: The Lost Battalion
#1Cover by Tucci & Sparacio
 
Miami Beach, he decided to be a radio mechanic, so they sent him to school in Madison,Wisconsin.He went to basic training during October and November and upon arriving in Wisconsinwas greeted with snow and ice. While there, he got a job drawing a comic strip for thecamp newspaper, so he was drawing comics during the day and going to school at night.He even got a private room to bring in his drawing board.Upon leaving the school, he returned to his public relations officer to get his next script, but the officer told him that as a radio mechanic, he was now classified. During his timein the army, he spent it inside a construct surrounded by barbed wire and manned withmachine guns.After returning to Florida, he was assigned to a squadron of B-26s. While fighting thewar in England, he was on guard duty when attacked by the German “Buzz bombers.” Hewas standing next to a plane with a 2000-pound bomb attached to it and knew he would be a goner if one of those bombs hit close by. So, he laid down underneath that enormous bomb, but luckily the bombers veered off.Following this, he became ill with dysentery, “the scourge of WWI,” and was laid up for a month and became separated from his squadron, which had moved on. He wrote a letter to his Colonel and the next thing he knew, they flew him to Paris where he stayed at theChateau Rothschild, until he could be reunited with his squadron.Evanier said that when he started writing war comics, hefelt “intimidated by the fact that there were guys like thisaround,” and asked Tucci if he felt the same.“All the books I bought as a kid were war books. I never  bought superhero books. For those of you who don’tknow, I guess I’m known for drawing women [
Shi
]. Andthere was a lot of, rolling of the eyes and all, but this wastruly a passion project for me. I love the WWIIgeneration, I’m a student of WWII, and I was in theArmy myself. When I went to do research for the book, Iwent to Normandy . . . and I went to the VosgesMountains of Eastern France, which is about 30 milesfrom the Rhine and that’s where the book takes place.It’s called
Sgt. Rock and The Lost Battalion
and it’sabout the events of October 1944 where 275 men of theTexas Regiment, 36
th
division, were cut off andsurrounded by 7,000 German troops and for 6 days andnights they really enact one of the last great stands inhistory. But, somebody had to go and get them and theones that were charged to do it, after all else failed were the Japanese American soldiersof the 442
nd
regimental combat team. Again, one of the most valorous actions of the war 
Sgt Rock: The Lost Battalion
#2Cover by Tucci
 
and of the 1600 men who entered the Vosges Forest, Japanese Americans, 800 were ableto walk out,” said Tucci.Evanier returned to the discussion of Nick Fury and the fights that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had over the book.“It was a book they had been the most contentious about, because Jack [Kirby] havingendured his war experiences, was very passionate about the way the war would bedepicted and he was worried that Stan was trying to turn it into a superhero comic,” saidEvanier.He then asked Tucci if there was any “powerful draw or incentive” he had to fight intoday’s marketplace “to gear it toward the superhero audience with a comic like this.”Tucci referred to a review on Comic Book Resources which found problems with thenarration of war correspondent Joseph Kilroy, a character he created as “a combination of these gentlemen and Bill Mauldin.”“He had a problem with the flourishing tone I had of [Kilroy] describing the Normandyinvasion,” said Tucci. Noting that the war correspondents of the time were “overly dramatic” and “more likecheerleaders in a sense,” he even based Kilroy’s description on a Life magazine articlefrom July of 1944. As the story progresses, he said, “you see [how] Kilroy’s writing startsto betray what’s on the page and at the end he really gets into censorship.”Evanier said, he had read posts online complimenting Tucci on doing “a more realisticSgt. Rock than is usually done by the people who were in World War II” and that theresearch he put into it gave it a feeling of authenticity which perhaps wasn’t there before.“I can’t compete with these two gentlemen or Joe Kubert. There’s no way to do that, so Ihad to try something completely different, so I wouldn’t be compared to them. And that’swhy I went with the more realistic stuff,” said Tucci.When talking about “the look” of the characters, he patterned them after friends of his and his sergeants inthe Army, because though they were “solidly-built,” theydid not walk around with “50-caliber ammo belts aroundtheir shoulders.”“Maybe I wasn’t over-the-top with a lot of the details andstuff, but I was also doing the book for a lot of theveterans, who I had become friends with over the yearsand for guys who don’t normally read comic books . . .for people who maybe haven’t read a comic book inyears, and they’re into history and things like that,” saidTucci.
Sgt Rock: The Lost Battalion
#3Cover by Tucci & Sparacio

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