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Travel back in time with us, as we explore the exciting world of military comics.

It’s National Comic Book Day on September 25th, so we’re paying tribute to the truly timeless medium with a journey back into the history of comic books. Starting with the publication of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck in 1842, all the way to 1938 when the Man of Steel himself, Superman first appeared in Action Comics. Heroes have always stood out and come to life on the pages of these tales.

Superman in his first-ever comic book appearance.
Superman in his first-ever comic book appearance. Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the Superman character effectively became the granddaddy of a near-endless pantheon of American Superhero mythology. Image Credit: Comixology

Batman and Shazam would debut in 1939, and Wonder Woman in 1941, with countless others following suit throughout the 40s and 50s. Marvel Comics later invigorated the Superhero genre in the 60s with an all-new wave of characters pioneered by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Spiderman, Hulk, Black Panther, Thor, and others would breathe life into comics for the dawn of a century of entertainment.

Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther
This National Comic Book Day, we would especially like to take a moment in memoriam of Chadwick Boseman who recently lost in his fight with cancer at the age of 43. Image: Marvel Studios

Comics are more than super stories of fictional crime fighters. Did you there’s a real-time take on heroes from history in War comics? Here are some of our all-time favorite war hero characters to put on your reading list.

Sgt. Rock

Probably the most famous of the DC war-time comics, Sgt. Rock began as a realistic war comic written by Bob Kanigher, an Army veteran, in 1959.

The Sgt. Rock character is an NCO of Easy Company during WW2, fighting in the European theater. In Sgt. Rock, war isn’t portrayed as a “great adventure” or a political endeavor, it’s seen as a test of sharp judgment and iron will for soldiers fighting on the frontlines.

Comic book Sgt Rock
The gritty approach to storytelling doesn’t keep Sgt. Rock from being able to down enemy fighter planes with his trusty Thompson M1A1. Image: Joe Kubert/DC Comics

Interestingly, there has never been a Sgt. Rock movie. It is rumored that Quentin Tarantino was propositioned to direct a film Sgt. Rock film featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 90s, but the project never took flight.

Adventures in the Rifle Brigade

Adventures in the Rifle Brigade is a Vertigo comic book limited series created by Garth Ennis and Carlos Ezquerra, published in 2000.

The action-packed miniseries follows the comedic exploits of a rag-tag special forces Commando unit in WW2. The brilliant artwork and hilarious low-brow scenarios make for a graphic adventure you can’t miss.

Blackhawk

Blackhawk is the leader of the Blackhawk Squadron, a team of elite ace fighter pilots who got their start fighting the axis powers in World War 2. The Blackhawk comics were introduced in 1941 to near-universal acclaim, even inspiring a 1952 film.

Comic book Blackhawk

Despite his illustrious past, Blackhawk is an oft-forgotten DC comic book character, but all that could be set to change in the near future. In 2018, Warner Media announced that a Steven Spielberg-directed Blackhawk movie was in the works. Get the jump on everyone before the movie by exploring the Blackhawk series.

Captain America

How could we not include Captain America? The story of a 100-pound wimp who is transformed into the ultimate American superhero in order to fight off America’s greatest threats isn’t just a tale of what happens at boot camp (haha). It’s a timeless tale spanning more than seven decades.

Comic Book Captain America and Winter Soldier
Cover art for Captain America: Winter Soldier. Image: Comixology

There are so many great Captain America storylines to choose from. In Man out of Time (2010), revisit Captain America’s early days with the Avengers, as the ice-thawed superhero acclimates to the realities of a world that has moved on without him. And Winter Soldier (2005) brings back Cap’s wartime buddy Bucky Barnes after surviving his plane crash in the ’40s.

Check out Captain America on Comixology.

U.S.S. Stevens: The Collected Stories

The U.S.S. Stevens, DD-479, was a destroyer that served 366 sailors in WW2. One of those sailors was Sam Glanzman who would later share that lifetime of moments in his beautifully written U.S.S. Stevens series in the 70s and 80s.

Collected Stories of the USS Stevens
This full-color treasury of over 60 four-page stories is a national treasure in the field of illustration. Image: Comixology

Tedious routine was punctuated by fierce battles, presented in small slices of Navy life, as lived by a sailor. Awe-inspiring, frightening, and poignant, this collection is a must-read for comic book fans looking for a glimpse of history. Check it out on Comixology, or even better, grab yourself a hardcover copy of this must-have military classic.

Explore the Golden Age of Military Comics

From the origins of G.I. Joe, the high-flying action of Blackhawk, to the cheeky comedy of Canteen Kate, here’s a flashback to simpler times when comic books were just 10 cents. Many of the comics and art featured have long fallen out of print, and are now part of the public domain.

For those wanting to delve deeper into the world of vintage comic books, you’re in luck! Comic Book Plus has a wonderful repository of thousands of Golden Age comic book classics that can be easily accessed online.

The appearance of hyperlinks on this website does not constitute an endorsement by the United States Department of Defense.

Armed Forces Entertainment

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Looking for more things to read? Check out our resources guide for information about the MWR Digital Library.

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