Monday, June 30, 2008

Bob Kanigher's Gallery of War

The World War II-themed comics published by DC during the 1950s through the 1980s usually featured regular characters in their cover stories. There was Sgt. Rock, the Losers, The Haunted Tank, The Unknown Soldier and several others.

But these comics most often had a back-up story--a 6- or 8-page war story (usually, but not always, involving World War II) that featured one-shot characters.

One of the back-up features was written by DC's main war story scribe--Bob Kanigher. Titled Gallery of War, it featured some of Kanigher's most powerful short stories.

For instance, Our Army at War #252 (December 1972) included a story titled "Young Wolves." Set late in the war amidst the rubble of Berlin, it involved a squad of 12-year-old soldiers. These were Hitler Youth recruited by the desperate German army to help defend the city against the invading Russian army. Fanatically loyal to their leader and convinced that they were going to be heroes, they march off to war without any idea at all what they are in for.

The story is filled with poignant moments, such as when the young protagonist realizes his friends have actually been killed. The story's tragic ending, which I will not spoil here, is an effective and powerful anti-war statement. Like many entries in the Gallery at War series, this story is one of Kanigher's best efforts.

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