A Quick Look Back at Sgt Rock and Who Made Him By Daniel Seib
Bruce Campbell is bringing back World War II veteran Sargent Rock for DC Horror Presents Sgt Rock Vs the Army of the Dead for some Zombie Nazi punching fun. But where is Campbell bringing him back from and how far back does Sgt Rock go, and who breathed life into him in the first place? Let’s hop into our way back machine and briefly explore just that!
The anthology stories of Our Army at War were one of many popular comics of the 1950’s showcasing spectacular tales of World War II. Sargent Franklin “Frank” Rock made his first full appearance in 1959, in Our Army at War #83. He eventually became popular enough to take over the title 1974, officially changing the name to Sgt. Rock and running till 1988. Rock was one of those great characters that didn’t have any superpowers, just skilled at what he did, driven by true grit and determination. He led himself and his squad, Easy Company, through almost every major action in the European War. The bond between him and Easy Company and the development of his loathing for warfare came from the focus his stories took on not just the events of war, but the impact those events had on the members of Easy Company.
Rock’s talent and leadership was generated by comics writer, Robert Kanigher. During his fifty years in comics, as both a writer and an editor, he was involved in the creation of many influential moments. Notably, his scripting of what is considered the first Silver Age comic story, “Mystery of the Human Thunderbolt”, in Showcase #4 (Oct. 1956), which introduced Barry Allen as the Flash. He took over Wonder Woman after creator Willian Moulton passed in 1947. Poison Ivy, Black Canary, and others were also introduced by Kanigher during his time at DC. But Sgt. Rock was born when he began writing and editing for DC Comics’ 5 major war titles: G.I. Combat, Our Army at War, Our Fighting Forces, All-American Men of War, and Star Spangled War Stories.
In comics great character creation is generally twofold. It takes an artist to breath further life into the words provided. In Sgt. Rocks case that artist was Joe Kubert. Kubert began working with DC Comics as a freelancer in 1955 with Our Army at War #32. By the end of that year he was exclusively drawing for DC. He was a main collaborator with Kanigher on Sgt. Rock and other war time titles, and even worked with him, and fellow artist Carmine Infantino, on Showcase #4. Kubert became director of publications for DC comics from 1967 to 1976. During that time, he instituted bringing in Edgar Rice Burroughs properties such as Tarzan and Korak, of which he continued to lend artwork for while supervising production. Later, in 1976, he and his wife founded the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art which continues to turn out artists and professionals.
This is just a showcase, in brief, about Sgt. Rock and the influential men who created him. Both Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert, gave so much to comics and what makes them awesome. Their numerous contributions are worth further looking into and learning from. Sgt. Rock himself is just one example of what great story and great art combined can do for a reader. The foundations they, as well as many other creators, laid only further the greatness of the awesome that comics are today.