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Saturday, January 22, 2005

Robert Kanigher's GALLERY OF WAR

From 1972 to 1982 there was a very special feature in DC's war books, which has gone largely unknown and unheralded. At least 49 stories were published under the banner "Bob Kanigher's Gallery of War", all (of course) written by the Sphinx himself, Robert Kanigher, who perhaps did even better with them than with his (also excellent) work on the continuity war characters like Sgt. Rock, Haunted Tank and Enemy Ace.

Most of the Gallery of War stories (31 of the 49) are drawn by the vastly underrated Ric Estrada, while others are drawn by such talents as Alex Toth, Dan Spiegle, Doug Wildey, Lee Elias, Frank Thorne, Rick Veitch and others, primarily under the editorship of another all-time great Joe Kubert, with a few being edited by Archie Goodwin.

These stories, ranging from just 4 to 8 pages each (a total of 296 pages in the 49 stories), are true classics of the war genre in comics, standing up there with Goodwin's BLAZING COMBAT, Kurtzman's TWO-FISTED TALES and FRONTLINE COMBAT and Sam Glanzman's USS Stevens (also running in various DC war books during the years the Gallery was). Kanigher was completely in his element, telling timeless tales of various wars, be it the American Revolution, the Civil War, both World Wars or Viet Nam. In all cases he concentrated on the people in the war, telling their stories of bravery, their pain, their awareness of the often futile nature of war.

The artists almost always rise to Kanigher's scripts, showing strong storytelling skills along with expressive faces and bodies on the characters. Toth and Wildey deliver some excellent aerial combat in stories they drew. Ric Estrada, called upon to deliver so many unique stories about so many wars, comes through with such apparent ease that it's a wonder he's not more often listed among the greats of war comics art.

In the future I'll put up a scan and a short write-up for each story, for now, here's the list.

These pages wouldn't have been possible without the help of Robin Snyder, for the initial inspiration and lots of information and encouragement, and Don Mangus for even more information and help. Thanks also to Kanigher, Estrada and all the others who worked on the Gallery of War.

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