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Saturday, June 18, 2005

My Collection - SGT. ROCK [1977 Series]

Sgt. Rock [1977 series]
121 issues [1977 - 1988]
302 - 422

Continued the numbering from OUR ARMY AT WAR, of course, and if you counted those together it would be the series I had the most issues of by far, and this is the longest series I have a full set of.

Oddly, unlike most books from that era, my entire collection of ROCK comes from back-issue purchases. I honestly don't know why I have no DC war comics from when I was a kid. I can only remember reading the occasional Rock story in places like DC's "Year's Best" digests, and I enjoyed those well enough, but don't recall ever reading an issue of his own book, and I would generally at least sample almost any DC/Marvel series on the newsstand (and still have a few CONAN and WARLORD issues to prove it). I'd suspect they weren't carried as much on local newsstands up in Canada except I've met other people who did buy them, but I have no memory of ever seeing them. Anyway, when I got back into comics in the late 1980s, ROCK had just been cancelled and replaced with a reprint series, and after reading a few of those I was hooked and have been picking up DC war comics back-issues ever since.

Of course the first thing you notice on ROCK are the Joe Kubert covers, which are almost consistently excellent. Pick a random one from the GCD and take a look. Of course by this point Kubert drew very few of the interiors. Just a few reprints and special issues. However his style definitely cast a long shadow and informed every later artist (especially one of the later ones who, by coincidence, was also named Kubert). Plus he was editor until the last few years of this run.

Most of the lead stories are written by Robert Kanigher, who defined the writing side of DC's war books as much as Kubert defined the art. Though he's not without controversy, I tend to come down on the RK side more often then not, especially when it comes to Rock. I've read well over half of the 300+ Rock stories he told, and only a few of them ring a wrong note (some aren't as good as others, but they still ring true), whereas almost every non-RK attempt at writing Rock seems to have at least one (often several) things wrong. What always impresses me is how consistent he was. Any given year of the series will have at least one (usually more) absolute killer stories, several above average, and only rarely a real clunker.

On the interior art, Frank Redondo was the main artist for most of this run, generally solid but not too spectacular work. Like a lot of the Filipino artists that worked on DC books of the era, I don't think he was served too well by the sometimes alarmingly shoddy reproduction that was standard back then. A few notable fill-ins were a few issues by Doug Wildey (including #313), a great one by Dan Spiegle (#382, he also did a few Annuals and would have been a great regular artist), some nice Dick Ayers issues (#323). Towards the end Andy Kubert had a stint as the regular artist, which was nice, and Sam Glanzman did a few issues before Joe Kubert returned for the finale.

Most issues have back-up stories, often with art from Kubert School students, quite a few who moved on to bigger things. The quality varies, the Kanigher written ones tend to be the best, and there are a few good ones with art by the likes of Steve Bissette, Rick Veitch, Tim Truman and others. A few are also by old pros, so any one with a Ric Estrada or Sam Glanzman back-up is a bonus.

I'd suggest picking up any five random issues to get an idea if you'll like this stuff. A few that stand out for me:

#320 - Never Salute A Sergeant
#337 - A Bridge Called Charlie
#349 - The Dummy
#419 - 2 Sergeants Called Rock
#421 - Live Once -- Die Twice

Obviously this is one I'm keeping.

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