Friday, February 12, 2010

War Comics Introduce Racial Integration: Our Army At War 113 - "Eyes of a Blind Gunner"

DC's Our Army At War 113 (December 1961) appears to be the earliest example of a racially integrated comic book that doesn't use insulting stereotypical images of African Americans. As I read the story I didn't pick up any hint of racial prejudice. The artwork is fantastic, even for Joe Kubert. It's also a well-written piece. The most significant thing about it, though, is that race is not overtly identified as an issue even though an African American character is one of the main protagonists in this one. At the time it was published this was an extremely revolutionary thing to do in comics. The members of Easy Co. act towards each other as if they are close buddies. It is a very powerful statement of the way things should be. The similarity (in appearance) between Wild Man and Dum Dum Dugan of the Howling Commandos is interesting. It does appear that Lee and Kirby could have built on this idea of an integrated platoon when they launched Sgt. Fury early at the end of 1962 (Jan 1963 cover date). Checking through the Easy Co. stories in every issue prior to this all the way back to Our Army At War 81, this appears to be the first story featuring Jackie Johnson, and there are no other African American characters portrayed besides him. As such, I'd rate this issue as one of the most significant comic books in the history of the medium. I've said all I want to say about the story, so here it is:

Racial integration is easy in Easy!
This was an Ontology scan but I straightened, cropped, and adjusted the images on the pages to hopefully get it looking at its best. Any comments you'd like to offer on the content of the story & art as it relates to racial integration would be most welcome.


  1. KB: How could I miss knowing about Jackie Johnson? How embarrassing. The more I know about comics history, the more I realize how much there is I don't know. Thanks for this. Great Story. Great art. Bold statement. Good ol' DC. -- Mykal

  2. Mykal: I only came across Jackie Johnson last year by accident, when I read Our Army At War 160. So far I've only been able to identify three issues in which he is featured: 113, 120, and 160, but I haven't checked all issues subsequent to 113 yet. He's definitely not in any before 113. 160 is the one that directly confronts racism, and I'll be posting that one in a day or two.

  3. Gotcha covered with 120. I'll give a shout when I get it. Shouldn't be more than a week or so. -- Mykal

  4. The integration aspects are obviously outstanding. The blind aspect is pushing it a bit much, though.


    Steven G. Willis