Friday, June 11, 2010

Nurses at War: Our Army At War 131 - "One Pair of Dogtags... For Sale!"

This (June 1963, Our Army At War 131) is one of my favorite Sgt. Rock covers by Joe Kubert. Rock's karmic bullet-dodging ability is very much in evidence as usual, and those companions near him seem to imbibe the same characteristic. I like the way the nurse is driving, ducking, and tending to her patient simultaneously. Women are such multi-taskers! As is fairly typical with these Robert Kanigher/Joe Kubert stories, the first half of the tale sets the reader up for the main idea. The story begins with Rock wounded and being brought to the field hospital. His men then recount the circumstances that led to Rock's condition.
Rock needs a blood transfusion (one of Kanigher's favorite strategies?) and he's AB-, a rare blood type. Nobody amongst the Doc and Easy have a compatible blood type, but a wounded army nurse lying on a stretcher next to Rock does. She insists the Doc use her blood to help Rock, and the Sergeant pulls through. Rock gets separated from her before he can summon sufficient strength to speak, to thank her, and to find out her name. Once fully fit, Rock embarks upon a quest to find his nurse savior, but it isn't proving easy even for Easy.
Then Fate intervenes again. There's an enemy breakthrough and Easy are threatened by a group of Nazi tanks. To give the rest of the men time to escape, Rock and his bazooka man, Zack, slow down the tanks, but eventually are caught in the blast of a shell that explodes close by, and Zack is hurt. Rock won't leave his man to die, and hauls him off in an attempt to reach safety. It's then that he comes across the same nurse, this time in a stalled jeep carrying wounded men, and she can't get it re-started. Rock uses the bazooka to try to keep the tanks at bay. However, it's the U.S. Air Force that arrives in the nick of time to scatter the Nazis, but not before the nurse is hit and wounded. Rock gets the jeep going and races frantically to the medical station, where he's able to repay the favor granted him previously, by donating his blood to save the nurse.
With so many of the great comic book writers and artists being vets, it maybe isn't surprising that nurses appear frequently, certainly in war comics and in romance comics with war connections. And there are true stories of brave nurses close to or on the battlefield. The image of nurses provided by this story is again that of the self-sacrificing angel, refusing to seek her own safety if it meant abandoning her patients.


  1. KB: Beautiful story, beutiful art - Kubert, naturally! This is the kind of soulful, nicely rounded story Kanigher was the master of - with a story arc smooth as glass. Great post and great write-up (always the plus at this blog).

  2. Mykal: It's such a pleasure for me going through piles and piles of old comics looking for nurse stories and coming across all variety of great writing and art. It's like working in a bountiful gem mine where every other swing of the pick yields something of beauty and worth! This has been a fantastic journey for me over the last seven or eight months as I've been working on a couple of different projects and really seeing the great talent that's there in vintage war and romance comics - those EC classics, some great Atlas stuff that I've seen on your blog and in my own collection, Kubert's stalwart work for DC that's always a cut above the majority in quality, and just the incredible variety of 'slice of life' nuances that emerge from the unpredictable romance genre. Man, I just love comic books!