CCI: Comic Character Investigation #161 décembre 2011
[ENGLISH] This month: Sgt. Rock. Since the inception of The Golden Age of comics in 1938, many heroes, and many villains, have splashed their battles across artistic pages, have endured their struggles in those same pages and have intrigued a readership which has loved their adventures for 72 years. This column celebrates such characters by taking a look each month at one of them. Some you will know and some are more obscure, but all hold a significant place in comics, for the world of stories in any medium is about the characters who populate it. The spectacular citizens of the universe who inhabit the comic book nation might be brave or sinister, bold or fearful, but all are characters who we can never forget. So, The Golden Age becomes the Silver Age, The Silver becomes The Bronze and so on, until today and until tomorrow. . . in The Endless Age of comics, and the beings who live inside them.
The Rock Takes Command!
“Easy Company. . . where nothing is easy.” These are the words fans of Sgt. Rock books would see in stories like the Joe Kubert-drawn “Calling Easy Company.” The story pitted four men from the Sarge’s outfit against a German Panzer tank which was looking to take over No-Return hill. As the story went on, readers saw each of the four men from Easy holding their positions and finally not only holding the tank at bay but taking it out, courtesy of the newest kid in Easy Company, who proved he was a real “Easy Man.”
This was the flavor of war stories in general, and the story where Sgt. Rock first appeared in Our Army At War #81 called “The Rock of Easy Company.!” was no exception. Despite the unfortunate original Sgt. Rocky he was known by, later polished into the more effective Sgt. Rock, the story was a great start. It utilized the talents of both Bob Haney and Robert Kanigher and the fine artistic execution of Ross Andru. With that, Sgt. Frank Rock began his enlisted life in the comics.
Rock became a hit with fans and his popularity is marked by how long he has been around. Outside the super-powered lot, he stood just as strong as a long-term character, armed with his government-issued weapons, the hardness of a soldier and the ability to lead Easy Company against the Germans in countless battles. Rock had some special abilities too. He was an expert marksman and excellent at hand-to-hand combat. Mostly what readers would respond to, however, was that Rock was not to be beaten by any enemy and neither were the men under his command. It wasn’t their K-rations or training that Made Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. tough. It was something in Rock himself and something in each man recruited into Easy. They were the best just because they had it in them to tough anything out. Maybe that’s why the Sgt. Rock stories outlasted all the other battle tales. Readers could connect with the idea that the toughest soldiers survive, something relatable in every decade.
In his first story Rock himself was shown to be indomitable by defeating the Nazi enemy called the Iron Captain in hand-to-hand combat. Readers knew here was a soldier that could take on any Nazi head on by himself and take him down. Things only took off from there. Sgt. Rock and the men of Easy battled in most of the historic battles of World War 2-ravaged Europe and as each new story was told, they bore out a few more background facts about Frank Rock.
Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, after the attack on Pearl Harbor he wasted no time in enlisting in the war effort against the Axis powers. He did his first tour on the dark continent and it was in the northern part of Africa that he proved himself and raised in rank until he got his Master Sargeant chevrons. Robert Kanigher had indicated that Rock’s journeys into the war zones were at least partly based on the Big Red One’s experiences. The Big Red One was the slang call name for the 1st Infantry Division who were legends in military history.
As Rock fought on, he found himself appearing in Showcase #45 in 1963. Characters would make appearances in Showcase before being launched into their own titles, but Rock had so conquered Our Army At War with his popularity that the series changed in name to Sgt. Rock with issue #302 in 1977. Rock and the men of Easy had held their ground and weren’t going anywhere. On and off the comic page, Sgt. Rock’s indomitable spirit always prevailed.
War comics had been quite popular in the late fifties and early sixties but after awhile soldier-centered comics started to fade away along with the time in which they were popular. The Rock and Easy Company, however, were not about to let any enemy take their hill in the comics industry so even after the others went away, the Sarge and his men fought on, much to the enjoyment of war comics fans who seemed to always want more of their military adventures.
When readers think of war comics, they undoubtedly will think of Sgt. Rock and Easy Company, the hills they took and held, the dirt they ate as bullets flew overhead, the tanks they stopped and the way they joked among each other easily, even knowing the next hill could mean what Abraham Lincoln dubbed “the last full measure.” That’s okay with Sgt. Rock and the rest of them. They’re soldiers. They’ll take the enemy hard and they know the truth. They’re Easy company . . . where nothing is easy.[James Parducci]
James Parducci is the creator of the comic series Nighthunter. He has been published in multiple periodicals and runs his own freelance writing business in San Diego.