Friday, March 10, 2017
The Boys Of War!
I'll have to admit that I used to find kid gangs kinda' stupid. The notion that a bunch of youngsters could ramble around and get into all kinds of bizarre danger seemed ludicrous to me and so violated the norms of society which I felt should be geared to protect the young from such harrowing misadventures that fantasies that did the contrary always seem too fantastical. As I've grown older, I admit a fondness for the esprit d'corp which is evident in these gangs and I allow the frolic to overcome my overweening concern for their welfare.
Clearly the kings of kid gangs in comics was the sterling team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. They generated a host of them (Newsboy Legion, Boy's Ranch, Young Allies, etc.) and later Kirby himself gave us the Dingbats of Danger Street while Simon offered the Green Team. The Newsboy Legion is likely my favorite of their many assemblies, a raucous gaggle of visual distinctive youths led by an all-purpose superhero named the Guardian. I loved how the Newsboys were revived and made part of the Jimmy Olsen stories.
But I guess the most successful of the kid gangs that Simon and Kirby concocted were the Boy Commandos. They debuted in Detective Comics and brought a WWII splendor to a comic which was still very much cloaked in mystery and domestic crime. The Boy Commandos impossibly fought on the battlefields of Europe and took the sidekick concept evident in S&K's Captain America series and amped it up to eleven (or four, depending on how strained you want to make my allusion). Four boys from the United States (Brooklyn), France (Andre), Holland (Jan) and British (Alfie) led by All-American hero Rip Carter.
The Commandos had a healthy run in Detective Comics and even supported their own comic book for many years right up until 1949, long after the war which had birthed them was won. The boys changed with with Jan leaving at the war's end and both Andre and Alfie getting replaced by Americans Percy and Tex. But still they lasted, like the Avengers or the JLA, shifting members and missions but always it seems a relative success.
The Boy Commandos even got their own title again in 1973 when DC put out a couple of reprint comics featuring the team.
But I first tasted their adventures in the pages of Mister Miracle, which with its fourth issue started using vintage Simon and Kirby stories to fill out the new mandated page count to justify the quarter asking price. I loved these reprints and it awoke me to the goodness which the Golden Age was capable of producing. Much Golden Age work I'd found before this seemed crude but the S&K stuff had a polish lacking from a lot that I'd found.
The Boy Commandos became a part of DC comics lore, a not insignificant part.
I get the hankering to read their adventures from time to time, though doubtless I might be less impressed with the reality than I am with the anticipation. They are an impossible group, but clearly have a dash of pure fun which I fancy from time to time.