Cover to Our Army at War #196

Our Army at War #196, August 1968

“Stop the War —  I Want to Get Off!”

After three straight nights without sleep Sgt Rock is given a small group of four “green as grass” rookies to look after. A fourth night beckons as Rock leads them out on scouting patrol. They spy a German tank and the rookies flee in panic as the tank shells them.

Alone with the smell of cordite, Rock loses his cool and runs towards the tank like a man possessed. Dodging the machine gun fire, he mounts the tank and throws a grenade into the turret. The tank explodes. Rock cries, “NO MORE WAR!”

Our Army at War #196 splash page

In the quiet darkness, a GI approaches shrouded in shadow. He takes Rock on a journey through history: the history of warfare. From cavemen banding together to attack a bear, to Roman centurions holding the line, to General Washington watching his men during the Revolutionary War, to the grinning face of Adolph Hitler, as thousands of skull-like faces stare from the barbed wire fences of concentration camps.

When Rock looks up, he sees the GI has vanished.

The four rookies appear. They’re bruised and scratched, but otherwise only their pride is hurt. They’re amazed at how Rock dealt with the tank on his own.

“How do you keep goin’?” asks one.

“No secret, buddies…” replies Rock, his face set in stone. “Just keep your eyes and ears open all the time — and you’ll learn from all the guys that ever had to fight to say free — How to get through this war with a whole skin! And WHY!

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In 1968, Carmine Infantino assumed the position of Editorial Director at DC. He brought in some old artist buddies as editors to shake things up. Joe Orlando took his editorial seat then, as did Dick Giordano. For the war titles, Infantino called on Joe Kubert (long time editor Bob Kangiher was unwell at the time). This marked the beginning of a remarkable run of comics where Kubert wrote as well as drew the adventures of Sgt Rock, making sure to drop some of the more overt gung-ho aspects typical of the war comic, while introducing ideas torn from the anti-war headlines of the day. While Sgt Rock was never a pacifist parable, it did make the effort to show war as a bad —  though sometimes necessary — thing.

“Make War No More” became a slogan/logo used at the end of many of the war stories of this period.

This is an effective story, told in just twelve pages. Witnessing the death of innocence (as his sleep-deprived brain believes) he embarks on a metaphorical journey, learning that war, as horrible as it is, is fought for a reason.

That remarkable cover is by Kubert, making extensive use of colour holds as background. The title was probably a play on the Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley musical Stop the World, I Want to Get Off, which finds the dissatisfied lead character searching for ways to improve his life — only to discover it had been sitting right beneath his nose all along.

Images ©2011 DC Comics