Jun 6, 2009

Military Madness (1944)

Story presented in this entry:
Military Comics #28 (April 1944) - Death Patrol (Story and art by Jack Cole)

Here is a delightful little gem from Jack Cole's second run on the Death Patrol series he created in 1941. Note the continued use of the theme of face-changing and identity shifting (see the earlier entry in this blog, 'The Eel-Like Slipperiness of Indentity") with the Japanese woman disguised in make-up. When she kisses a man, her false face transfers to his... so two people are altered, with one kiss.

One big difference between 1941 Cole and 1944 Cole is well-displayed here: sex has entered the scene.

The pace flies by and even President Franklin D. Roosevelt appears as a character. It's as though Cole wrote an 8-page story and eliminated every other panel to get it down to four pages. Enjoy!


  1. These two DEATH PATROL stories show how fast Cole matured as a comix storyteller in a very short amount of time. The first story is very much of his breathless, can't-tell-the-story-fast-enough feel of 1939-1941. The second one, while equally break-neck in its pace, has a firmer command of comix vocabulary, and more assurance in its telling.

    What must Cole's colleagues have thought of this rapid advance in his work? It must have been a bit intimidating for some of the less talented folks at Quality Comics. I always feel sorry for Vernon Henkel, et al, when I see their third-rate work in the same magazine as Cole's comix.

  2. Vernon Henkel "third rate?" That might a bit harsh (though he's obviously no where near Cole) but I definitely see what you're saying.

    What I love about this 4 pager is the surprising amount of inventive storytelling in such a small space. The eyes in the "binocular" panel on Page One, the sudden dive-bomb plunge on Page Two, and most notably, the doubly transformative kiss on the last page, along with a lot of interesting perspectives, etc.

    Perhaps best of all is the splash panel, I think. The splash was once a great storytelling tool, neither cover, nor narrative panel, but something sort of in-between that visually conveys the info to set the scene for each story. Eisner was masterful at it on the Spirit sections. It's a lost art today (and not many even got it right back then).

    Thanks so much for this great site. Looking forward to more.

  3. Frank and Tamfos... THANK YOU for your great comments. I love it that there can be a serious and well-considered discussion of Cole's work.

    Frank makes a great point about Cole's growth between his two tours of duty on the Death Patrol. I sometimes think that, like Robert Johnson, Cole may have sold his soul to Satan in exchange for an inexplicably speedy mastery of his art form.

    I also like what Tamfos has to say about the inventiveness of Cole's splash pages, and how well they draw you into the story. There's a future blog entry I have in mind that will look at Cole's splashes in some detail.

  4. Cole's Death Patrol comics have a unique feel among his Quality work. They have neither the sharp focus of his 1-pagers (which deserve their own collection...I can dream!) nor the sprawling, epic comedy of his longer stories. But they are still a blast--if very much, ahem, period pieces! Thanks for posting!


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