Dec 6, 2011

Sexy Nurses, Jive Genies, and Innocent Racism in Jack Cole's 1944 Private Dogtag Screwball Adventure

Story in this post:
"Private Dogtag: Aladdin's Lamp" (story and art by Jack Cole)
Military Comics #30 (July, 1944 - Quality)

(Special note: Buy my Jack Cole eBooks! Beautiful comics, digitally restored -- only $3.99. Details here.)

In 1944, the United States was all about fighting the war against Germany and Japan. Please keep this in mind when you read the extremely insane story in this post.

American comic book sales boomed during World War Two as cratefuls were shipped to American G.I.'s overseas. Comic book publishers like Quality altered their content to appeal less to the kiddies and more to the soldiers. PRIVATE DOGTAG was one of a fleet of comics about inept soldiers. From SAD SACK (begun in 1942) to BEETLE BAILEY (begun in 1950 and still running today), the concept was -- and has been -- enormously popular among U.S. military and civilians alike.

Jack Cole was one of the few healthy top comic book artists in America who wasn't called up to serve in the military effort (although his brother, Bob, served in the Coast Guard). 

As such, Cole had all the work he could take on. And take it he did, perhaps building up a cash reserve in case he was drafted. This was the year PLASTIC MAN got his own book, with Cole penning virtually every page of the first three issues. If you take a look at my year-by-year page count of Jack Cole's work (read the whole post, wit6h additional charts and interesting stats on Cole's career, here), it becomes clear that 1944 was a peak production year for the prolific Jack Cole.

In Military Comics #30 alone, Jack Cole not only contributed a wonderful 4-page Death Patrol story (which you can read on this blog here), but he also tossed in a terrific nine-page Private Dogtag adventure that features sexy nurses, a Zoot-suited jive talking genie, a plethora of Japanese stereotypes, and our hero impersonating a female!

I've restored the art to this story, for your reading pleasure. It begins with a great, bizarre splash panel that gives us a healthy dose of sexy army nurses...

From Military Comics #30
(July, 1944 - Quality Comics)

Note the story is signed by Bart Tumey. PRIVATE DOGTAG was primarily drawn by Quality staffer BART TUMEY, who had a pleasant cartoony style. Tumey worked in comics longer than Cole did, starting out in the mid-1930s and lasting until the late 1950s. He also penciled and inked several Plastic Man stories.

As some readers of this blog may know, my name is Paul Tumey. As far as I know, there is no direct relation between me and Mr. Bart Tumey. I wish there was, but we will have to simply be connected through an interest in comics and Jack Cole. 

There is no doubt that this Private Dogtag story is written, penciled, inked, and even lettered by Jack Cole. When you compare how Jack Cole and Bart Tumey drew Private Dogtag, there are several marked differences:

Tumey tends to draw Dogtag's huge, comical cowlick wider and fuller than Cole. Jack Cole's character design seems more organic and graceful, even though he is basically replicating a design someone else created. Tumey also structures Dogtag's head with a larger cranium (although the brain inside is probably fairly small!). In fact, the "bighead" style of cartooning was embraced by Tumey in some very odd and strange images:

Aside from the obvious differences in cartooning styles, we can identify the Private Dogtag story in Military #30 as being by Jack Cole (even though it is signed by Bart Tumey) from several "tells." First off, there's the Cole women. Jack Cole's mid-1940's women had a very distinctive face:

Also, the character of Sheik Bey Rum in the Private Dogtag story reminds me a lot of a character from the Woozy Winks origin story:

Comparing the two images above, it's clear that they were both penciled and inked by Jack Cole (as he did the vast majority of his work), which means we can probably eliminate the possibility that Tumey penciled and Cole inked this Private Dogtag story, or vice versa.

The mystery remains: why is this story, which is so clearly by Jack Cole, signed by Bart Tumey? Was this simply an editorial screw-up? Perhaps it's simply because the Death Patrol story in this same issue is signed by Jack Cole:

For some strange reason, it seemed to be an editorial policy at Quality that each story in a comic book of theirs needed to appear to be created by a different person. We also know that Cole was fond of using pen names, such as Ralph Johns, Jake, and Robert Bruce -- so perhaps it was Cole himself who drew Bart Tumey's signature to his wacky gem, lost for 60 years in the "cole mine."


  1. Nice post. It's worth noting that BEETLE BAILEY didn't appear until 1950. There is, certainly, a surplus of doofus dogface characters in wartime comics. Thank goodness Beetle came later. His humorless vacuum might have caused mass suicides in 1945 America...

  2. Private Dogtag looks a lot like Buckwheat of the Little Rascals. I also liked the Genie, despite the racist depiction of a black person.


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