Perhaps other websites take Memorial Day off, but not Comics Should Be Good! It’s the perfect time to remember comics’ favorite fictional veteran, a.k.a. the toughest man in comics!
Oh, and mind your step, or you might trip over the archive.
148. Sgt. Rock
Sergeant Frank Rock was, yes, the biggest badass to ever appear on a comics page. Really. It’s science. I would go so far as to say that Sgt. Rock rocks. (You may groan, but you know it to be true.)
Created by writer/editor Robert Kanigher and artist Joe Kubert, and also written by Bob Haney quite a bit, Sgt. Rock was the perfect soldier. DC had a few war books and quite often told stories of tough guys in combat, but Rock was the first one to recur and went on to become quite popular. He first appeared in G.I. Combat, but moved onto Our Army at War, where he stayed for nearly thirty years (eventually, the title of the book changed to “Sgt. Rock”).
With his ripped sleeves (after all, he needed to show off his muscles), grim determination, and hatred of the war, Rock tore through the opposition, surviving the most ridiculous, inescapable scrapes, often beating the crap out of Nazis with his bare hands, or blowing up tanks (Oh shit! Bazooka!) with the aid of his crack team of men to whom he was intensely loyal. Of course, he also romanced Mlle. Marie, the toughest lady of WWII (though she later apparently had a kid with Alfred Pennyworth, of all people. Well, in one story, anyway).
The comics also taught us that Rock loved puppies, was immune to the cold, and was the greatest pimp of the 1940’s. Aside from that, though, we were also given terrific war stories, brilliant anti-war stories, and featured some damn gorgeous covers.
The debate over whether Rock lived through WWII rages on. Yes, he’s made post-war appearances throughout DC comics, like in Haney’s Brave and the Bold and Giffen’s Suicide Squad, among other things, and even Bob Kanigher himself wrote a few of these kind of stories, but he later changed his mind and declared that Rock never survived the war. As the story goes, Rock was killed by the last bullet fired in WWII. It’s pure poetry; Rock is, after all, the fighting spirit of the period, and works best in that era.
I say it’s high time for a new Sgt. Rock book. He managed to outlive the death of all the non-superhero genres, with his original series lasting well into the 1980’s, but he hasn’t had a regular gig since. There’ve been reprints, guest appearances, graphic novels, and the Prophecy mini-series by Joe Kubert, but that’s about it. Clearly, rock is still in comics consciousness, but dammit, he needs to live again! “Prophecy” only sold an average of units somewhere in the 20,000’s, but DC can sell anything with enough hype. Is there a writer as crazy as Kanigher to make it work? Hmm. I say toss all three Kuberts on it, and rotate some big writers like Ennis and Azzarello in and out. That’d be a damn fine series.
Sgt. Rock has been optioned for a film, but could any actor live up to the titan of the comics page? How about it, readers? Who has enough cajones to portray Frank Rock? Bruce Willis is the only one that comes to my mind. What do you think? Schwarzenegger almost played him once; in fact, the script for that aborted project has just been placed online.
Rock may have starred in the best war comic ever, but there are still plenty of awesome war comics out there. And, yeah– this week, we’re gonna talk about ’em. Stay tuned.