With his regular ongoing title cancelled 20 years ago, Sgt. Rock returns to DC Comics in 2008 in the six-issue mini-series, “The Lost Battalion,” written and illustrated by Billy Tucci (“Shi”).
In a somewhat ironic twist, CBR News spoke with the Eisner-award nominated creator on the sixth anniversary of 9/11 about the iconic military figure – a connection not lost on Tucci.
“Above all else this is a human story,” said Tucci of his factually-based Rock story. “It’s based on actual events and I’ve worked very hard crafting around the truth. I want to pay homage to the men and women who have fought for the United States and paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Tucci disagrees with the notion that a World War II story featuring Sgt. Rock may not resonate with today’s comic book reader when media outlets like CNN tell real-life war stories every day.
“As for CNN telling real life stories of soldiers, I haven’t seen it,” said Tucci. “I know Robin Meade has a small video salute to those serving, but to me CNN doesn’t cover our troops unless they are killed. Then it seems that they skew it into a political angle and not one that celebrates the person’s beliefs and life. That said, the real heroes of the events have been largely ignored and their story must be told.
“Since it’s so early, I cannot give away too many details about my story but I will in due time,” Tucci continued. “When I first wrote the story it brought tears to my eyes. It’s that powerful.”
John Milius, who co-wrote the screenplay for “Apocalypse Now” with Francis Ford Coppola and wrote and directed “Red Dawn,” provides some dialogue and creative guidance for “Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion” while Mark Sparacio (“Heroes for Hire,” “Green Lantern”) will be painting the covers from Tucci’s pencils.
Tucci revealed the six-issue mini-series won’t be numbered in the traditional way and may provide more bang for the buck than most books it competes with during its run, as well.
“The events [in the six issues] take place over seven days. Each issue won’t be numbered but rather titled by day,” explained Tucci. “For example, #1 will have Day 1 printed on the book’s cover. I’m dying to tell the story, but again, must be vague at the moment. It looks like the issues will also be 30 pages each, but that hasn’t been solidified as yet. It would be great to have 30 pages, though.”
Originally created by writer Joe Kanigher and artist Joe Kubert, Frank Rock first appeared in “G.I. Combat” #68 in January, 1959. The story was written by Bob Haney.
“It was the only comic I read as a kid,” said Tucci. “Joe Kubert, Robert Kanigher and Frank Redondo [who provided inks] are my heroes!”
In 1977, the name of “G.I. Combat” was changed to “Sgt. Rock” and the title enjoyed 11 more years of publication until #422 in July, 1988.
Tucci says the fact Frank Rock is an ordinary man is reason why he has remained a popular character for comic book readers for nearly 50 years.
“He has no powers and does not flaunt his capabilities with garish costumes,” said Tucci. “He doesn’t want to be where he is, but he does his job. He’s an ordinary United States Infantryman, and that alone makes him incredibly extraordinary.”
According to Tucci, the story takes place in October, 1944.
“It is after D-Day and Easy Company has been transferred to the 36th Division,” said Tucci, who revealed many of Sgt. Rock’s long-serving supporting characters will return for “The Lost Battalion” including Bulldozer, Wildman, Ice Cream Soldier, Little Sure Shot, Tag Along and “a bunch of others.”
Tucci said originally he and Milius approached DC in June of this year about turning a script Milius wrote in the 1980s for a proposed film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger into a comic book series.
“It’s an amazing script,” said Tucci. “But since Joel Silver owns the script we couldn’t do it. Dan Didio asked me if I had another pitch and I said, ‘Oh yeah!’ I wrote up a two-page pitch and John loved it. I then sent it to DC and in a matter of hours of me meeting Dan Didio for the first time it was approved. Mike Marts was assigned the editor. I then wrote an issue by issue/ page by page treatment of the series. Again, John loved it, had a few notes, I agreed, changed them and sent it off to DC. They seemed real happy with it. My wife, my harshest critic, but staunchest supporter, thinks it’s the best thing I’ve ever written.”
That’s saying a lot considering his creation “Shi” has been nominated for multiple Eisner awards.
While “Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion” is taking up most of his time, Tucci is also working on some covers and is currently writing the second draft of the screenplay for a “Shi” film.
He also has a color edition of “Zombie-sama!” going to press next week, which he hopes readers will pick up while they wait for Day 1 of “Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion.”