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The Underrated Greatness of Gary Friedrich's Sgt. Fury 'The' Series

Knowledge Waits is a feature where I just share some bit of comic book history that interests me.

While Gary Friedrich created both Ghost Rider and the Son of Satan, he did not have particularly long runs on either character. He wrote the first six issues of the Ghost Rider feature in Marvel Spotlight as well as the first six issues of Ghost Rider's ongoing series. He wrote the first handful of Son of Satan stories before Steve Gerber took over that feature. Meanwhile, though, Fredrich was the regular writer on Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos from #45-117 (the last couple of years alternated new stories with reprints of older stories).

One of the interesting things about Sgt. Fury is that it was slightly a lesser priority for Marvel during the late 1960s. Stan Lee gave up the feature because he had to concentrate on the more popular superhero titles and then Roy Thomas similarly had to move off the book. The upside of something like that, though, is that it typically resulted in the series giving the creators more freedom, as the lesser books also had less direction from up top. So Gary Friedrich used that freedom for what is now called the "The" series. These were spotlight stories that centered on a single character, who would be described as "The ____."

The first story in the series, "The War Lover," was in Friedrich's first solo issue as writer, #45, drawn by John Severin.

The issue dealt with a somewhat heady debate for a comic book about war - about how much you should embrace the idea of killing and when does it change from killing in war to being murder...

Later, Ryan (who is the son of a General) captures a group of Nazis and is prepared to slaughter them when Fury and the others stop him...

In #51's "The Assassin" (art by Dick Ayers and John Severin)....

We meet a loyal German citizen who is shocked to learn that he is expected to assassinate Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin at one of their summits...

It is a fascinating examination into the whole "We never thought that this would affect US. We're good people who love our country, we thought we could separate ourselves from the bad aspects of Nazism."

In the end, the man decides to kill himself rather than carry out his duty. As punishment, the Nazis take his son from his mother. She then kills herself, as well..

Daaaaaaaang!

In #57's "The Informer" (art by Tom Sutton and John Severin)...

It is basically a riff on the classic film, Stalag 17, with Fury and the gang stuck in a prisoner of war camp where one of their fellow prisoners is ratting the group out to the guards.

#61's "The Peacemonger" (art by Ayers and Severin) was a crossover with a short-lived military comic that Friedrich also wrote called Captain Savage and His Battle Field Raiders.

It discussed the idea of conscientious objectors...

In #75's "The Deserter (art by Ayers and Severin)...

They handle a story based on the execution of a real-life deserter during World War II...

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