Once a staple of comics publishing, tales of combat have made a resurgence in recent years with Garth Ennis's "Enemy Ace" and the return of "Sgt. Rock" under Joe Kubert and Billy Tucci.
For Sergeant Richard C. Meyer, now serving in Afghanistan in the U.S. Army Infantry, war comics offer the opportunity to present true tales of heroism from the front lines. "No Enemy, But Peace," a twenty-two page comic book written and partially illustrated by Meyer, hit stores last week, and CBR News caught up with Meyer to discuss the project.
Meyer enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2000. As an infantry machine gunner, he was sent to Iraq in 2003. After his enlistment ended a year later, Meyer took the opportunity to finish his bachelor's degree while serving in the Army National Guard. He then joined the Army on active duty in 2006 and returned to Iraq and is now serving in Afghanistan as a rifle team leader.
"I've been a comics fan since 'G.I.Joe' Issue #13 in 1983," Sergeant Meyer told CBR News. "Come to think of it, that's the same thing that got me into the military. So basically ['G.I. Joe' writer] Larry Hama decided the course of my life at the age of 10."
Named after the final line of "My Rifle (The Creed of United States Marine)," "No Enemy, But Peace" is Meyer's first full-length comic book and depicts the story of Sergeant Martinez, a tale Meyer describes so "amazing," he was compelled to share it. "I saw so many negative depictions of US military -- always either portrayed as villains or victims -- so I wanted the public to know that they do have heroes in the military that they can be proud of, and I specifically wanted them to have a name to put with the face."
Martinez himself also wrote about his time in the Marines in "Hard Corps," a memoir published in 2007. "It is an amazing book," Meyer said.
With the demands of military life, "No Enemy, But Peace" was a long time in the making. "I began drawing it right after I got out of the Marines in 2004, but drawing it while going to school full-time was very slow going," Meyer explained. "In 2006, I enlisted in the Army and went back to Iraq and I hired Martin Montiel Luna to finish the story. Instead of seeing combat, I got stuck in an easy desk job in one of Saddam's old palaces so I had a lot of free time.
"The book was originally going to be a three-issue miniseries entitled 'The Bridge,' which would have covered the entire battle from the vantage point of several soldiers. I pitched it to an indie publisher and they accepted it, but when I saw that I was basically working for free, I cancelled the deal and decided to start my own company with an old Marine buddy.
"When I read Martinez's hardcover biography, I realized I should put out a one-shot focusing specifically on him."
Meyer started Machinegun Bob Comics with Carlos Silva, but "No Enemy, But Peace" is not the pair's first comic book endeavor. The two co-wrote a story for Image Comics' "PopGun 2" anthology titled "Yonchi." "We are now finishing a four-issue mini-series about Yonchi, which will be our follow-up to 'NEBP,'" confirmed Meyer. Also following "No Enemy, But Peace," Machinegun Bob Comics will finally publish "The Bridge" as an original graphic novel, being a more in-depth look at the Battle of At-Tarmiya.
Additionally, Machinegun Bob Comics will produce "The Frozen Chosin" about the Chosin Reservoir campaign. "Although the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima is the most famous Marine battle in the mind of the public, the Chosin Reservoir campaign is the battle that Marines are most proud of, which is peculiar since it was a retreat," Meyer explained. "In the battle, a few thousand Marines were ambushed by nearly 100,000 Chinese soldiers. I see it as the American version of '300.'"
Towards the end of "No Enemy, But Peace," Meyer explores the media portrayal of the Iraq War and the American military, coverage he sees as overwhelmingly negative. Comparing the news' presentation of combat with the inspiring tales of heroism seen in war films (and in his own comic book), Meyer finds the latter both more accurate and more compelling. "If you look at all the Iraq War movies which have all gone with the 'Villain or Victim' portrayal of our military, they have all been abysmal failures. 'Rendition,' 'In the Valley of Elah,' 'Redacted,' 'Lions for Lambs'--all failures," he said. "Yet a movie like 'Black Hawk Down' is a blockbuster and a best-seller. I think a negative portrayal of the military is being foisted on the public and they aren't buying it.
"When a good and true portrayal of military heroics is given, it is usually accepted with welcome arms by a public that I have found to always be supportive of the military, even if they did not agree with the war."
"No Enemy, But Peace" is on sale now from Machinegun Bob Comics.