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Yes, Nazis can make excellent comedic foils – Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #48

June 23, 2012

Nazis can be tricky subjects for fiction. Steven Spielberg once used them to great cinematic effect in his Indiana Jones films, but in his post-Schindler’s List, Shoah foundation days he swore off using them as foils. To deploy them as such, he argued, made light of the evil of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime. Sure, nothing could ever take anything away from that mountain of transgressions, but having them as somewhat comical punching bags might be seen as some as making light of those who suffered under National Socialist tyranny. The Holocaust isn’t something to be trifled with, even tangentially. Nowadays, it’s best not to go down that road at all, or so the argument went — and goes.

Not to quibble with that line of thought, but if there’s anything that proves that Nazis getting knocked around can be wondrously, GLORIOUSLY absurd, tickling every funny bone in the human body, it’s this thing. It’s enough to wash away any potential trivialization, because it’s JUST. SO. FUNNY. If you’re unfamiliar with the Blitzkrieg Squad, let this comic be your introduction to their brand of wartime nuttiness. Gary Friedrich wrote it, while Dick Ayers and John Severin provided the art, and they managed to produce what may be one of my favorite bits of Silver Age Marvel storytelling. And there isn’t a single superpower on display, which makes the achievement all the more spectacular. Granted, Howling Commandos tales of this period are generally good, but this one is acutely so.

Originally gathered by all-around douche Baron Strucker, the Blitzgrieg Squad — sometimes shortened to Blitz Squad — were like Mirror Universe counterparts of Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos (as if the cover up there above didn’t sell that reflective quality enough). Eventually Colonel Klaue, a a German Nick Fury with — of course — a facial scar, came to lead the team, whose individual talents were honed to counter everthing in the VERDAMMT Commandos’ arsenal. We’re talking right down to choices in accessories here, people. I mean, they worked all the way down to an allemand eqivalent of Dum Dum Dugan’s bowler hat. THAT’S THOROUGH. You can see it up there on the cover. Dum Dum has a bowler? Well, Siegfried has a traditional alpine hat. Percival Pinkerton has an umbrella and a scarf? Manfred has a cane and a scarf. Gabe Jones has a trumpet? Otto has a flute. And it goes on. And on. And on. Here’s a brief primer:

In this utterly delightful World War II tale, Fury and his Howlers are at a base in Britain, which comes under attack from the Blitz boys. These invaders are out for blood, at the orders of der Fuhrer himself. In a domino-ish theory, if the Fury and his Commandos can be beaten, Britain will fall, et cetera, et cetera. The two sides hence engage in a pitched, back and forth battle, with one side capturing the other, then the tables being turned, and then back around again. But at every juncture the Howlers get to pound the holy hell out of the Krauts in splendid fashion. I mean, you could not make this any better. I present you now with a few samples.

Everyone has heard the phrase “Never tug Superman’s cape.” Well, add a codicil to that: “Never flatten Dugan’s hat, especially if he’s wearing it at the time.” A lesson Siegfried could have used:

Magnificent.

Rebel Ralston is known for his mastery of all things horseflesh. One might be unsure as to whether his skills would translate to being ridden like a horse himself, but, lo and behold, they do. Yes, he can buck a German right off, but not before he splats him against a wall and electrocutes him in a light fixture:

Yes, Ralston just zapped poor Ernst. AND HE QUIPPED WHILE HE DID IT.

What about the British contingent of the Howlers? Did Percival Pinkerton hold up his limey end of the bargain? Well, his battle with his counterpart lacks some comedic panache, but he does get to squeeze in a line about tea:

And he said “ruddy.” I love it when Brits say “ruddy.”

Ah. Yes. Gabe Jones. The African-American Howler who can play a mean trumpet. He might take the cake in this goof-off, because a blast from his horn not only subdues Otto and his flute, but ACTUALLY MAKES OTTO BITE THROUGH IT:

So a Mariah Carey high note could have won the war. No need for the atom bomb. If only she’d been around.

Pretty great, no?

As much joy as we might get out of this utter embarassment of the supposed master race, Uncle Adolf was unamused. Here he is in his messenger-shooting, rug-biting rage:

(Of all the weird crap about Hitler — screwing around with his niece, the farting, everything about the bunker — the craziest thing for me is that when he was pissed he’d literally do that bit above. He’d drop to the ground like a madman (well…) and pound the floor and gnaw on a rug. He did it before the infamous Munich talks with Neville Chamberlain. Yes, poor Neville returned with a pledge from that guy and thought it was a solid guarantee of peace in his time.)

All this ends with the Blitzers captured and Nick Fury making them dance in a manner that’s sure to make devotees of human rights cringe:

I’m not big on firing a gun at subdued prisoners’ feet, but come on, it’s Nazis, you know? The Geneva Convention goes out the window with them. And besides, Fury had both eyes at this point, so his aim must have been doubly as good.

This was by no means the first appearance of the Blitzkrieg Squad, as they had cropped up in this series many times before, but this might be one of their most entertaining turns. Ayers and Severin may never have been happier in their work than with this. You can see the joy in each and every panel, from Dugan flattening his enemy’s chapeau, to Gabe Jones hitting a note that makes a guy bite through metal. I realize artists don’t exactly clock in like employees doing a shift at a paper mill or something, but I can see these guys punching their cards, lunch pails in hand, with big smiles on their faces, both as they’re coming and going, a “we get paid to do this” satisfaction in their expressions. Ayers, whose work could be less than stellar when the material was likewise, may have reached some high water mark with this effort. Teamed with Severin’s inks, his art never looked more detailed or expressive. And funny. There’s sequential art comic timing on display here. This is great stuff.

And yes, I’d like to thank Friedrich for putting “ruddy” in this.

There you have it. Nazis. Funny Nazis. Three Stooges Nazis — if this comic had sounds, you’d get a nice hollow coconut foley every time they were struck in the noggin. I hope that anyone hyper-sensitive about anything making light of the Nazi regime could recognize this for what it is: STELLAR SATIRE. After-the-fact propoganda, if you will. If we can’t laugh at Nazis, especially when mocked with such eloquent visuals, then just who can we laugh at?

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