ISSUE #1:

The series opens in 1944, a few weeks prior to the D-Day Invasion. the Howlers are introduced in a double-page spread: Sgt. Fury (the leader of the squad), Cpl. "Dum-Dum" Dugan (former circus strangman), "Rebel" Ralston (ex-jockey), "Junior Juniper (Ivy Leaguer), Gabe Jones (trumpet player), Izzy Cohen (mechanic) and Dino Manelli (movie star). The Howlers are under the command of "Happy Sam" Sawyer, "battle-hardened exec officer of the commandos 'able company.'"

The leader of the French underground has been captured by the Nazis. the Howlers' mission: rescue him. After parachuting behind enemy lines into occupied France, their mission proceeds in straightforward fashion. [HIGHLIGHT: Dum-Dum takes down a Messerschmidt... with a hand grenade... while parachuting!] They succeed in the rescue, and the final caption reads: "One June 6, 1944... the first wave of the allied invasion forces hit Omaha Beach! And, in the forefront of the attack were seven Howling Commandos--but that's a tale for another time!:

NEXT: Another time.

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I'm doing a little house-cleaning here.

Because my post on #100 didn't draw much of a response, I'm deleting it from when it was originally posted and moving it after the discussion of the Korea and Viet Nam issues (because that's the way I am). I am also taking this opportunity to clear up a factual error pointed out by Philip. While I am here, I thought I'd mention the upcoming THE COMPLETE KIRBY WAR & ROMANCE collection, solicited for May 2021 release (with a choice of covers: "war" or "romance"). In addition to material from Battle #64-70, Battleground #14, Love Romances #83-85, #87-88 and #96-106, My Own Romance #71-76 and Teen-Age Romance #84-86, it also includes all of his Sgt. Fury issues, #1-8, #10-20 and #25. I will be back to continue this discussion in a couple of days.

As we have discussed, the Howlers led something of a charmed life after the publication of the first annual, but that charm was long since spent by issue #100. #100 is unusual in several different ways. First of all, by 1972, the title was about 50% reprint. #100 not only featured an all-new story, but was set in the present day. Also, the story is somewhat metatextual in that it opens with a banquet hosted by Marvel Comics in honor of the publication of the 100th issue. (Although it has long been established that there is a "Marvel Comics" within the Marvel Comics Universe, it's still unusual.) The action is split between the light-hearted festivities which open the issue in contrast with the serious nature of the rest of the story. Finally, the storytelling itself is a bit unusual for the time, featuring as it does four wordless (or nearly wordless) nine-panel grid pages and two 12-panel grid pages, one of them wordless.

Stan Lee acts as the Master of Ceremonies at the east Side Plaza and introduces Nick Fury, who in turn introduces (in the following order) Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Martin Goodman, Dick Ayers and Gary Friedrich, followed by each of the Howlers in turn. Then tragedy strikes. Because of his support of Civil rights issues, two assassins shoot Congressman "Reb" Ralston, wounding him severely. I'm not sure what Captain America and the FF were doing at this point, but Nick Fury, Gabe Jones, Dino Manelli and Izzy Cohen commandeer four mororcycles from a quartet of pink-clad, hot-pants-wearing female bikers and set off in pursuit of the cab the shooters fled in, while Stan Lee accompanies Congressman Ralston to the hospital in the ambulance.

During the course of the high speed chase, Izzy Cohen loses control of his cycle and careers into a car and is severely injured. Leaving Gabe and Dino behind to care for Izzy, Nick Fury continues pursuit. the chase takes them to the 59th Street Bridge where the reluctant cab driver loses control of his vehicle. At this point, agents from SHIELD's midtown headquarters catch up to the action in Dick Tracy-style "flying garbage cans." One of the agents takes out the first of the shooters, while Fury attempts to subdue the other. After nearly falling off the bridge below, Fury shoots the would-be assassin, who plunges into the river below.

Both Ralston and Cohen survive, but it was a very near thing with no guarantee that either of them would survive. the issue ends on an optimistic note, with Eric Koenig hoping for the comic book to have another 100 issues of publication [SPOILER - it doesn't make it] while the radio begins to play "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing."

Captain America #273-274:

Conspicuous in his absence from Sgt. Fury #100 was General Happy Sam Sawyer, but he's front and center in this, the Howlers' last adventure. That's the good news. The bad news is he doesn't survive. He died in Nick Fury's arms after stopping the latest menace of Baron Strucker. In Sawyer's last moments, Fury even called him by his rank rather than his first name. He was buried the next day at Arlington National Cemetery, and Nick Fury had this to say: "He dies the way he wanted--in battle, sacrificing himself to save his friends! He died... a hero!

His tombstone reads: "General Samuel Sawyer - March 21, 1910--June 30, 1982"

This issue bumps up against the increasingly problematic notion that all of these guys aren't too old for this stuff. 

Great cover.

One of my earliest, if not the earliest, issue of Thor was #234 (Ap'75) where Loki takes control of Asgard (again) and mesmerizes its army to invade the Earth. Thor joins forces with the US Army to stop him and it's led by General "Happy" Sam Sawyer. 

Of course, at the time, I had no idea who he was and there was neither mention nor cameos by any of the Howling Commandos!

ClarkKent_DC said:

This issue bumps up against the increasingly problematic notion that all of these guys aren't too old for this stuff. 

Until this point, I had been able to, with a grain or two of salt, accept the idea that the Howlers were still in good enough shape to go on missions.  Their years of intensive exercise had kept their bodies reasonably fit and, I figured, the "civilianised" Howlers had probably continued some regimen of exercise.  (The ones attached to S.H.I.E.L.D. surely were required to undergo periodic rigourous training.)  Moreover, they retained their training in assault techniques and battle tactics.

But by 1982, I pretty much had to stop looking the other way.  With all of the Howlers pushing seventy, there was no way to any longer discount the natural deterioration that strikes us all in our silver years.  The eyesight and hearing start to go.  Motor movements become slower, less precise.  All the exercise in the world can't reverse that.

I considered Captain America # 273-4 as the Howling Commandos' last hurrah, and I fully expected Marvel Comics to look at it the same way.  Yeah, they were able to give Fury a "get out of old age" pass with the infinity serum, but I didn't see any plausible way to keep sending the rest of the guys into action.

"I considered Captain America # 273-4 as the Howling Commandos' last hurrah..."

I agree. Ironic that my first "Howling Commandos" story was the Howlers' last

Commander Benson said:

I considered Captain America # 273-4 as the Howling Commandos' last hurrah, and I fully expected Marvel Comics to look at it the same way.  Yeah, they were able to give Fury a "get out of old age" pass with the infinity serum, but I didn't see any plausible way to keep sending the rest of the guys into action.

Somewhere along the way, I started thinking of "Sgt. Fury of the Howling Commandos" and "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." as two different people. It was the only way for it to make sense in my mind.

Captain America #273-4 is a fitting last hurrah.

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