The Last Ride of the Howling Commandos

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The only thing I know about this series is what I read on the inro page: “Distrustful of a command structure too compromised by politics and read tape, Nick Fury, formerly the head of the world peacekeeping organization S.H.I.E.L.D., has gone underground, assembling a team of secret warriors from the rolls of undiscovered young superhumans known only to him, in order to wage those wars he believes need to be fought.” The series is written by Jonathan Hickman. I haven’t read much of his work, but what I have read I’ve liked.

I’m currently in the process of re-reading the Lee/Kirby/Steranko et al S.H.I.E.L.D. series and plan to follow it up with the two (soon to be three) volumes of Sgt. Fury Masterworks, so what better time to read Sgt. Fury’s “last ride”? Part one is built around a framing sequence of Dum Dum Dugan and Jasper Sitwell testifying before the United Nations security council. Flashbacks tell of Fury’s attempt to assemble an army of former S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives into a new incarnation of his old squad in order to combat the threat of Hydra which has resurfaced yet again.

At least I think that’s what’s going on. (I am coming in at issue #17, after all.)

I haven’t read nearly as many issues of Sgt. Fury as I have of Nick Fury, but the flashback scenes remind me very much of one of the relatively few issues of Sgt. Fury I do have, issue #100, both of which deal with a reunion of former Howlers in the present day. The flashback-within-a-flashback of the Howlers’ “last ride” has only just begun by the end of issue #17, but I find myself very much looking forward to what comes next.
A Fury fan eh? You must be looking forward to the next arc in our Micronauts overview. Lots of Howling, ... and Commanding!
While I was waiting for issue #2 to ship, I re-read Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandoes King-Size Special #3 (the real "Last Ride of the Howling Commandoes"). Because the action takes place in the then-present day (Viet Nam, summer 1967), I would have liked to have seen it included interstitially in one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. volumes, but oh well.

The story structure of this Secret Warriors three-parter is interesting because the story shifts among four different times. In the present, Dum-Dum Dugan and Jasper Sitwell are testifying before the United Nations Security Council; a week and a half earlier, a new group of "Howling Commandoes" attacked a Hydra base in China (which is why Dugan and Sitwell are in the hot seat); and two weeks ago, the surviving members of the original Howlers gathered for a reunion at which time they told stories about their WWII adventures.

During the flashback scene to the Howlers' reunion, Fury and Dugan have a cryptic side conversation about the loss of Fury's eye. It doesn't sound as if they're discussing the events of Sgt. Fury #27, but I can't say for sure because I've never read it. I've got vague idea of what happens because I seen it recapped elsewhere, but I've never read the issue itself. No matter, though. In this "Golden Age of Reprints" in which we live, the volume of Sgt. Fury Masterworks which reprints #27 ships later this month and I will have the opportunity to read the original before Secret Warriors #19 ships and I will be able to report on bothh next month.

A hardcover collection of these three issues has been solicited October release, but as I said, I'll be here next month for #19 (and perhaps a surprise comic or two as well).
They stated that Dino Manelli and Pinky Pinkerton had passed on. Was that from actual stories or new to this one?
As far as I know, they died off-panel and this series is the first mention of it.
This is the first mention I've heard of those Howlers passing, too.

Although I confess that -- even though I've probably read every issue in which Fury or any Howler has appeared -- I 'm a little fuzzy on a lot of details about the postwar Howlers. Given that Fury himself has never been able to sustain a title for long, Howler appearances have been sporadic, often in the background, and sometimes contradictory.

For example, we know Fury has the Infinity Formula -- as revealed in one of Marvel's try-out books in the '70s or '80s, I think by Howard Chaykin -- but what has kept Timothy Aloysius Dugan spry for so long? Perhaps Fury has shared the formula, and I think there have been hints of that. But I don't believe it's been firmly established. And with the passage of time, the idea that any Howlers are still alive and active without chemical help is getting less and less plausible. Even Junior Juniper -- presumably 18 at the beginning of the war -- would be over 90 now, had he survived. The rest would be pushing 100, if not over it. Does anyone recall Dugan's age being addressed? Or the other surviving Howlers? I confess that I have Secret Warriors #17-18 and haven't read them yet,* so if it's mentioned there, feel free to spoil.

(* I like Hickman's work, but it's often very involved and I find it is easier to understand if taken in large doses. I'm waiting for "Last Ride" to finish to read them all, so that I can keep it straight. As Jeff mentions above, there are four stories unspooling in four different time periods, and I doubt I'd keep that straight if I read "Last Ride" with 30-day waits between issues.)

Also, I was under the impression that Hickman's S.H.I.E.L.D. was a miniseries, showing the heretofore unknown history of the organization before Strange Tales #65. But the latest solicitations don't show an end date any more, so it may have been transformed into an ongoing. Or perhaps it always was, and I was always operating under false assumptions. Anybody know?

Just for fun I'll mention that in one of the Sgt. Fury annuals (perhaps the one Jeff mentions), the postwar paths of the Howlers are mentioned. We already knew that Dugan and Gabe Jones followed Fury into S.H.I.E.L.D., but Izzy Cohen opened a garage in Brooklyn, "Reb" Ralston became a senator from Kentucky, Dino Manelli continued his Dean Martin homage by launching a variety show on TV (as the real Dean Martin did from 1965 to 1974) and "Pinky" Pinkerton opened a chain of loosely disguised Playboy clubs (ironic, given that he is becoming retroactively gay in many fans' minds). Eric Koenig became a commercial airline pilot, but later joined S.H.I.E.L.D.

I don't recall off-hand how much of this held up over the years, but I remember reading that as a boy and thinking how apt all the post-war jobs were.
I read that annual, too with Fury almost rebelling at the idea of dragging his old unit back into combat.

Didn't Stan Lee say, if he had a gay character, it would have been Pinky?

Dino was the focus of a Marvel Team-Up with Spider-Man and Nick Fury, involving his much younger girlfriend and HYDRA or the Maggia. It was one of later ones before its cancellation.

Read #17. Not really impressed yet but will stay for this story arc. Great cover, though!
I think Lee is being talked into the idea that he wrote Pinky as gay, and therefore created the first gay war character. In some recent interviews he seems to be hinting in that direction. But when you go back and read the original stories, that line doesn't hold up very well. Lee wasn't writing gay -- he was, by his own admission and obvious evidence, writing David Niven.

I don't really blame Lee for a little creative remembering. After all, as he admits and is pretty obvious, he does have one of the world's worst memories. And there's a lot of fan enthusiasm for the idea of retroactively making Pinky gay, so there's a little pressure there to "admit" it, and Lee likes to say what makes people happy.

But Pinky is obviously based on David Niven, who wasn't gay but was a certain type of wry, quasi-effeminate, British, upper-crusty sort of male lead. Lee based a lot of characters on real people. In addition to the abovementioned Dino Manelli/Dean Martin, Hogun the Grim was based on Charles Bronson, and Fandral the Dashing was based on Errol Flynn. I'll think of more as the day progresses.
Wasn't Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg based on the Three Musketeers with Thor as D'Artagnon, though I do see the Flynn and Bronson connection. I was well aware of the Dean Martin homage especially when Dino's Jerry Lewis showed up! Pinky as David Niven I didn't see and The Guns of Navarone is one of my and my father's favorite movies. Makes you wonder what a big budget Howling Commandos movie in the 60s would have been like!

Stan's bad memory is legendary and a huge handicap for comic historians! Obviously, Pinky could never be portrayed as gay in the original comics, just as Element Lad never had that context though some seem to gravitate towards both being gay, not that's there anything wrong with that. But maybe putting today's sensibilities in Silver Age comics is better left unsaid.
The story about the Infinity Formula you are thinking of is from Marvel Spotlight #31 which took place in the present day. It seems to me I read somewhere recently that that story had been ret-conned to WWII and all the Howlers were similarly affected.

For the record, Sgt. Fury Annuals #1 & 3 featured the Howlers in Koera and Viet Nam respectively, and #2 & 4 featured D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge respectively.

I agree with your assessment of Pinky Pinkertons sexual orientation, Cap. I first remember Stan Lee mentioning it when Northstar came out of the closet, and I think he mentioned it again in the introduction to the first Sgt. Fury Masterworks.
“The Last Ride of the Howling Commandos” wrapped up last week and I really must make a point of re-reading the entire story in a single sitting someday soon. If nothing else, this story restores Baron Strucker to his former self after Mark Millar emasculated him a couple of years ago in Wolverine. I was never a big fan of Marvel or DC’s war mags, but this story as well as this week’s .Our Army at War one-shot featuring Sgt. Rock have got me reading both Sgt. Fury Masterworks as well as Sgt. Rock Archives.

Jeff of Earth-J said:
I'll be here next month for #19 (and perhaps a surprise comic as well).

Secret Warriors #19 ended on something of a downer, so I decided to follow it up with a tale of the Howlers in happier times in one of the few issue of Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos I actually own, the 100th. The plot is almost non-existent but it takes place in the modern day MU upon the publication of the 100th issue and features guest stars such as Captain America and the Fantastic Four, in addition to all of the surviving Howlers as well as Stan Lee and Martin Goodman attending a banquet to mark the occasion. All in all, reading it was a nice little coda to “Last Ride.”

Just read #18-19. A grim story indeed! For those not wanting to know (SPOILER ALERT!!)

It seems as if Marvel is now realizing that they have WWII vets running around their universe, making Captain America (either one) look old-fashioned and uncool. So similar to what DC has been doing, they are systematically culling their herd of incongruous senior citizens.

I grew up learning that Mister Fantastic and the Thing fought in WWII, making Sue around at that time too. I even have a Captain Savage where he and his Leatherneck Raiders rescue Ben Grimm from the early 70s? There is even a Marvel Two-In-One from the 80s that has a flashback of Ben teaming with the Howlers. Of course, that's was rebooted out a couple of decades ago. Does anyone remember Bryne's FF/Fury/Hitler story? Were Reed and Ben still fighting WWII?

When did Clay Quartermain die?

Should we treat Alexander as a normal child or as a demi-god? The gods all did violent and/or amazing acts as children. Apollo slew the dragon that chased his mother, Hermes stole Apollo's cattle, Heracles crushed two vipers as an infant. How can Ares' son be any less a warrior than they since he is more than mortal? So it depends on what his powers truly are if Nick is harassing a young immortal or severely endangering a minor?

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