Never having been a big fan of war comics, I almost didn’t download this comic book, G.I. Combat #16, from August of 1954. The cover art by Dick Dillan and Chuck Cuidera caught my eye, as they were the team who drew and inked my favorite Blackhawk comic books, which are on the periphery, I suppose, of war comics. The other almost-war comic I love is Don Winslow of the Navy, which was originally published by Fawcett.
This G.I. Combat issue features the first Vietnam-based war story I’ve seen: “Airfield in Hell.” Of course, at that time, Vietnam was known as French Indo-China. Here’s the splash page for that story:
Following the story is this zany ad for a 98¢ electric Brainstorm Beanie; I bet the freckled hipster shown wearing it would be even more smug if it were a solar- instead of battery-powered Brainstorm Beanie:
And, at the end of the issue is a poignant ad for the Charles Atlas bodybuilding course.
An unfortunate fellow, Joe, is humiliated in front of his girlfriend. In a moment of fury, he sends off for the Charles Atlas course and later becomes a buff and powerful force to be reckoned with. How much later is the question that doesn’t get answered in this ad, though the copy says it will happen “almost before you realize it.” That’s a very carefully worded sentence.
It can’t happen too quickly to suit Joe, I’m sure, but revenge is a dish best eaten cold. Since Joe, his girlfriend, and the white-haired lout who gets his comeuppance are all wearing the same outfits in this sequence, I’m guessing it occurred in one summer.
I have a skinny cousin who took that course and I didn’t expect it to do much for him. I saw him many years later and was stunned at what a brawny fellow he had turned into; he looked like Superman. But that was years, not months, and he also had served 20 years in the Marines.
Two years after this comic was published by Quality Comics, their stable of features was sold to DC Comics and Quality bit the dust. Blackhawk and G.I. Combat were two comics (a love comic was a third) that DC chose to continue publishing. The publisher of Quality, Busy Arnold, retired to Naples and I wish I had known that before he died; I would have looked him up!