Thursday, December 11, 2008

1970's Flashback: Combat Kelly and the Deadly Dozen

This short-lived series, like the earlier Captain Savage and His Leatherneck Raiders (later renamed "Battlefield Raiders"), spun off of Marvel Comics more successful war title, Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos. Obviously, this book patterned itself after the popular 1967 film, The Dirty Dozen starring Lee Marvin.

The Deadly Dozen (like the movie bunch) was a group of hardened convicts who volunteered for combat duty in exchange for pardons. The Dozen were: Larry "Hillbilly" Wagner, a Southern country singer who carried his guitar into battle (apparently to serenade the enemy with it); Jake Jensen, a middle-aged African-American pickpocket; Howard Shigeta, a Japanese-American; Emory "Snake-Eye" Simpson, a self-serving sleaze and not to be trusted; Donald Sample, a lock-pick & spy who was serving time for theft of valuable US government papers; Michael "Bullseye" Miller, an African-American mechanic & sharpshooter; Roland "Ace" Hamilton, a psychotic "pretty-boy" and bloodthirsty knife-fighter who was also from a wealthy, upper-class family; Jack "Mad-Dog" Martin, a pilot; Doc Watson, a middle-aged 19-year veteran of the Army; Ralph "Hoss" Cosgrove, an uncooperative tough guy ex-wrestler who served under Cpl. Dugan (see below), but not under Kelly, and Laurie Livingston, a British woman.

Kelly himself was Corporal Michael Lee "Combat" Kelly, a red-haired Irishman from Boston with a great deal of similarity to Nick Fury, although Kelly is younger and clean-shaven. Kelly had been "fightin' and killin' all his life", before being tapped by Capt. "Happy" Sam Sawyer to lead the Dozen. Kelly had a short, but successful career as a heavyweight boxer before being drafted, but one thing had led to another and he'd killed a man with his bare hands. He was "drafted" from the military prison where Capt. Sawyer had found him.

The Dozen were originally led by Cpl. Timothy "Dum-Dum" Dugan, who led the unit for only one issue [Sgt. Fury #98; May 1972] before Kelly was given command of the group, thus allowing Dugan to return to the Howling Commandos. Likewise, the Deadly Dozen had other Howler's on assignment for short periods; Dino Manelli & Percy Pinkerton of the Howling Commandos both served with the Dozen, as did Jay Little Bear, the bow-wielding Native American member from Captain Savage and His Leatherneck Raiders who was doing time on a "bum rap."

The Deadly Dozen worked alongside the Howling Commandos for two issues, and then continued on their own for seven more issues. By the end of the series all of the Dozen were dead, Miller & Wagner were killed in combat in issue #4, Martin sacrificed his life for the team in issue #6, Laurie (who by this time had become Kelly's lover) was crippled by a Nazi's surgical experiment in the final issue, during which the rest of the group was also killed, Kelly then resigned from the Army to help care for Laurie.


Robert McKinney said...

I couldn't swear to this, but I think I used to own Sgt. Fury # 98. My memories of it are vague, tho'. That may be because I was 5 at the time. :-)

Chuck Wells said...

Well, Robert, I feel for you. I still have my copy of that issue AND the first two issue of Combat Kelly, also.