Sunday, June 6, 2010

Comic Book History Lessons: G.I. Samurai

A number of months ago, while working on a comic book binding project, I came across this interesting 6-page story in an old issue of G.I. Combat. G.I. Combat was a long standing war publication from DC comics featuring a rotating cast of writers and artists, essentially an anthology book about various military conflicts and the heroic struggles of the soldiers in the trenches.

The Haunted Tank was a regular feature of this series which, for those who are unaware, highlights the exploits of the ghost of an honorable Confederate General who died during the Civil War but comes back to guide his ancestor who is one of the soldiers in a, I believe, Sherman Tank, during WWII. They fight the good fight against the Nazi's, all the while flying the Rebel flag from their tank. Funny when you think about it.

This particular story by classic comic writer, Arnold Drake, and art by Martha Barnes caught my attention for the use of a Japanese protagonist during a WWII tale. While some fact is present in the story, there was an all Japanese battalion during the war, most of those men were about as American as you could get at the time. The notion of a sage-soldier sitting in the snow seems silly, even if the soldier was a Buddhist, which would be somewhat of a contradiction in the philosophy. And the stereotype that all Japanese men know karate is still a pervasive one. However, the fact that the story addresses some of the inherent racism within the military at the time does show something, I am not certain whether it is a condemning view or just a nod of awareness, that something was amiss.

But without much further babbling on my part: "G.I. Samurai," written by Arnold Drake, art by Martha Barnes, Originally published in DC Comics, G.I. Combat #274, February 1985.

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