A Tribute to the of

For my recent birthday, my lifelong best friend (and webmaster here at the good olí Silver Lantern) presented me with some fabulous books. Iím nearly finished with the second of the Paul Levitz DC history series. I devoured the Golden Age tome and am nearly done with the Silver Age volume and the Bronze Age edition awaits my attention. They are utterly marvelous and I highly recommend them to anyone interested in the history of the DC Comics universe.

The section I just finished up featured Wonder Woman, which had been taken over from the original creative team by Bob Kanigher as writer and that wonderful team of Ross Andru and Mike Esposito on art. Andru and Espositoís style was easily recognizable, whether they were working on our favorite Amazon princess, the Metal Men or their many war stories. I got to thinking it had been awhile since Iíd looked at a war tale and I stumbled across a short but interesting one reprinted in my copy of DC Super Stars #9 from November of 1976 under the editorial direction of Jack C. Harris. The theme for the issue is "The Man Behind the Gun", so each reprinted story focuses on a gun of some sort, from an old Nighthawk western to some classic science fiction and a Superman story featuring the Super-gun.

This book had a number of possible candidates (and I can easily see myself returning to this one and others in the run for future Sage reviews), but I settled on a story set at sea called The Unsinkable Gun, originally printed in Our Fighting Forces #17 (+ this fun ad on the inside front cover; what kid could resist it?) from January of 1957, just barely over the line into the Silver Age. Ira Schnapp lettered that cover by Jerry Grandenetti and the editor credit goes to Whitney Ellsworth, though comics.org states that it was actually Robert Kanigher who served in that capacity. Interior art is by Andru and Esposito and interestingly the scripter was Bill Finger. Bill, of course, was the long unsung co-creator of Batman who recently had a street named in his honor thanks to the efforts of Marc Tyler Nobelman. I was even invited to the unveiling in New York by Marc, but thatís unfortunately a ways from my commuting area. Major kudos to Marc, though, for all heís done (and it has been substantial) in getting Bill Finger the well-deserved recognition he was denied during his life.

All right, back to our story, which is a short 6-page effort featuring a U.S. submarine on maneuvers during World War II. During its patrol through a mined section of the sea, the sub is hit by one of those mines and damaged. The boat is under orders to sink an enemy destroyer in the area and the skipper intends to do just that, damaged vessel or not.

It turns out the subís diving gear has sustained damage, so they will have to travel on the surface. Furthermore, the torpedo tubes are also out of commission, so they are left with only the deck gun to engage the enemy.

Under these daunting conditions, the unnamed vessel steams forward at full speed with a gunner on deck with the .50 caliber weapon. It isnít long until they encounter their first enemy attack from the skies. The gunner leads his target with the deck gun and manages to take the plane out of the sky, but he sustains a shrapnel wound and is ordered to sick bay.

A new gunner takes his place and the next obstacle is a torpedo from a U-boat. The submarine successfully maneuvers out of its path, but they arenít out of danger yet. This time, rather than leading in the sky, the order is for the gun to be aimed 20 feet below the top of the enemy periscope. The shell penetrates the water and intercepts the second torpedo just as it exits the craft, so the ensuing explosive force destroys the U-boat as well.

Once again, the gunner relieved of duty as he is a bit shaken up and concussed, but theyíve now reached their target and are sustaining fire from the enemy destroyer. A third gunner is sent below and the skipper himself mans the deck gun, firing for all heís worth at the destroyer until he strikes pay dirt when the shelling hits the vesselís ammunition supply, blowing her to kingdom come.

With the mission accomplished, the crippled and listing submarine heads back to safer waters and ultimately to a refitting and repair facility. Well done, Navy sailors!

One day Iím going to try to figure out just how many stories, roughly, that Bill Finger cranked out. Obviously he wasnít limited strictly to the super hero set, though itís well known that in addition to Batman he co-created Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern and Ted Grant, the Wildcat who ended up a member of the Justice Society of America. Obviously Bill did other work, too, to include this short war tale.

I highly recommend Marc Tyler Noblemanís blog for more information about Bill Finger. Just the other day I saw a couple of letters heíd written to early fan Tom Fagan that were utterly fascinating, especially when heís calling out Bob Kane for dismissing Billís contributions on Batman.

Iím still not big on war stories, but have grown to appreciate them as this journey has continued along its merry way. This story was so short and to the point that itís hard to judge its merits against other offerings here, so I think Iíll skip it this time around, but it was good as far as what it was intended to convey.

That does it for this time, folks, but you can always check out the archives, the voluminous information collected by the webmaster about all things DC Silver Age and of course, feel free to drop an e-mail to me with any questions or comments: professor_the@hotmail.com.

This feature will return on New Yearís Day with a new review and for those who celebrate, the webmaster and I wish you a Merry and joyous Christmas season!

See you next time andÖ

Long live the Silver Age!

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