Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Single Issue Hall of Fame: Losers Special (1985)

There were so many great one-shots published by DC in the 70s right through into the mid-90s, but these are often buried under huge piles of Crises, Maxi-Series and Relaunches that they are often forgotten. One of these, published in the midst of mid-80s chaos at DC is the Losers Special. I don't really want to spoil things, but the beautiful Joe Kubert cover gives you a sense of how things will turn out. The only things that lessens the impact of the cover is the vignette featuring Sgt. Rock and the Haunted Tank. They only play a tiny role in the drama, and there's no need for cross-marketing to ruin such a splendid image.

Although this is the Losers' final story, it actually comes across as a funeral dirge for all DC war books. Bob Kanigher is giving a tip of his hat to the Big Five war books that entertained so many through the Silver Age and somehow managed to last, to varying degrees, deep into the 80s. The irony here is, this would have been a great jumping in point for many readers as partial origins of each member of the Losers is covered and the relationships amongst the members of the group are nicely established. Having war book mainstay Sam Glanzman on pencilling duty (along with Judith Hunt) gives the book a nice 'retro' feel as many war book from 1975 to 1985 were dominated by a revolving door of 'scratchy' pencillers from around the globe.

At first blush, this may appear to be a very minor book when compared to everything else going on at DC at the time (Crisis, Dark Knight, Watchmen, Man of Steel etc...) but make no mistake - this is Bob Kanigher final symphony. He uses this simple one-shot nor only to bid farewell to the Silver Age, but to an entire genre. Within a couple of years, Charlton would cease publication and Sgts. Rock and Fury would be granted an honorary discharge. I have to think that Darwyn Cooke shares my views on this book, as the Losers sequence in The New Frontier seem to be informed by this story. So long Losers, I miss 'ya!

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