|Nothing even remotely like this happens anywhere in any issue of this series.|
War comics have always enjoyed a "Filthy Thirteen" premise (the earliest one I'd ever seen was all the way back in 1944, which is roughly contemporaneous with the infamous group). There's also always a lot of drama to be wrenched from the idea of the pacifist soldier pressed into war. Well, here's where these two ideas collide, in the pages of Atlas-Seaboard's Savage Combat Tales featuring Sgt.Stryker and his Death Squad!
Infantryman Ben Stryker has no taste for killing. Having been raised by a gentle country doctor during the hard-scrabble Depression, he'd been taught two things: That life, above everything else, was sacred, and also how to bullseye womprats in his T-16. Hunting only for food, never for sport, Ben grows up to be an expert marksman with a soft spot for living things - the dope!
|This is going well.|
Luckily for Ben, for red-blooded American nogoodniks - headed to court-martial and previously thought to be obliterated in a bomb-blast - emerge from the basement of a shattered building and fall-in for some good old-fashioned Nazi killing.
The soon-to-be-dubbed Death Squad includes martial arts expert and American Nisei Lee Shigeta, circus acrobat Duke Ripley, pro-wrestler Turk Ankrum and, uh, legitimate murderer Ice Marko. All of this is a tremendous coincidence, because Lee, Duke, Turk and Ice happen to be what I named my identical quadruplets! I do love my sons.
Destroying the local Nazi menace, the ragtag gang of maniacs and compulsive shivvers are formed into an actual squad under a now-promoted Sgt.Ben Stryker, answering to a delightfully foul-mouthed one-star General "Wild Bill" Wright (it's all Beetle Bailey swearing, which looks comically out-of-place in the otherwise nuanced art of the story). Their new mission - KILL. ROMMEL.
|It's raining men, hallelujah.|
If one element truly sticks out about Savage Combat Tales, it's almost undoubtedly the covers and the distance they maintained from the story contents. While McWilliams handled the nuanced and detailed interior art, the covers were bombastic blockbusters depicting a frantic Stryker in life-or-death hand-to-hand combat with ape-like enemies -- and always within spitting distance of a grenade! I can guarantee you that a grenade appears as a story element only once in Sgt Stryker, but from the covers you'd come to think it had a supporting role.