When I think of DC’s war books, my mind turns to World War II. I don’t think anyone is going to fault me for this considering among their most famous war characters are Sgt. Rock, The Losers, The Unknown Soldier, and the Haunted Tank. My favorite of the war characters is actually the World War I character Enemy Ace (those Kanigher/Kubert books are gorgeous), but I would have never expected a Civil War story to be among my favorite single war comics issues.
I’m not a big Civil War buff. I think part of that is the result of having grown up in New York, where education about the Civil War came at some point toward the end of a semester or a school year and we learned two particular facts: slavery was the root cause and we won. That sounds flippant, but it’s true. I learned a ton about the Revolutionary War. And whaling. And Robber Barons. And Teddy Roosevelt. But not the Civil War. In fact, the only time I’ve ever been to a Civil War battlefield is my drive through Chancellorsville on the way to my in-laws (well, there is the “Skirmish at Rio Hill” display that is at the corner of a shopping center in Charlottesville, I guess …).
So, I didn’t have much hope for this issue, even if it was drawn by Jose Louis Garcia Lopez (praised be his name). But Michael Fleisher and Russel Carley’s story was captivating. It’s one about several people who basically get conned into serving in the war by profiteers and draft dodgers. The one that we focus on the most is a kid with a bum leg who had actually been rejected by the army when he went to enlist. He is able to get a clerical job but then is thrust into the fight and killed. Since this is Weird War Tales, he comes back as a ghost and he and his fellow dead soldiers enact vengeance on those who wronged them. Ultimately, they start what became the famous Draft Riots of 1863 (now, these I know about because of The Bowery Boys NYC History podcast).
It’s a great combination of war and horror that I think could have even been a solid EC horror book back during that company’s heyday. The fact that JLGL illustrates it throws it into the top tier of stories I read. I found myself all the way in, which doesn’t always happen with older genre books.
I’m not sure that this is easy to find. The copy that I have is beat to holy hell (seriously … the cover is falling off and I only bagged and boarded it so that it wouldn’t disintegrate in a shortbox) and was purchased for a quarter. To my knowledge, the book isn’t available digitally (and why not? It’s got great work by a number of DC stalwarts). But if you come across it, get it.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?