Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Unknown Soldier

All covers done by the greatest cover artist of all time, Joe Kubert.

Created in 1966 by Bob Kanigher and Joe Kubert, two greats of DC Comics, the Unknown Soldier is just that: a faceless soldier who uses make-up and masks to infiltrate the enemy and destroy them from within. He has no name, and his face is blown to smithereens by a grenade in the early part of World War II, prior to Pearl Harbor. Said grenade killed his brother, who was in the foxhole with him. The U.S. Army tries to put the guy's face back together, but he's horrifically scarred. With nothing else left to this man, he's offered an opportunity to become an agent of espionage to help the War effort. The Soldier agrees, becoming a master of commando fighting, subterfuge, demolition, and disguise.

From about 1942 until the end of the European campaign, the Soldier is sent on numerous missions, performing duties no other soldier can pull off. I'll be covering quite possibly the greatest run of war comics ever produced in future installments of Pulp Hero, STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES 183-203, published in the mid-1970s.

The Unknown Soldier's identity remains secret for the entirety of his lengthly comic book life, culminating in the Soldier's final issue where he kills Hitler before Hitler can unleash a Doomsday Device of unborn Nosferatu to destroy the Allies. That's right, vampires. A crazy end befitting the man with no face, who is then killed saving a small child from a tank barrage.

The Soldier's story, like many good characters, doesn't end there, as he's been brought back a couple of times in limited fashion, nothing substantial. Recently, I picked up the new UNKNOWNSOLDIER comic by Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli, which suggests the Soldier might be an unkillable entity moving from one killing field to another throughout history. It's a supposition only, but interesting.

The Unknown Soldier is a tragic figure, a man who is human and yet every action, as well as the nature of his physical deformity and almost superhuman abilities, are those of a killing machine. He exists to do what the American Government, and certainly the consciousness of America, cannot abide. He does this gladly, as a Soldier, understanding there is no retirement, no peaceful death, no escape from the screaming ghosts of enemies and victims alike. War never truly ends for anyone who experiences it...for the Soldier, he only exists because of it. And thus, the faceless man becomes the Face of War.

A sad, wrenching condemnation.

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