The Secret Comics History of “The Losers”

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“The Losers,” Sylvain White’s movie about a Special Forces team that sets out for revenge on a betrayer who thinks they’re dead, opens this Friday. The movie is based on a comics series that ran from 2003 to 2006–but its roots actually go all the way back to the ’50s… sort of. Here’s the scoop.

Around 1952, in the middle of the Korean War, war comics suddenly became a very popular genre (the long-running superheroes-and-so-on anthology Star Spangled Comics became Star Spangled War Stories, for instance). By the end of the decade, DC’s war series had largely shifted from self-contained one-offs to serials with recurring characters, set in World War II. Gunner MacKay and Sarge Clay, a May-December pair of Marines, first appeared in the war comics All-American Men of War and Our Fighting Forces between 1959 and 1965, occasionally accompanied by their dog Pooch.

(More on Techland: Read Douglas Wolk’s weekly comics column Emanata)

Johnny Cloud, a Navajo fighter pilot in the Air Force, was the lead character in All-American Men of War (previously All-American Western, before that All-American Comics) from 1960 to 1966. As a small art-historical note, Roy Lichtenstein’s famous painting “WHAAM!” was adapted from an Irv Novick-drawn panel from the Johnny Cloud story in All-American Men of War #89.

Captain William Storm, a peg-legged PT boat skipper, was one of Novick and writer Robert Kanigher’s odder creations; he starred in 18 issues of his own comic from 1964 to 1967.

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