Countdown to Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Day 15: The Howling Commandos

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howling commandos
Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos, from issue #3 of the series, art by Jack Kirby, story by Stan Lee

GeekMom is counting down the days to the premier of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D on ABC on September 24th. To see the previous articles, just click on the tag for the show.

Up today, the team that served as the original introduction for Nick Fury and several other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents as well as providing history to the Marvel Universe: the Howling Commandos!

In the comic series Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos, the Commandos were a World War II strike team headquartered in England, sent out on the toughest missions against the Nazis. The team was deliberately diverse. Series creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby knew they deviated from historical fact but they considered having a group that would reflect all Americans important, perhaps because the team first appeared at the heart of the Civil Rights Struggle in 1963.

The team included: Timothy (Dum Dum) Dugan, the second in command; Private Isadore “Izzy” Cohen; Private Gabriel Jones; Private Dino Manelli, modeled after Dean Martin; Private Robert “Rebel” Ralston; British Private Percival “Pinky” Pinkerton; and Private Jonathan “Junior” Jupiter, who was killed in action. Private Eric Koenig was a German defector who joined the team in issue #27.

They encountered Captain America several times in various adventures. At first, the series was written by Lee and Kirby but, soon artist Dick Ayers came aboard with issue #8, and Ayers was considered to be the definitive artist for the series, setting a gritty, natural tone for the war stories. Ayers drew the vast majority of the series, which lasted for 167 issues, though the last 47 were reprints. Legendary artist John Severin inked most of Ayers’ pencils.

Roy Thomas followed Lee as the writer and Gary Friedrich took over with issue #45, teamed with Ayers and Severin.

Fun facts:

  • Gabe Jones appeared pink in the first issue (an engraver’s mistake) and that was changed with issue #2. Lee and Kirby were both insistent on including an African-American soldier, even though there were no integrated units in World War II.
  • Lee and Kirby were both World War II veterans.
  • Gabe Jones and Timothy (Dum Dum) Dugan appeared throughout the years of Marvel history as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, their aging also apparently slowed by the Infinity Formula.
  • Baron Strucker, the head of HYDRA, first appeared in Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos.
  • The Commandos are, of course, part of Captain America: The First Avenger, and their diversity is explained by Captain America being allowed to pick his own squad.
  • Fury did not have an eye patch in this series. That came later.
  • Colonel Samuel “Happy Sam” Sawyer, the commanding officer of the Commandos was later impersonated by, yes, an LMD (Life Model Decoy).
  • Commando Dino Manelli was an actor who later had his own television show after the war.
  • Commando Izzy Cohen, from Brooklyn, was one of the earliest Jewish heroes. His specialty was mechanics.
  • Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos was published until 1981.

It’s been firmly established in the Marvel movie universe that the Commandos were present in World War II, so the chances of their appearing in the show seem slim, though there’s always a chance for flashback episodes to the beginning of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Fury’s career in World War II. The commandos adventures could serve as inspiration for some of the show’s plotlines.

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