The seventies were a heyday in comics for me as a teenager living in a small town nearly smack dabs in the middle of Illinois. Each week I made a trek to the Lincoln News Agency for that week’s stash of comics. Those days weren’t all centered around superheroes. My comics reading included horror, the oddball (Plop and Prez), westerns, and strangely enough, one or two war comics. DC’s war books won hands down over Marvel’s back then: G.I. Combat, Our Fightin’ Forces, Our Army At War, Star Spangled War Stories and so on. Charlton comics were totally off my radar, even the superhero ones, which is probably a shame, but maybe only with the Question.
Both the general popularity and my interest in war comics diminished in the coming years. Aside from finding the rare cheap back issue, I barely gave the genre further thought. Earlier this year in one of my little searches I came across an Ebay sale of original comic art for a short story in Joe Yank, a war comic I’d never heard of before. The art in question was credited to Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, so, this and one of the story elements made me curious. Not having $549 to meet the “buy now” price of the original art meant my curiosity would have to wait to be satisfied. Luckily, another Ebay seller would list a beaten up copy of the very same issue, and its bargain price was within my budget, even if it is a poor 0.5 copy.
Based on the four short stories and one single page strip, Joe Yank, published by Standard Comics, seems to have been an attempt to marry war and humor genres to stand out from other comics at the time. Maybe the intent was to ride on the popularity of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis’ “At War With the Army” movie of 1950. In any case, it…different. The series lasted for all of 12 issues (#5 through 16, presumably having taken over another title) and was firmly, if humorously, during the US involvement in the Korean War. The main characters in this short story are Private Joe Yank, our titular hero and his superior, rival and sometimes friend Sergeant Mike McGurk. The art for Miss Foxhole of 1952 is by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. The Comics Database doesn’t have any writer accreditation.
What does Joe Yank have in common with both Jimmy Olsen and Madame Fatal? Doing drag, baby! Unlike Madame Fatal and Jimmy, Yank seems to have done it only once, and a really bad attempt, or rather a very stereotypical one at that. Just a note before you start to let you know the story abounds with plenty of offensive depictions, particularly of Asians. It’s presented here simply as a pre-Comics Code oddity and is not intended to offend, demean, or ridicule persons who cross dress, nor to confuse transvestites with transgender individuals, and gay men.