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Comic Book / Combat Kelly and his Deadly Dozen

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Combat Kelly and His Deadly Dozen is a comic book series published by Marvel Comics from 1972 to 1973. The series was created by writer Gary Friedrich and artist Dick Ayers, and was a Spin-Off of the successful WWII title Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. The premiere issue continued a story that began in Sgt. Fury #98 (May 1972), and occasional crossovers continued between these two series. The series lasted for nine issues.

The series featured Corporal Michael 'Combat' Kelly as the leader of a team of convicted criminals who serve in the army during the Second World War to pay for their crimes. The series featured a racially diverse cast much like Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, but unlike the characters in the previous series, the so-called Deadly Dozen was much more morally loose, as the series features them sometimes committing war crimes, such as shooting unarmed non-combatants. It more closely reflected the antiwar sentiment of the early 70s than Marvel's traditional war books.

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Combat Kelly and his Deadly Tropes:

  • Ace Pilot: Jack 'Mad Dog' Martin, the so-called 'scourge of the airways' until he supposedly lost his nerve.
  • The Alcatraz: #5 was a flashback issue that revealed Laurie, Shigeta and Doc had once all been imprisoned on Devil's Island.
  • Attack the Injury: When Kelly refuses to throw his fight against the Nazi champion, the Nazis rough him up and break his ribs, giving their boxer an easy target to aim for during the bout.
  • Badass Native: Jay Little Bear was a Native American marine who was probably the best soldier in the squad after Kelly and often acted as Kelly's second-in-command. He sported a Mohawk haircut and carried a bow and arrow into battle.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: In #4, The Neidermeyer Captain Conner is about to execute Nick Fury and 'Combat' Kelly on trumped up charges of mutiny. He levels his rifles at the pair, and there is close-up panel of a rifle barrel firing. Then there is a panel of Conner pitching forward and the reader discovers that the shot was actually a Last Breath Bullet from 'Bullseye' Miller.
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  • Boxed Crook: The Deadly Dozen consisted of criminals recruited from US military prisons.
  • Boxing Episode: #3 is a flashback issue explaining how Kelly wound up commanding the Deadly Dozen, and focuses on his pre-war career as an army boxer.
  • Captive Date: In #5, Major Strasser, the commandant of Devil's Island, lays on a candlelit dinner for Laurie, accompanied by a thinly veiled threat that things will go very badly for her if the evening does not go the way he envisions. He even provides a dress for her to wear, which is fairly creepy.
  • Casualty in the Ring: Combat Kelly killed his opponent during the Army boxing championships and was arrested for manslaughter. He later learned that his opponent had been drugged and the referee bribed not to stop the fight.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Emory 'Snake-Eye' Simpson never appears after the first issue.
  • Combat Medic: 'Doc' Watson
  • Cover Identity Anomaly: In #8, Laurie and Kelly infiltrate a Nazi medical facility by posing as a female doctor and her driver. Laurie took the real doctor's identity papers off her when they ambushed her, but failed to check them and so failed to realize that they contained a photograph. As a result, her cover is blown the first time a guard checks the papers.
  • Crippling the Competition: When Kelly refuses to throw his fight against the Nazi champion, the Nazis rough him up and break his ribs, giving their boxer an easy target to aim for during the bout.
  • Cunning Linguist: Laurie Livingston can speak 10 languages fluently.
  • Gambling Brawl: 'Ace' Hamilton was in the stockade for killing a fellow soldier in an argument over a card game.
  • Guns Akimbo: 'Ace' Hamilton would sometimes charge into combat wielding a submachine gun in each hand.
  • High-Class Glass: Major Strasser, the Nazi Nobleman commanding Devil's Island in #5, sports a monocle.
  • Improbable Hairstyle: Several characters sport anachronistic hairstyles that seem extremely improbable for characters in the US military during WWII, even allowing that these are Boxed Crooks recruited from military prisons, and would be more at home in the 1970s when the book was written that the 1940s when it is set. These include 'Bullseye' Miller's afro, Jay Little Bear's mohawk, and Donald Sample's Zapata moustache
  • Insert Grenade Here: In #2, Jay Little Bear vaults over the top of a German armoured car, and drops a grenade inside it as he does so, with predictable results.
  • Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: In the final issue, Kelly returns from a mission where he and Laurie were the only survivors (and Laurie had been permanently crippled). He tears his corporal's stripes off his uniform and throws them down on Captain Sawyer's desk, stating that he would rather be sent back to prison than undertake another mission for the US Army.
  • Jumping on a Grenade: In #9, Donald Sample gives his life to blast open a building's doors, setting off a grenade and shielding the others from the blast with his own body.
  • Kill 'Em All: In the final two issues, almost all the members of the Dozen are killed when a mission goes disastrously wrong, with the only survivors being Kelly and Laurie (and Laurie is permanently crippled).note 
  • Last Breath Bullet: #4, 'Bullseye' Miller is wounded in a Nazi ambush and Left for Dead by The Neidermeyer Captain Conner. He struggles to his feet and trails Conner back through the woods to where the Dozen are encamped. He arrives just as Conner is about to execute Kelly and Nick Fury. Miller uses his dying strength to shoot Conner and then expires.
  • Last Disrespects: In #4, the Dozen chose to leave the body of The Neidermeyer Captain Conner unburied on the battlefield as a mark of their loathing of him, but collect the bodies of their own fallen for burial with full honours.
  • Mad Doctor: In their final mission, the Deadly Dozen were sent to stop Dr. Sweikert who was performing terrible experiments on patients in the name of medical science. After he captures Kelly and Laurie, he plans to operate on Laurie (without anesthetic) to remove her Achilles tendon and see if it cane replaced with steel wire.
    Dr. Sweikert: It is your legs I am interested in. Particularly the Achilles tendon. I intend to sever yours... then try to repair them with steel wire. If I am successful, it will be a major breakthrough to which you will have contributed a great deal - especially in view of the pain you will suffer!
  • The Neidermeyer: In a Crossover with Sgt. Fury, Captain Conner, the martinet son of a general, is given command of both the Deadly Dozen and the Howling Commandos. He cracks under the strain of facing real combat for the first, and his indecision nearly gets both the Dozen and the Howlers killed, forcing Fury to relieve him of command.
  • Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!: 'Mad Dog' Martin had been imprisoned on a charge of cowardice in the face of the enemy, so being called a coward was his Berserk Button. When 'Ace' Hamilton—who is at least a head taller than Martin—calls him a coward, Martin immediately attacks him and has to be hauled off by the other members of the Dozen.
  • Noodle Incident: Although it is established that Kelly was in prison for manslaughter, who he killed and the circumstances are never revealed; especially as it is revealed that he was cleared of the charges resulting from him killing a man during a boxing match.
  • The Notable Numeral: The Deadly Dozen
  • Pop the Tires: In #2, Jay Little Bear shoots the tyre of a German armoured car with an arrow.
  • Psycho Party Member: 'Ace' Hamilton was a virtual psychopath in combat. He delighted in killing Nazis but cared little for the men of his squad. His war crimes included shooting people who were attempting to surrender, and gunning down unarmed nurses.
  • Put on a Bus: 'Hoss' Cosgrove was sent back to prison in the first issue. He is never heard from again.
  • Ramming Always Works: 'Mad Dog' Martin breaches the walls of an impenetrable German fortress by crashing his damaged bomber into them: creating a hole that allows the rest of the team to storm in.
  • Shoot the Hostage: While escaping from Devil's Island in #5, Laurie takes the commandant Major Strasser hostage, but Sgt. Schoen shoots Strasser dead so the escapees can't exploit him.
  • Southern-Fried Private: Larry 'Hillbilly' Wagner, who was a country-and-western singer in civilian life and carried his guitar with him everywhere: even into battle.
  • The Squadette: Laurie Livingston is the only woman in the Deadly Dozen. She is as capable in combat as most of the men, and just as aggressive.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: In a Crossover with Sgt. Fury, Captain Conner, the martinet son of a general, is given command of both the Deadly Dozen and the Howling Commandos. He proves to be The Neidermeyer who cracks under the strain of facing real combat for the first, and his indecision nearly gets both the Dozen and the Howlers killed, forcing Fury to relieve him of command. Succumbing to paranoia, Conner attempts to execute Fury and Kelly for mutiny before being shot by 'Bullseye' Miller.
  • Weapon Tombstone: At the end of #4, the Dozen leave a rifle with his helmet atop it stuck into the ground beside the body of Captain Conner. However, as a mark of their Last Disrespects, they do not bother to bury the body.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: Both 'Hoss' Cosgrove and Jay Little Bear were professional wrestlers before the war and incorporated wrestling moves into their hand-to-hand combat.


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