Follow TV Tropes


Comic Book / Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos

Go To
And the award for most clichés in a single speech balloon goes to...

"Spawned in battle and tempered by danger, afraid of nothing that lives or breathes, hurling their thunderous war cry into the teeth of tyrants, here come Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos!"
— Stan Lee, Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #1.

From legendary Comic Book duo Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, one of the most iconic American war comics. Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos followed a racially-integrated special operations squad of the US Army during World War II, as they fought Those Wacky Nazis.

A war comic "in the Mighty Marvel Manner", the Howlers' missions were usually larger-than-life adventure stories, less realistic than, for instance, DC's Sgt. Rock feature. The series run for 120 issues (May, 1963-July, 1974)

The Howlers eventually met up with many "modern" Marvel characters who were active in WWII, including Captain America, a young Reed Richards and Baron von Strucker, who was one of Fury's chief enemies both as a Wehrmacht officer and decades later as head of HYDRA. Nick Fury and many of the Howlers survived the war and became active in "modern" Marvel stories as well. Indeed, Dum-Dum Dugan even wound up leading S.H.I.E.L.D.'s anti-Godzilla forces!

In the movie, Captain America: The First Avenger, these characters (minus Nick Fury) are merged in concept with Cap's World War II superhero group, The Invaders. Essentially it's the Howlers but includes Captain America, Bucky and James Montgomery Falsworth (who is the British superhero, Union Jack, in the comics and father of two Invaders, Spitfire and Union Jack II).

The "Howling Commandos" name has also been occasionally used by Marvel for an entirely different team, a strike force of supernatural creatures working for S.H.I.E.L.D. This version originally ran for six months back in 2006, and was revived for 2015's All-New, All-Different Marvel relaunch. It also appeared in two animated series, Ultimate Spider-Man (2012) and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H..

Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos provides examples of:

  • Alliterative Name: A few members of the Howling Commandos, Robert "Rebel" Ralston, Percival "Percy" Pinkerton, Jonathan "Junior" Juniper and, probably most famously, "Dum Dum" Dugan.
  • All Germans Are Nazis: Eric Koenig subverts this, being a very anti-Nazi German, because the Nazis killed his sister.
  • Anyone Can Die: The series notably killed off a Junior Juniper early on, as well as Pamela Hawley, Fury's Love Interest. Quite unheard of for its day.
  • Artistic License Military: Averted and justified: while military units were not fully racially integrated until 1948, the Howling Commandos are shown to be a special case, since Steve has more than enough authority to demand these specific men be on his team, regardless of race.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Dum Dum sometimes mentions enlisting mostly to get away from his wife, lamenting that he's ended up with Fury, who's almost as much of a hardass as she was.
  • Battle Cry: "WA-HOO!"
  • Black Viking: On at least one occasion, the African-American soldier Gabe Jones, along with the other Howlers, impersonated German soldiers. He appeared to have no greater or lesser difficulty pulling this off than any of the white Howlers, which is actually a case of Reality Is Unrealistic. Gabe's presence in the Howling Commandos is itself an example, though, as the US Army was segregated during World War II.
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase: Sergeant Fury and the Howling Commandos.
  • Clothing Damage: Fury almost never completes a mission with his jacket intact.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Izzy was Charles Bronson.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Pinkerton.
  • Cunning Linguist: Dino spoke Italian and German. Quite handy in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) of WWII.
  • Dashingly Dapper Derby: Timothy Aloysius Cadwallader "Dum Dum" Dugan wears his corporal's stripes on the front of his signature bowler hat.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Every member of the squad in way or another.
  • Evil Counterpart: During the war, Baron Von Strucker tried countering the Howlers by assembling his own commando unit with Germans who each shared a quirk of their enemies.
  • Five-Token Band: One of the trend setters, actually. You had Jewish Izzy Cohen, Black Gabe Jones, German Eric Koenig, British Pinky Pinkerton, Italian-American Dino Manelli and Irish-American Dum-Dum Dugan. There was also Nisei Jim Morita.
  • Funetik Aksent: Many characters get dialogue in this style, especially the Germans.
    Nazi soldier: Ve haff been tricked!! Vhile der commandos led us avay from der docks, der allied navy blew up our U-boats!
  • Genius Loci: A Journey into Mystery horror one-shot released in 2018 sees the Howlers witness the bombing and awakening of Krakoa.
  • Gentlemen Rankers: Pinky Pinkerton is from an upper-class military family. After getting kicked out of a military academy, he fell out of touch with his family, and when WWII began, he enlisted in the commandos as a private, hoping to avoid his high-achieving older brother.
  • Impostor-Exposing Test: Fury is suspicious that one of the "prisoners" in a camp escape is a German spy. After a long hike, he has Howler Gabe take a long sip from a thermos of water and then offer it to the rest. Sure enough, the Nazi is the one who, despite obvious thirst, refuses to drink from the same thermos a black man just used.
  • Insert Grenade Here
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: Stan Lee once had an argument with his publisher about why his comics were doing well. Martin Goodman, the publisher in question, argued that it was all due to the strength and simplicity of the titles. So Stan challenged him by saying he would make a comic with the worst title he could imagine. The result was Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos.
  • It's Raining Men: The Howlers made a combat jump once every other issue.
  • Mildly Military: Justified. The Commandos get away with their definitely non-regulation uniforms and generally eccentric behaviour because they're good enough to earn some leeway, and stubborn enough that getting them to fall in line would be a fool's errand anyway.
  • Nazi Nobleman: Baron von Strucker, a Prussian nobleman who was the arch-nemesis of the Howling Commandos.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Dino Manelli bears a marked resemblance to Dean Martin.
  • Oddly Small Organization: The Howling Commandos were a squad and perfectly the proper size. The Ranger Company they belonged to, however, was actually platoon sized.
  • Parasol of Pain: Percival Pinkerton is fond of carrying an umbrella to the field.
  • Parasol Parachute: Improbably used by British WWII soldier Percy Pinkerton.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: Nick Fury used to do this. The page illo on the Howling Commandos page even shows Dino Manelli doing it.
  • Politically Correct History: The Howling Commandos included one African-American soldier. In Real Life the US armed forces weren't racially integrated until 1948. Eventually justified, they're a special unit hand-picked by Fury himself. If he thinks an African-American soldier is a good addition to his line-up, the military isn't going to tell him no. Partly an example of Reality Is Unrealistic. Black soldiers actually served in integrated rifle companies as early as 1945. Still the entire US military was not integrated until 1948. Heck, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower selectively integrated some black soldiers into his forces in 1944 in real life (he was running low on men, but even then, his aides advised strongly against it), so a small force with a leader as respected as Fury should have been able to do the same.
    • One issue had a bigoted replacement commando join their ranks temporarily, at which time he antagonized Dino, Izzy and Gabe, an Italian, Jewish and African American. Everyone acted like it was a very rare and backward view. Of course, since the comics were written at a time when this was true (the racism), YMMV on whether this is Politically Correct History on the part of the comic and/or the authors, or whether they were seriously trying to show that racism was stupid.
      • Point is the Howlers acted like they'd never met a racist person before.
      • Subverted with an issue flashing back to the Howlers' first mission. It's clearly shown how Southern-bred Reb is not happy having to be with Gabe. At one point, he snaps "be happy we let a guy like you talk to us" and Izzie fires back on how "that kind of talk is reserved for Nazis!" A later issue shows Reb gaining respect when Gabe risks his life saving Reb's behind enemy lines.
  • Porn Stache: Dum Dum-Dugan's defining trait is his porn-stache.
  • Psycho Rangers: Baron Strucker and his Blitzkreig squad!
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: Again, Pinkerton.
  • Ranger The Howlers were American Rangers who were given honorary Status as British Commandos by Winston Churchill.
  • Rated M for Manly: It's about a bunch of rugged alpha males yelling loudly and blowing things up, often while bare-chested.
  • Retired Badass / Handicapped Badass: The Howlers' CO, Cpt. Happy Sam Sawyer.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: In one issue, the Howlers help out a Greek resistance cell but one Greek betrays them all to the Germans. He steps forward to accept his reward but the German commander says anyone who'd sell out his own countrymen will turn on anybody. He thus hands the guy back to his own former comrades who make it clear they'll dispense their own "justice." on him.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: The squad's youngest member, Junior Juniper, is killed off early on to show how dangerous the war is. He had no character to speak of besides general naivety.
  • Sergeant Rock: Who else but Nick Fury?
  • Southern-Fried Private: Private Robert 'Rebel' Ralston. After the war, he became a senator for Texas.
  • Thematic Series: the series had the 'The' stories, a series of moralistic stories focusing on a specific One-Shot Character to elucidate the various facets of war, starting with 'The War Lover' and concluding with 'The Reporter'.
  • Token Enemy Minority:
    • Pvt. Eric Koenig in was a defector from the Nazi military.
    • Jim Morita as well.
    • Dino Manelli.
    • Although Sgt. Fury was not created until the 1960s, when West Germany, Japan and Italy were safely allies of the United States.
  • Tokyo Rose: The fourth issue featured, Lord Ha-Ha, a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Lord Haw-Haw, who was in fact an English nobleman named Percival Hawley.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: In a Crossover with Combat Kelly and his Deadly Dozen, Captain Conner, the martinet son of a general, is given command of both the Deadly Dozen and the Howling Commandos. He proves to 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.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Do not fuck with the effeminate Englishman with the Bumbershoot.