DC Comics History: Sgt Mule (1964 - 1967: The New Look)
By Deejay Dayton
March 28, 2020 - 07:02
No two ways about it, I screwed up. Sgt Mule did not debut during this period, the jackass made its debut back in 1962. I had only noted three appearances of the strip, but when I re-read the earliest yesterday it really felt like there had to be at least one preceding it. Sure enough, a quick Google search revealed that I had missed not one but two Sgt Mule tales. So mea culpa, I confess my guilt. Now let’s just go on and look at the strip.
Debuting in Our Army at War 117, the first Sgt Mule story centres on Private Smith, who struggles to make his recalcitrant animal behave in the middle of a battlefield. The mule is named Millie in this story, and is being used to transport ammo to the front line fighters. Smith and Millie wind up falling into the hands of a Nazi brigade, but manage to fight them off, avoid getting shot by a strafing jet, and lead the plane into range of their own forces’ howitzer, which shoots it down. As the story ends Smith gets promoted to corporal, but Millie is given the rank of sergeant, making the animal the man’s superior, to his dismay.
The tale was popular enough to warrant a sequel a couple of years later in GI Combat 104. Well, not really a sequel. Despite the fact that the story is titled The Return of Sgt Mule, the soldier this time around is a former farm boy named Skinner, and the mule is never given an actual name. It does not start off the tale as a sergeant, either. As Skinner struggles to get the animal to do his bidding, all the while dealing with attacks from Nazi tanks and planes, the mule keeps getting promoted, to private first class, corporal, and finally sergeant. Of course, Skinner himself never gets any recognition for his part in the impressive feats they pull off. It’s really more of a re-telling, an improved, and longer, version of the original story than a sequel to it.
Sgt Mule came back a few months later, in Our Army at War 149. The story has a bit of a puzzling opening, with Sgt Mule and an unnamed soldier completing a mission, though the soldier is left wounded and dazed. One can ascribe this as being Skinner, from the previous tale. A different soldier, Mulvaney, is then assigned to work with Sgt Mule, with the curious statement that Mulvaney is “the only one that Sgt Mule will lead to those hidden guns.” Umm, ok. Why? What secret backstory exists between this never before seen solider and the super mule? And why wasn’t Mulvaney working with Sgt Mule before this, given their mysterious bond and history? At any rate, Sgt Mule does indeed bring Mulvaney to the ammo cache, and together they bring the weapons back to their base, fighting off Nazis along the way. As Sgt Mule already holds that rank from the outset, there is no promotion scene as in the earlier tales, but the story still ends with the mule being given a commendation for the battle, but not Mulvaney.
Mulvaney returns in the last Sgt Mule story from this period, in Our Army at War 160. This time around the mule brays to volunteer himself, and Mulvaney, for the mission to plant an observation post on top of a hill before the Nazis do so. They fight their way to the top of the hill, taking on Nazi tanks and planes, as well as foot soldiers. Each outing is more impressive than the last with this series. The stories all have a humourous bent, and in this one that is found in Mulvaney’s constant whining about the mule getting them into these dangerous situations by volunteering. It’s not the kind of comedics that are meant to make you laugh, just to smile, but it works on that level. And at the end of the story both Mulvaney and the mule are credited with achieving the goal, rather than just giving the animal all the honours.
Sgt Mule returns in the next period, 1967 – 1970: It’s a Happening!
Sgt Mule: Our Army at War 117, 149, 160 (April 62, Dec 64, Nov 65)
G.I. Combat 104 (Feb/Mar 64)
Next up – Metamorpho!
Last Updated: May 19, 2020 - 12:25
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