Lest We Forget: Jack Kirby’s The Losers

Sure, we’re all excited for this year's comic book film season. From Kick-Ass, to Iron Man 2, Scott Pligrim, Jonah Hex and beyond.

I’m also excited about The Losers. The trailer looks great and indications seem to suggest the producers have followed the bluprint to success laid out by Andy Diggle and Jock’s excellent Vertigo series from 2003-2006. There's a stellar cast, from the sizzling hot Zoe Saldana as Aisha, Chris (the OMAC of comic films) Evans, and Jeffery Dean Morgan as Clay.



Today, during a rare moment of house cleaning, I came across last year's purchase of the DC Archives collection of Jack Kirby’s 1974 run on the original group of DC’s Losers. They were former solo DC war heroes in their own features, Capt. Storm, Johnny Cloud, Gunner and Sarge, the stars of Our Fighting Forces.

I’ve read and heard many interviews with men who knew Kirby and worked with him in the various comic art studios and the consensus was that he was forever haunted by his World War II service. He was an infantry scout who was sent in advance of his unit to report enemy presence in unknown territories, and suffered terrible frostbite that turned his toes black. Doctors considered amputating his feet, but luckily his condition slowly improved. Kirby spent over a year recovering in a British army hospital.

There’s a real sense of the weary soldier’s tale in his 12 issue run. In OFF #153 I found an essay by Kirby explaining the stories he wanted to tell in the series. Interesting that he referred to himself as Editor in this piece.

“The Losers are not fictional characters, but bits and pieces of myself, and the people who shared the war with me. In this context we shall all see it, sniff the air of the times, and know that the sounds spelled out graphically in the action panels are true duplications of what I heard with my own ears, in places where men really died or suffered their wounds until they could be moved to the rear. ”

It comes through. In some ways the Losers become less like their former depictions and more like 4 guys sharing the same mindset of being ineffective spectators to the hugeness of the war.

Still there were fans who didn’t like the shift from the tone of Robert Kanigher’s war stories to Kirby’s style. In fact one FURYOUS letter writer in #154 said that in Kirby’s hands “OFF was looking too much like an issue of Sgt ‘You Know Who’. “ I’d disagree. Fury & The Howlers seemed to enjoy their skirmishes more than the Losers did under Kirby’s watch.

Judge for yourself. Jack Kirby’s The Losers is a great collection of some of The King’s best stories of the 1970’s.


  1. Great article, John!

    I am a huge fan of this Jack Kirby collection – I had no other knowledge of the Losers other than from New Frontier and the Diggle’s run.  Kirby’s art really shines in the DC collection. What really pushed this over the AWESOME level for me is the one-pager (sometimes two) where Kirby draws weapons, uniforms or vehicles from WW II – what a treat!

  2. Your article has got me very interested in seeking this collection out.  Just being aware of that background information seems like it will enhance the reading.  Many thanks.

  3. I like Kirby’s Losers but the Kanigher and Russ Heath (How freaking great was that guy?  John Interview him if you can!) issues are some of my fave old comics.  I remember a few months ago here on Ifanboy they had an article on the new ‘Losers’ movie and I was all excited and I clicked on the link and I was ‘Huh? this isn’t the comic I remember’… I think Josh was very nice to me and calmed me down from my confused state.

    Either way The Losers (By Kirby or Kanigher) is a great read…in fact one of my all time fave comics EVER was the Losers Crisis on Infinite Earths special from 1985.

    I would just like to say John I am glad to see you here on Ifanboy as I really enjoy your podcast… especially when you talk to the older creators.

  4. Thanks for pointing this out John, now i have to add yet another Kirby book to my wish list. this sounds tremedously interesting though, especially considering Jack’s time in the war. Could Kirby be any cooler?

  5. My copy comes in the mail today.  Super stoked.  Thanks for writing this, John.

  6. I saw this in the store when it first came out, and I thought it looked really interesting.  I didn’t pick it up, but now, I just might.

  7. Discovered Kirby’s Forever People from the 70’s recently. Absolutely and wonderfully batty as heck!! Sumo Sam is definately a character that would cause a boatload of controversy if he was introduced now.

  8. I saw this collection just the other day at a LCS, it’s great. It’s on my list now.