Kirby 100: The Fangs of the Desert Fox

1917 to 2017: 100 years of Kirby.

Join us to celebrate Jack “King” Kirby’s 100th birthday by learning about the characters and stories he created that changed comics forever. To commemorate Jack’s centennial, we’ve sat down with the modern-day creators he influenced—and the decades of work he gifted us all.

Never ones to take it easy on their characters, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby gave the stars of SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS a whole new challenge in the book’s sixth outing. The 1964 issue began with a distracted Fury running into a Nazi alarm wire while riding a bicycle because his Jeep broke down. Looking to meet his lady for a date, Nick put a little extra mustard into the fight with a trio of wannabe saboteurs. After dropping them off in the clink he met up with Lady Pamela Hawley and took in a picture that showcased how the Nazi  Rommel continued to run the table in North Africa.

Not long after Captain “Happy Sam” Sawyer informed Fury that he and the Howlers would take on The Desert Fox directly. Unfortunately, during a training exercise, Dino Manelli got banged up and had to stay behind which meant the unproven George Stonewell, would fill out the Howling Commandos. The newcomer immediately started raising eyebrows, though, as he had very clear problems with the Italian, Jewish, and African-American members of his squad. Nick called him on it, quickly saying, “You’re a genuine, 14-carat, dyed-in-the-wool, low-down bigot!” The commanding officer would have 86ed the new recruit, but they all rolled out for their mission the next day.

The action then cut directly to Tobruk, Libya where the Howlers found themselves just behind one of Rommel’s platoons. At first Stonewell seemed like he could put his prejudice aside to fight a common enemy, but once he and Gabe Jones approached a radio tent, his racism took over and a fight broke out between fellow soldiers. Fury broke it up, grabbed one of the surviving Nazis and used him as a guide.

During a brief respite, the Nazi noted to Stonewell how they shared similar views on the subject of non-whites. The U.S. commando said he had no use for Nazis just as a batch of Axis bombers flew in to attack. Thanks to some quick thinking by their sergeant, the Commandos avoided a potentially explosive situation and lived to wander the desert until coming upon a local tribe who offered to help overthrow the invasive Nazis.

Upon arriving at Rommel’s base, the sheer size of the Desert Fox’s operation, which included a whole fleet of tanks, struck the Howlers dumbfounded. Fury quickly devised a plan that required Stonewell to work alongside Izzy Cohen to his bigoted chagrin. Unable to control his baser nature, Stonewell not only planned to disobey Fury’s direct order, but also got into a scrap with Izzy that brought in all kinds of unwanted attention from their targets.

The pair got along well enough to defend each other, but Stonewell wound up taking some shrapnel, which meant that Cohen had to carry him out of the battlefield. With the larger mission scrapped, the Commandos tore out and got their newest member to a German doctor who helped without provocation, noting that he served the Nazis against his will. This man proceeded to facilitate a blood transfusion between the racist soldier and Gabe Jones to save Stonewell’s life. Later, the Allied forces crashed through Rommel’s outer defenses and got to Fury. They let him know that The Desert Fox secretly worked to assassinate Hitler, so they wanted to keep him alive in hopes that he and his co-conspirators would succeed in their mission.

Back in their British home base, the Howlers saw Stonewell off. Though he said nothing, he did leave a forwarding address to none other than Izzy and Gabe! Fury then closed the issue out with a lesson that we can all still learn from: “The seeds of prejudice, which takes a lifetime to grow, can’t be stamped out overnight—but if we keep trying—keep fighting—perhaps a day will come when ‘love they brother’ will be more than just an expression we hear in church!”

Stay tuned to Marvel.com for more throughout Kirby Month and beyond! And join the conversation on all of our social channels with the hashtag #Kirby100.