Thursday, February 14, 2013

Saving Private Doberman

It's hard to imagine now, but there once was a time when I lived in ignorance of Pvt. Doberman. Those foolish days ended when Eddie Fitzgerald posted a bunch of comically ugly pics on his wonderfully fun blog, Uncle Eddie's Theory Corner.

A Pvt. Doberman comic book? Who is Pvt. Doberman, I thought, and why does he deserve a comic book (with a photo cover, no less)? Pvt. Doberman... dare I follow this thread, no matter what horrors I might uncover? No matter that it might lead to a nightmarish re-evaluation of my worldview?  According Nietsche, when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.  According to Pvt. Doberman, "Aw, Sarge."

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
This is the image that started it all.
One of my life's goals is to own this comic.
That is one aged private. Maurice
Gosfield was 42 when he started playing
this character. He's 100 now. And dead.

Actually, it just led to my finding out DC published eleven issues of a series based on a supporting character from the old Phil Silvers sitcom, You'll Never Get Rich, also known as The Phil Silvers Show (That's Sgt. Bilko to you and me, Russ).  The program ran from 1955-59, and featured Silvers as a scheming Army sergeant, with Maurice Gosfield as Pvt. Duane Doberman, a character evidently so popular DC had to spin him off from their Sgt. Bilko tie-in book into his own four-color comic series.  To put Doberman's popularity into perspective, Bilko itself ran for eighteen issues (several of which feature either a drawing of Doberman or a photo of Gosfield in character on the cover), while a generation later, Welcome Back, Kotter would last ten issues and The Mighty Isis only managed eight.  Of course, Sgt. Bilko never had a supporting character like Cindy Lee.  Then again, Isis never had one like Pvt. Doberman.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
On The Phil Silvers Show, the lovable Doberman's comic misadventures
include appearing pantsless at the annual WAC Dance.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Here's Sgt. Bilko's comic. At one point in
the 50s, he was so popular he was appearing
in not one but two comics! And so was Pvt.
Doberman! Discerning kids bypassed Sad Sack
in favor of this title.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Pretty good caricatures of Silvers and Gosfield.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
This one is fraught with subtext.

In 1960, the Golden Age of Pvt. Doberman comics came to an end as DC cancelled both Sgt. Bilko and Sgt. Bilko's Pvt. Doberman. Some theorize that Stan Lee, over at Marvel, decided to take advantage of this lapse with a service humor comic of his own devising, but realized it was foolish to compete with the genius who created the Pvt. Doberman comic book. Instead, Lee went in a different direction with some some nonsense about four costumed adventurers or something. I seriously doubt that one ran even as long as Sgt. Bilko's Pvt. Doberman.  In the aftermath, Gosfield would go on to portray Benny the Ball on Hanna-Barbera's Top Cat cartoon before passing far too soon at the age of 51.

Also, I'm upset that I'm not the first person to latch upon Pvt. Doberman and his stellar comic book career, but I want to suggest to DC they might go a long way towards incurring my renewed goodwill by offering an Archive Edition of the complete run of Sgt. Bilko's Pvt. Doberman and sending me a free  review copy here in Japan.

No comments: