Real Heroes: Rewarding Comic Book Creators Who Served in the Military

Comic creators have given more than entertainment. They also rendered service to their country when called upon in times of war.

As we take a moment to pause on Veterans Day to remember those who served, here’s a look at several greats who aren’t just comic book veterans, but real veterans.

Stan Lee

Stan Lee

(Image credit: Stan Lee)

Stan ‘the Man’ Lee was Stan ‘the Sergeant’ in the United States Army during World War II. Although he was only 20 when he entered the service, he was already trained as an editor at Timely Comics, so he was assigned to the Signal Corps, the communications and information division of the army.

“I wrote training films, made posters, wrote instruction manuals and visited army posts to help them speed up their training methods and operations,” Stan told Newsarama in 2015.

A poster designed by Stan bore the legendary phrase “VD? Not me!’ and encouraged troops to get (free!) prophylactics on base, lest they catch a disease below the waist and be pulled out of the war effort.

“I like to think this poster single-handedly won the war,” he joked.

Jack Kirby

Legendary entertainer Jack Kirby was also in the military during World War II and was deployed to the European theater.

The King made PFC (private first class) in the 3rd Army, 11th Infantry Regiment, Company F.

Kirby saw quite a bit of fighting in northern France, including crossing the Moselle at Dornot and the battle for the city of Metz. He received a bronze star from the regiment.


(Image credit: John Romita)

John Romita

Jazzy John was drafted into the Korean War in 1951 and the Army put his artistic talents to work.

“I made recruiting posters,” he says. “I did the first WAC [Women’s Army Corps] poster with the new uniform in 1952. She was in every recruiting station in the world for a month. The original art is now on display at the Women’s Army Museum in Virginia. I tried to get it, but “the army never gives such documents to anyone,” I was told.

Its good. Romita also told the military to go hit some rocks once as he started his art career at Marvel.

“I ended up becoming a sergeant, and they offered me a job as a staff sergeant with a big retirement in 1953 if I took over for four years. I said, ‘No. Stan Lee won’t let me. ‘”

Dick Ayers

(Image credit: Dick Ayers)

Dick Ayers

Dazzlin’ Dick Ayers served three years and three weeks in the military during World War II and spent 21 months deployed overseas, where he was a radio operator on a bomber.

He also brought his artistic talents, painting nose art for many aircraft.

Doug Murray

The co-creator of Marvel’s The ‘Nam toured Korea and Vietnam from 1967 to 1972, primarily as an air defense radar specialist. He has seen fights, but like many in his place, he says “I don’t like to talk about it too much”.

Still, Murray says the experience “gave me insight into war, life and death that I like to think he’s carried into all my writing since.” In addition to comics, Murray wrote 14 military novels.

Larry Hama

(Image credit: Larry Hama)

Larry Hama

Writer and artist Larry Hama is famous in the comics for his long stints on GI Joe and has the practical knowledge. He was in the military as an engineer during the height of the Vietnam War from 1969 to 1971.

“We put things together and took them apart, and went to interesting places and did boring things,” he says.

Beyond that… he doesn’t say much.

“When I was coming out of the ward, walking from office to office with a pile of orders, they told me, ‘everything you can’t forget, deny’, and that’s what I tried to do. “

Lisa M. Horner