Sunday, February 17, 2013

Why Unknown Soldier?

Unknown Soldier, like the other famous DC military character, was created by Joe Kubert and Robert Kanigher in 1966. The character appeared in a Sgt. Rock story (Our Army At War #168) before getting his own title several years later which ran into the early 80’s. This original iteration of the character was an intelligence operative during World War 2.  Hideously scarred and disfigured his head was swathed in bandages, giving him his iconic look. 

The second series involving the character painted him in a very different light, positing that the character was immortal and a fervent believer in the actions of the good old USA. To some, this was a misstep with the original series playing much more with moral ambiguity and imbuing the character with a cynicism borne of endless conflict and facing down death.

From here Garth Ennis took a shot at the character showcasing the characters post war activities as well as his search for a successor. 

But the real reason ‘Why’ I chose the Unknown Soldier as this weeks pick is Joshua Dysart’s interpretation of the character for Vertigo in 2008. Here the action moved to war torn Uganda and centred around the very real conflict involving the Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency which took place in 2002. This version of the character begins his journey as the antithesis of a soldier— Doctor Moses Lwanga. Moses and his wife Sera work together in Uganda and offer their services to the Acholi, a people who've been displaced by the current conflict. 

It’s this dichotomy that makes Dysart’s run one of my all time favourites. Moses is a man who has seen the worst that war has to offer— child soldiers, death, maiming, torture, refugees, starvation and corruption. He chooses to help those affected by the war, but in the grand scheme of things begins to wonder whether any of it truly makes an impact. Plagued by violent visions and dreams we begin to see a repressed dark undercurrent of aggression emerge in Moses that only gets worse as the series goes on. Dysart's series not only deals with the war inflicted upon a country but also the war for Mose's soul. 

In this way Moses is reflective of Africa itself-- a land of fascinating culture and beauty but one convulsing with the throes of violence and corruption beneath the surface. 

In the end it costs Moses. I won’t say any more than that. With the series Dysart seems to be making the argument that to truly fight those who would wage war a man has to put aside his humanity, morality and any semblance of self.  Whether physically or mentally, war claims all of its participants in the end. 

Whatever iteration of the character you choose, he offers a fascinating prism through which to view the nature and effects of war.

Get to it! 



    UNKNOWN SOLDIER sat by a computer. His eyes stare at the screen through bandages. He looks haunted.


    UNKNOWN SOLDIER seated outside. No one walking by gives him much heed. Except for one twenty year old in a wheelchair. The woman approaching.

    Are you okay?



    Images of war, suffering, chaos, brutality. All the wars that man and woman have ever fought in his mind. (NB: My take is that as he's immortal, his mind takes on an almost empathic understanding of war. So everytime a new war begins or an old war ends, it's thrown into his mind.)


    UNKNOWN SOLDIER looks at this woman with sad, pained eyes. He's seen too much.

    UNKNOWN SOLDIER: War never ends. Just goes on and on. More people like me who can't remember their names.
    WOMAN: We can hope.


    Wikipedia entry on 9/11 fills the screen.

    1. It's a good concept but I had a bit of a disconnect with some of the dialogue, mostly in panel 4. The two sentences jar a bit when placed together.

      Maybe I'm being a bit pedantic.

      I do love that empathy concept though.

  2. That last panel is very haunting, it such a cold and still image to go out on. Plus the fact its a Wikipedia page makes it that much sadder, like such a huge world event has just boiled down to an entry online.

    A brutal look at the nature of war and its impact on people. Solid page.

  3. The Unknown Soldier: The Unseen Face of War!


    Panel 1
    On a middle-eastern dessert village, the Unknown Soldier emerges from a cloud of smoke carrying a machine gun, running.

    CAPTION (Unknown Soldier): Another war...
    CAPTION (Unknown Soldier): ...fought on foreign soil.

    Panel 2
    The Unknown Soldier is outside a house. He is about to kick the door open.

    CAPTION (Unknown Soldier): Always the invader.

    Panel 3
    Inside the house, the Unknown Soldier enters and aims his gun at someone. POV is on the ground so all we see on that 'someone' is his bare right foot.

    CAPTION (Uknown Soldier): Never the ones invaded.

    Panel 4
    POV is with the Unknown Soldier. We should be able to see his hands and the gun he uses to aim at someone. That 'someone' is actually a kid not older than 10 also aiming a pistol at the Unknown Soldier. He is a middle-eastern kid, his clothes are torn, and he has tears in his eyes. Behind him is his mother and older sister hugging each other in terror.

    CAPTION (Unknown Soldier): ANOTHER kid with a gun, protecting his family.

    Panel 5
    POV is with the kid. We should also be able to see his hands and the gun aiming at the Unknown Soldier who had put down his weapon.

    CAPTION (Uknown Soldier): Am I showing him mercy?

    Panel 6
    Same POV but now the Unknown Soldier is gone and the kid is aiming at the door.

    CAPTION (Uknown Soldier): Or am I just condemning his death at the hands of my colleagues?

    1. Ooops! DESERT village! not dessert village.

    2. I like the notions and page structure here, but the captions seemed a bit on the nose for me.

      Man, it feels like I'm being an ass to the PAH guys today, eh?


    3. ok firstly a dessert village sounds ok with me Arby. :)

      The imagery of the script is really powerful if im honest I'm with Dan on the captions being a bit on the nose, you could play the page without them keeping it silent and keep all of the impact and message whilst making it even more brutal.

      Really powerful set up though that you could build so much on.

      And Mr Hill you're not being an ass buddy, I think you have a lot of love for this character and genre plus your knowledge of it means you can pick things out that others less versed might miss. I think its always helpful when writing a popular character to have a fan give you feedback. It's the best way to grow as a writer.

    4. No, it's okay! Thanks for the critiques Dan and Shaun. And yeah, I do see what you mean.

      I did actually argue with myself on whether to put captions on or not... then that thought about 'invading' came to me so I just decided to put them in...

      PS: Shaun. Yeah, a dessert village does certainly sound nice. c:


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