By Beau Smith

Between the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese and the one by terrorists on 9/11, there was another attack. An attack that didn’t limit itself to American soil, it was global. That attack was known as TOTAL WAR.

Total War took place within the printed pages of Gold Key Comics in 1965. There were 10 issues; the first three issues were illustrated by the legendary Wally Wood. The first two issues ran the title of Total War, after that the title was changed to M.A.R.S. Patrol: Total War. (Marine Attack Rescue Service) A majority of the issues had incredible painted covers that had the look of A-List movie posters of the time. The artist that painted the covers is unknown to me. That’s a shame. Perhaps one of you regular “Knuckleheads” out there knows who painted those covers and could share it with the rest of us. That’d be great.

The M.A.R.S. Patrol was made up of the most elite, covert team of commandos, paratroopers, and guerrillas that the United States had to offer. The main team in the series was made up of Lt. Cyrus Adams-Combat pilot, Corporal Russ Stacey-weapons expert and commando, Sgt. Joe Stryker-demolitions expert and paratrooper and Sgt. Ken Hiro-frogman and expert martial artist/hand to hand combat. M.A.R.S. Patrol was the modern G.I. JOE before there was a modern G.I. JOE.

The invaders that were attacking Earth weren’t your stereotypical “Aliens.” Their complete origin remained unknown during the series which is a large part of what made them scary and the series compelling. The reader’s imagination was left to fill in the gaps and as in my case, which was fun, because I had a head full of exotic and wild ideas just where these bad guys came from.

The bad guy invaders were often referred to as “The Baldies” because they had no hair on their bodies. They were very much humanoid, like us, but also were known to have different internal organs. Again, the mystery of these invaders is what made them so different and intriguing. They didn’t have to look scary, they were scary because of their mystery and the fact that their agenda was to take over Earth no matter what. They had no demands except for all humans or anything else in their path had to die. They were the most cold-blooded, ruthless killers in comics. No fancy, long drawn out speeches of world domination, no “Here is my plan before I kill you. ” dialogue. They were the grinder and you were the meat. Period.

The storytelling in the book was serious and fast paced. It’s not the long-winded stuff that you’re used to in today’s comics. Total War is Point A To Point B. It’s supposed to be that way. It’s filled with all the aggression, fears and attitudes of the 1950’s and early 60’s. That’s the beauty of the simplicity. As a kid I loved it for the balls to the wall good vs. evil. As an adult I enjoy it for not being weighed down by someone else’s political agenda and “blah blah” dialogue.

Total War is loaded with tough guy talk and weapons that made any kid of the 60’s hands sweat with want and desire. It’s got bazookas, Flame throwers, Thompson machine guns, grenades, tanks, B.A.R’s, it also had slightly futuristic weapons from Gyrocoptors with bazookas to Bell Rocket Belts and hovercrafts. There was nothing too far out of sight, but just enough to make me draw them in my school notebook over and over instead of doing my math homework. This comic book inspired me to play out M.A.R.S Patrol over and over in the dirt of my front yard. I had my plastic army men, tanks and homemade buildings that I had cut out of old cardboard boxes and drew on with crayons. I had hours of fun out there making up my own stories. I’m sure I wasn’t the only kid that did that. (At least I hope not.)

The back of the comics were the same as the covers except they didn’t have the logo and cover blurbs. They were called pin-ups and marked as such. All of my original Total War comics have the back covers removed. I would always cut them off and pin them on my bedroom wall. The pin ups are long gone, but I still have the issues in my collection. Yes, I’ve replaced most of the issues with ones that are complete during my years on the convention trail, but those semi-coverless issues still mean the world to me. A few years ago, Dark Horse Comics did the world a favor by reprinting the first three issues of Total War: M.A.R.S. Patrol into an archive trade paperback. I highly suggest that book for your collection. I also suggest you check your local comic book retailer, EBay, or the long boxes at the next convention to get the remaining issues of this truly manly series.

The series is filled with devastation and terror.

The steamrolling evil of these unknown invaders gives the reader a constant feeling of impending doom. The members of the M.A.R.S. Patrol really make you feel that they are your last hope against the hairless killers in the purple uniforms. Even if you’ve grown up on today’s comics, I think you’ll still get that strong sense of danger and edge of your seat panic that the writers of Total War went for. I’m guessing you could probably get the entire series for under $20.00. Trust me, it would be $20.00 well spent on entertainment.

Come, join me. Enlist in The M.A.R.S. Patrol.

(and yes?.I would LOVE to bring this series back and write it.)

Busted Knuckles Manly Cover Of The Week: M.A.R.S. Patrol: Total War #6
Gold Key Comics

It’s only right that this week’s Busted Knuckles Manly Cover should be one of the action-packed “Kill Covers” from M.A.R.S. Patrol/Total War. It was a really hard choice to make since all the covers were amazing. I think I did right in picking the cover to issue #6. It pretty much describes the series complete with all of its destruction, carnage, flame throwin’ and fryin’ the bad guys mayhem. Join the ranks of M.A.R.S. Patrol today! Bash a Baldie!

Busted Knuckles Babe Of The Week: Jane Badler

To keep with my “It’s only fitting theme.”, I declare that this week’s Busted Knuckles Babe Of The Week is Jane Badler, star of the legendary TV sci-fi series V. Jane Badler put the “Bad” into Bad Girl. She was the original deadly diva of alien invasions. You can see why she filled men with interplanetary lust and made rodents really nervous. Beauty is only skin deep, then it gets scaly.

The Round Up

Shirley Smith

The reason you haven’t seen a new Busted Knuckles in a few weeks is because on June 10th my mom, Shirley Smith, passed away after an eight week battle with D.I.C. (Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation.)

Mom’s health took a downturn 4 years ago when she had a HUGE thoracic aneurysm (over nine centimeters) removed. Fifty-five years of smoking didn’t help her cause either. I want to thank all of you that threw support, thoughts and prayers our way four years ago. It really helped. Doctors thought then that she would never make it, but she happily proved them wrong many times over. In the last four years she continued to live on her own, baby sit her great grand kids, and bark off marching orders to the rest of us. She had to haul her oxygen tank around, but as I’ve always said, she didn’t think of it so much as a burden, but as a new weapon to thump people in the head with. (That would be me.)

My mom was a very colorful character. Colorful in the language she used and heavy with character. You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “Cusses like a sailor”? Well, that was wrong. It was “Cusses like Shirley.”, the Navy just stole the credit.

Underneath all her roughness,, toughness and gruffness was the heart of a loving mother, wife, sister, daughter and friend. Where my dad was a physically intimidating man, my mom had an intimidating mind. If faced with my mom, Doctor Doom would be in the fetal position crying like a school girl and begging for diplomatic immunity.

My mom wasn’t perfect, but she made you feel like the life you had with her was pretty darn close to it. My mom didn’t care softly, she cared hard, you knew it, you felt it and you remembered it. We will always remember her.

Thanks goes out to all of you that have sent emails and letters. Your support, thoughts and prayers have meant a lot to me as well as my family.

Your amigo,

Beau Smith
The Flying Fist Ranch

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About The Author

Beau Smith

Beau Smith is a writer for Comics Bulletin