Hellion for Hire - Tour of Duty 13: The Last Day

Hellion for Hire - Tour of Duty 13

It feels great to be back! I know it’s been awhile, but I’ve really had to put myself into a sort of “bunker mentality” writing and drawing Sgt. Rock – The Lost Battalion. Many of you know that this series has been my dream job and wanted to do right not only to Rock’s creators, Bob Kanigher and Joe Kubert, but the real soldiers of the “greatest generation” who fought for our freedom. I’m glad to say (well it’s really quite bittersweet, but that’s for another column), that, after much blood, sweat and heartburn (sorry Mike Marts and Janelle Siegel) that The Lost Battalion is finally finished and “Hellion For Hire” will return to Newsarama regularly with more adventures and comic butchery.

Thus far we’ve seen the combat happy Joe’s of Easy Company fighting not only the German army but the elements as well. Each individual issue is themed and subtitled by each of the six days that he real “Lost Battalion” held out against horrific odds. Rock’s boys have suffered and starved through “Rain” and “Fire”, and fell to the deadly bullets of a unseen killer shrouded behind the cover of “Fog”.

Still, Easy holds, onto their own piece of “Earth” even though their numbers become frightfully depleted during six-days of unending artillery and infantry assaults led by a massive Tiger Tank.

"Banzai!"

But relief is on its way through the Herculean efforts of the Japanese-American “Little Iron Men” of the 442nd RCT – but will it be enough? We’ll have to see in the last issue – the day of reckoning, “Air”.

Homage to Joe

What’s a “BEP”? It ain’t bacon, eggs and pickles, that’s for sure…

I’ve received lots of encouraging emails concerning the series and all are greatly appreciated. I also get lots of questions regarding storytelling and page design, and most inquire about what we’ve come to call Battle Encompassing Panels or “BEPs” --

Attack!

I’m a huge fan of war films and felt these long panels stretching across two pages afforded me an opportunity to take a cinematic approach – instead of breaking them up into smaller frames, it gives me a chance to delve into the “fog of war” and show a wide range of actions and emotions as each character holds a personal story that mixes in with his environment. Man, it’s a lot of work, but I also feel it gives a fresh illustrative perspective to the page.

I am striving for the utmost authenticity with the art and have also received lots of emails regarding the equipment and weaponry – for that I must thank all my WW2 reenactment buddies for “going for broke” in assisting me with all the right details unique to each particular unit portrayed in the book -- and will be eternally grateful for them selflessly returning to my studio again and again for hundreds of pictures or sketches at the drop of a dime. For emergencies, and when I’ve reached my “pain in the ass” quota, I simply pose one of my Dragon or BBI actions figures – and they too must be thanked – and offered an apology for the cruel, immoral and un-godly acts forced upon them by my great “friend” Jimmy Palmiotti when I wasn’t looking. Anyway, my darling wife has also been kind enough to turn a blind eye to my purchasing some really cool vehicles for the dozens of tanks, trucks and halftracks involved as well. I told, her, “hey, it’s hard to get a real Tiger tank to come to the house these days” – and I’ve learned that these things work out perfectly!

Billy's toys - for...er, reference only.

beating a retreat

As you can all see, I’ve had a blast doing this series. It’s been a joy from the very beginning and knowing that I’m following in the greatest of footsteps have hoped to have done Rock and Easy Company justice – I’ve tried to capture the flavor of Mr. Kanigher’s words – hell, I’ve aped most of Rock’s dialogue from his old scripts -- and though my draftsmanship and storytelling can never compare, have hoped to pay homage to the emotion and energy of my all-time comic book hero, Joe Kubert. All the while never forgetting that each soldier portrayed are fictional accounts of real men who suffered, sacrificed and if they were lucky, survived the carnage that was the Second World War.

detail of "Barney"

For the last time, I’m NOT Sgt. Rock!

In a recent column, on of my idols, Keith Giffen, wrote “If Sgt. Rock can look like Billy Tucci, I seen no reason why Cave Carson can't look like me.” I must disagree --- my portrayal of Sgt. Rock is not me, nor is it Tom Hanks or George W. Bush, but the heck it sure looks like a chap we recently met in a Chinese restaurant after a comic convention! Some of you might realize that I take pictures of friends and put them in the books, hence the reason for me to conveniently have a helmet on hand that night. This man was planning on having a nice quiet dinner with his wife while visiting from Florida, but after a few beers, turned out to be a hell of a great guy and mugged it for my camera in true Rock form!

is the real Sgt. Rock retired and living in Florida?

So for Heaven’s sake, I’m not Rock – but I did use myself for the war correspondent Willie Kilroy!

Yes, Kilroy was here.

And how could we forget just what “We’re Fighting For?”

This column’s “girl back home” is none other than Clay Moore’s deliciously sculpted Calie Liddle from Zenescope’s terrific “Wonderland” trilogy.

The statue is produced by Fantastic Realm, and will debut at this weekend’s Wizard World Philly Convention – so come on by the FR booth --- I’ll be signing lots of statues and exclusive prints there all weekend – where you’ll also get the chance to win a $4,000.00 bronze edition!

Sgt. Rock – The Lost Battalion Day Six hits the stores on June 24th. You’ll notice this column’s art is mostly in b/w, that’s because next week’s Hellion will showcase a preview of that issue and the beautifully battle-scarred colors by Brian Miller and the amazing Hi-Fi Design Team!

I know I’ve been a bit short today, but must get back to the drawing board –so until next week –Thank a Veteran and Rock Out!

Go For Broke!

Billy Tucci

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