By Jim Beard
Age places no limits on heroism, as evidenced by Marvel's original "kid gang," the Young Allies! Not yet adults, these youthful adventurers scorched the Axis powers during World War II and left an indelible impression on friends and foes alike.
Little wonder that the House of Idea includes the famed teen team in this year's celebration of Marvel's seven decades of success, issuing orders for the June 17 deployment of the YOUNG ALLIES COMICS 70TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL. And of course, such a bold strike on the hearts and minds of adventure lovers everywhere deserves a writer the caliber of the legendary Roger Stern.
"It's a story about the power of friendship and of a man trying to come to terms with his past," says Stern of the one-shot. "Jim
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Barnes—formerly Bucky and now Captain America—discovers that two old friends from the war are still alive. And as he's tracking them down, we discover the truth about the 'Young Allies.'
"What was the truth about the Young Allies? Well, you have to read the issue to find out, but let's just say that it wasn't the job of the Young Allies to get captured so that Bucky and Toro could rescue them, despite what the covers of the [1940's] comics would have you believe. And as they used to say on 'Dragnet,' 'names were changed to protect the innocent.'"
Until now the public dossier on the Young Allies revealed only a membership of Bucky, the Human Torch
's sidekick Toro and four rough-and-tumble "civilian" kids. Beyond that, their origins as wartime's most exuberant operatives have remained shrouded in the mists of time—until now.
"What's most interesting about the Young Allies is that they were the prototype for all of the kid gangs that followed in the comics of the1940's and 50's, most often under the guiding hands of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby," Stern explains. "In my story, I've tried to flesh the gang out a little, to give them some substance and show that there was more to them than just caricatures.
"Fortunately, I have been lucky to have Paolo Rivera drawing my story. His art has perfectly captured the eras—both of them—in which the story takes place."
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Debuting in 1941 and subsequently starring in YOUNG ALLIES COMICS, the Allies trotted the globe looking for trouble, and in most cases ended up with far more than they bargained for. Of course, when you pull pranks on the likes of Hitler and Hirohito you're bound to wind up in a few sticky situations. Fortunately, the Allies had each other to avoid the worst scrapes and continue their patriotic mischief.
"First and foremost, we've worked to show the camaraderie of the Allies," Stern says. "These were six young men all within a few years of each other in age. Sure, one could burst into flame and fly and another wore a mask and was arguably the most talented hand-to-hand combatant of his generation, but they were all caught up in the biggest global war of the Twentieth Century. And all of them turned out to be heroes."
Despite the "Young" in their name, the Allies managed missions that would have crushed the constitutions of lesser heroes, leading Stern to warn readers not to be fooled by their youthful appearance and antics—there's little to no kidding around in the YOUNG ALLIES COMICS 70th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL.
"Once you read the story, I don't know if you'll want to call any of them 'kids,'" he points out. "They were really young men, not boys. Back in the 1940's, they were drawn to look as though they were about twelve, but
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that's also the way Bucky was drawn in the Captain America comics of the time, and we know that he was about 16 when he first met Steve Rogers.
"All of the Young Allies were teenagers. The times forced them to grow up quickly and take on adult responsibilities. Remember, they'd been living through the Great Depression and were facing a world at war. They had
to grow up fast."
You can pick up the YOUNG ALLIES COMICS 70TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL for yourself on June 17. Until then, check out these Golden Age classics on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited!
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