Writer Geoff Johns, artist Gary Frank and colorist Brad Anderson have been working in comics for decades, earning their stripes in the Marvel and DC universes with works related to Shazam, Batman and the Incredible Hulk.
Today, the trio released a comic series called “Junkyard Joe” about a robot soldier searching for belonging in the wake of the Vietnam War.
“My grandfather served during World War II and it changed his life forever,” Johns told Military Times. “Junkyard Joe felt like an opportunity to raise not only visibility for these two amazing veteran organizations, but real financial support. It’s an honor to be working with the NCHV and VA.”
The six-issue comic book series is a story of brotherhood, families, loss and hope for veterans.
The first issue, set in Vietnam in 1972, centers on a platoon of homesick soldiers called the junkyard dogs. Embarking on one last mission, the unit gets ambushed — until a strange soldier steps in to help. The men soon learn it’s a robot, which the platoon ultimately bonds with. Another ambush, however, leaves only two survivors — the robot and Pvt. Muddy Davis, who also happens to be a budding cartoonist.
The comic then flashes forward to the present, with Muddy now in his 70s, living as a successful cartoonist and writing stories about “Junkyard Joe,” the perfect robot soldier. In real life, Muddy believes the robot he encountered was just a figment of his war-addled imagination, that is until it shows up at his doorstep.
“The general story is about two veterans that went through something in war that come back together today and are both looking for what the next step is,” Johns said. “They find it together.”
Johns and Frank felt strongly that the subject matter of this comic hits home for a number of people. For those who don’t have a military connection, productions like this can still help convey what troops experienced in war.
“The fact is that the political decisions, which are made to go to war, can vary,” Frank noted. “But for the people that are actually over there fighting the war, that experience is the same. What we’re talking about is the experience of the people that are out there, doing the things that need to be done, and then coming home and needing a pang of of support and understanding.”
It’s that which the duo focused on when the robot shows up on Muddy’s door — the lack of support and need for a sense of belonging after war is over and soldiers return home.
Junkyard Joe #1, the standard issue, and Junkyard Joe #1: Special Black & White Edition is produced by Image Comics. The series is set in Mad Ghost Productions’ historical Unnamed Universe.
Proceeds from the Black and White Edition will go to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans and Veterans Aid in memory of Johns’ and Frank’s grandparents, both veterans. Mad Ghost Productions will donate $2 for every issue purchased.
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Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.