Sgt. Franklin John Rock is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. Sgt. Rock first appeared in Our Army at War #83 (June 1959), and was created by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert. The character is a World War II veteran who served as an infantry non-commissioned officer.
Sgt. Rock’s prototype first appeared in G.I. Combat #68 (January 1959). His rank is not given in this story; instead, he is merely called “The Rock”. The Rock returned as a sergeant in Our Army at War #81 (April 1959) named “Sgt. Rocky” with his unit, Easy Company (the precise US Army infantry regiment to which Easy belonged was never identified during the history of the character). In this last prototype appearance with the Easy Company (as opposed to the nameless infantryman with a nickname, as he was portrayed previously), the story was actually written by Bob Haney, but the character’s creator, Robert Kanigher was the editor. He would go on to create the bulk of the stories with Joe Kubert as the artist. In issue #82 (May 1959), he is called “Sgt. Rock” (name only) and by issue #83 (June 1959), he makes his first full appearance as Sgt. Rock.
Sgt. Rock steadily gained popularity, until, in 1977, the name of the comic was changed to Sgt. Rock. The comic ran until Sgt. Rock #422 (July 1988). In addition to the semi-regular comic, several “digests” were sold, under the DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest banner, reprinting stories from Our Army at War or Sgt. Rock. Some were subtitled as OAAW or Sgt. Rock, some as Sgt. Rock’s Prize Battle Tales. (The Prize Battle Tales title was also used on earlier 80-page annual specials). The digest format was 413⁄16” × 65⁄8“, softcover, with 98 full-color pages and no advertisements.
A 21-issue run of reprints followed from 1988 to 1991, and two Sgt. Rock Specials with new content saw publication in 1992 and 1994. A Christmas themed story appeared in DCU Holiday Bash II in 1997, again featuring new content.
According to John Wells, in Fanzing 36 (July 2001), an online fan magazine:
Sgt. Rock’s complex family tree comes by way of creator Robert Kanigher, who added new (and often conflicting) branches throughout the character’s original 29 year run. Rock’s father was variously described as having died in a mine cave-in (OAAW #231), in World War I (#275 and 419) or in a Pittsburgh steel mill (#347). Robin Snyder (in a letter mistakenly attributed in #353 to Mike Tiefenbacher) suggested that one of the deaths occurred to Rock’s stepfather and his existence was confirmed in #400. As things currently stand, it was father John Rock who died in combat and stepfather John Anderson who perished in a cave-in. The third death, as theorized above, probably occurred to a father figure that Frank Rock worked with at the steel mill.
In at least one Sgt. Rock comic book published in the late 1960s, it was revealed that Sgt. Rock had a brother who was an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, fighting in the Pacific Theater. In this episode, Sgt. Rock told his fellow soldiers about a weird combat incident that his brother had taken part in on a Pacific island, shown in the comic in a “flashback” style.
A Viet Nam soldier by the name of Adam Rock appears in Swamp Thing #16 (May 1975), though it is never specifically stated if he is intended to be a relative of Frank Rock.
DC Comics published Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion, written and drawn by William Tucci, starting in November 2008. The story places Rock and Easy Company with the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry, which was surrounded by German forces in the Vosges Mountains on October 24, 1944 and eventually rescued by the Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
The Lost Battalion also revives other famous World War II-era DC characters, such as the Haunted Tank, and “Navajo Ace” Johnny Cloud, and the story itself is mainly narrated by combat journalist William J. Kilroy, and German General Friedrich Wiese.
During World War II, Sgt. Rock fought in the infantry branch of the U.S. Army in the European Theatre and eventually rose to authority within his unit, Easy Company. The unit was a collection of disparate individuals who managed to participate in every major action in the European war. Rock’s dog-tag number was 409966, which had been, it was claimed, Robert Kanigher’s own military serial number.
Robert Kanigher mused in letters columns in the 1970s and 1980s that Rock probably belonged to “The Big Red One” (First US Infantry Division) given his appearance on battlefields in North Africa, Italy, and Northwest Europe. Rock’s backstory was fleshed out in different comics over the years; generally he is considered to have come from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he worked in a steel mill. Enlisting after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he went to North Africa as a private but promotion came quickly as his superiors were killed, to assistant squad leader, squad leader, and then platoon sergeant. During the main series, his unit is only ever given as “Easy Company“, but no regiment or division is named nor is unit insignia ever shown. Rock is shown to have two siblings (Sgt. Rock #421) Larry, a Marine fighting in the Pacific and Amy, a nun. In the 2009 six-issue mini-series “Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion” Rock’s unit is still referred to as “Easy Company” but is of the 141st Infantry Regiment. However, in the closing pages of the last issue, the narration states that, following the end of the story, “As usual, Sgt. Rock’s ‘Combat-Happy Joes’ moved out to fill the ranks of another Easy Company left fractured by war”, moving them to the 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Division, under 2nd Lieutenant Audie Murphy. A famous tagline of Rock’s is: “Nothin’s easy in Easy Company.”
Rock also usually wears the chevrons and rockers of a Master Sergeant on his uniform and also applied, oversize, to the front of his helmet.
It is likely Rock’s official position in Easy Company was of senior platoon sergeant though dialogue and scripts are usually vague on his actual responsibilities and duties. He usually leads patrols and appears to have powers of command over the men of the company. Several officer characters also appeared in the comic, as both platoon and company commanders, all of whom were regarded by Rock as superiors. Ever the model NCO, Sgt. Rock always rendered proper respect to these officers, and was always quick to give advice to not only ensure success, but for that officer to gain confidence and experience as a leader. Easy’s commander was usually referred to as “the skipper” by Rock. Rock in turn was referred to by others as the “topkick”, or senior non-commissioned officer in the company. Most infantry companies did not have master sergeants; significantly, Rock does not have the diamond of a first sergeant on his rank insignia.