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In a five-page story writer-artist Sam Glanzman relates the tale of Toro. During World War II, the U.S.S. Stevens stops at New Caledonia to refuel on its trip back to the US. During its brief refueling stop, it takes on a new passenger who simply refers to himself as Toro. The reason for Toro’s return is simply given as “further treatment” and “perhaps a medical discharge…”

The sailors note Toro’s unique walk, manner of speech, attention to personal appearance, and “girlish belt, bracelets and a necklace made on the islands.”

A stop for R & R is made in Manila after it had been recaptured from the Japanese army. Several sailors notice Toro kneeling near some flowers. One of them comments: “Fer cryin’ out loud! The guy’s a regular little elf!” Another interjects: “…or a fairy!” They approach Toro intending to give the man a hard time. Just then, several Japanese soldiers armed with bayoneted rifles rush out of the brush toward the Americans. The unarmed sailors panic, but Toro charges the enemy soldiers. He kills two of the three soldiers with an 18-inch knife that he’d strapped to his thigh and hidden under his pants. The last Japanese  soldier jumps off a cliff rather than face death at the hands of the enraged marine. Toro throws himself over the cliff as well, leaving the sailors to wonder why.

The last panel is a bit of a postscript. Part of it reads: “But most of all he loved freedom, and believing that freedom does not just happen, that you must fight to remain free, he chose to fight. We were at war, but the killing had been too much for this man with the beautiful soul. He was to be given a Class B medical discharge. Toro had gone insane.”

In an Internet search, I learned that Sam Glanzman served as a sailor aboard the U.S.S. Stevens during World War II. Perhaps a living person inspired the fictional Toro? Is Toro gay? I think so, but obviously only Glanzman can state whether this is true or not.

Glanzman relies on stereotypes to describe the marine, but from my viewpoint, the use is made to show the sailors in a disparaging light. Consider also the comic was printed in 1974, three years after the Comic Code 1971 fifteen years before the last revision to the Comics Code which finally allowed for the depiction of LGBT characters and  revision that kept in force the exclusion of “deviant sex” let alone the use of words like homosexual, gay, and lesbian. The Code was revised in 1989 to allow the open, uncoded portrayal of LGBT characters and the use of words such as gay and lesbian.

Toro’s only appearance is in Our Fighting Forces #148.Glanzman’s USS Stevens strip is based on his World War II naval service which presumably makes Toro based on a real person. Glanzman’s USS Stevens strips were collected in 2016.

Toro’s only appearance is in Our Fighting Forces #148.

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September 27, 2021
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