Bob and Swab

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These best stories of the comic books are preceded by their issue number.

Bob and Swab

Bob Masters was a tall, handsome young Marine. Swab Decker was a short, tough looking sailor, who looked like a working stiff. The two men were both best friends, constant companions, and constant fighters, always scrapping with each other and getting into huge brouhahahas. In some was they remind one of Slam Bradley and Shorty Morgan, who preceded them in the comics by three years. Bob had the ideal good looks and romantic appeal of macho man Slam; and Swab was short and always getting into trouble, like Shorty. However, the two men were far more equal in personality than were Slam and Shorty. Both were tough, brawling but gung ho and decent members of the US services. And despite being short and a bit tough looking, Swab Decker had plenty of romantic appeal. He was well built, and knew how to romance women.

Bob Masters and Swab Decker embodied two images of the Navy. Bob Masters encapsulated the romantic, idealized image, being a perfect looking young man who was always decked out in the dress uniform of a United States Marine. He represents peoples' fantasy idea of what being in the service might be like. Swab Decker comically represents the reality of that life. He was a hard luck character, always getting tough assignments on ship board. As his name suggests, he lived to swab the deck, and to take on the other hard work that makes up a sailor's life. Swab wore a white sailor suit, a less dressy looking outfit than Bob's Marine uniform, but one with its own romantic appeal.

Bob and Swab also resembled Slam and Shorty in that their tales were largely comic, and in that they frequently scrapped with bad guys and prevented crimes. Typically, the bad guys were foreign saboteurs out to attack U.S. ships.

Bob and Swab also recall a bit the What Price Glory? tradition of constant rivalry and comic fighting between two soldiers. However, Bob and Swab are both enlisted men, while What Price Glory? dealt with an officer and a sergeant.

Bob's Marine Dress uniform was perhaps a bit heightened for the comics. It was blue, with gold epaulettes, belt, chevrons and sleeve buttons. It had the brilliant color that has always been favored in comic books, one of the earliest of all color media. Bob's black hair and Swab's orange hair (probably intended to depict flaming red hair) are also in vivid color.

Most of the episodes had the giant letters "Bon and Swab" on their title page. Nordling came up with a different style of lettering for each episode. These were playful, and showed inventiveness.

The Bob and Swab series ran for a long time. Most of the episodes had both scripts and art by Klaus Nordling. Nordling did other military comedy series for other comic books. Other Nordling series include Shot and Shell and Barker.

Cockroach Detail (1940). Writer: Klaus Nordling. Art: Klaus Nordling. As punishment for fighting, Bob and Swab are assigned to fumigate their ship and clear it of pests. The title given this story by the Grand Comics Database is perhaps a bit gruesome; the actual story shows no insects in detail, and is certainly not gross-out or tacky.

In this story, as in many others in the series, Bob and Swab stop saboteurs from attacking their ship. The Bob and Swab tales were set in US Naval bases and ports around the world. They stopped saboteurs from France to the Pacific. This tale is unique for its location: here, Bob and Swab stop Japanese saboteurs from taking snapshots of the fortifications in Pearl Harbor! The story was published a year before the actual attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

In real life, the United States was largely unprepared for the actual Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It seems odd, that if Bob and Swab could see something like this coming a year previously, that U.S. Intelligence could have been so poor.