In the early 1960s, Lichtenstein began the series of paintings for which he remains best known: large-scale appropriations of distressed young women and daring young men featured in war and
romance comics. Of course, love and battle are enduring art-historical subjects. Lichtenstein was particularly fascinated by the contrast between the emotional intensity of the stories
found in comics and the highly formulaic style used to illustrate them. He hoped to heighten this dichotomy in his own paintings, explaining, "I was interested in using highly charged
material, like Men at War and Love comics, in a very removed, technical, almost engineering drawing style."
One of Lichtenstein's most brilliant achievements was his adaptation of cartoon devices to the demands of painting. Torpedo . . .los! is among many of his works from the early 1960s that feature a heroine engaged in a series of "true romance" dramas and a hero engaged in a series of "world at war" adventures. The call to romance and the call to arms were predictable scenarios to anyone growing up during World War II. Daytime soaps, comic books, and movies emphasized these themes. In his telling paintings of these subjects, Lichtenstein has documented an era as well as a culture. Indeed, they are features of our culture that remain valid to this day.
When it was last sold in 1989, The New York Times described the work as "a comic-strip image of sea warfare". It formerly held the record for the highest auction price for a Lichtenstein work. Its 1989 sale helped finance the construction of the current home of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago in 1991.