War Week rolls into Day Two with the single greatest destroyer of Nazi vehicles in WWII. It's about a certain group of American soldiers that are the crew of a certain armored dealy on wheels that has a certain supernatural presence following it around. (Much like the archive, actually.)
149. Haunted Tank
Created in G.I. Combat by the brilliant Bob Kanigher and the terrific Russ Heath, and later featuring art by the extremely talented Joe Kubert, The Haunted Tank is a charming little series about a guy named Jeb Stuart, who commands an M3 Stuart tank that's haunted by his ancestor, Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart. Together, they fight Nazis in World War II. Jeb's crew thinks he's crazy when he talks about the ghost, but hey, he's a damn fine tank commander, so they go along with it. In later stories, they'd upgrade to an M4 Sherman tank. The ghost of William T. Sherman tried to butt in, but nothing could get rid of Stuart, who acted as the crew's "guardian angel," guiding them out of some insane battles. It's weird, though, that the ghost is barely featured on any of the covers. And the series ran in G.I. Combat for 26 years.
It wasn't the most upbeat of war books-- not all crew members survived the war. The stories of the Haunted Tank, however, were full of hardcore awesome action. In fact, the little tank that could is responsible for the destruction of at least half of German's force of Tiger tanks, as well as a U-Boat or two and quite a few planes, sometimes shot down whilst the tank was parachuting to the ground, as seen above. The crew is surely deserving of these accolades, but it must be said that the tank itself is the most badass vehicle in comics. Take that, Batmobile.
There's one thing I've learned in researching this column, however, and it's that the Haunted Tank hates children and sometimes puppies:
Click those to see 'em full-sized. You'll note that the Haunted Tank is nothing like baby-saving, puppy-loving Sgt. Rock, though they did occasionally work past their differences in order to team up against the Nazis. Afterwards, the tank and its crew went back to crushing small, defenseless people and animals, and Sgt. Rock went back to throttling Germans to death.
The Haunted Tank did, however, love gorillas, especially gorillas that fight Nazis:
Then again, who doesn't?
The Haunted Tank ended its run in 1987, but it has been remembered fondly enough to appear in, of all places, The Demon, Anarky (Breyfogle + Haunted Tank = I must buy this), and Power Company (which featured a new cybernetic tank piloted by one Jen Stuart, semi-haunted by the not-quite-dead Jeb Stuart from WWII). Odd places to show up, but it's certainly welcome.
I'd love to see the Tank back in some capacity. In fact, if I was in charge of the world, there'd be a Vertigo mini-series set in the current Iraq War. J.E.B. Stuart would still be the ghost, but this time, his descendant Jeb Stuart would be a black man, and we'd see what the Confederate ghost thought about it. Well, that's my idea for a modern, serious take on the concept, and we know how DC loves modern, serious takes, right?
If you love the sublime mayhem of the original, however, you're not out of luck. The gods have seen fit to grace us with a 500 page black and white Showcase volume of the Haunted Tank, which, sayeth Dave Campbell, is totally rad. Bring home the ghost with the "gay, reckless laugh." You know you want to.
More links:Profiles in Courage: The Haunted Tank by Chris SimsDon Markstein's Toonopedia entry on the Haunted Tank