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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #149

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.)

5/29/07

149. Haunted Tank

Haunted Tank 8.jpg

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:

Haunted Tank 3.jpgHaunted Tank 4.jpgHaunted Tank 5.jpgHaunted Tank 7.jpg

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:

Haunted Tank 6.jpg

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 Sims
Don Markstein’s Toonopedia entry on the Haunted Tank

12 Comments

Tom Fitzpatrick

May 29, 2007 at 5:29 pm

What’s a war week without a Garth Ennis mention.

Just got to love his Vertigo series “WAR STORIES.”

Brilliantly written and drawn by various.

I like how the kid in the first cover is on “Death Street.” Real subtlety there!

Ennis’ war comics are the one thing I actually enjoy from him these days, but his best work still doesn’t stand up against the consistently brilliant and human stories by Kanigher, Kubert, & co.

These comics raised me; only two days in, and this is my favorite theme week yet, thank you!

I love that the Haunted Tank won the Power Company vote, by a landslide (which shows that there really aren’t all that many Ronnie Raymond fans out there).

But I don’t remember ever actually reading the issue in question. Can someone elaborate on Jen Stuart?

I do love me the legacy characters.

Love war week. Sgt. Rock and Haunted Tank are great.I sure hope to see G.I.Robot or the Creature Commandoes.

For the record, a lot of people suspect that the vote on the Power Company Haunted Tank appearance was a case of a handful of HT fans stuffing the ballot box and voting multiple times.

Jen Stuart was actually Jennifer Elizabeth Barbara Stuart (J.E.B. Stuart… get it? Heh) she is the granddaughter of Jeb Stuart of Haunted Tank fame and followed in her grandfather’s footsteps and joined the Army and became a tank commander. In the Power Company story she had been tapped by the military to test this new one-man cyber-tank developed by S.T.A.R. labs and was actually touring through S.T.A.R. with her grandfather when there was an extradimensional attack. Jeb Stuart was hurt in the attack and ended up in a coma and Jennifer was asked to take to the Cyber-tank and join part of the Power Company on a mission to rescue the other half of the PC team and get rid of the interdimensional would-be world conquering creature. With Jeb hovering near death he was able to communicate directly with the Confederate J.E.B. Stuart who told him that too many generations separated him from Jennifer and he could not accomany and advise her… but Jeb could. So Jeb took the General’s ghostly horse and rode with Jennifer and advised her in the cyber-tank.

Spoiler Space

After returning from this adventure Jeb woke up out of his coma so there was a happy ending all around.

I kinda doubt the Power Company vote was due to some sort of orchestrated ballot-box stuffing so much as the Haunted Tank was the most fun, and goofy option presented. There were like 4 OK but unsurprising B or C-list superhero types, plus… “OK, I’m voting for this just to see how the hell Busiek’s going to work the Haunted Tank into this book.”

A lot more interesting than Firestorm or somebody.

By the way, is it my imagination, or at some point in the series, was the [i]entire[/i] crew, not just Jeb, able to see the ghost?

Mark_Lucas_TBP

May 30, 2007 at 8:20 am

I love war week!

I was introduced to DC’s war comics in 1993 when my mombought a whole huge catdboard box full of DC war comics for a few bucks. It was all 70’s-80’s.

I was one of the people who voted for the Haunted Tank in Power Company. Don’t feel too bad for Firestorm, he showed up in the comic anyway. And now, J.E.B. Stuart’s ghost (the original) is on Team 13.

We need far more than a week of war comics, that will barely even get us the rest of heavy hitters like Unknown Soldier, The Losers, and Enemy Ace. I also need the Creature Commandos, GI Robot, Viking Commando, Gravedigger, Primate Platoon, Lt. Larry Rock, and even Marvel’s Sgt. Fury (I wonder what ever happened to him).

The Kirbydotter

May 30, 2007 at 5:44 pm

Sorry for the Joe Kubert fans but Russ Heath was the best!
He was the only artist at DC to get the equipment, uniforms and vehicles right. When mosr artist drew a somewhat generic german tank that was a mixt of Panzer IV and Tiger, Russ Heath realy drew a recognizable Tiger, or a Jagpanther, etc…

Don’t get me wrong, Kubert is a master storyteller, with a magnificient brushstroke, pacing, page composition and other visual plotting techniques. But Russ Heath (and John Severin at Marvel) were the one that really gave realism and credibility to a war story.

I read the whole series fresh off the spinner racks. It was one of my very favorites. Nobody can touch Russ Heath for war art. The Kubert covers were always awesome, though I don’t quite remember so many squished kids and puppies.

My favorite Kubert war cover trope is the hero saying, “It’s all clear from here, boys,” while dozens of the enemy wait in ambush. There must be at least a hundred of those.

If I remember right, after the Stuart and the Sherman, the crew switched to a hybrid tank they put together in a tank graveyard. It was never the same for me after they switched from the Stuart. The stories of the tiny, over-matched tank dancing among the Tigers really rocked me.

Mark_Lucas_TBP

June 1, 2007 at 7:55 am

I thought I remembered the tank being destroyed pretty often, once even by the Unknown Soldier in a triple-agent scheme. Technically it was the tank commander that was haunted, not the tank itself.

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