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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #154

Yesterday’s post is now updated with cover gallery glory. The archive is here as always.

And now, the smashing conclusion to War Comics Week with Robert Kanigher’s masterpiece. I present to you– the Hammer of Hell!


154. Enemy Ace

Enemy Ace 4.jpg

Surely, there are many other great war comics out there, but this is the last one to be spotlighted in our theme week. Don’t worry, though– there’s always Veteran’s Day!

Bodacious Bob Kanigher created the character along with Joltin’ Joe Kubert, and yes, as I said, it’s probably Kanigher’s greatest work. Enemy Ace was a World War I fighter pilot. In a beautiful twist, Kanigher, realizing that “hero” and “villain” is really only a point of view, made the character a German (real name: Hans von Hammer), who shot down American planes, but was no less duty-bound and honorable than Sgt. Rock. He just happened to be fighting for the other side. Grim, determined, and seemingly unstoppable in the air, Enemy Ace was a fantastic protagonist.

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I love that cover with the puppy. It’s considered a classic story. Sleestak of Lady, That’s My Skull reviews it here. He doesn’t think it’s as great as people make it out to be. What do you think, dear readers? And what’s with war heroes and their love of children and little dogs? (Well, aside from the Haunted Tank and its crew. We all know they hated babies and puppies.) And you have to love something which has “Fokker Fury!” as its title.

Enemy Ace first appeared in the back pages of Our Army at War, but got his own chance in the spotlight in a couple issues of Showcase. He didn’t get a series after that, but he did take over Star Spangled War Stories for a time as the headliner. Later, when Unknown Soldier became Star Spangled’s hit, Enemy Ace found himself as a back-up feature again. The concept was brilliant, but I guess he didn’t sell too highly. Perhaps readers were uncomfortable with a “villain” as the hero, even decades after the fact.

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The Hammer of Hell’s made a few appearances since then, including a graphic novel subtitled War Idyll, by George Pratt, and a two part series by current war comics master Garth Ennis, with artists Christian Alamy, Chris Weston, and Russ Heath.

Enemy Ace’s past adventures can still be found in print in two gorgeous-but-expensive Archive editions. After all, it’s classy stuff– so it gets the hardback treatment. And yeah, it deserves it.

I’d love to bring the Enemy Ace concept back in some fashion. I’d have him as a recurring character in my Blackhawk revamp. You know, if they ever let me do it. I wouldn’t mind more WWI stories, either.

For more on Enemy Ace, check out this tremendously detailed biography, or the Toonopedia entry. I’d also like to point you to a glorious tribute at Dial B for Blog, which is chock full of gorgeous images.

I had great fun writing these War Week entries. My God, DC turned that genre into a gold mine. Of course, other companies put out fantastic war material as well– Marvel and EC and others. I haven’t forgotten them; like I said, you never know when another one might show up as a Reason to Love Comics. These books didn’t glorify war, but they did get some damn fine stories out of terrible occurrences.

Take care, everybody.


Aww yeah!

Enemy Ace is so great. And so freakin’ MACHO. I grew 14 hairs on my chest just from reading it.

I’ve only read the Ennis story, I will have to check it out. I will say that I am sad that you are not extending war week, I think this has been a definite highlight. Oh well, I look forward to what you have up next.

I’ve read aviation and war comics from all precedences (US, France, England, Japan…) and this is probably my favorite, which is quite a compliment!

Certainly Bob Kanigher’s masterpiece and blessed with some of the best artwork Joe Kubert ever done.

A great series that deserves a Showcase book so that people who haven’t enough money for the Archives (which I have – the only Archives series I’ll probably ever own!) can read it too!

The Ennis revival is good, but doesn’t reach the lofty heights of the original.

Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

“Ya, dat’s right, but dese Fokkers was Messerschmidts!”

Hey, Enemy Ace got love in the mainstream DCU too, I mean you must be cool if Bruce Wayne finances the movie of your life. Seems I recall it featuring in a story in Batman back in the late 70s or early 80s. I know the movie is mentioned in Enemy Ace’s writeup in the DC Encyclopedia.

Never had the opportunity to read the orginal Enemy Ace stories, but George Pratt’s War Idyll was just incredible.



June 4, 2007 at 9:53 am

The Hammer of Hell had a couple of interesting appearances in mainstream DC continuity. In Swamp Thing, following some events in DC’s Invasion crossover, Hans met an incarnation of a time-travelling Swamp Thing (the previous issues had featured Sgt. Rock). And in the early 90’s, in Armageddon Inferno, Enemy Ace is teamed up with Lobo, Guy Gardner, and Starfire for a mission in pre-historic times. This mini is notable for taking Waverider up to the edge of his 15 minutes of fame and for bringing the JSA back into regular DC publishing.

Seems I recall it featuring in a story in Batman back in the late 70s or early 80s.

Not quite. Enemy Ace featured in a Batman story in the early 1970s by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams (Detective 404 to be precise)


Who says that Kanigher and Kubert weren’t appreciated by the young turks coming on the scene at that time?

The George Pratt version, by the way, is gorgeous. It has a little bit of 1990s revisionism, but it’s surprisingly faithful to the spirit of the Kanigher/Kubert stories. My main problem with it is that there wasn’t enough air battles…but then it is about the Christmas armistice, so it kind of needed to be grounded. But the relationship between elder Von Hammer and the young American reporter just back from Vietnam is really quite touching– well worth picking up.

Here’s a link to an interview of George Pratt that I conducted via e-mail back in 2002. One of the topics discussed was Enemy Ace: War Idyll…


Terry Washington

March 18, 2008 at 8:27 am

Personally I’ve always had a sneaking admiration for Hans von Hammer, ever since I started to read about him(I’ve always had a soft spot for “anti-heroes”).
Even though we know now that the Allied cause was superior to the Kaiser’s( and infinitely more than so than the Fuhrer’s!), we can still admire a brave and dedicated man who, although far more anguished than we would know at the sheer cost of war, yet finds in within himself to fight for his country.


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