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
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.
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.
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.