Friday, August 11, 2006


PART TWO (of two)

You won’t find this in any history books, but The Haunted Tank was the single deadliest tank in World War II. Despite its relative lack of armor and firepower, the M-3 Stuart tank commanded by Jeb Stuart and watched over by the ghost of General J.E.B. Stuart personally destroyed half of the German Tiger tanks in existence and shot down approximately ¼ of the Luftwaffe. If memory serves, the Haunted Tank is the only tank in history to ever sink a U-Boat or to shoot down an ME-109 while parachuting. In short, The Haunted Tank is super bad-ass.

I submit that the tank itself is bad-ass, and not just because they have an elite crew and a sort of supernatural radar in the form of the ghost. No, The Haunted Tank is tougher, faster, luckier, and just plain spunkier than any other tank on the battlefield.

In order to punch up the drama, writer Robert Kanigher always pitted the little Haunted Tank against German Tiger tanks, massively armored heavy tanks that packed long-reaching 88mm guns. In Showcase Presents The Haunted Tank, they’re the only German tanks that even appear. We never see any Panzers*, the main battle tank of the Wehrmacht, at all. But Kanigher was going for a David v Goliath thing, so the little M-3 was thrown against hordes of Tiger tanks.

Now, I don’t mean to nitpick, but the 37mm cannon in the Stuart was barely adequate against Panzers and would have had little chance of damaging a Tiger, particularly through the thick front armor. 75 mm shells would just bounce off the hulls of the 45 ton beasts. Most M-3 crews would run away run away if they encountered a Tiger by themselves. I know: I’m critiquing the military accuracy of a comic book about a haunted tank. I should let it go, huh?

Whatever The Haunted Tank lacks in firepower, it compensates with sheer plucky spirit and a can-do attitude. Look at that scrappy little armored vehicle ramming a big ol’ Tiger:

That’s chutzpah! It’s like a cross between R2-D2 and Herbie the Love Bug, only with a 37 mm cannon and twin machine guns.

I haven’t bothered counting, but The Haunted Tank blows the turrets off half a dozen Tigers in every comic. Considering that The Haunted Tank feature ran for a quarter decade in G.I. Combat, and there were fewer than 1,500 Tiger tanks ever made, I’d say that one tank was responsible for the destruction of approximately 900 of them. It’s like they have +4 Vorpal Shells of Tiger Slaying or something.

The Haunted Tank was as agile and quick as a jack rabbit; a common ploy was racing between two Tigers, causing them to fire on each other like the Nazi chumps they are. That little M-3 was always bobbing and weaving, following the cavalry doctrine of their dead guardian with the gay, reckless laugh: always keep ‘em off balance.

Of course, the crew of The Haunted Tank were all a bunch of gung-ho mo-fos as well, so they were a good match for their ride. If there’s one thing these guys were into, it was beating Nazis. And they didn’t need a tank to do it!

On more than one occasion The Haunted Tank teamed up with DC’s legendary war hero Sgt. Rock and the combat-happy G.I.s of Easy Company. That, my friends, is a recipe for a Whup-Ass Omelet. If Sgt. Rock rolls with your crew, you’re doing something right.

If I haven’t convinced you that The Haunted Tank is the physical embodiment of radness, I have failed. Showcase Presents The Haunted Tank is 500 pages packed with tales of weird warfare, all for only $16.95. You can’t beat that. And if you don’t like it, you can always use the thick book as makeshift armor for prison shiv duels. That is a multi-functional book.

I hope the fact that it’s in black and white doesn’t dissuade you. If anything, I think the lack of color really enhances the line work, particularly the stories drawn by Russ Heath. Check out this panel below of two Tigers firing ineffectively at our favorite tank:

I think that’s beautiful, with the sure-handed lines and the deep blacks. Heath was a master of his craft.

Not to be a stickler for detail again, but why are the tank commanders in the panel above screaming “shit” in German?**

Like the Confederate ghost with the gay, reckless laugh, it’s just one of those strange mysteries of war...

*My bad: Tigers actually are a type of Panzer. Like most people, when I think of Panzers I think of the Panzer III and Panzer IV models, which were far more common than the jumbo Tiger.

**Thanks to intrepid and multilingual DLB readers, I have discovered that the German words for "shoot" and "shit" are similar. Apparently the tank commanders are yelling, "To shoot!"


Anonymous said...

For real. How many comics do you have and where do you find this stuff? I'm always suprised with the stuff you reference.

Matt Chaput said...

Scott, does your delight manifest itself in a gay reckless laugh?

Anonymous said...

They aren't saying "shit" they're saying "shoot". The difference is "ei" for the former and "ie" for the latter.

-Ralf Haring

David Campbell said...

Sheissen! Thanks Ralf!

Ken said...

As long as someone else has opened the Pedantry Gate... ;-)

A Tiger is a Panzer...a Panzerkampfwagen Mk.VI, to be precise. The ones Kanigher draws (least he knew what was what) are Tiger Is, used on the Western Front. Tiger IIs were used against the Russians.

The other well-known Panzers you're thinking of are the PzKw MkIV (the one with the side skirts you see a lot of is the MkIVH) and the MkV, the Panther. Some folks argue the Panther was the best all-around tank in the world until the early 1950s--whoever designed the Avalon Hill game PanzerBlitz thought so, anyway.

Anonymous said...

The Haunted Tank was the comic that made me fall in love with comics way back when. I had a subscription, which they mailed me creased in half in a paper sleeve.

I built model kits of the little Lee tank, with a Confederate flag flying and Haunted Tank painted on the side. I wrote a letter of protest when they switched to the huge, cannibalized tank.

Ah, thank you, Robert Kanigher. The Haunted Tank, Enemy Ace and "My Brothers With Wings" made me the fanboy I am today.

The Mutt

Anonymous said...

Of course I meant Stuart. Doh!

Anonymous said...

Actually, they are literally saying "To shoot!". That's what "Schiessen!" means. It's not a proper sentence.

If they were supposed to say "Shoot!", as in the commanding/imperative form like "Let's shoot!" or even "Do shoot!", it should have been "Schiesst!".

This is one of those mistranslations, which has been repeated in literally countless American Warcomics, and which can't be erased out the American conscience, no matter how often anyone corrects it.

In any case, "To shit", would be "Scheissen", while "Shit" would simply be "Scheisse", and "Shit!" (as in "go have a shit" or "do shit!") would be "Scheisst!"

Probably not something you would get taught in German class, but there you are, always happy to help.

Anonymous said...

Oops. Posted above accidentally anonymously. Probably didn't want to let people know that I know that stuff.

But hey, it's the Internet. We're among friends.

Anonymous said...

JEB Stuart, the Confederate cavalryman, is so fucking overrated. Custer beat his ass at the Battle of Hanover, ensuring the Union victory at Gettysburg. (I know because I saw it in a movie with Errol Flynn last week. "They Dies With Their Boots On" is so totally RAD that it creates its own truth just by virtue of its radness! It laughs at your bourgeouis notions of "reality" and "historical accuracy"!)

Now, Jeb Stuart of the Haunted Tank is another story entirely. I've only read a few of these, but they are totally awesome. I may have to acquire this collection soon.

Man, wouldn't it be Airwolf if the Haunted Tank met the Rat Patrol?

Anonymous said...

Errol Flynn... Now there was a gay, reckless laugh...

Senor Cheeseburger said...

Sgt. Rock is the f'ing man.


Anonymous said...

I take it the showcase doesn't have any of the stories where the original Staurt tank is destroyed and it replaced by a, *gasp* Sherman tank? Jeb Staurt's ghost briefly abandoned his boys over that change. IIRC, Rick died and was replaced by a black preacher as well around the same time.

SUBZERO said...

Aside from the Haunted Tank SHOWCASE ( which will be mine one day ) and the Sky Ape comic I own every single comic you reviewed since July.

Now is this a good thing or a bad thing ?

Anonymous said...

Actually, "Schiesen" could be considered correct, if the guy in the one tank meant his order to be for all the tanks. That would mean it should be plural. "Schiesst" is singular, a command given to one person (or tank, depending on the situation).

Man, would my German professor be proud.

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Is there any historical documentation that backs up the claim that JEB Stuart has a gay, reckless laugh?

DarrellH said...

I really enjoyed your two posts on this comic. You are really a very good writer.

Here's something fun that you might want to do. I am challenging all my friends to write a "100 things about me" post like I did. It was hard but fun.

I look forward to seeing if you do it!


Chris Sims said...

Someone reccomended it to me on my blog when I wrote about the Haunted Tank, and now I reccomend it to you:

The Demon #46-48: Garth Ennis pits the Demon and the Haunted Tank against--and here's where it gets totally rad--an army of zombie Nazis in Panzers.

It's no frigg'n joke.

Bully said...

I'm a Marvel fanbull, but it's elements like this within the DC Universe that definitely make it a more diverse and amazing place to live: when stuff like The Haunted Tank, Balloon Buster, Enemy Ace, Cave Carson, Dr. Thirteen, Stanley and His Monster, Sugar and Spike, Super-Hip, Kamandi, and Space Cabby all exist in your universe's history, you know you've got yourself an Airwolf Universe.

I especially love "touring" storylines that play up this unique diversity, like The Books of Magic or Starman's "Stars My Destination." Sure, it's sometimes a case of showing off, but by golly, the corners of the DC Universe are populated by more "I wish I'd thought of that!" concepts per square mile than any other universe in, world.

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Ray said...

THere's one more element here that bears mentioning- the lettering. The lettering in these comics is top-notch; I wish the credits mentioned who did this. Seriously, this is great stuff. The book's a bargain and a half.

Doditta said...

hi !

Anonymous said...

I love DC's weird war comics with a passion. Unsprisingly, Weird War is at the top of my list, but I nearly fell out of my chair when I found out about Haunted Tank. I bought it straight away, and would also reccomend it unreservedly.

The parachute kill of the German fighter was the single most badass thing that has ever occured in any comic EVER.

wqcpfro - The sound of an M-3 crushing a German tank officer's hat.

Anonymous said...

Correcting Anonymous up there:

"Schiesst" is really addressing multiple people, ordering them to shoot.

"Schiesse!" would be addressing just one person, ordering him or her to shoot.

"Schiessen!" simply means "To shoot!" - no way around it. It's not a sentence.

I apologize for being so anal about this, but really, they make this mistake every single time German is spoken in a comic. Even writers like Alan Moore or Kurt Busiek, who really research their subject, often fall into this "To shoot" trap.

I've read this so often, even I now can't imagine soldiers in war comics say anything else, when they fight "Amerikaner Schweine!" (which is also wrong, and should be "Amerikanische Schweine!")

Okay, hope you learnt something for the next war. I'm shutting up now. I've now completely succumbed to my obsessive compulsive disorder to correct people. I need to go and wash my hand thirty-two times.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that oldsmoblogger straightened us out: both the Tiger and the Panther were types of Panzer tanks.

What's got me a little freaked out now, however, is the question: why is Apple naming its new OS releases after Nazi battle tanks? Tell me that, Steve Jobs!

Anonymous said...

It was actually the English who came up with the idea of naming their lend-lease yank-tanks after American generals. The Stuart was officially known as the M3 Medium tank by the US.

Anonymous said...

Schiessen, or any other conjugation of the verb, is wrong in this sense. Basically, it is just as stupid as an American commander telling his tank crew to "shoot." (And because it is an order given to a crew, it could be gramatically correct.) But grammar aside, it's just not the normal order for firing a cannon.

Instead, it should probably be "Feuer frei!" or roughly "fire away." The same command given in firing squads, and repeatedly during Das Boot -- even more repeatedly if you're watching the Director's Cut.

Anonymous said...


I popped over here, saw the same damn Haunted Tank cover and (incorrectly) assumed* that there was no new post since the last haunted tank post.

A different pic would have been a great idea, or at least a big matinee "II" spray painted over it or something.


Anyway, GREAT stuff.

That Russ Heath was one amazing draftsman.
I've never been a big war comic (or war movie) fan, myself**...despite owning and liking a few Haunted Tank feature issues back in the early 1970's, but if I had THIS volume in my eager comic-lovin' young hands back in the day, I might have been all gung-ho for these things!

* Yes, I "assume" I make an "ass" out of "u" and "me".
Felix Unger would be proud.

** OK...I totally LOVED playing Wolfenstein and killing Ratzis by the truckload. And blastin' Robo-Hitler was a religion unto itself.

Rock on you Panzer-shootin', Nazi-killin', Haunted Tank drivin', gay and reckless laugher, you!


word verification:

German slang for "Gah! The Haunted tank! I shit myself!"

Evan Waters said...

I may have to pick this up.

The tank itself is oddly cute- it's drawn with a lot of character. Maybe that's why they picked that model.

spencer said...

Ha ha great post!

I remember looking at books like this on the spinner rack. never bought one , tho'

spidey and thor commanded my measly $1.00 allowance.

(nice site, btw, just ran across it )

Anonymous said...

All right, you've sold me. I'll go pick up the Haunted Tank Showcase thingy.

I should be buying these Showcases anyway. Most that I've seen have been all good stuff...

LaRue said...

The hell? The above comment was mine. I have no idea why it was anonymous. Ah, no one cares.

Anyone see the Almalgam comic where Nick Fury teams up with Sgt. Rock? If there's any more possible badassness, I can't think of it.

K.Fox, Jr. said...

Did someone tell you the tiger was a type of tiger and that the words for sh-t and shoot were so similar in a comment or did you think of that after you got done writing the blog. I'd like to check it out, but why'd they have to make one of the main characters a Confederate general. Why couldn't he have been on the Union's side. I mean, c'mon. Ah well. Looks pretty cool. I'll have to check it out. And, yes, I know I said that twice.

Anonymous said...

"why'd they have to make one of the main characters a Confederate general?"

I can't speak for Robert Kanigher or Russ Heath, but the whole concept of the comic was the linkage between the (British) nickname of the tank and the ghost of the namesake general helping and watching over his modern-day descendant. So their choices were pretty limited. And since you're dealing with creators of the caliber of Kanigher and Heath, you actually can nitpick a lot of the background details--if not the realism of the combat--because they were professionals who obviously did their homework.

The Light Tank M3 (and later M5 upgrade) was nicknamed 'Stuart'. The Medium Tank M3 had two variants, 'Lee' and 'Grant', but it was just a stopgap design that was phased out at the end of the North Africa campaign. The best known and best all-around American tank in WWII was the Medium Tank M4, or 'Sherman', which was really the only other candidate that fit the Haunted Tank concept. (They actually went through several Stuarts, and eventually got a Sherman toward the end of the series). William Tecumseh Sherman was a Union general, but his tactical record was hit-or-miss, although as a strategist he was undeniably effective. (You could make a case for the flamethrower variant of the Sherman really being the most appropriate for his name. Just ask Atlanta.)

James Ewell Brown Stuart, on the other hand, was legendary for audacious tactics, daring raids and reconnaissance missions, and outstanding leadership in the face of danger and adversity--which suited the book's attitude perfectly. And light tanks like the Stuart were used for recon and infantry support, which was ideal for stories of a lone tank and crew out on their own, having adventures and sticking it to the Nazis. Plus the little Stuart fitted the whole "David vs. Goliath" concept better than the heavier Sherman. Not that going up against Panther Vs and Tiger Is and IIs in a Sherman was a much less lopsided fight. Which proves once again how awesome the Haunted Tank was.

Anonymous said...

Here's me being a real hair-splitter, about Haunted Tank - not your writing - the Haunted Tank, is really technically an M5 not an M3. Wikipedia Stuart Tank, and you will see what I mean.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave!
As far as a little 37mm blowing the turret off a Tiger, Kanigher was brought to task for that by a reader in the letters column back in the 70's/80's. He brushed the question off with the response: "They're using HE shells."
I could quote you the issue number, but I'd have to pull out my GI Combat collection and reread EACH COMIC until I found it. Hmm... Nah!
But really! In a universe where German soldiers wear purple uniforms, it's conceivable that a shell slightly smaller than an inch and a half in diameter could totally decimate a Tiger, HE or not!
Now what would a 37mm HE shell do to a T.Rex?

Peace, Love & Total Experience!
Brother Power

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Anonymous said...

Tariq Leslie, no the original Haunted Tank was an M3. The M5 version had sloped frontal armor and a rounded cast turret, instead of the welded 7-sided turret and vertical front upper hull.

Anonymous said...

Meant 8-sided turret.