PART ONE (of two)
Radness, thy name is Haunted Tank.
If I had received Showcase Presents The Haunted Tank
when I was a kid, it would have freaked my shit right out.
This is just a massive collection of radness, and by radness I mean awesomeness. And it is massive. This 500-page black & white tome is thicker than my local phone book. You could kill a man with this thing. If you had a number of Showcase Presents The Haunted Tank
books, you could strap them to your body and use them as armor – just like that one scene in the Denzel Washington thriller Ricochet
when John Lithgow and Jesse "The Body" Ventura fight each other in a prison gladiator match with shivs and newspaper armor. They've folded lots of newspaper into these armor "plates" that afford some protection against the stabbing shivs. Jesse is unlucky enough to have on his chest plate a front page picture of Denzel Washington's district attorney character, who Lithgow hates. When he sees Denzel's face, Lithgow goes nuts and stabs the picture and Jesse Ventura at the same time. Although Ricochet
was not a great movie (despite the presence of Ice-T and Lindsey Wagner), any movie that has a John Lithgow prison fight is a must-see in my book.
Um, so anyway, the Haunted Tank book is so thick you could use it as body armor in prison. Sorry, I can get off on these tangents. Let's get back on track and talk about The Haunted Tank
.Showcase Presents The Haunted Tank
is a collection of reprinted stories from DC’s long-running war anthology title G.I. Combat. The Haunted Tank was a recurring feature in G.I. Combat
through out the sixties and seventies, a contemporary of other DC war comic greats as Sgt. Rock and The Unknown Soldier. Created by writer Robert Kanigher and illustrated by guys like Russ Heath and Joe Kubert, The Haunted Tank
is the story of a ballet dancer, sidelined by injury and depression, and the spirited young man who taught her how to break dance… and how to live again.
Wait a second, that’s not it.
More accurately, The Haunted Tank is the story of M-3 Stuart tank commander Jeb Stuart, who is haunted by the ghost of his ancestor, the wily Confederate cavalry commander J.E.B. Stuart. In a tank manned by his childhood chums, Jeb pits his fighting spirit against Hitler’s armored hordes, guided by cryptic advice from a spectral guardian only he can see. The Haunted Tank is some high concept shit.
This book includes a reprint of G.I. Combat #87 (1961), the first appearance of The Haunted Tank. In this first story, illustrated by the legendary Russ Heath, we learn about Jeb’s background, and how his destiny seems intertwined with that of the Rebel general with the gay, reckless laugh…
A little background: General J.E.B. Stuart (aka “Jeb”) was a renowned Confederate cavalry commander during the American Civil War. Stuart was a dashing figure, a hero to the South, who followed his exploits. A master of unconventional tactics and lightning raids, J.E.B. Stuart is regarded in some circles as one of the best cavalry commanders to walk the face of the earth. He was a bad ass.
We get a look at Jeb and his posse pretending to be Rebel raiders, and this creepy panel with all the kids looking murderous and satanic:
Yikes, those kids are creepy. It's like Chuck Connors came to town twelve years ago and made love to all their mamas.
Jeb is a natural leader. Using shame and peer pressure, he convinces his krew to join the Army with him at the outbreak of World War II. Portentously, they sign up under a statue of General Stuart. Yet only Jeb can hear the gay, reckless laughter…
Weirdly, Jeb and his friends are all assigned to the same M-3 Stuart tank together. Man, what are the odds of that happening? Jeb is really excited about being a cavalry commander – maybe a little too excited.
The crew of the plucky little M-3 tank battle the seemingly invincible Tiger tanks in North Africa, guided only by their cunning and the sage wisdom of the deceased General. Jeb was always getting advice and encouragement from his patron ghost, with his gay, reckless ghostly laugh...
I love the sound effects in that panel: Clankety! Splash-Splash! You see, because it's a tank, going through water, and that's what it sounds like.
A little background: The M-3 Stuart tank was a quick, lightly armored tank that was first used by the Brits in North Africa, who called it “Honey.” With its thin skin and inadequate 37mm cannon, the Stuart was no match for the Panzers and anti-tank cannons of the Afrika Korps. The British and Russians received the M-3 via the Lend Lease program, and considered it a disappointment. But the Stuart was reliable and fast, powered by a high octane radial aircraft engine. Because they were so quick, they were often used for recon missions, leaving the heavy lifting to tanks like the Sherman. The Stuart tank rolled off American assembly lines in huge numbers – for every one of the dreaded German Tiger tanks there were 25 Stuarts buzzing around. Plus, you have to admit – they looked cool as hell.
We'll discuss the radness of The Haunted Tank in greater detail in part two, but for now let us ponder the issue of General J.E.B. Stuart's gay, reckless laughter...
Holy crap, in every other panel they mention the ghost's gay, reckless laughter! Enough, already! When I picture gay, reckless laughter I see Fred Schneider
from The B-52's in a Jaguar convertible doing a ballistic 120 mph on Hog Mountain Road outside Athens, GA, holding a champagne bottle and laughing wildly. That's
gay, reckless laughter. So when I see the floating disembodied head of General Stuart, I just hear Fred Schneider and his gay, reckless laughter.
Next: we discuss how The Haunted Tank single-handedly wiped out half of the Tiger tanks in existence.