Profiles in Courage: The Haunted Tank
The Haunted Tank is awesome, and that's a fact.
Back in 1961, Robert Kanigher--a guy who will always hold a special place in my heart for his incredibly prolific work on Sgt. Rock, the Losers and, inexplicably, Girls' Love Stories--apparently decided that tanks that weren't haunted by the ghosts of Confederate generals just weren't worth reading.
Here's how it went down, according to 1985's Who's Who Volume X. During World War II, the ghost of Atilla the Hun (?!) assigns James Ewell Brown Stuart, a Confederate cavalry commander who was known for sporting a peacock feather in his hat and using "audacious tactics" in the Civil War, to protect a tank crew headed up by his namesake and possible descendant, Sgt. Jeb Stuart. General Stuart reluctantly agrees, but only after Jeb--the only one of the crew who can see the General's ghost--agrees to fly the Confederate Battle Flag as they take on the Nazis.
The irony is astounding.
There's no getting around the fact that the idea is crazy. It's a Haunted Tank for crying out loud. And the best part is, Jeb doesn't keep the fact that he's talking to the ghost of a Civil War cavalry general a secret at all, which is probably a major source of resentment for Corporal Gus Gray, the tank's loader. Not a lot of black guys out there have to contend with a boss who constantly confers with their pro-slavery imaginary friend, but I've yet to find an issue where Gus brings it up. I guess the fact that J.E.B. Stuart had to haunt a Sherman tank, named after the famous Union general who burned Atlanta, sort of made up for it.
I'm not the only fan of the Haunted Tank out there, either. Kurt Busiek even went so far as to introduce an all-new Haunted Tank in his short-lived Power Company series. This time around, it was a sophisitcated hover-tank prototype developed by STAR Labs, which played host to the spirit of Jeb Stuart and was piloted by his granddaughter, Jen. For some reason, there has yet to be an ongoing.
Really though, how could you not like the Haunted Tank? It's a tank haunted by a ghost that fights dinosaurs.
The tank fights dinosaurs, I mean. The ghost just helps. Like all of his war comic covers, the Joe Kubert Haunted Tank pieces make it look like the most awesome thing ever. My personal favorites? This one comes close...
...since it has a fully-manned tank with a parachute taking on a fighter jet in mid-air. That, my friends, is easily one of the top ten most awesome sentences ever constructed. But the all-time champion Haunted Tank moment has to go to an issue that I picked up for myself last week, which proves that any vehicle with a Confederate Flag on it will make high-speed jumps over other vehicles at any time, for any reason:
You can't really tell from the scan, but the Nazi's eyes are HUGE with the realization that the Haunted Tank is coming down on him like a thunderbolt from the hand of God. All it needs is a horn that plays Dixie.
Truly, they were the Greatest Generation.