Showcase Presents The Losers Vol. 1

First Published: March 2012

Contents: The Losers stories from G.I. Combat #138 (October 1969), and Our Fighting Forces #123 (January-February 1970) to #150 (August-September 1974)

Key Creator Credits: Robert Kanigher, Joe Kubert, Ross Andru, John Severin, and others

Key First Appearances: Ona Tomsen

Overview: In his play The Tempest, William Shakespeare wrote, “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” That easily describes the situation for the members of the Losers – a group of soldiers that have lost their original units. These orphans come together in a special unit that gets assigned the missions that no one else in their right mind would ever volunteer for.

The Losers consist of four soldiers, all previously featured in their own stories by writer Robert Kanigher for the various DC war titles.

  • Captain Storm is the former commander of a PT boat, which was destroyed in battle and the crew lost. Storm lost his lower left leg in an earlier battle and uses a wooden leg to get around.
  • Johnny Cloud, a Navajo pilot who is the sole survivor of his squadron and appears to always fly the final flight of any plane.
  • Gunner and Sarge, a two-man team from the trenches who always appear to be the last two standing from any firefight.

The four men, originally brought together by the Haunted Tank, primarily take on missions in Europe. However, getting assigned missions in the Pacific and Africa is not out of the picture. The Losers are given assignments, and each man goes into the battle thinking that this will be their final mission. When they survive the mission, they realize that the Losers find a way to fight again another day.

As the title develops under Kanigher and artists Ross Andru and John Severin, the story starts to become an ongoing narrative from issue to issue. On one mission, it appears that Captain Storm is killed in a bomb explosion. He is soon replaced by Ona Tomsen, a female member of the Norwegian Resistance Unit who views herself as a loser, being the sole survivor of her village. Thankfully Storm returns to the team, after a brief foray as a pirate, thanks to amnesia from the explosion.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: The concept of the Losers is perhaps more important than the specific characters themselves. The concept (and the characters) are revisited quite frequently over the years, whether it is continuing their original story or assigning the concept to a new group of characters, as seen in the 2002 Vertigo series. The stories are just long enough to tell a decent tale, without getting caught up in repeating the same story formula issue after issue.

If you like this volume, try: Jack Kirby’s take on the Losers. Kanigher and Severin’s run with the Losers came to an end with Our Fighting Forces #150. Beginning with the next issue, Kirby did a 12-issue run with Captain Storm, Johnny Cloud, Sarge, and Gunner. Like so many other Kirby books in that era, the initial reaction appears to be less than positive, with long-time readers not appreciating Kirby’s approach. Over the years, fans have flocked back to this run as one of Kirby’s last great DC arcs. The entire run was reprinted in 2009 has a hardcover edition.

Showcase Presents Enemy Ace Vol. 1

showcase_presents_enemy_ace_volume_1First Published: February 2008

Contents: Enemy Ace stories from Our Army at War #151 (February 1965), #153 (April 1965), and #155 (); Showcase #57 (July/August 1965) and #58 (September/October 1965); Enemy Ace stories from Star-Spangled War Stories #138 (April/May 1968) to #145 (June/July 1969), #147 (October/November 1969) to #150 (April/May 1970); #152 (August/September 1970), #158 (August/September 1971), #181 (July/August 1974) to #183 (November/December 1974), and #200 (June/July 1976); Enemy Ace stories from Men of War #1 (August 1977) to #3 (November 1977), #8 (August 1978) to #10 (November 1978), #12 (January 1979) to #14 (March 1979), #19 (August 1979) and #20 (September 1979); Enemy Ace stories from Unknown Soldier #251 (May 1981) to #253 (July 1981), #260 (February 1982), #261 (March 1982), and #265 (July 1982) to #267 (September 1982); and the Enemy Ace story from Detective Comics #404 (October 1970)

Key Creator Credits: Joe Kubert, Robert Kanigher, Frank Thorne, Howard Chaykin, John Severin, Ed Davis, Neal Adams, and others

Key First Appearances: Baron Hans Von Hammer, Black Wolf

Overview: Flying across “no man’s land” during the height of the Great War (later renamed as World War I), Baron Hans Von Hammer leads the German forces in the air. Flying his easily-recognized crimson Fokker triplane, the “Angel of Death” fights a noble battle against his opponents in defense of Germany. This is Showcase Presents Enemy Ace.

Created by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert, Enemy Ace is a loose adaptation of the Red Baron story, who was an actual German pilot during the Great War. von Hammer comes from a noble family, complete with their own family flag. He has not friends, save for his personal servant that spends most of his time polishing the trophies earned from each of von Hammer’s kills. When he needs a break, von Hammer goes hunting in the Black Forest, where he is joined by his kindred spirit, the Black Wolf. They both hunt alone in life but appreciate each other’s company when reunited in the woods. brothers from a Kansas farm enlist in the Army at the onset of World War

In the air, von Hammer follows a strict guideline when engaging the enemy. He refuses to fire on an opponent that is out of ammo, even turning on the pilots in his own squadron if they break that rule. His ruthless reputation precedes him at all times, with his familiar plane bringing fear to those on the ground and in the air.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: The art from Joe Kubert, followed later by Howard Chaykin and John Severin, definitely make this a volume worth looking at. My problem is the formulaic stories used for the first two-thirds of this collection. These stories were written as a one-and-done, and no thought was ever given to the idea that they would later be collected into a complete collection like this. The stories are repetitive, with the nationality of the opposing pilot being the main difference from issue to issue.

Footnotes: “Ghost of the Killer Skies” from Detective Comics #404 was reprinted in Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 5.

While he is referred to as the “Angel of Death” or the “Hammer from Hell”, von Hammer is never referenced as the “Enemy Ace”. That is just the name of the feature and not his call-sign.

If you like this volume, try: Jacques Tardi’s book, It Was the War of the Trenches. Quite honestly, there are not a lot of comics based in World War I. With many of the great comic artists and writers coming of age during the World War II era, so many of the war comics are focused during the second war. But the first war is just as brutal, as epically captured in this book by Tardi. The book focuses on the struggles of the French and German forces, moving back and forth across “no man’s land” bunkered in trenches filled with sewage and rotting corpses. This is not an easy book to read, certainly not for the faint of heart. Tardi is no fan of war and points out that the only ones who want war are the military leaders and the munitions manufacturers. The soldiers in the trenches, regardless of their uniforms, do not want to be there, and will do anything (literally risking life and limb) to get out of there and return home. Enemy Ace paints a sanitized view of the war, with a certain nobility and rules to be followed when dueling in the sky. It Was the War of the Trenches shows the real view (and costs) of the war.