My brother Ken was still picking up the occasional war comic, and I have a memory of this one coming home from the supermarket one day. DC’s Dollar Comics initiative did make inroads into my local supermarket, at least for a while, so on that level it was a success. Even as a kid, I felt like I should love the format–but most of the titles that were released in it, at least the ones placed in it regularly, were all a bit lackluster. But, man, a Justice League Dollar Comic would have been awesome. Never quite got one, though. It looks like some cover copy was left off this cover at the printer in the upper left by that big 3–clearly must have been touting the fact that the issue contained 3 Haunted Tank adventures.
The one ting this format did give you was a lot of bang for your buck (even if a lot of it was more like a damp squib.) The book opens with a new story featuring its regular headliner, the Haunted Tank. It’s a story that hasn’t really aged well, in which Jeb Stuart and his men team up with African natives to take on a Nazi tank brigade. Writer Bob Kanigher tries to make the tribesmen less offensive by giving them all college degrees from ivy league schools, but that doesn’t change the fact that they show up to fight the Nazis in full beaded headdresses and bare chests, carrying spears. Give him credit for trying, but it’s all a bit uneasy.
Next up is an OSS story about an attempt to abduct a high-ranking American General and how the OSS foil the attempt by making use of a double for the General. There’s a bunch more specifics to the story–it’s relatively long despite its simple premise–but nothing particularly noteworthy. Just another story, competently crafted and enjoyable for a few moments.
Next up is the feature Women At War focusing on Joan Davis, who dreams of being a modern day Joan of Arc. But Davis is a terrible soldier–clumsy, uncoordinated, ill-equipped. All she’s got is some fighting spirit and the will to succeed, and that doesn’t amount to much because she’s just a girl. Once posted in France, she and her soldier boyfriend happen across a Nazi scouting party–and again, Davis is pretty useless, her boyfriend getting wounded. But as she’s captured, she freaks out, clawing wildly at a German soldier and accidentally pulling the pin on the grenade at his belt. This causes not only the destruction of the Nazi company but also that of the wall they were in front of, revealing purloined paintings that the squad had been sent to retrieve. Again here, not really a story tat stands the test of time very well.
This is followed up by another adventure of the Haunted Tank. The Tank stories are really the best things in the issue, for all that they’re not all that wonderful. But they at least don’t feel like filler, as most everything else does. Here, Jeb falls for a secret resistance fighter that he saves, but when her fiance turns up still alive, he’s profoundly depressed. In typical Kanigher tradition, that depression puts the Haunted Tank at risk a few times, as Jeb can’t get his head out of the clouds–but in the end, his connection with te girl allows the Tank to destroy a concealed enemy radar tower that’s been tracking the Allies’ flying forts and causing them to be shot down. Everybody goes back to the war happy.
Next is another OSS adventure–which makes me think that this was perhaps the contents intended for two or three regular-sized issues stitched together and buoyed by filler features at the last minute, rather than stories that had been intended for the Dollar Comics format. This one’s a weird entry, ultimately about a carrier pigeon that brings down enemy planes and causes the destruction of an enemy stronghold, getting wounded in the process.
Next came a story of the Rangers, which again felt like miscellaneous filler, though it was a good story. Ranger Mickey Asher wants to be an officer, but he can’t pass the qualifications, despite his obsession. but out on a mission, Mickey’s Lieutenant is targeted and killed by the enemy, and Mickey snatches up his helmet with its Lieutenant’s bar and leads his unit successfully through the attack. Not realizing tat e’s just a poser, one of the men calls him Lieutenant, and his heart is filled with pride, certain that this will earn him a battlefield commission. But then he’s shot and killed by a sniper–officers were particularly targeted by the enemy, which is why they’d often take off their insignia when out in the field.
And finally, the issue closes out with one last Haunted Tank story. In this one, Jeb and the Tank are ordered to protect a squad of Combat Engineers who are building a vital bridge needed to cross into enemy territory. As you’d expect, enemy forces attack a couple of times, and Jeb and the Tank’s crew have to outfox and outfight them in order to protect the bridge, see it to completion and ten guard it until the battalion comes to cross it. And there’s no cover, so the engineers in particular are exposed and vulnerable.
This issue also includes one of the earliest SUPERMAN MOVIE REPORTS detailing the production of the upcoming and long-awaited Superman film. The picture poorly reproduced at the top of the page may very well have been my first glimpse of Christopher Reeve in the roll–information about upcoming film projects was a lot harder to come by in those days. I still wasn’t much of a filmgoer yet in general–much of the cinema of the 1970s didn’t really appeal to me as a kid. So I wasn’t particularly following the development of the Superman film avidly or anything.