What Do You Say, Jeb?

DC has started doing these big b+w collections of old comics similar to Marvel’s Essential line. I picked up the first volume of Showcase Presents the Haunted Tank over the weekend. This unusual title follows the adventures of American soldier Jeb Stuart Smith, who commands a Stuart light tank named Jeb Stuart that is haunted by the ghost of Confederate Civil War general Jeb Stuart. We can only imagine that Smith refers to his unit as “lil’ Jeb.” Anyway, the Haunted Tank has all the ridiculousness you would expect of comic war stories. At one point, for example, the tank parachutes out of a cargo plane so it can shoot down a German fighter that had been dogging it. Its 37mm cannon routinely blasts the turrets of Tiger tanks. And about every other story features one or more crew members getting knocked unconscious so the ghost of Jeb Stuart can take control of his namesake tank.

What I found most amusing about the stories is that the only German tank that ever appears is the Tiger. On the one hand, this is funny because it’s so absurd. The Tiger was, in fact, a rare tank in the German arsenal. Only 1350 were ever produced and just 130 were deployed in the West in the summer of 1944 when the Allies landed in France (the period during which the comic takes place). On the other hand, the comic (likely inadvertently) does accurately reflect the mindset of many American soldiers at the time. They were in such fear of the dreaded Tiger that other German tanks were routinely reported as Tigers so the actual number deployed was always massively overestimated. So even amid such campiness there is a bit of truth.

I’m sure the fact that only Jeb Stuart Smith can hear the ghost’s “gay, reckless laughter” has no deeper meaning…

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