One of my childhood obsessions (yeah you had them too) was collecting WW2 comic books – specifically DC’s “Sgt. Rock” and “GI Combat.” The scripting of Robert Kanigher and the artwork of Joe Kubert captivated me as a kid, and both men have a lot to do with me pursuing a career as both an Art Director and a writer. I still have a portion of my collection, although I could kick myself for never keeping the entire lot.
“GI Combat” also had a Civil War crossover appeal for me as the comic’s main storyline “The Haunted Tank” was mentored by none other than General J.E.B. Stuart. The feature centers on the ghost of 19th-century Confederate, who is sent by the spirit of Alexander the Great to act as a guardian over his two namesakes, Lieutenant Jeb Stuart, and the Light Tank M3 Stuart that Jeb commands. The ghost of General Stuart does not initially care for his assignment, but is impressed with the fighting spirit of Jeb and his crew. The ghost is further honored when Jeb flies the Confederate flag rather than a Union banner on his "haunted" tank.
Jeb, however, is the only one who can see or hear the General. His crew thinks he is crazy, but continue to follow his leadership as he has solid tactical expertise (brought about through his consultations with the General, who usually gives him cryptic hints of future events) and rarely fails in his missions or loses crewmembers in the line of duty. An M4 Sherman that sees them through to the end of the war eventually replaces the M3 Stuart tank. Despite a story that involves the ghost of General William T. Sherman being assigned to the tank once the crew switches to the Sherman, General Stuart's ghost continues to watch over the crew till war's end.
Hoakey? Yes, but very cool to a young kid like me. I sometimes wonder how “GI Combat” would go over today; a haunted tank flying the Southern Cross (on every cover), and taking orders from a dead Confederate general. Hmmm?