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->''"When this conflict began, the Kaiser could not have envisioned a landscape so barren and devoid of life. A sea of mud that swallows the blood spilled across it. Am I simply a tool of war adding to the carnage? Am I here to kill -- or protect those at home?"''
-->-- '''Hans von Hammer'''

'''''Enemy Ace''''' is a Creator/DCComics UsefulNotes/WorldWarI feature about the fictional German [[AcePilot ace]] Hans Von Hammer, the "Hammer of Hell".

Created by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert in 1965, it was inspired by tales of Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron. The character first appeared in ''Our Army at War'' #151 (February, 1965). The feature was groundbreaking in its portrayal of an "enemy" soldier as the sympathetic protagonist of a war comic. The stories typically drew a contrast between Von Hammer, a gentleman and "knight of the sky" and the horrors of a war that increasingly had no place for such chivalry.

Viewed as a cold-blooded and heartless killer even by his own men, Von Hammer often revealed his human side, brooding to himself or to a Black Forest wolf he often encountered on private walks, and regarded as a kindred spirit.

The focus of the stories is his aerial battles and internal brooding. The non-flight scenes tended to a precise formula in the middle of the story, usually including: a panel of Hammer walking away from his plane, as his fellow pilots mutter about the "killing machine"; a panel of Hammer brooding in his quarters, as his orderly natters in admiration; a few panels in which he visits his only friend, the wolf, in the Black Forest. Then he'd return to his plane and another aerial battle.

Later stories sometimes broke with formula by introducing colorful "costumed" Allied aces as adversaries, including The One-Eyed Cat, The Hangman (his only recurring opponent), The Harpy, The Skull Men and St. George, a British ace who actually wore a suit of armor in flight.

Von Hammer lost his lead feature slot in ''Star-Spangled War Stories'' in the early [[TheSeventies 1970s]], eventually being replaced by ''ComicBook/UnknownSoldier'', though occasionally reappearing throughout the decade. When the feature was briefly revived in the [[TheEighties 1980s]] as a backup, it had something of a Literature/JamesBond flavor, with adventures involving spies, [[FemmeFatale Femmes Fatales]], impersonators, etc.

Von Hammer's legacy was featured in the Franchise/{{Batman}} story, "Ghost of the Killer Skies"[[note]]''Detective Comics'' #404 (October, 1970)[[/note]]. When sabotage and murder occur on the set of a movie (produced by Bruce Wayne) about Von Hammer's career, Batman investigates. Von Hammer himself does not appear[[spoiler:... or does he?]].

In later years, Von Hammer would occasionally turn up here and there, including at least one TimeTravel adventure in which he met the Franchise/JusticeLeagueOfAmerica. Other stories showed that Von Hammer survived the war. In the pulp-flavored 1920s-set ''Guns of the Dragon'' miniseries, von Hammer teamed up with an odd assortment of DC characters to fight the immortal VandalSavage. In GarthEnnis' 2001 ''Enemy Ace: War In Heaven'', we see von Hammer in an even more morally conflicted state, as he serves in the Luftwaffe during UsefulNotes/WorldWarII. And the 1989 graphic novel ''Enemy Ace: War Idyll'' shows von Hammer dying in 1969, after a final interview with an American [[UsefulNotes/TheVietnamWar Vietnam veteran]].

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!!''Enemy Ace'' provides examples of the following tropes:

* AcePilot: Von Hammer, of course, and many of his Allied adversaries.
* AntiVillain: Von Hammer, and a few others.
* ArchEnemy: The Hangman
* ArtifactTitle: This was how a lot of readers in the 1960s perceived the comics Von Hammer appeared in, such as ''Our Army at War'' and ''Star-Spangled War Stories'', considering that Von Hammer was neither part of "our" army nor an American.
* BlueBlood: Prussian nobleman von Hammer.
* ByronicHero: Von Hammer, fits the archetype rather closely, as a charismatic nobleman who hates war, but is very good at it, his ideals often at odds with those of his country (true when fighting for UsefulNotes/ImperialGermany in World War I, and even more so in ''War in Heaven'', where he's fighting for UsefulNotes/NaziGermany). And he's always ''extremely'' broody.
* CanineCompanion: Von Hammer believes the lone black wolf who accompanies him in the woods is the only one who truly understands him.
* CompletelyDifferentTitle: For the first Spanish translation, done by Toutain in the '80s: obviously thinking that the protagonist wasn't transparent enough as a Red Baron Expy, they actually titled the album [[http://pictures.todocoleccion.net/fot/c77/2164830.jpg El Barón Rojo]]. Note that the character's name was ''not'' changed from "von Hammer" to "von Richtofen"; just the title.
* CreateYourOwnVillain: Subverted. It is unclear how much of a role that Von Hammer played in disfiguring Count Andre Sevigne (the Hangman)'s face. In their first fight, Hammer blows up a balloon base that apparently kills the Hangman. The resulting explosion was so great that the Hangman could not have escaped without being burned. Denise, Andre's sister, also directly says on one cover that Von Hammer was responsible. However, she also says that his disfigurement forced him to wear the hood over his face and this led to the Hangman name and gimmick, but he was already wearing the hood and using the name and gimmick before the explosion. So was it the result of an undocumented battle between Von Hammer and Andre? Or was it an unrelated incident involving some other enemy pilot?
* DefectorFromDecadence: Von Hammer becomes this at the end of ''War of Heaven''. When he discovers the truth about the death camps, he immediately leads his men in surrendering to the Allies, although he does destroy the prototype jets first. See MyCountryRightOrWrong below for more details.
* EnemyMine: He teams up with Batman in his appearance on ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheBraveAndTheBold'' due to the fact that the aliens (assisting his own side) are using a dishonorable weapon and shouldn't be there.
* {{Expy}}: Von Hammer, of Manfred von Richthofen.
* GeneralRipper: Most of Von Hammer's superior officers.
* GoodScarsEvilScars: Von Hammer and the Hangman.
* TheGunfighterWannabe: The pilot of the rocket-propelled SuperPrototype (see below) somehow thought murdering fellow officer von Hammer with live ammo in a supposed field test war game was a fine way to make a name for himself as Germany's top ace. It worked out about as well for him as you'd expect.
* HeroAntagonist: While von Hammer is a sympathetic character, most Western readers would also regard his British, French, and American adversaries as "the good guys."
* IAmNotShazam: He is often erroneously called "Enemy Ace" by other characters during time-travelling guest appearances. His actual InUniverse moniker was "The Hammer of Hell". Downplayed in that he is ''an'' enemy ace to the Allies.
* InsultToRocks: This exchange from ''War in Heaven'':
-->'''[[ThoseWackyNazis Oberst Lieutenant Engels]]:''' If it became known that you compared UsefulNotes/AdolfHitler to an ''ape''--\\
'''Hans von Hammer:''' No chimpanzee would ever speak to me again, I know.
* KnightInSourArmor: Von Hammer
* LargeHam: St. George
* LittlestCancerPatient: Von Hammer does his best not to disappoint young fans, especially those less financially fortunate or dying.
* MyCountryRightOrWrong: Von Hammer lives by this precept as a loyal soldier of Germany, no matter how much his superiors or his government disgusts him, when he serves in the German Air Force in UsefulNotes/WorldWarII. However, the instant he discovers the Holocaust's death camps in the closing days of the war, he abandons this trope and leads a mutiny. But even after that, he's not a ''total'' rebel. His last official act before surrendering is to destroy his unit's advanced Me 262 jet aircraft, preventing them from falling into Allied hands.
* NiceHat: Von Hammer wears distinctive headgear in flight, particularly his "horned" goggles. (In early appearances, they're normal goggles, but this changed quickly.)
* NoDialogueEpisode: One of the greatest ''Ace'' tales, "Silent Night", was published in a ChristmasSpecial in 1988. It has no dialogue, sound effects, or captions.
* OfficerAndAGentleman: Von Hammer, but when he discovers his government's supreme atrocity in World War II, he's had more than enough.
* PhraseCatcher: Behind his back, when they don't think he can hear, everyone at the airbase calls him a "killing machine". He hears them perfectly well, and it weighs on him heavily.
* TheQueensLatin: GarthEnnis wrote the German characters in ''War in Heaven'' with ''British'' accents and dialects that roughly correspond to their social class.
* RedBaron: "The Hammer of Hell" might be an even more badass nickname than "The Red Baron".
* {{Retcon}}: In an issue of ''ComicBook/SwampThing'' released in TheNineties, he was revealed to be a cousin of Swamp Thing's ArchEnemy, Anton Arcane.
* RoaringRampageOfRevenge: Von Hammer's reaction to losing his puppy.
* {{Subtext}}: Hammer often muses about how "The killing skies have no friends," or "The killing skies take no prisoners." Usually, "the killing skies" is code for Hammer himself.
* SuperPrototype: Von Hammer flies against a rocket-propelled Spad. He recognizes it as the future of aviation, but his short-sighted superiors lack his foresight.
* TookALevelInBadAss: Denise, the Hangman's sister, who becomes an aviatrix called The Harpy overnight.
* TooDumbToLive: St. George, a costumed British ace who thinks he's the reincarnation of St. George, and wears medieval armor even in his plane.
* TranslationConvention: ''War in Heaven'' uses an unusual variant. Not only is all the German characters' dialogue is written in English, but it's also translated into ''specific'' dialects that a person of the same rank and social class might have in England.
* VillainProtagonist: Arguably, though more of an AntiVillain Protagonist.
* WarIsHell: Even in the air.
* WorthyOpponent: The feature's premise is basically "WorthyOpponent as protagonist." Also what Von Hammer considers every enemy he fights, with few exceptions.

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