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Comic Book / Hunter's Hellcats

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Hunter's Hellcats is a feature that ran in Our Fighting Forces #106 to #123 from DC Comics. It was published between 1967 and 1970.

At the outbreak of World War II, homicide detective Ben Hunter was drafted and sent overseas. Promoted to Lieutenant, he was asked to oversee a special commando force comprised entirely of criminals culled from the Army stockade. These hardcases at first refused his authority until his fists earned their respect. Hunter's efforts galvanized the men, turning them into a hard fighting team that always returned unscathed from their missions to both the European and Pacific Theaters of Operation.

The Hellcat's were comprised of Brute, Swinger, Snake Oil, Juggler, Light Fingers, Brains, Cracker, Hard Head, Long Shot and Zig Zag. Hunter also later recruited a woman known as Heller.

Hunter himself survived the war and was promoted to Colonel, and has made occasional later appearances in The DCU. He was eventually turned into a Cyborg and became leader of the Creature Commandos.

Tropes used Hunter's Hellcats include:

  • Ace Pilot: Snake Oil worked for a time as a barnstormer in carnivals before the war. He is in charge of flying the planes the Hellcats frequently steal when escaping enemy territory.
  • Action Girl: Heller is at least as dangerous as any of the male Hellcats.
  • Always Know a Pilot: Several stories into the run, it is suddenly established that Snake Oil—the team's Con Man—worked for a time as a barnstormer before the war. (A later story says that he used to ferry stolen planes, which is probably more believable, but there is no reason he could not have done both.) Following this, anytime the team he needs a pilot, he is it.
  • Appropriated Appellation: The Hellcats get their nickname from a comment made by a guard as Lt. Hunter is leading his new recruits out of the stockade:
    Guard: Don't turn your back on 'em, sir! Those hellcats are the dirtiest lot we've ever had!
    Hunter: Hellcats, huh? Maybe the Japs will find that out, too!
  • Badass Driver: In the early stories, Zig Zag was the team's expert driver: displaying the ability to remain calm and in the control while under enemy fire. In later stories (after Zig Zag vanished), Juggler usually acted as the team's driver, but he seldom had to demonstrate the same badass capabilities behind the wheel as Zig Zag.
  • Bank Robbery: In Our Fighting Forces #112, the Hellcats break into a Nazi-controlled bank to liberate a large amount of cash intended for the Free French Forces.
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: In Our Fighting Forces #117, the Hellcats battle a group of Nazi Super Soldiers specially conditioned to function in extremely cold temperatures. The Hellcats start a fire and battle them amid the flames to even the odds.
  • The Big Guy: Brute is a hulking, well, brute of a man with a short fuse whose typical reaction to any problem is to attempt to smash it with his bare hands.
  • Boxed Crook: All of the Hellcats were recruited from the stockade.
  • The Charmer: Snake Oil is a ladies man who is constantly flirting with the beautiful women the Hellcats inexplicably encounter on their missions.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Once the feature settled on the main criminal characters of Brute, Swinger, Snake Oil and Juggler, the other Hellcats just kind of disappeared, apart from the occasional Red Shirt. Sometimes unnamed Hellcats would appear, usually brawling with the main characters, so one possibility is that these are the named characters from the early stories.
  • Circus Episode: In Our Fighting Forces #109, the Hellcats join a travelling circus in order to get close to Nazi base in France. Their final battle against the Nazis takes place in the centre ring of the circus.
  • Combat Parkour: Swinger is a cat burglar who incorporates a lot of acrobatics into his combat.
  • Cunning Linguist: Snake Oil speaks eight languages, and can speak Japanese well enough to pass as a native speaker (at least briefly).
  • Defector from Decadence: In Our Fighting Forces #119, the Hellcats are parachuted into Berlin to extract a Nazi general and his daughter who wish to defect: the general feeling that he can longer stomach the actions of the Nazi high command.
  • Demolitions Expert: Juggler is a safecracker and the team's expert with explosives.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: In Our Fighting Forces #119, the Hellcats dress in German uniforms before parachuting into Berlin to rescue a defecting general and his daughter.
  • Duel to the Death: In Our Fighting Forces #116, Lt. Hunter is forced to fight a duel to death with scimitars against an Afrika Korps captain by a sheik for control of the strategic oasis both sides require.
  • During the War
  • Fake Defector: Heller does this in her first appearance. When a mission goes awry and the Hellcats are captured by the Nazis, Heller announces that she abandoning them and starts cosying up to the local Nazi bigwig. Although the Hellcats believe she really has jumped ship, her deception only lasts long enough for her to judo toss the head Nazi into the soldiers guarding the Hellcats, giving them an opportunity to escape.
  • False Flag Operation: In Our Fighting Forces #116, the Nazis stage Suicide Attacks on French trains, and then claim the resulting destruction is the result of Allied bombing raids.
  • Fiery Redhead: The redheaded Heller is famous for her fiery temper. Her need for vengeance drove her to join the WACs in an attempt to find the man who killed her father, despite the fact that he could be anywhere in the US theatre of operation, and her explosive temper landed her in the guardhouse for assaulting a superior officer, which is where Ben Hunter recruited her for the Hellcats.
  • The Gambling Addict: Long Shot is a compulsive gambler who will bet on anything, even in the heat of combat.
  • Give Me Back My Wallet: Before they depart on their first mission, Ben Hunter shakes hands with each of the Boxed Crooks under his command. Resident pickpocket Light Fingers attempts to lift his wristwatch, but is grabbed by Hunter.
    Hunter: Losing your touch, Light Fingers? Anyone could feel you fumble for my ticker!
    Light Fingers: Just rusty, lieutenant! I'll begin practicin' again!
  • Gladiator Games: In Our Fighting Forces #120, the Nazis have reinstated gladiator games at the Coliseum as a means of executing captured Italian partisans.
  • Hair-Trigger Avalanche:
    • In Our Fighting Forces #110, a Trigger-Happy Nazi general brings an avalanche down on his head when he sees Hunter about to escape through the far end of a snow covered valley and draws his Luger and fires: forgetting that the reason why they hadn't shot earlier was that the snow above them was unstable.
    • In Our Fighting Forces #117, the Hellcats trigger an avalanche by firing their machine guns into a ledge of snow above a group of Nazi Super Soldiers.
  • Hustler: Snake Oil is a Con Man who works without partners, so it seems safe to assume he was a Hustler before the war.
  • Interesting Situation Duel: In Our Fighting Forces #115, a desert sheikh forces Hunter and a German captain to Duel to the Death for control of a strategically important oasis. Hunter and his opponent start the duel buried up to their waists in the sand, with their swords placed between. They have to start the duel by digging themselves free and grabbing a sword.
  • Involuntary Suicide Mechanism: In Our Fighting Forces #122, the Hellcats are sent to undertake a mission on Crete. Before they leave, they are each fed a suicide pill that will kill them in 24 hours. If they succeed, they will be given the antidote at the extraction point. If they fail, the poison will kill them before the Nazis can torture them for information.
  • Known Only by Their Nickname: All of the Hellcats except for Ben Hunter, and Heller (who is known only by her surname).
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Cracker is the one most likely to jeopardize the mission by disobeying orders and doing whatever the hell he wants, such as firing at a Japanese plane and giving away their position.
  • New Old Flame: In Our Fighting Forces #111, Hunter discovers that La Résistance leader codenamed 'Alouette' the Hellcats are being sent to rescue is his old college sweetheart.
  • No Full Name Given: It is never established what Heller's first name is, and no one ever refers to her as anything other than Heller.
  • Pineapple Surprise: In Our Fighting Forces #107, pickpocket Light Fingers does: hiding and pulling the pin from from a grenade on one of the Japanese patrol which is pursuing them.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking: Lt. Hunter maintains his authority by being able to outfight all of the Boxed Crooks under his command, and breaking heads when he has to. This includes Brute, The Big Guy of The Squad.
  • La Résistance: Many of the Hellcats' missions involved them providing assistance to resistance groups in German-occupied countries.
  • Red Shirt: The series would occasionally feature additional, previously unseen, members of the squad who would die during the opening scenes to show how dangerous the current mission was.
  • Rising Water, Rising Tension: In Our Fighting Forces #119, the Hellcats attempt to escape from Berlin through the subways. The Nazis attempt to drown them by flooding the tunnels.
  • Shoe Phone: In Our Fighting Forces #122, the Hellcats are equipped with high-powered explosives disguised as buttons on their uniforms. They use these to blow their way out of the Labyrinth.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Heller is the only female in the Hellcats; although having even one female in a WWII combat unit is highly unusual.
  • Southern-Fried Private: Cracker is from somewhere in The Savage South (probably Appalachia). He is constantly questioning Hunter's orders, grumbling about his duties, and talking about his feuding cousins.
  • The Squad
  • The Squadette: Heller, the sole female member of the Hellcats. Gets a pass on the realism as the Hellcats are a special ops unit of Boxed Crooks the brass regards as Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder. As such, Lt. Hunter is granted leeway on how he recruits for the unit. Heller was originally recruited for a mission that specifically required a female, and proved so useful he decided to keep her on.
  • Storming the Beaches: In Our Fighting Forces #120, the Hellcats make an amphibious landing on an Italian beach while under fire from German aircraft.
  • Strapped to a Rocket: In Our Fighting Forces #120, the Hellcats have to rescue a group of captured Italian partisans whom the Nazis have chained to missile that is about to launch.
  • Suicide Attack: In Our Fighting Forces #116, the Nazis recruit a band of Middle Eastern fanatics who stage suicide bomb attacks on French trains. The Nazis then claims these explosions were the result of Allied bombing raids as part of a False Flag Operation.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Brains wears his tinted shades at all times, even at night.
  • Super-Soldier: In Our Fighting Forces #117, the Hellcats are sent to the Alps to disrupt the development of a new Nazi secret weapon. The 'weapon' turns out to be a unit of hulking super soldiers specially conditioned to function at extremely low temperatures.
  • Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder: The basic premise of the series. The Hellcats were a group of convicted felons sent on dangerous missions behind enemy lines during WWII. High Command considered them expendable.
  • Throw Down the Bomblet: Juggler, The Squad's Demolitions Expert, would usually enter combat by hurling a volley of grenades at the enemy as he charged.
  • Train Job: In Our Fighting Forces #111, the Hellcats have to hijack a train that is being to used to transport a captured La Résistance leader.
  • Trojan Horse: In Our Fighting Forces #110, the Hellcats are sent out into the English Channel is fishing boat with secret double hull which is packed full of high explosive. Their mission is get themselves capture so that they and the boat will be taken back to the German submarine pens. Once there, Hunter will activate the timer and the Hellcats have two hours to find a way out before the boat explodes and takes down the otherwise impenetrable sub pens.
  • Trojan Prisoner: In their first mission, the Hellcats infiltrate a Japanese base with Hunter and Snake Oil driving a captured tank and marching the rest of the Hellcats ahead of them as captured spies.
  • Turbine Blender: In Our Fighting Forces #108, a Nazi major, enraged at the Hellcats for having blown up the submarine pens he was in command of, attempts to tackle Lt. Hunter before he can reach the plane that has just landed to extract the team. Hunter ducks and the major flies over the top of him and straight into the plane's props.