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Comic Book / Sturmtruppen

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"Zis damned military service vill haff to end sometime. I've grown tired of hafing to say 'Yes, sir' to anyone with a higher ranken. I kan barely vait to return to being an anonymous civilian and being able to zay 'Yes, sir' to any of my superiors..."
Anonymous Soldier

Sturmtruppen is a popular and succesful satiric comic, written and drawn by Bonvi (real name: Franco Bonvicini). They started as four-frame comic strips back in 1968 and slowly evolved into full-sized collector books up to 1990s, gathering something like 6000 strips in total.

The comic focus on the life and misadventures of an anonymous German battalion during (supposedly) World War II, showing the daily life, problems and joys of the various, anonymous soldiers and a small cast of fixed characters. Some strips form story arcs that deals with several, hilarious events, sometimes mundane (a maniac sniper soldier, die-hard lices, an attempted "extermination" of a Jewish prisoner) sometimes crazier (a deluge that turns the trench in ponds, a Demonic Possession and a soldier who appears to be the Messiah).

The whole thing comes out as an anti-war comic and is filled with criticism against the "blind obedience to authority'', the absurdity of war and military bureaucracy (Bonvi was an anarchist and proud of it), and the implications that military and civilian aren't so different.

There are two film adaptations (one of which starring Bonvi himself) which, however, weren't well received by everyone.

Sturmtruppen contains examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: According to an opinion poll, the 50% of the soldiers believes that the Sergeant should be fried in boiling oil. The other half would rather use kerosene.
  • Afraid of Blood: Sadly enough the Medic.
  • The Alcoholic: The drunken captain (implied to be a sort of Author Avatar). To the point that when he's mortally wounded the blood from his wounds emit a strong smell of Alcohol.
  • All Germans Are Nazis: Played With. All characters are part of the German army and, as apathetic and lazy as they can be, we never get to see actual dissidents who are overtly anti-Nazi. But what makes it complicated is Nazism isn't referenced at all in the comic: no swastika is ever shown, Hitler is never mentioned, no character ever voices Nazi idealsnote . It's almost as if Sturmtruppen took place in some alternative reality where Nazis don't exist, and the German army is just under the order of a generic and depersonalised German regime.
  • And I Must Scream: The exalted Private Siegfried Von Nibelungen steps on a friendly mine during his first charge and ends up as a pathetic, limbless thing all bandaged up, with all his senses gone and unable to even call the nurses when he shit himself. This may seem a little familiar.
  • Ambiguously Human: Private Humbert, who was left forgotten for five years in a desolate outpost and now looks like a huge, hairy brute with revolting habits. His true nature is often questioned, especially when after shaving him they find out that he was made of hair.
  • Armies Are Evil: The general message, thought this army looks more goofy and stupid than evil.
  • Ass Shove: In one series of strips, the Medic has to operate a soldier who got shot in the backside, but mistakes the... natural opening for the bullet wound, and in an attempt to extract the bullet he ends up removing the poor sod's coccyx... wondering about the odd shape of the bullet.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: When we see the stableman in charge of the camels (who hasn't seen a woman in years) we see him sitting between two camels with lipstick and eyelashes. He also brings them on a date or dance with them amongst various things.
  • BFG: The Second Lieutenant volunteers for creating a new, powerful rifle for the army. He ends up creating the same rifle, but now howitzer-sized complete with wheels.
  • Black Comedy: Including an early and a bit poignant strip about the Gas chambers/showers.
  • Black Comedy Rape: When a soldier is turned into a savage brute by the Cook's latest experiment he ends up on a rampage and kidnaps Galeazzo Musolesi, and later tries to force himself on him.
  • Blob Monster: The Cook ends up turning the lunch into an amorphous, Nigh-Invulnerable monster that feeds on soldiers.
  • Boob-Based Gag: While trying to make the Sergeant look slimmer for the General's Inspection, they put him in a bustier that ends up squeezing all his fat upwards, resulting in a pair of massive, bouncing boobs that becomes the main source of humor for the following stripes as we find out that the General is also a Dirty Old Man....
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In one strip, a soldier tells his companion that he feels that soon it will be all over. When the other one asks if he means that the war is about to end, the former replies that "ze author of zis strip is running out of ideas". In another one, when two soldiers inform the Captain that the Cook asked for a firethrower because the lunch became alive and is now slithering towards the trenches, the Captain angrily tells them that if they want to work in an horror comic they should at least find a better excuse.
  • Butt-Monkey: Everyone, usually the soldiers.
  • Camera Fiend: The Ally of the Rising Sun is initially shown as the typical Japanese tourist stereotype.
  • Camp Gay: An early series of strips features a new Captain with "particular tendencies".
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The Little Prussian Vedette (a parody of a character from another Italian work).
  • Clothes Make the Superman: Played for laughs: when the old general is recovered and removes his uniform everyone treats him like an old worthless geezer. As soon as he put back that uniform he's once again feared and respected.
  • Cold Sniper: Averted, in a series of strips the resident sniper goes obsessed with gaining a high score and starts shooting on his own soldiers and officers.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Frequently used in many strips. A notable example is when the Sergeant has a soldier buried alive in an anthill for sleeping on his turn of sentinel. When the terrified soldiers begs for mercy and reminds him that he has three sons, the Sergeant angrily retorts that he doesn't have so many anthills at his disposal.
  • Creepy Centipedes: Subverted, in one strip a soldier hears something moving behind him and turns around in time to see a monstrous, black, skull-headed caterpillar. He's relieved to find out it's not the Sergeant.
  • Cyanide Pill: Played for laughs: when the "Oldest Spy in the Army" (actually Galeazzo Musolesi) starts teaching his arts he instruct his pupils to swallow a breath mint if discovered. That's why he's "The Oldest Spy in the Army".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Interestingly enough, there's no fixed snarker, and usually anyone get a chance.
  • Demonic Possession: Soldier Fritz is possessed by a demon while patrolling the postation 666 and ends up flying around, vomiting green goo and turning his head around. He's finally defeated when Musolesi crush him with a giant wooden crucifix.
  • Depth Deception: Used in a Funny Moment involving a one-inch tall palm tree.
  • Disguised in Drag: Private Otto in the Africa Korps disguise himself as a Belly Dancer for his secret mission, but this tends to backfire with predictable results. There are also many strips in which soldiers are put in drag and forced to attend parties for officers.
  • The Ditz: The Second Lieutenant, seriously bordering with Too Dumb to Live (to the points that some soldiers once wondered out loud how could he be still alive in spite of his own idiocy).
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: The Sergeant, who actually draws a perverse, sadistic pleasure from torturing newcomers and lord over the soldiers and bully them in general.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The earlier strips made much clearer the soldiers were World War II Germans, making numerous references to Nazi policies, identifying the enemy as the Americans, and even gettin a phone call from Dwight D. Eisenhower gloating he had just broken through their lines.
  • Epic Fail: This is the basis of many gags.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Invoked in a strip where a soldiers begs the Sergeant to let him do something and that he behaved very well so far. Cue to the Sergeant angrily telling him that no, scalping enemy corpses is not allowed.
  • Exact Words: In one arc, the soldiers are going around naked. Furious and perplexed, the Sergeant points out that the rules says that a soldier must have and keep his uniform in perfect order. Cue to the naked soldiers going around while holding their perfectly-neat uniforms in one hand.
  • Fat Bastard: The Sergeant. In one story arc his fatness becomes a plot point and trouble.
  • Fearless Fool: Private Siegfrid Von Nibelunghen, who's a jab at and a parody of the concept that War Is Glorious.
  • Funetik Aksent: All characters (except Galeazzo Musolesi and the Japanese "Ally from the Rising Sun") speak an improper, German-mocking language, gratuitously adding an -en desinence to most words, exchanging the Vs with Fs and exchanging Cs and Qs with Ks.
  • Gallows Humor: Literally in a series of strips.
  • General Failure: A successful military action is rarely seen or even implied.
  • General Ripper: There's not enough food for all the soldiers? Order an attack right before lunchtime!
  • The Ghost: A notable characteristic is that the so-called "enemy" is never, ever shown and only identified in passing once (Eisenhower had broken through their lines and made a phone call to gloat).
  • Giant Mook: "Gorilla" Franz, who's employed by Galeazzo Musolesi as his trusty bodyguard/minion.
  • Gratuitous German: German words are frequently tossed around together with Funetik Aksent.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Defied: the characters are hardly heroes but are still soldiers, and they know how stupid it is to not wear helmets unless they're under cover (though not as stupid as intentionally staying in the open for more than necessary). Notably, in the infamous arc where the soldiers discovered the regulations don't say they have to wear their uniforms, only keep them in perfect order they would go around completely naked except for the helmet.
  • Hidden Depths: See above in the description.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The new team of snipers. The huge glasses they're wearing should give you a clue. This is also used as a gag during the "extermination" arc.
  • Inscrutable Oriental: Parodied with the Japanese soldier, who tries to hump the crossdressing soldier spy Otto the istant he crosses his line of sight.
  • Invisibility: A story arc has the Medic obsessed over trying to make the invisibility potion, and believes to have become invisible himself after drinking a whole becher of grappa. And being a Major, he has the highest rank in the battalion and can consider himself invisible as he wishes.
  • Jerkass: Most of the cast, usually the Sergeant and Musolesi.
  • The Jinx: The infamous and dreaded soldier "Jonah" Franz.
  • Just a Stupid Accent: One of the main characteristic of this comic is that anyone (except the female characters, Galeazzo Musolesi who's Italian and the Japanese soldier) speaks in a mocking German-sounding Italian (usually adding -en at the end of the words).
  • Kick the Dog: The Sergeant is proud of doing this.
  • Lack of Empathy: A wounded soldier stuck into a mine field yelling in the night because of his terrible wounds? A sleeping soldier angrily tells him to be quiet, as they want to sleep, and leaves him to complain under his breath.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In a story arc the private Otto tries to be recognized as clinically insane so that he can leave the army. After being thwarted and forced to handle some highly dangerous explosive he goes insane for real and can leave the army.
  • Lean and Mean: The Captain, the Medic and all the other officers.
  • Lethal Chef: The Cook. One simple yet effective example is found in his spaghetti, which apparently can move on their own and maul soldiers.
  • Literal-Minded: As a parody of blind obedience, this is often employed as a gag at the expenses of the soldiers.
    The Sergeant: "Okay, Little Prussian Outlook, you now stand on ze tree with binoculars in one hand and ze rifle in ze other. You can start your watch."
    Little Prussian Outlook (falls from the tree headfirst) "I insist in saying that something's wrong with this command".
  • Lovable Coward: The Proud Ally Galeazzo Musolesi of San Giovanni in Persiceto, a parody of fascists, will shit himself, duck for cover, tremble in fear and faint at the minimum danger.
  • Mad Scientist: The Medic believes to have discovered the Invisibility Elixir without going mad. Is actually the other way around.
  • Made of Iron: Private Humbert, who can actually gulp down the Cook's cuisine without ill effect and was totally unharmed after crossing a demonic radioactive cloud.
  • Mooks: The various soldiers.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Private Tilda and also the Battalion's Bitch. Furthermore Bonvi wasn't too shy about putting around attractive, often naked hotties here and there.
  • Naked People Are Funny:
    • When the Medic believes to have become invisible, he start going around all naked, much to the embarrassment of the battalion.
    • Also, in one arc a soldier discovered that the regulations don't actually say you have to wear your uniform, only that it must be in perfect order. Cue the entire battalion starting to go around naked and keeping their uniforms in perfect order in their closets.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Galeazzo Musolesi is named after Mussolini and Galeazzo Ciano.
  • No Name Given: Many high-ranked officer, the Battalion's Bitch and the Jewish prisoner.
  • The Oldest Profession: The Battalion's Bitch. Her "boyfriend" Otto tries to romanticize it by giving her flowers and chocolates, but the poor sop hasn't much success.
  • One Last Smoke: Parodied when a soldier can't have cigarettes because the Colonel is trying to stop smoking, so he's given bubble gum instead.
  • One-Steve Limit: Inverted, all the soldiers have names like Otto, Franz, Fritz, Heinz. Most of the other character are nameless, though two Sergeants have been revealed to be named Herod Muller and Giuseppe (Joseph).
  • Only Sane Man: The Captain.
  • Only Six Faces: Done on purpose. All the soldiers looks the same (except for some "veterans" who have traces of beard), the Sergeant and the Cook looks like slightly bigger soldiers and the other officers are pretty much alike, except for the uniforms and the nose shape.
  • The Pig-Pen: One Sergeant can boast about having 6-7 pounds of dirt and filth on his body, forming a sort of natural armor against splinters and projectiles. Another example is how they used sandpaper and industrial acids just to wash him. And that's for the outer layers.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: In an interesting variation: "Air-Headed" Franz wields his gun with the baionet mounted, and often ends up stabbing eyes and ripping ears by accident.
  • Right Behind Me: There's one strip where the Captain calls the General (who was supposed to assist to the execution) an old moron, and the General is right behind him with an angry frown on his face.
  • Seppuku: Musolesi almost drive the Rising Sun Ally to do this. However, after the Captain talks to him, he decides that there's no need to spill his own blood... and promptly chase Musolesi sword-first.
  • Serial Escalation: Inverted in an early strip, where a Captain is about to order an attack.
    Captain: "Send in the tanks!"
    Sergeant: "All tanks destroyed."
    Captain: "Fire at will!"
    Sergeant: "Out of ammo!"
    Captain: "Bayonet charge!!"
    Sergeant: "We don't have bayonets!"
    Captain: "Sergeant, how about we challenge the enemy to a game of soccer?"
  • Shot at Dawn: There are some strips that have this outcome, plus the hilarious subplot about the Firing Squad.
  • Shown Their Work: Bonvi served in the Italian Army after World War II, and he did a good job at representing uniforms, machines and weapons.
    • At various points the Karabiner 98k are referred to as muskets (moschetti in the original Italian) rather than rifles (fucili). That's the term used by the Italian military for both carbines and submachine guns during World War II.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Galeazzo Musolesi is the straightest example, as a direct parody of fascist soldiers during World War II.
  • The Smurfette Principle: There are only four main female characters so far: the Battalion's Bitch, Sergeant Olga, Corporal Helga and Private Tilda.
  • Tanks for Nothing: Tanks are often played for laughs as they fall apart, run out of gasoline and fall into pits of various kinds. The few time they're efficient they'll end up running over their own soldiers.
  • Take That!: Against the Army and the concept of War Is Glorious and many other things. See the description above for more details.
    The Sergeant:" You're not insane, you're a moron, and morons are ze spine of ze army!"
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Galeazzo Musolesi and the Ally of the Rising Sun.
  • Toilet Humor: Whenever the latrines are involved. There's also a picture of an unfortunate soldier frozen solid as he was crapping.
  • Token Minority: The only two non German characters are the Italian Galeazzo Musolesi and a Japanese known only as "the Ally of the Rising Sun." They're also the only characters whose speeches are written through correct language instead of Funetik Aksent.
  • Valkyries: In one strip, a dying soldier proves he belongs to the "pure Aryan race" when Valkyries descend from the sky to take him away.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The Captain in charge of the "Extermination" ends up crazy because of his obsession with Exterminating the jewish prisoner.
  • Volleying Insults: The Sergeant and the Cook, and also Musolesi and the Japanese ally.
  • War Is Hell: Played straight.
  • We Have Reserves: And curiously the army never seems to exhaust soldiers, no matter how many of them died.