One of the most gonzo war comics to spring from the mind of Robert Kanigher, The Haunted Tank was the cover feature in GI Combat, and starred Jeb Stuart and the crew of his M3 Stuart tank — originally loader Arch Asher, gunner Rick Rawlins and driver Slim Stryker. Oh, and the ghost of Confederate General JEB Stuart, who's haunting the tank.
You see, Alexander the Great has assigned JEB Stuart to protect his namesake descendant fighting fascism, in order to atone for supporting slavery in The American Civil War. General Stuart's ghost doesn't care for the assignment, but Jeb's comrades impress him enough that he agrees to help if Jeb flies the Confederate Flag instead of the Union one atop the tank. Of course, Jeb's the only one who can see the General, but the rest of the crew go along with him, because crazy as he appears, he's a good commander. And so, the Haunted Tank makes its way through the World War II...
The original series artist was war comics legend Russ Heath, and later stories had art by the likes of Sam Glanzman and Joe Kubert.
The Haunted Tank provides examples of:
- Affirmative-Action Legacy: There were two modern day incarnations of the Haunted Tank featuring Jeb's grandchildren. Jamal Stuart in the Vertigo Comics Haunted Tank series was black, and therefore not entirely comfortable with his M1 Abrams being haunted by a Confederate general. And Jennifer Stuart in Power Company was female, but her self-designed Cyber-Command Assault Vehicle was haunted by Jeb himself, who was in a coma.
- Alliterative Name: Almost everyone. The original crew consisted of Arch Asher, Rick Rawlins and Slim Stryker. Arch is killed and replaced by Gus Gray. The pattern was broken with the next two replacements, Bill and Eddie Craig.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Jeb Stuart seems crazy to his tank crew for his conversations with the ghost of JEB Stuart, but they still trust him as a capable tank commander.
- Cartoon Creature: The Jigsaw Tank is a rare mechanical version — a Russian T-34 hull, Christie suspension and a Russian Y2 engine.
- Dramatic Irony: African-American crewmember Gus Gray is understandably unenthusiastic about how his commander talks to the ghost of a Confederate general and flies the Confederate flag on the tank. The General himself gets a dose of this, first when the crew switch to the M4 Sherman, a tank named after the Union General who burned Atlanta.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: Some early stories called Jeb "Jeb Stuart Smith". Later stories drop the "Smith".
- Evil Counterpart: The crew meet a German tank that's haunted by Attila the Hun (get it?) in one issue.
- Guest-Star Party Member: Occasionally teamed up with Sgt Rock, and once with the Navajo Ace, Johnny Cloud.
- Haunted Technology: Obviously. It's Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Killed Off for Real: Not often, but one of the tankers died just often enough to establish anyone (except Jeb) could buy the farm.
- Mid-Season Upgrade: After Jeb's M3 Stuart is destroyed, the crew change to the "Jigsaw Tank". Later, they upgrade to an M4 Sherman.
- More Dakka: When the crew upgrade to the Jigsaw tank, and later the Sherman, because against a Tiger the Stuart's 37mm gun might as well be throwing rotten fruit.
- Politically Correct History: Avoided, as Kanigher felt quite strongly about giving his stories an anti-racism moral. The US Army was of course segregated at the time, meaning Gus Gray couldn't officially serve on the same tank crew as the others. Therefore, his tenure is part of a long Story Arc where the crew is trapped alone behind enemy lines for some time, and Gus (who was a POW they picked up en route) replaces Arch by necessity when he's killed. When they do rejoin their unit, Gus leaves again.
- The Remnant: In G.I. Combat #235's cover story, The Haunted Tank is ambushed by a German tank crew from World War I who cravenly hid out in a forest and seemingly never came out for 30 years. Their weathered faces and tattered uniforms starkly contrast their spotless tank that never saw combat. When they capture a fancy new-model American tank, the TC is sure the Kaiser will pin their medals on himself.
- Sapient Tank: Well, haunted. The actual tank doesn't seem that unusual, bar some typical comic-book improbable toughness.
- Weird Historical War: It's eventually made clear that Jeb's tank is not the only "haunted tank" out there, among other things.