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Comic Book / Unknown Soldier

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"One guy can affect the outcome of a whole war! One guy in the right place... at the right time..."
Harry, brother of the Unknown Soldier

The Unknown Soldier is a DC Comics war hero created by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert and borrows the name from the various Tombs of the Unknown Soldier in the world. Originally a World War II hero, the character debuted in Our Army at War #168 (June, 1966), featuring Sgt. Rock. Figuring the character to be interesting enough, DC featured him in Star Spangled War Stories starting from issue #151 (June-July, 1970). Once the character had begun featuring exclusively in the comic, it was later renamed to Unknown Soldier and continued for 64 more issues, ending in October, 1982. The character has also made appearances in more modern DC Universe titles.

Since then, there have been a few more limited series and minis, including one in 1988 by Jim Owsley (aka Christopher Priest) and Phil Gascoine, which was popular with fans, though the characterization differed and may not actually be about the same character who fought in WWII. In 1997, a mini written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Kilian Plunkett was released and portrayed a Darker and Edgier version of the character. It was released by Vertigo Comics and focused on a CIA agent trying to uncover the details about the Unknown Soldier.

In 2008, another series titled Unknown Soldier was released by Vertigo Comics. It features another character taking up the mantle of the Unknown Soldier. It was written by Joshua Dysart, with Alberto Ponticelli as artist. It was nominated for an Eisner Award in 2009 for Best New Series. Unlike his predecessor, the character has a known real name, Dr. Moses Lwanga. The series features a hero from Uganda who moved to the States with his family when he was young, before eventually returning to help the people of his land.

In 2012, G.I. Combat vol 3 introduced the New 52 version of the Unknown Soldier in a back up strip written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with art by Dan Panosian. This version is initially introduced as an anonymous US soldier in present-day Afghanistan, before revealing that there are Unknown Soldiers dating back to Ancient Rome. Following the cancellation of G.I. Combat, the Soldier joined the Suicide Squad.

Not to be confused with the Finnish war novel The Unknown Soldier or the films based on it.

Unknown Soldier provides examples of:

  • Badass Normal: Most incarnations of the character has nothing supernatural about him.
  • Bandaged Face: All incarnations.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Dr. Moses Lwanga. He was born in Uganda but moved to the U.S. with his parents at a young age and attended Harvard. When speaking, he sounds fully American.
  • Captain Patriotic: In the original comics, at least.
  • Child Soldiers: The second Unknown Soldier has to constantly fight (and kill) child soldiers under the control of the Lord's Resistance Army.
  • Darker and Edgier: Both the series that followed the original were this. The original itself was a lot darker than other WWII heroes such as Sgt. Rock.
  • Downer Ending: Dysart's Vertigo series. Lwanga is killed by the Lord's Resistance Army, Joseph Kony continues his reign of terror and Uganda remains an unstable nation.
  • Dying Dream: Lwanga has one after infiltrating Joseph Kony's camp and getting shot by a child soldier. In it, he survives getting shot at point blank range, charges into Kony's tent and brutally kills him. The Lord's Resistance Army all drop their weapons and Sera, Lwanga's wife, appears out of nowhere to tell him that his actions have bettered the world.
  • Fictionalized Death Account: In #268, the Soldier infiltrates Adolf Hitler's bunker, killing him and assuming the dictator's identity to call off the deployment of a secret weapon. He then makes Hitler's death look like a suicide so people will assume Hitler took the coward's way out.
  • Flashback Nightmare: Lwanga constantly has nightmares about his killing.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Dr. Moses Lwanga. Introduced as a highly educated doctor and humanitarian but winds up waging a one-man war on the Lord's Resistance Army.
  • Immortality: The 1988 series featured an Unknown Soldier who was pretty much immortal, which is one of the reasons it's generally not considered canon.
  • Hope Spot: Something of a minor one, but in Dysart's Vertigo series, the very last image is of a child soldier wrapping his face in bandages like the Unknown Soldier. Said child soldier is actually preparing to fight against the Lord's Resistance Army despite being outgunned. This scene may seem tragic, but it also serves as a reminder that there are people in war-torn nations fighting for positive change.
  • The Infiltration: Where the whole Master of Disguise thing comes into play
  • Latex Perfection: He uses latex masks to assume identities, but using them for too long causes his face to itch.
  • Master of Disguise: The original used to use latex masks to assume the identity of other men.
  • Moral Myopia: In the 1997 miniseries, the Unknown Soldier presents an array of atrocities as both moral and necessary, likening anyone who opposes American interests as being akin to Nazi death camp officers. The Unknown Soldier seems aware on some level of his own blatant hypocrisy, although that may only be because of the revelation of America cutting a deal with the Nazis to save Hitler's life. He refuses to give an inch, but eventually becomes consumed by extreme self-loathing.
    • Joshua Dysart's take on the original Unknown Soldier subverts this, following a near death experience, as he takes his weaponized successor and offers him the choice to turn him into a peacemaker rather than a godlike killer.
  • Nightmare Face: Under all those bandages is one horribly disfigured mug.
  • Old Soldier: Garth Ennis's miniseries depicts the Unknown Soldier as a WW2 veteran who continued fighting for his country in military conflicts right up to then-present day of 1997.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: The Unknown Soldier pulls the pin from a grenade with his teeth in a hallucination/flashback to Vietnam in G.I. Combat #0.
  • Secret Identity: The Unknown Soldier presents a unique example of this trope since his identity is a mystery to not only the characters in universe, but to us, the readers, as well.
  • Tragic Dream: Lwanga's desire to hunt down and kill Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army. While it seems feasible given Lwanga's extensive combat skills, he is gunned down by a child soldier when trying to infiltrate his camp.