CAPTAIN STORMMedium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1964
Creators: Robert Kanigher (writer/editor) and Irv Novick (artist)
Please contribute to its necessary financial support.
Amazon.com or PayPal
In the early 1960s, World War II-era PT boats were as much a part of America's public consciousness as Vietnam-era swift boats were during the 2004 election, and for a similar reason — President Kennedy had commanded one. It's not surprising they turned up in the media, including comic books. Kennedy had been dead several months when DC Comics' Captain Storm, also a PT boat
commander, first appeared, but the boats were still well known, and they made a fine setting for a war story that drew prominent elements from Moby Dick.
The Captain Ahab figure was Lt. William Storm, who, on his very first outing as a PT boat commander, lost his boat, his crew and one leg. He blamed the grinning Japanese captain who presided over the slaughter, and who became his equivalent of the White Whale. But what really turned the incident from a loss to a disaster was his own idiotic bravado in refusing to allow the men to save themselves by abandoning the the boat, even after it had become ineffective in fighting the enemy and was obviously about to be destroyed.
But in comic book war stories, idiotic bravado is thought of as resolute determination. And his equally resolute determination to get a new boat with a new crew, rather than allow the bosses to shuffle him and his brand-new wooden leg off to a desk job, was characterized as a laudable ambition even if it did mean endangering more men by placing them under the command of a handicapped man with an obsession. Blame a nurse named Lea, who pulled him out of a near-suicidal funk while he was convalescing from the life-altering wound. She became the closest he had to a love interest.
Luckily for Storm, a medical officer's daughter needed to be saved from drowning right when he needed to prove himself to the officer. They fulfilled each other's needs, and Storm got his new command. The men (including the younger brother of one who had died saving Storm's life) couldn't help noticing the parallels between Ahab and their new C.O. — and considering how that story ended, weren't too hopeful about the situation. Storm's big victory in that issue was getting them to like him well enough to call him "Skipper".
All this happened in Captain Storm #1, dated June, 1964. It was the first time since The Three Mouseketeers (1956) that DC started anybody off in his own title, and the first time since The Sea Devils (1960) that they gave a noticeable launch to a new hero who didn't have super powers or some kind of sci-fi gimmick. And it was the only time ever that they introduced a new war character in the first issue of his own comic.
The writer (who also edited DC's war comics) was Robert Kanigher, whose many other creations range from The Trigger Twins to The Bouncer, and points beyond. He was known for wringing every last drop of emotion out of any given situation, so of course Storm's wooden leg and his "resolute determination" to track down and kill the grinning Japanese captain were played for all they were worth. The artist was Irv Novick, co-creator of The Shield, who was later noted for a long run on Batman.
Storm continued proving his wooden leg was as good as a natural one (better, in fact, because it could be repeatedly destroyed and replaced) and seeking his arch-enemy (who was never seen again and no doubt had forgotten all about him) for three years. After the 18th issue (April, 1967), the book was canceled. But of course, that wasn't the end of him.
In G.I. Combat #138 (November, 1969), DC introduced a new team, consisting of remnants from defunct war series. Improbably enough, this Naval officer was teamed with with a couple of Marine grunts without names, referred to only by their functions, Gunner & Sarge (who had lost their series in Our Fighting Forces to a succession of even more minor stars, finally stabilizing with Hunter's Hellcats), and aviator Johnny Cloud, Navajo Ace (who had lost his series in All-American Men of War to nothing at all). Since all had lost their series, the team was dubbed The Losers. In that issue, they were mere guest stars in the Haunted Tank story, but they got a regular series a few months later in Our Fighting Forces #123 (February, 1970).
With the rest of this group, he hung on until 1978. Also with them, he was killed off in '85, in a story set in the closing days of the war — in fact, they were killed off twice in the space of a few months, first in Crisis on Infinite Earths (where DC disposed of a lot of useless baggage like them) and later in The Losers Special (which expanded on the story). In 2003, they were killed off again. Of course, death isn't always permanent in comic books, but Captain Storm hasn't been seen since then, so this time, maybe it is.