THE GHOST PATROLMedium: Comic books
Published by: All-American/DC Comics
First Appeared: 1942
Creators: Ted Udall and Emmanuel Demby (writers) and Frank Harry (artist)
Please contribute to its necessary financial support.
Amazon.com or PayPal
Once The Spectre pioneered the idea of a dead-but-functioning spirit as a comic book hero, the way was open to innumerable variations on the theme. The Ghost Patrol consisted of three such heroes, all of whom had the usual ghostly abilities of flying, turning invisible and walking through walls, but with the added advantage of being three
against their foes instead of just one, and (even more important) the ability to exchange witty dialog among themselves. Another variant was that instead of putting on a superhero suit like Mr. Justice, they just continued wearing their regular uniforms, like Sgt. Spook.
Their names were Fred, Pedro and Slim, formerly (until their untimely deaths) of the French Foreign Legion. They died when sent on a dishonorable mission, to bomb innocent civilians at the behest of the German occupational government that was then (1942) in control of France. Captain Buehler, the boys' commander, reasoned that surviving villagers would blame France, furthering the Nazi cause, but apparently didn't realize everyone in the world was aware who was giving the French their orders. Besides, everybody knows only someone as evil as a Nazi would deliberately bomb innocent civilians.
Henri, a mechanic, told them they shouldn't go — but the three had already decided to drop their bombs on empty desert instead, so they went anyway. Imagine their surprise when the plane blew up! Henri had booby-trapped it to save innocent lives, figuring anyone who undertook such a mission deserved to die.
Only in comic books, of course, would death not be the end of them. As The Ghost Patrol, they continued their fight against the Nazis, starting with Captain Buehler. One handy ability of theirs, which not all ghosts have, was to "pop" all or part of their bodies into the material realm, so they could deliver a punch. In this form, however, they were subject to the same possible harm that threatens all material things.
Fred, Pedro and Slim achieved their ghosthood in All-American Publications' Flash Comics #29 (May, 1942). The story was written by Ted Udall (an assistant editor to Sheldon Mayer) and Emmanuel Demby (who has few if any other credits in comics). It was drawn by Frank Harry (Little Boy Blue), who continued to draw the feature through most of its run. Besides Flash Comics, the ghostly trio (no relation) appeared in The Big All-American (a 1944 oneshot that contained over a dozen characters, from Hawkman to Bulldog Drumhead) and several issues of Comic Cavalcade (where The Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman were the main stars). They continued years past the end of World War II. In fact, they were still fighting gangsters and the like until the very last issue of Flash Comics, #104 (February, 1949).
By that time, DC Comics had long since absorbed All-American Publications. DC characters of this sort tend to show up from time to time in modern comic books, but this bunch wasn't seen for the rest of the 20th century. It was 2005 before DC did a mini-series called Shadowpact, where they played a minor role in story that starred The Spectre, Eclipso, Ragman and many other supernatural characters.
So apparently they haven't gone off to their Final Reward, or had their ectoplasm dissipate, or whatever — but they were very minor players in the 1940s, and they're very minor players today.