JOHNNY CLOUD, NAVAJO ACEMedium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1960
Creators: Robert Kanigher (writer) and Irv Novick (artist)
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Johnny Cloud, Navajo Ace, owes his existence to two trends. The first was a trend at DC Comics circa 1960, to add continuing characters to its series-less anthology titles (e.g., Mark Merlin to
House of Secrets and Adam Strange to Mystery in Space). The second was a trend throughout America's entertainment media, from the late 1950s on, to draw new protagonists from among the nation's racial minorities. As a member of one of the less trendy minorities, Johnny projected an illusion of innovation.
But all minority characters of the time had to undergo discrimination, or what was the use of making them non-white? Accordingly, Johnny was suffering from prejudice when he was introduced as a lieutenant in the World War II U.S. Army Air Corps, in DC's All-American Men of War #82 (December, 1960). But he earned the respect of those around him by executing a spectacular aerial maneuver, by which he singlehandedly wrecked a squadron of Nazi bombers. Their commander was fatally wounded in the battle, but with his dying words, recommended Johnny as his successor. Army brass agreed, and Johnny was thereafter the leader of "The Happy Braves". This story, as well as most subsequent ones in the series, was written by Robert Kanigher (editor of the war line, also known for westerns such as Johnny Thunder, superheroes such as Metal Men and much more) and drawn by Irv Novick (The Shield, Batman, and a major source of the art that plagiarist Roy Lichtenstein claimed as his own).
If the new name of the outfit, plus his skin color, plus the title of the feature, weren't enough to keep the reader aware of his ethnic heritage, he also had an Indian-style recurring vision. Cloud formations resembling a Navajo warrior on a horse (reminiscent of one his father had seen at his birth) repeatedly inspired him to greater effort.
Johnny continued for years as the cover-featured star of All-American Men of War, stepping out of that venue only once during that time. In The Brave & the Bold #52 (March, 1964), he teamed up with Sgt. Rock, Jeb Stuart of The Haunted Tank, and French Resistance fighter Mlle. Marie. But his series eventually ran out of steam, and ended in the 117th issue (October, 1966).
But a DC character can't be stopped merely by losing his series. In G.I. Combat #138 (November, 1969), he was rescued, following a failed mission, by The Haunted Tank. Also rescued in that issue were Gunner & Sarge (who had lost their series in Our Fighting Forces in 1965) and Captain Storm (whose title had folded in 1967). This disparate group (a fighter pilot in the European front, a PT boat commander from the Pacific, and a couple of Marine ground grunts last seen on an island full of Japanese) stayed together and got a series of their own, The Losers.
As part of that outfit, Johnny and the gang ran years longer. In 1985, the whole bunch was killed off. That doesn't always finish off a comic book character, but these guys haven't recovered so far.