THE UNKNOWN SOLDIERMedium: Comic Books
Published by: Ace Magazines
First Appeared: 1941
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Most comic book fans know The Unknown Soldier is a DC Comics character set in World War II. Many know DC also plans to use the name for a new character, to be published under its Vertigo (Sandman, Hellblazer) imprint. But a majority are
completely unaware that DC's Unknown Soldier wasn't the first comic book character to use the name made familiar by Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which honors the many men who died in America's War for Independence, but whose names haven't been recorded.
Comics' first Unknown Soldier was a superhero published by Ace Magazines, whose other such characters include Magno & Davey and Lash Lightning. He was introduced in Ace's Our Flag Comics #1 (August, 1941), alongside Typhoon Tyson (a seafaring man along the lines of Lance O'Casey or Shark Brodie), Three Cheers (freelance Allied warriors named Sis, Boom and Bart) and Captain Victory (a one-episode wonder, not the Captain Victory anyone ever heard of).
Unknown wasn't, as might be expected, a flag-wearing superhero like Captain Freedom or Miss America. That niche was occupied starting in the second issue, by a guy succinctly named Flag. No, Unknown dressed like an ordinary soldier (except his uniform fit better than most, and was entirely too clean and well-pressed to have seen combat), but with a mask to keep him unknown.
But he did have something in common with a prominent flag wearer, the Quality Comics version of Uncle Sam, as well as with Ace's own Captain Courageous. None of those were human beings, per se, but spiritual entities who manifest themselves in physical form when they were most sorely needed. In particular, this one represented American soldiers who had given their all in America's cause since the country was founded. He could fly and had super strength. Also, he carried a "nitro gun", which fired explosive rounds.
Did the Italians, Germans and Japanese, whose common soldiers were no-doubt as patriotic as the next country's, have similar spirits fighting for them? No word, at least not in U.S. comics.
Our Flag didn't last long — the fifth issue (April, 1942) was the last. But by that time, he'd transferred to Four Favorites, where Ace tended to stash its popular characters, such as The Raven (no relation, nor to Spider Widow's boyfriend) and Vulcan, some of which had nowhere else to go. Unknown started there in #4 (March, 1942), and stayed for the rest of the war — his final appearance was in #20 (November, 1945).
That may or may not have been the end of him. In the following issue, he was replaced by a non-series mystery story, narrated by someone who identified himself as "The Unknown". Since American soldiers were back home by then, seeking other employment, that could have been him, still unknown but no longer a soldier.
If it was, he'd traded in his uniform for a ghostly cape and cowl. And whether it was or not, The Unknown's last appearance was in #29 (June, 1947), and after that he was gone for sure.