Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Losers - Born To Lose!

"The Born Losers" are a mismatched squad of American warriors who band together because of the needs of their country in war and because each of them has suffered a loss of self-respect because of the rigors of war. They dub themselves "Born Losers" as almost a badge of shame, a fatalistic nod to the grim realities of warfare which demands sometimes even more than the lives of the soldiers who fight.

Among the Losers is Johnny Cloud The Navajo Ace who debuted in All-American Men of War #82 in 1960 and was among the highest profile ethnically diverse characters in a time when such stuff was indeed rare. Riddled with much of the usual cliche details, nonetheless it's no small thing that a character like Johnny Cloud even made it to the newsstands.

Captain Storm hit the stands in 1964 and this P.T. Boat captain had his own title which lasted several years. Distinctive because of his Ahab-like wooden leg, he too finds that the war has great cost making him a self-styled loser.

The duo of Gunner and Sarge debuted in 1959 in Our Fighting Forces #45 and that team along with their dog "Pooch" battled for many years afterwards.

All of these DC war heroes found their way into G.I. Combat #138, a comic written by Robert Kanigher and drawn by Russ Heath which featured the "origin" of the Born Losers. Jeb Stuart and his tank crew fail mightily when they attempt to cross a bridge and attack an enemy outpost. That defeat shakes Jeb to his core and he dubs himself a "Born Loser". Later the bedraggled tank crew run across Captain Storm making his way across the desert after losing his ship and his men to enemy attack. Later still they find Gunner and Sarge who have themselves just survived an enemy attack which cost the lives of six raw recruits they were training. And finally the tank crew finds the crashed plane of Johnny Cloud who has not only lost his own plane but is demoralized by the death of the young pilot who was flying alongside him when the enemy attacked. These four men join the crew of the haunted tank and together they vow to overcome their status as losers and they organize another attack on the enemy outpost which had frustrated Jeb and his crew before. This time they are successful, but despite that success, the loss of men and their common sense of having violated trusts causes the heroes to still feel like Born Losers.

In the pages of Our Fighting Forces #123 by Kanigher and artist Ken Barrr, this quartet of "Losers" is given another mission to redeem themselves. Quite literally taking over the book from Hunter's Hellcats who hand off the mission to the Losers, we see the team undertake a near suicide mission when Captain Storm is tapped to imitate a man who looks remarkably like him even down to the wooden leg and spread disinformation among the enemy. Great pains are taken to make Storm's capture look legit and he withstands torture for enough time to allow Cloud, Gunner and Sarge to come to the attack while Storm then attempts to turn the tables on his Nazi captors. The four men survive and the mission is accomplished but regardless this new team of "Losers" is ready for their next mission.

More to come when Jack "King" Kirby takes on The Losers.

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  1. And they were initially losers because their individual series were terminated. I wonder if they were initially named by some editor in that context and Kanigher, who might've felt protective of his characters, decided, in defiance, to run with it.

    1. Sounds possible, a prideful attempt to prove that with the right talent any group of Losers can be successful. Makes sense and as exhibit one I give you the Guardians of the Galaxy.

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