Comics / DC Comics History

DC Comics History: Capt. Storm (1964 - 1967: The New Look)


By Deejay Dayton
March 15, 2020 - 09:22

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DC seems to have had a lot of faith in PT boat captain Williams Storm. He was the only one of their World War 2 heroes to debut in a solo book, with a story by Robert Kanigher and Irv Novick. He wasn’t even given a Showcase tryout, just launched immediately into a title. And at this time, even Sgt Rock didn’t have his own book. In fact, no other war characters would until the 70s. Perhaps it wasn’t a wise decision. The series ran only 18 issues, placing it entirely within this era. Towards the end of the run the book played host to some other heroes whose series had been cancelled, Gunner and Sarge, and Larry Rock, the Fighting Devil Dog.

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Captain Storm begins his debut issue in command of one PT boat, which winds up getting sunk by a Japanese sub. He loses his leg in the incident, as well as one of his crewmen, Ames, who is also called Buddy Brown, just to make things confusing. Storm is fitted with a wooden leg, but considered no longer fit for active duty. Before he can be sent back to the US, Storm meets a nurse, Lea, the only regular supporting character in the book. Lea encourages Storm to accept his wooden leg and get back into shape, to prove to the Navy that he is still fit for service. This works, amazingly enough. I guess, in the midst of World War 2, they were desperate enough for trained men to overlook wooden legs. Anyway, he gets command of another PT boat, but gets no respect from the crew, one of whom is the brother of Ames/Buddy Brown. That same Japanese sub winds up coming after them, and Storm is able to lead his men to safety, and even saves the life of the resentful brother. By the end, he has earned the respect of his crew, who finally start calling him skipper.

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Capt. Storm lives out a prophecy in the second issue of his book. Lea is back, although in this story she is called Wanda. Maybe one of those is her middle name. William Storm and the nurse are becoming an item, when he isn't off fighting the Japanese, and she translates for him when an aged Hawaiian seer gives Storm a prophecy, that he will rescue a princess, and fight fire with wood. So the rest of the story sees this prophecy come true on Storm's next mission. He and his P boast crew save an island princess from being killed by a Japanese plane, and bring her back to her tribe. The PT boat gets damaged, and so the tribe protect it from further fire by shielding it with their wooden canoes. All pretty straightforward.

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A new cast member gets brought onto the ship in Capt. Storm 3. At the start of the story Storm's PT boat comes under fire from some Japanese planes, and his lieutenant winds up sacrificing himself in order to save Storm. He gets a replacement, Cal Clinton, who thinks that Storm ought to retire because of his leg. Clinton keeps acting to aid Storm, even when the captain doesn't need help, and this leads to friction between the two. In the end, as they deal with more Japanese bombers, Storm once again proves his mettle, and Clinton agrees that he is suited for command of the ship.

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The secondary character in Capt. Storm 4 is not specifically named, but I am not the only person who believes this is Cal Clinton, introduced last issue, and still Storm's second-in-command in this tale. At the top of the story, Captain Storm finds the young lieutenant sitting in the captain's seat, and throughout the tale it becomes clear that the second-in-command is eager to take the top job. This correlates well with the behaviour of Cal Clinton in the previous issue, trying to get Storm to retire. As usual, Captain Storm shows off impressive bravery, in this case kicking a magnetic torpedo away from the PT Boat with his wooden leg. At the climax of the tale, the lieutenant gets seriously wounded. Storm puts the kid in charge, sort of, and helps him shoot down a Japanese plane before the guy dies. Cal Clinton's name is never mentioned, the kid is only referred to by his rank, but it feels like a fitting conclusion to the story begun last issue.

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Capt. Storm 8 is not a significant issue, but it's a decent tale, and I really like the cover. Plus, I am skipping over most of the issues from this series, because there simply is nothing about them that really grabs me. The story has a very dramatic opening, with Captain Storm and a Japanese sailor left on the deck of a Japanese sub before it submerges. Storm has been rescued by the Japanese after being knocked overboard by a typhoon. But they only save him in order to humiliate and execute him, and show off how willing to die the other Japanese soldiers are. Storm tries to aid the Japanese soldier left to drown, but the guy fights him off and dies screaming "banzai!" Storm climbs the periscope and shoots through the lens, forcing the sub to resurface. He then fights off the entire crew single handedly. Storm's own PT boat finally manages to catch up with him and rescue him at the end of the story. Lea gets a cameo as Storm recovers. Rarely is her role more important than this. The tale ends with Storm announcing that while the Japanese are not afraid to die, the Americans are not afraid to win! Gag me.

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There are some good things about the story from Capt. Storm 10, but the anti-Japanese racism prevents this piece from being as effective as it could have been. The story is structured to parallel the lives of Captain Storm and a Japanese commander, and the story opens as the rival captain bids farewell to his wife and sets sail to battle the Allies. His ship, and Captain Storm's PT boat, both get sunk. The two men are the sole survivors, and face each other on a tiny sandy island. Where this story could easily continue the parallels, and deal with how both men are equally noble, but forced by larger circumstances to fight to the death, instead it veers back into Japanese barbarism vs American heroism. Capt. Storm gets disarmed by the sword-wielding Japanese captain, but kills him by stabbing him with his own flag.

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Joe Kubert provides the art for Capt. Storm 13, which features some guest stars, re-caps Captain Storm's origin, and gives a resolution to it. The story is set a year after the attack on Pearl Harbour, and Storm is hunting for the submarine that destroyed his first PT boat and took his leg. Now, that sub is shown to have a shark mouth painted on it, and Storm's Moby Dick-like quest for the sub infuses the story like none before it. His current PT boat gets damaged in the hunt, and while onshore, Storm runs into Gunner and Sarge, in their first appearance since the end of their run in Our Fighting Forces the previous year. Pooch is along with them as well, and the four of them (almost the complete line-up of the Losers) wind up ambushed by the Japanese, and play dead in order to get the better of their enemies.

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Lt. Larry Rock, the Fighting Devil Dog, also makes a cameo in this story, destroying the pillbox bunker that was keeping the others from completing their mission. Fighting Devil Dog's brief series in Our Fighting Forces had concluded a couple of months earlier. At the end of the issue, Storm manages to find the sub he had been hunting for, swims out, and plants bombs on it, sinking it at last.

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Capt. Storm comes to an end with issue 18. The story echoes two of the earliest tales. Storm's PT boat gets damaged, and while it is being repaired he meets islanders with a prophecy that they will be saved by a man with a wooden leg. So that part plays out as expected. The other part of the story seems to bring back the shark-painted submarine that had destroyed Storm's original PT boat. He discovers that there is more than one Japanese sub painted the same way, so he can never be sure, no matter how many he sinks, that he has found revenge against the correct submarine. The comic was not intended to end with this story, so one can imagine that following issues would have had Captain Storm on an endless quest for the right shark submarine. It's probably a good thing the series was cancelled at this point.

Captain Storm would return two years down the road in the pages of G.I. Combat, becoming a founding member of the Losers.


Capt. Storm: Capt. Storm 1 – 18 (May/June 1964 – March/April 1967)

Next up – Teen Titans!

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Last Updated: March 15, 2020 - 09:34

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