DC Comics History: Ghost Patrol
By Deejay Dayton
July 26, 2015 - 08:01
Ghost Patrol has to be one the most bizarre series ever to run in a DC comic. Three flyers with the French Foreign Legion, Fred, Pedro and Slim, die when a time bomb goes off in their aircraft. Their mechanic, Henri, is the one who planted the bomb. So Henri is the bad guy, right? Nope. He killed them to prevent them from fulfilling their mission, because they were really being sent to bomb a French village.
That's a bit extreme, wouldn't you say?
But Fred, Pedro and Slim don't see it that way. Perhaps because they are dead. They don't seem to mind much that they are dead. They seem to prefer being ghosts, and able to fly, turn invisible, and pass through things.
They call themselves the Ghost Patrol, and have a jolly good time taking out the Germans who had set them up.
This first story, from Flash Comics 29, really sets the mood for the series. Despite being immersed in World War 2, the dead flyers joke and goof around while taking down the rotten Nazis. Much of the strip is played for laughs. Cause there is nothing quite as funny as a dead soldier, I suppose.
To be fair, the Nazis are usually the butt of the jokes. In their second story, they make it all the way to Berlin to torment Hitler and make a fool of him. So I suppose one really has to see the strip in the context of the time. And what could be bad taste is really the black humour that arises in such dark days.
The Nazis are the enemy in every story from this era, on land, sea and air. Nothing really can stop the Ghost Patrol, who are able to go anywhere they choose.
And the boys do get around. From the European adventures in their first few tales, they branch out as the series progresses. Flash Comics 33 sees them in Africa, and then in 34 they are among the Arabs. Although exactly where is not specified, so I suppose they might still be in Africa. Wherever it is, its somewhere that the Arabs enjoy being ruled by the British.
Flash Comics 35 takes them to Spain, which was officially neutral in World War 2. One is not likely to find deep politics in Ghost Patrol, but the story does convey the divisions that the country still suffered through, so soon after their civil war. The story quickly links the Spanish fascists with the Nazis, and the Ghost Patrol help a girl get re-united with her captured father, who could only have been on the republican side.
China is the location for the story in Flash Comics 33, and the Ghost Patrol visit the Netherlands twice during this era, in issues 39 and 42.
By Flash Comics 38 the Ghost Patrol are clearly well known to the Nazi command. The story uses the characters to tell the "secret" story behind the sabotage of a Nazi oil refinery in Norway.
The Nazis have three men impersonating the Ghost Patrol. Sadly, they are all alive, and share none of their powers, so it's unlikely this impersonation would have succeeded, even if they had managed to get out on their first mission. But Fred, Pedro and Slim take them out and take their places.
The Nazis then fly the three all the way to their target, only realizing too late that they were transporting the real Ghost Patrol.
Hitler looks to his own scientists to conjure up some ghosts for his side in Flash Comics 41. They succeed in evoking the ghosts of Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Napoleon and Julius Caesar.
I have to say, I was pleased that Napoleon is not too keen on helping a German, one that has already conquered France. But he goes along with Hitler's plans, figuring that after they win, he will take control of the land himself. The other spirits have similar plans.
But none of these great warriors have any experience with modern weaponry or tactics, and find themselves completely out of their depth. They also, being so recently invoked, have no experience with their ghostly skills, and between all this, the Ghost Patrol have little trouble, and a lot of fun, defeating them.
In fact, they have far more difficulty dealing with Nazi technology than other ghosts, and in Flash 43 find themselves challenged by a giant octopus which is really a Nazi submarine.
The Ghost Patrol made two appearances in Comic Cavalcade in this era. The second introduces a Haunted Tank, though not the one that would become a mainstay of DC's war comics.
In this case, it is a huge Nazi tank, capable of travelling both on land and in the water. It's not quite clear from the art, but it seems the tank just travels along the bottom of the sea bed, rather than functioning as a submarine.
And the Ghost Patrol are the ones who wind up haunting it as it crosses the English Channel. Meant to be a deadly invasion, by the time the tank emerges on British soil the Ghost Patrol have defeated the Nazis within and taken control of it.
The Ghost Patrol continue in the Late Golden Age.
Ghost Patrol: Flash Comics
29 - 55 (May 42 - July 44)
Comic Cavalcade 1 - 2 (Winter 42 - Spring 43)
Last Updated: May 19, 2020 - 12:25
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