Johnny Cloud, the Navajo ace, became the cover feature for All-American Men of War during the period 1960 – 1964: the Silver Age. The series was set during World War 2, and included many flashbacks to Johnny’s life before joining the air force. As a result, it had a patina of western about it as well. Racism was dealt with head on, which was unusual for a comic from this time period.
Johnny Cloud debuted in All American Men of War 82, in a story by Robert Kanigher and Irv Novick. We see Johnny as a young boy, who repeatedly sees a vision of a flying horseman in the clouds. He grows up to become a fight pilot. Throughout his life, he has to deal with whites attacking and mocking him, and he grows to hate the nickname ‘chief,’ which he is always endowed with. Johnny expected that this would change as he become a man and entered the army.
To his dismay, he finds that nothing has changed, and the ground crew has painted “Flying Chief” on the side of his plane. In his first battle, he proves his skills as a flier. The flight leader, Mack, who had lead the men in mocking him, dies in the battle.
Johnny’s aerial skill impresses the rest of the squadron enough that they appoint him the new flight leader, and start calling themselves the Happy Braves. With that kind of support, Johnny has no trouble accepting the title chief.
Johnny Cloud leads his first flying foray in All American Men of War 83. Johnny Cloud feels the weight of responsibility on him as he prepares to lead the Happy Braves. There is a new flyer in the squadron, a racist young man named Tex, who is none too pleased to have a native in charge. His reluctance to follow Johnny’s orders leads him to crash. Johnny refuses to accept that he lost a man on his first mission in charge, and heads back solo.
He finds that Tex survived, and swoops down to pick him up. On the flight back, they encounter some Nazi flyers. Johnny gets temporarily blinded, and while Tex is too injured to fly, he serves as Johnny’s eyes, leading them back to their base. By the time they land, Tex is more than happy to count himself one of Johnny Cloud’s Happy Braves.
Johnny Cloud’s story in All American Men of War 88 provides some background on Johnny Cloud’s father. The story opens as Johnny Cloud bails out of his plane, feeling guilty and cowardly. The story then shifts to a flashback about his father, who had been an infantryman in World War I. To avoid being killed by a German pilot, Cloud’s father fell into a river, pretending to be dead. His father has never gotten over this, and wears a white feather of shame.
As Johnny grew up and entered the air force, his father drilled into him that he must never shame himself the same way. The Nazi pilot who shot Johnny Cloud down lands and pursues his prey. Johnny winds up diving into a river, just as his father did. But unlike his dad, he does this to lure the man closer, pulling him into the river and defeating him.
Most Johnny Cloud stories open in the middle of battle, and then flashback to his life on the reservation. There will be a parallel situation, and then the resolution of the present day event. The story in All-American Men of War 96 alters that, by having Johnny flash back to earlier in the war, and an eager-eyed newbie pilot, Lt. Moon.
Johnny takes the young man under his wing, so to speak. He tells him he has never lost one of his Happy braves on the flyer’s first mission. Sgt. Rock gets a one panel, rather pointless, cameo. Moon winds up sacrificing himself to save the squadron, ruining Johnny’s perfect record. In the present, Johnny pulls a similar sacrifice, but bails out of his plane in time and survives.
Johnny Cloud is one of three war heroes to team up in Brave and the Bold 52, along with Jeb Stuart and the Haunted Tank from G.I. Combat, and Sgt. Rock from Our Army at War. The story begins with Johnny, who is assigned to fly into France to meet up with Martin, a French underground agent who has vital information. Johnny finds Martin, who has been sealed into an iron suit by the Nazis. Johnny tries to fly Martin out of enemy territory, but his plane gets shot down.
Jeb Start and the Haunted Tank take over the narrative at this point. They happen to be near the spot where Johnny Cloud crashed, and pick up both him and Martin, and then try to reach allied territory. When things begin to look bad for them, they come across Sgt. Rock and Easy Company, and together they defeat the Nazis attacking them. Martin gets released from the iron suit, and turns out to be Mademoiselle Marie.
Marie provides the Allies with the information they needed, and the men all get rewarded for their efforts. Johnny Cloud is promoted to Captain, and Jeb Stuart becomes a lieutenant. Sgt. Rock is offered a promotion to lieutenancy, but wants to remain a sergeant.
Johnny Cloud gets his first book-length story in All American Men of War 102. Johnny has been having nightmares because of a prophecy from the medicine man back home, that a hawk would attack Johnny while he was blinded. We see a brief flashback to Brave and the Bold 52, as Mademoiselle Marie, the French underground agent, awards him his promotion, with Sgt. Rock and Jeb Stuart of the Haunted Tank looking on. Then its into the action.
The aerial battles in this series have really become quite stunning to look at. Which is good, as the stories are so formulaic. Johnny is flying a bombing mission, aiming for a train car that Marie has marked as the one containing the German weapons.
He does get blinded, temporarily, and faces a German plane as the foretold “hawk.”
Johnny gets shot down, but bails out. He is found by Marie and her resistance fighters.
In All American Men of War 101 Johnny is already being called Captain Cloud. Since the story in 102 took place right after his promotion, I believe the tale from in 101 has to take place after the one in 102. In this story Johnny flashes back to a prophecy he had received as a child, about fighting the same deadly craft in three different wars. He encounters a plane similar to the one from the prophecy, but wonders how he could face it in different wars. That becomes a bit clearer after he pursues it through a cloud, and winds up in the skies of World War I, in a biplane, fighting a zeppelin.
Another bank of clouds brings Johnny from the past into the future. He is not certain what war he is now in, but he is flying a jet, and this is likely meant to be the Korean War. Another bank of clouds brings both of them back to the present, where he finally defeats his time lost foe. Not a bad story at all. Works in the supernatural element quite gracefully, probably because it doesn’t waste any time trying to explain it.
Johnny Cloud continues in the next period, 1964 – 1967: the New Look.
Johnny Cloud: All – American Men of War 82 - 102 (Nov/Dec 60 – Mar/Apr 64)