Enemy Ace

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Hans von Hammer
Enemy Ace Showcase cover.jpg
Cover to Showcase #57 (July/August 1965) featuring The Enemy Ace (art by Joe Kubert)
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Our Army at War # 151 (February, 1965)
Created by Robert Kanigher
Joe Kubert
In-story information
Full name Hans von Hammer
Team affiliations Five Warriors from Forever

Enemy Ace is DC Comics property about the adventures of a skilled but troubled German anti-hero and flying ace in World War I and World War II, Hans von Hammer,[1] known to the world as "The Hammer of Hell."

Overview[edit]

Enemy Ace first appeared in Our Army at War # 151, (February 1965) It was a backup story that quickly gained popularity. As a World War I pilot flying for the Germans, his stories told the German side of the war, in which Hans von Hammer was a man of honor and chivalry, a flying knight in his Fokker Dr.I, but he was haunted by his duties and the constant death surrounding them.[1]

The cover of Star Spangled War Stories #148, highlighting the fatal fall of Von Hammer's puppy, Schatzi.

The early series stories centered around World War I Air Combat and the strategies, tactics and honor employed by the early knights of the air. The stories were often a stark contrast between the dark brooding character Von Hammer and his softer, kinder side as in Star Spangled War Stories No 148 where Von Hammer rescues a little dog he names "Schatzi" and proceeds to befriend him, even introducing him to his dark hunting companion the gray wolf who accepts little Schatzi rather than eating him. But the Von Hammer stories were not big on happy endings, and Von Hammer goes on to lose Schatzi in a haunting scene by dropping him accidentally from his Fokker during air combat. He grieves the loss of the dog, then proceeds to massacre the remaining British pilots in an act of bloody revenge. Von Hammer was a dark character, portrayed as the inevitable result of war.

Unlike most comic book characters, Von Hammer does not have an arch-enemy, though a French pilot known as The Hangman was a persistent opponent. The majority of Von Hammer's opponents followed the same code of honor as he did, which included not attacking a helpless pilot.

Created by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert, the Enemy Ace was taken loosely from the real-life Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen. Both flew Crimson Red Fokker DR1 Triplanes. Both were of aristocratic blood. Both awarded themselves a trophy with each downed enemy plane. Both were the highest scoring flying ace of the First World War. The main difference between the two was that Von Hammer survived to old age, whereas Von Richthofen was shot down and killed before the war ended.

The character's stories have been praised as among DC's strongest war stories of the Silver Age of comic books. He was revived for a few graphic novels. The first was Enemy Ace: War Idyll (1990) by George Pratt,[2] where Hammer is revealed to have lived until 1969, dying peacefully upon turning over his memoirs and concluding his interviews with a troubled Vietnam War veteran-turned-journalist.

Tim Truman's Guns Of The Dragon 1998 mini-series saw Von Hammer in 1927 China teaming up with an elderly Bat Lash and Biff Bradley, the brother of Slam Bradley against Miss Fear and Vandal Savage on an adventure to Dinosaur Island.

Cover of Enemy Ace - War in Heaven TPB.

A more recent work is Garth Ennis's Enemy Ace: War in Heaven (2001), with art by Chris Weston and Russ Heath. Here, von Hammer's character and story arc is based on several real-life German pilots', notably Adolf Galland. The series recounts the pilot's activities during World War II where he is persuaded to once again fight as a pilot of the Luftwaffe. Von Hammer is placed in charge of his own gruppe and initially serves on the Eastern Front. Though no friend to the Nazi regime, he rapidly amasses numerous kills flying a red-painted Me-109 against the Russians, and later in defense of Germany (flying a scarlet Me-262) against American bombers. Nevertheless, von Hammer becomes increasingly disillusioned as he continues to witness the horrors of war. In 1945, after bailing out of his damaged aircraft, he inadvertently parachutes into the Dachau concentration camp and is outraged to discover the German perpetration of the Holocaust. He proposes a mutiny upon returning to his airbase and later surrenders his Jagdverband to advancing Allied troops, namely Sgt. Rock's company, after setting fire to the fighter unit's remaining aircraft.[1]

Recently, in issue #139 of the latest Robin series, von Hammer's great-granddaughter Lieutenant Ilsa von Hammer appeared as part of a group of soldiers that included Johnny Cloud's grandson and a legendary soldier known only as the Veteran. This group, handling missions which may be more unusual than the normal military is equipped for, recruits Robin to assist on their missions.

Another possible descendant appears in Superman #689. Will Von Hammer works as a private investigator in Berlin. He possesses some superhuman invulnerability as he is also the descendant of World War II hero Stormy Foster.

Von Hammer makes a guest appearance of sorts as an opponent of General Wade Eiling's father in a tale set during the First World War

In 2008, he is featured in Bruce Jones' The War that Time Forgot. He also appears in Booster Gold in 2009, during World War I. When Booster is thrown back in time and caught in the middle of the war, alongside Cyrus Lord, the ancestor of Maxwell Lord, von Hammer aids their escape from captivity behind German lines rather than abet their torture and further stain his hands with blood.[3]

von Hammer's Aircraft[edit]

Note: Not only are all of Von Hammer's aircraft painted bright red, his World War II aircraft lacked the standard swastika insignia on the tail, which causes friction with one of his officers who is fervently loyal to the Nazi Party.

Collected editions[edit]

There have been a number of trade paperback collections as well as original graphic novels:

In other media[edit]

Television[edit]

  • Enemy Ace appears in the teaser of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Aquaman's Outrageous Adventure" voiced by John DiMaggio. Enemy Ace tries to shoot down Batman's Batplane before he convinces him to team up to destroy an alien cannon. After Batman leaves, Enemy Ace vows to battle him when they meet again.

Toys[edit]

  • A deluxe action figure has been released which includes Black Wolf and a smaller scale version of his Fokker DR-1.[9]

Novels[edit]

  • Von Hammer appears as a vampire in Kim Newman's Anno Dracula universe novel The Bloody Red Baron, alongside other fictional German pilots and von Richthofen himself.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Greenberger, Robert (2008), "Enemy Ace", in Dougall, Alastair, The DC Comics Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, p. 116, ISBN 0-7566-4119-5, OCLC 213309017 
  2. ^ a b Enemy Ace: War Idyll at the Grand Comics Database
  3. ^ Booster Gold Vol. 2, #16
  4. ^ Enemy Ace: War Idyll at the Comic Book DB
  5. ^ DC profile for The Enemy Ace Archives Volume 1
  6. ^ a b DC profile for The Enemy Ace Archives Volume 2
  7. ^ Enemy Ace: War in Heaven at the Comic Book DB
  8. ^ DC profile for Showcase Presents Volume 1
  9. ^ DC's deluxe action figure model

External links[edit]