In the early days of comic strips, they were often more political cartoon than art enjoyed by adults and kids. This was until Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson released the very first comic book, 1935’s New Fun, under his new company, National Allied Publications. Through a series of mergers and buyouts, this company would eventually evolve into the comic giant, DC Comics. Before this, however, Wheeler-Nicholson served in the U.S. Army and was widely known as the “youngest major in the Army” at 27.
Just as many of the Marvel superheroes have pulled inspiration from Stan Lee’s time in the Army, many DC heroes followed Wheeler-Nicholson.
Here are six DC heroes that served in the Army. Not all of them have superpowers, but then again, neither does Batman.
6. Jonah Hex
Jonah Hex‘s story begins in the Civil War where he was a southerner fighting for the Confederacy. His conscience held him back from fighting abolitionists, with whom he agreed philosophically, and he eventually surrendered his forces.
Tried for treason and exiled to the Wild West, Hex would later be branded with the mark of the demon and be forced to walk the west as a supernatural bounty hunter. At some point, he’d also travel time (because comic logic) and fight alongside other superheroes.
He also fought alongside Yosemite Sam. Yeah, the Looney Toons’ Yosemite Sam. (Image via DC Comics)
5. Deathstroke (Slade Wilson)
DC’s greatest and deadliest assassin, Deathstroke, cut his teeth in the Special Forces before he was experimented on, giving him super-human strength, agility, senses, and healing. It’s a very similar storyline to Marvel’s Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool
, even though Deathstroke came out 10 years earlier.
Contrary to how he’s portrayed in many mediums, he’s actually a completely neutral agent, only interested in fighting heroes for a price. His strict moral code prevents him from hurting innocents and he’s even been known to fight on the side of good when the price is right.
4. John Diggle
A more recent addition to DC comic continuity is John Diggle. Originally created for the CW show, Arrow, his character is a bodyguard and close friend to the eponymous Green Arrow. Fans immediately loved the character as he helped Oliver Queen deal with his tragic yet over-the-top comic backstory by sharing his time with Special Forces in Afghanistan.
Though not originally a comic book character, he was given a life in print when DC rebooted many of their series as part of the “New 52.” His comic-book origin story follows his on-screen past very closely.
3. Wonder Woman (Diana Prince of Themyscira)
Diana Prince has had a long military career. In more recent storylines, she’s portrayed as an Air Force Intelligence Officer, but she’s most recognized for her WWII-era stories as an Army nurse where she first took the name, “Diana Prince,” to enlist.
At the time, the Amazonian Princess didn’t take kindly to being relegated to being the secretary when she was literally the strongest member of the Justice Society of America (Superman and Batman hadn’t joined at this point). So, she up and left to fight in WWII where she met the sometimes-Army, sometimes-Air Force, sometimes-Navy SEAL, Steve Trevor, as fans would recognize from the 2017 film.
2. Sgt. Franklin Rock
One of the more surreal storylines in DC Comics’ history is that of Sgt. Rock. Very rarely did these comics ever deal with over-the-top action and silly, convoluted plots. Simply put, Sgt. Rock was just the story of the average soldiers of Easy Company during WWII, serving their country.
Sgt. Rock and his men were the musings of Army veteran, writer, and, eventually, executive editor, Robert Kanigher. Many events that happen during his run of Sgt. Rock are based on his real-life battles. After other writers took over his character, things took on a more outrageous, comic-book feel. Even Sgt. Rock’s service number — 409966 — is said to have belonged to Kanigher.
1. Superman (very briefly)
That’s right, every other branch: The Man of Steel himself served in the U.S. Army. Unfortunately, it only lasted for one cross-over issue and because of time travel (because comic logic).
Very long story short, Superman brought a bomb that was going to destroy modern-day Paris into space, but it flung him back in time to WWII where he met with Sgt. Rock and Easy Company (which was very grounded in reality until this point). The blast gave him amnesia (because comic logic) and he assumes the identity of Corporal Steel to fight with the Americans. They stumble upon a Nazi program to create “Ubermensch” soldiers and Superman, realizing Ubermensch roughly means “super men” in German, regains his memory and remembers he has powers.
Superman beats all the fake Nazi copies of him and, to preserve his identity, fakes his own death before heading back to the future (because comic logic).