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"Zis damned military service vill haff to end sometime. I've grown tired of hafing to say 'Yes, sir' to anyone with a higher ranken. I kan barely vait to return to being an anonymous civilian and being able to zay 'Yes, sir' to any of my superiors..."
Sturmtruppen is a popular and succesful satiric comic, written and drawn by Bonvi (real name: Franco Bonvicini). They started as four-frame comic strips back in 1968 and slowly evolved into full-sized collector books up to 1990s, gathering something like 6000 strips in total.
The comic focus on the life and misadventures of an anonymous German battalion during (supposedly) World War II, showing the daily life, problems and joys of the various, anonymous soldiers and a small cast of fixed characters. Some strips form story arcs that deals with several, hilarious events, sometimes mundane (a maniac sniper soldier, die-hard lices, an attempted "extermination" of a Jewish prisoner) sometimes crazier (a deluge that turns the trench in ponds, a Demonic Possession and a soldier who appears to be the Messiah).
The whole thing comes out as an anti-war comic and a filled with criticism against the "blind obedience to authority, the absurdity of war and military bureaucracy (Bonvi was an anarchist and proud of it), and the implications that military and civilian are Not So Different as seen in the quote above. In other words, there's more than the eye met in these strips.
There are two film adaptations (one of which starring Bonvi himself) which, however, weren't well received at all by everyone.
Sturmtruppen contains examples of:
- Zero-Percent Approval Rating: According to an opinion poll, the 50% of the soldiers believes that the Sergeant should be fried in boiling oil. The other half would rather use kerosene.
- Afraid of Blood: Sadly enough the Medic.
- The Alcoholic: The drunken captain (implied to be a sort of Author Avatar). To the point that when he's mortally wounded the blood from his wounds emit a strong smell of Alcohol.
- And I Must Scream: The exalted Private Siegfried Von Nibelungen steps on a friendly mine during his first charge and ends up as a pathetic, limbless thing all bandaged up, with all his senses gone and unable to even call the nurses when he shit himself.
- Ambiguously Human: Private Humbert, who was left forgotten for five years in a desolate outpost and now looks like a huge, hairy brute with revolting habits. His true nature is often questioned, especially when after shaving him they find out that he was made of hair.
- Armies Are Evil: The general message, thought this army looks more goofy and stupid than evil.
- Badass: The Drunken Captain, whose deeds include destroying a tank using his liquor bottle as an improvised Molotov Cocktail and defying the enemy fire by standing still on the trench's border shouting "I'll crush you all like wasps!!"". Even the resident badass veterans admit that he was the best around.
- BFG: The Second Lieutenant volunteers for creating a new, powerful rifle for the army. He ends up creating the same rifle, but now howitzer-sized complete with wheels.
- Black Comedy: Including an early and a bit poignant strip about the Gas chambers/showers.
- Black Comedy Rape: When a soldier is turned into a savage brute by the Cook's latest experiment he ends up on a rampage and kidnaps Galeazzo Musolesi, and later tries to force himself on him.
- Blob Monster: The Cook ends up turning the lunch into an amorphous, Nigh Invulnerable monster that feeds on soldiers.
- Brother Chuck: The Little Prussian Vedette (a parody of a character from another Italian work).
- But You Screw One Goat!: When we see the stableman in charge of the camels (who hasn't seen a woman in years) we see him sitting between two camels with lipstick and eyelashes. He also brings them on a date or dance with them amongst various things.
- Butt Monkey: Everyone, usually the soldiers.
- Camera Fiend: The Ally of the Rising Sun is initially shown as the typical japanese tourist stereotype.
- Camp Gay: An early series of strips features a new Captain with "particular tendencies".
- Clothes Make the Superman: Played for laughs: when the old general is recovered and removes his uniform everyone treats him like an old worthless geezer. As soon as he put back that uniform he's once again feared and respected.
- Cold Sniper: Averted, in a series of strips the resident sniper goes obsessed with gaining a high score and starts shooting on his own soldiers and officers.
- Comically Missing the Point: Frequently used in many strips.
- Cyanide Pill: Played for laughs: when the "Oldest Spy in the Army" (actually Galeazzo Musolesi) starts teaching his arts he instruct his pupils to swallow a breath mint if discovered. That's why he's "The Oldest Spy in the Army".
- Deadpan Snarker: Interestingly enough, there's no fixed snarker, and usually anyone get a chance.
- Demonic Possession: Soldier Fritz is possessed by a demon while patrolling the postation 666 and ends up flying around, vomiting green goo and turning his head around. He's finally defeated when Musolesi crush him with a giant wooden crucifix.
- Depth Deception: Used in a Crowning Moment of Funny involving a one-inch tall palm tree.
- Disguised in Drag: Private Otto in the Africa Korps disguise himself as a Belly Dancer for his secret mission, but this tends to backfire with predictable results. There are also many strips in which soldiers are put in drag and forced to attend parties for officers.
- The Ditz: The Second Lieutenant, seriously bordering with Too Dumb to Live.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: The Sergeant, who actually draws a perverse, sadistic pleasure from torturing newcomers and lord over the soldiers and bully them in general.
- Epic Fail: Used in many gags. Including one where the new sniper squad is training with bad results. We see one of the soldiers firing his rifle... and missing the huge target board which was literally an inch away from the gun's muzzle.
- Exact Words: In one arc, the soldiers are going around naked. Furious and perplexed, the Sergeant points out that the rules says that a soldier must have and keep his uniform in perfect order. Cue to the naked soldiers going around while holding their perfectly-neat uniforms in one hand.
- Fat Bastard: The Sergeant. In one story arc his fatness becomes a plot point and trouble.
- Fearless Fool: Private Siegfrid Von Nibelunghen, who's a jab at and a parody of the concept that War Is Glorious.
- Gag Boobs: While trying to make the Sergeant look slimmer for the General's Ispection, they put him in a bustier that ends up squeezing all his fat upwards, resulting in a pair of massive, bouncing boobs that becomes the main source of humor for the following stripes as we find out that the General is also a Dirty Old Man....
- Gallows Humor: Literally in a series of strips.
- General Failure: A succesful military action is rarely seen or even implied.
- General Ripper: There's not enough food for all the soldiers? Order an attack right before lunchtime!
- The Ghost: A notable characteristic is that the so-called "enemy" is never, ever shown.
- Giant Mook: "Gorilla" Franz, who's employed by Galeazzo Musolesi as his trusty bodyguard/minion.
- Hidden Depths: See above in the description.
- I Ate What?: Played straight when is revealed that the Cook often use suspicious ingredients like boiled tires, motor oil, horses' carcasses, leaves and dangerous chemicals in his food. Inverted when a soldier tries to murder the Sergeant by putting a rattlesnake in his mess tin. The Sergeant mistakes it for an eel and devours it with much pleasure.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The new team of snipers. The huge glasses they're wearing should give you a clue. This is also used as a gag during the "extermination" arc.
- Inscrutable Oriental: Parodied with the Japanese soldier, who tries to hump the crossdressing soldier spy Otto the istant he crosses his line of sight.
- Invisibility: A story arc has the Medic obsessed over trying to make the invisibility potion, and believes to have become invisible himself after drinking a whole becher of grappa. And being a Major, he has the highest rank in the battalion and can consider himself invisible as he wishes.
- Jerkass: Most of the cast, usually the Sergeant and Musolesi.
- The Jinx: The infamous and dreaded soldier "Jonah" Franz.
- Just a Stupid Accent: One of the main characteristic of this comic is that anyone (except the female characters, Galeazzo Musolesi who's Italian and the Japanese soldier) speaks in a mocking German-sounding Italian (usually adding -en at the end of the words).
- Kick the Dog: The Sergeant is proud of doing this.
- Laser-Guided Karma: In a story arc the private Otto tries to be recognized as clinically insane so that he can leave the army. After being thwarted and forced to handle some highly dangerous explosive he goes insane for real and can leave the army.
- Lean and Mean: The Captain, the Medic and all the other officers.
- Lethal Chef: The Cook. One simple yet effective example is found in his spaghetti, which apparently can move on their own and maul soldiers.
- Lovable Coward: The Proud Ally Galeazzo Musolesi of San Giovanni in Persiceto, a parody of fascists, will shit himself, duck for cover, tremble in fear and faint at the minimum danger.
- Mad Scientist: The Medic believes to have discovered the Invisibility Elixir without going mad. Is actually the other way around.
- Made of Iron: Private Humbert, who can actually gulp down the Cook's cuisine without ill effect and was totally unharmed after crossing a demonic radioactive cloud.
- Mooks: The various soldiers.
- Ms. Fanservice: Private Tilda and also the Battalion's Bitch. Furthermore Bonvi wasn't too shy about putting around attractive, often naked hotties here and there.
- Naked People Are Funny: When the Medic believes to have become invisible, he start going around all naked, much to the embarassment of the battalion.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Galeazzo Musolesi is named after Mussolini and Galeazzo Ciano.
- No Name Given: Many high-ranked officer, the Battalion's Bitch and the Jewish prisoner.
- The Oldest Profession: The Battalion's Bitch. Her "boyfriend" Otto tries to romanticize it by giving her flowers and chocolates, but the poor sop hasn't much success.
- One Last Smoke: Parodied when a soldier can't have cigarettes because the Colonnel is trying to stop smoking, so he's given bubble gum instead.
- One Steve Limit: Inverted, all the soldiers have names like Otto, Franz, Fritz, Heinz. Most of the other character are nameless, though apparently the Sergeant's name is Giuseppe (Joseph).
- Only Sane Man: The Captain.
- Only Six Faces: Done on purpose. All the soldiers looks the same (except for some "veterans" who have traces of beard), the Sergeant and the Cook looks like slightly bigger soldiers and the other officers are pretty much alike, except for the uniforms and the nose shape.
- The Pig Pen: The Sergeant can boast about having 6-7 pounds of dirt and filth on his body, forming a sort of natural armor against splinters and projectiles. Another example is how they used sandpaper and industrial acids just to wash him. And that's for the outer layers.
- Reckless Gun Usage: In an interesting variation: "Air-Headed" Franz wields his gun with the baionet mounted, and often ends up stabbing eyes and ripping ears by accident.
- Right Behind Me: There's one strip where the Captain calls the General (who was supposed to assist to the execution) an old moron, and the General is right behind him with an anrgy frown on his face.
- Seppuku: Musolesi almost drive the Rising Sun Ally to do this. However, after the Captain talks to him, he decides that there's no need to spill his own blood... and promptly chase Musolesi sword-first.
- Shot At Dawn: There are some strips that have this outcome, plus the hilarious subplot about the Firing Squad.
- Shown Their Work: Bonvi fought in war, and he did a good job at representing uniforms, machines and weapons.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Galeazzo Musolesi is the straightest example, as a direct parody of fascist soldiers during the World War II.
- The Smurfette Principle: There are only four main female characters so far: the Battalion's Bitch, Sergeant Olga, Caporal Helga and Private Tilda.
- Tanks for Nothing: Tanks are often played for laughs as they fall apart, run out of gasoline and fall into pits of various kinds. The few time they're efficient they'll end up running over their own soldiers.
- Take That: Against the Army and the concept of War Is Glorious and many other things. See the description above for more details.
The Sergeant:" You're not insane, you're a moron, and morons are ze spine of ze army!"
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Galeazzo Musolesi and the Ally of the Rising Sun.
- Those Two Bad Guys: The 27th Armoured Battalion (of Discipline), two rough veterans who can force the Sergeant to crawl around squirming and get away with that.
- Toilet Humor: Whenever the latrines are involved. There's also a picture of an unfortunate soldier frozen solid as he was crapping.
- Villainous Breakdown: The Captain in charge of the "Extermination" ends up crazy because of his obsession with Exterminating the jewish prisoner.
- Volleying Insults: The Sergeant and the Cook, and also Musolesi and the Japanese ally.
- War Is Hell: Played straight.
- We Have Reserves: And curiously the army never seems to exhaust soldiers, no matter how many of them died.