It’s not often that an imitator does better than the original, but that was the case with Death Patrol, because it seems that the more famous Blackhawks were an imitation of this now all but forgotten team, and this is according to Chuck Cuidera, the creator of the Blackhawks, who said that Death Patrol was the first strip created for the new magazine Military Comics and on seeing it was decided to do a more serious version of it which lead to the Blackhawks.
But what about Death Patrol itself?
Created by Jack Cole (Plastic Man, The Comet, and later draw and written by Dave Berg of Mad’s the Lighter Side Of, and then Gill Fox,) Death Patrol was at first made up of five criminals, Gramps, a pickpocket, Hank, a cattle rustler, Slick, a con artist, PeeWee a stickup man, and Butch, a safe cracker who had escaped from prison together and hidden aboard the airplane of millionaire Del van Dyne.
van Dyne, who was headed to England to help with the war effort, soon discovered the convicts and rather than turn them in talked them in to helping him fight the Nazi, luckily for van Dyne all four also knew how to fly, thinking that going to England and fighting and staying away from jail in America was a good idea they agreed.
For uniforms they wore their black & white striped prison uniforms, which van Dyne also adopted.
Played for laughs, Death Patrol was however far more grim than more serious items in the comics at the time due to the fact during it’s 44 issue run members of the Death Patrol regularly died and were replaced by new members (by the end of the series only 2 of the original 6 where still alive), usually exaggerated stereotypes such as Boris the Borsht Eater, a Russian, Chief Chuckalug, an Indian, and King Hotentot from Africa.
While Death Patrol was the original strip designed for Military Comics they never made it on a cover, and in fact were sometimes missing for several issues.
When the war ended the title of Military Comics was changed to Modern Comics with issue 44, by issue 54 they were dropped altogether and replaced by Torchy Todd, the Blonde Bombshell.
Death Patrol has never been seen since, it can only be assumed they all died on their last mission, it seems only appropriate.