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365 Reasons to Love Comics #152

Man, I really know how to not pick ‘em, huh? All anybody talked about in yesterday’s comments was Myspace, for cryin’ out loud. Oh well. You’ll all love today’s War Week entry! Why? One word: dinosaurs. And another word: archive.

6/1/07

152. The War That Time Forgot

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Why, son, I remember the day when men were men and dinosaurs were dinosaurs! And there was this island, this… Dinosaur Island, where quite a few World War II soldiers got lost and ended up encountering beasts that walked the Earth before mankind. In fact, it was a key location in the battle between American and Japan. What, you don’t remember? I suppose that’s why time forgot it.

I’ll give you three guesses as to who created this concept.

Yep. Got it in one. Bob Kanigher. Along with artists Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, he brought us stories of the United States army battling against (and, occasionally, with) an army of dinosaurs, giant apes, and monsters, many of whom had cool nicknames like “The Sub Crusher!” and “The Tank Eater!”

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(Stegosaurus vs. tank. Giant dinos exiting battleships. Men on skis, with uzis, fighting a dinosaur. Could this be the greatest comic book series of all time?)

The War That Time Forgot first debuted in Star Spangled War Stories #90, replacing the Mlle. Marie feature. It ran for about eight years before its run on the title ended. After that, it was used as a locale in many other titles before returning to the forefront in Weird War Tales (the series that gave us the Primate Patrol for a short period of time.

Over the years, many other DC war characters have ended up fighting battles on Dinosaur Island, most notably the Haunted Tank, the original Suicide Squad, G.I. Robots I and II, and the awesome Creature Commandos.

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(“OH MY GOD that dinosaur is eating my tank/ship/gorilla!”)

The origin of Dinosaur Island has been speculated for years. There’s the “passage to Skartaris” theory that declares they arrived from Warlord’s realm. And I believe Darwyn Cooke re-introduced the place in New Frontier.

You know, they should really open it up to tourism. “Enjoy the beautiful mountain view, relax on our seemingly endless beaches, and try not to get eaten alive.”

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(When it came to combining two of man’s favorite genres, Joe Kubert knew what was up.)

Luckily, DC is publishing things specifically for the blogosphere now, and there is a handy Showcase Presents volume of The War That Time Forgot. So if you always wished your WWII comics had just a smidgen more dinosaur action in them, or vice versa, then you should definitely buy it (heck, I’m not even getting a percentage out of this. At the rate I pimp comics, I should set up some kind of Amazon store).

For more on The War That Time Forgot, hit up Toonopedia, and read this loving remembrance of comics’ finest dinosaur books by artist extraordinaire Steve Bissette.

8 Comments

“Mr. Kanigher, upon careful consideration, I’ve decided not to endorse your park.”

“Who are you? Get the hell out of my office!”

Weird War #94. That’s a cover that has it all.

I didn’t comment on yesterday’s post ’cause I haven’t read it. But I did have my LCS order it for me today (they had already sold out).

So, even when you aren’t getting many comments, you’re still doing good in the world.

Not quite the maddest war comic ever. For me, that honour goes to The Black Max, a British comic strip about a WW1 German air ace who kept a giant bat inside the fuselage of his Fokker triplane. He would release it to attack entente aircraft.

I didn’t comment on the Other Side post because, um, at the time I was in the middle of reading The Other Side. Having read both it and as much of TWTTF as I could handle, I gotta say, The Other Side wins. If you’ve read one story about a bunch of Marines/sailors/paratroopers accidentally ending up on an island full of dinosaurs, you’ve just about literally read them all. A 60-or-so-page collection covering the highlights of the series* would have been sufficient…and maybe MORE than sufficient…

*G. I. ROBOT!!!

Someone really needs to build a tank/ship/gorilla.

Yeah, I gotta say, in a 500-page volume format, TWTTF does get more than a little repetitive. Especially since Kanigher seems to feel that stories about dinosaurs fighting soldiers in World War II isn’t interesting, and he needs to spice it up with human interest stuff. Like the story where the one soldier was an Olympic bobsledder, and the other soldier is the brother of his partner, who died in a bobsledding accident, and now the two are fighting over whether the brother’s death was his fault…while fighting dinosaurs.

But the concept is great, and I’d love to see it made into a movie. I even have the opening scene in my mind–a soldier gets called in to a secret briefing about a mysterious cloud-shrouded island where two previous patrols had been lost. The government presumed it was enemy-held territory until they broke a Japanese code…the Japanese think we hold it. This soldier’s mission is to find out: If we don’t hold it, and the Japanese don’t hold it…who does?

But the concept is great, and I’d love to see it made into a movie.

Well, it IS a great concept. It’s technically not Bob Kanigher’s though. He was doing a riff on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Caprona books: The Land That Time Forgot, The People That Time Forgot, etc. At the time I think the books were out of print and nature of the comics business was such that this kind of riffing/homage/theft went on all the time. Kanigher may well have thought something like, “Hey, World War II soldiers on a dinosaur island? I should do something like that,” and not considered it plagiarism.

All this is by way of saying there WAS a movie. In 1975 Amicus Pictures released Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Land That Time Forgot starring Doug McClure. I still really like it, despite its low-budget look. It’s available on one of those Midnite Madness double-feature DVDs with the sequel, The People That Time Forgot. Haven’t seen the sequel but the first one is a first-rate Burroughs adaptation, it very much captures that adventure/romance vibe all his books had.

You can read more about it and see some stills here.

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