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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 98

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we take a look at Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito’s The War That Time Forgot run in Star Spangled War Stories…
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Enjoy!

Before the late 1950s, DC was content to let their war comics go by without any featured characters. That changed in the late 50s as they decided it made more sense to begin to have regular features. While it was not the first feature in Star-Spangled War Stories, The War That Time Forgot was its longest-running lead feature (time-wise, that is – The Unknown Soldier outlasted it issue-wise, because of the different shipping schedules), running from 1960 until 1968.

What’s remarkable about the set-up is just how simple it was – it really just was “let’s see what happens when we put a bunch of soldiers on an island full of dinosaurs and make them fight for their lives.”

If there was ever one skill that really distinguished Robert Kanigher from other writers, it was that he could write the same basic concept forty issues in a row and have it be a unique story each time. I mean, for crying out loud, this is the same guy who managed to come up with unique stories for the Haunted Tank!!! And you don’t get much more specific of a story concept than the Haunted Tank!

Luckily for him, he was also aided by such great artists as Ross Andru and Mike Esposito (who drew the vast majority of The War That Time Forgot issues, which ran as the main feature roughly from #90-137 – with some gaps here and there), Russ Heath, Gene Colan and, of course, Joe Kubert.

Here are some sample pages from two issues…

and

As you can see, Kanigher delivers straightforward but strong war action in each issue, with characters who are never really THAT far apart from each other, and yet just different enough to give each new lead their own “hook.”

It was a really effective method, especially seeing as how it also involved soldiers fighting dinosaurs which, come on, is pretty freakin’ awesome, concept-wise!

10 Comments

The Crazed Spruce

April 9, 2010 at 8:58 am

I’d heard about “The War that Time Forgot”, but the concept always struck me as a bit cheezy (and bear in mind, this is coming from a guy who loved “The Haunted Tank” as a kid), and I never actually read any of the stories. ‘Til now, anyway.

Holy crap, those look like good stories! I can see why so many people love them. Is there a trade paperback, or a Showcase collection? If there isn’t, there definitely should be.

Robert Kanigher is a very underappreciated writer, especially when you focus on his nonsuperhero stuff. And you’re right, he can write the same basic story premise over and over and still make it seem fresh and good each time.

With how superhero-centeric comics currently are, it is easy to forget what a huge role war comics played in shaping the DC Silver Age.

Kaninger really is an under-rated writer. He has a great feel for action and his concepts are really interesting. I cannot believe that THE WAR THAT TIME FORGOT isn’t being adapted into a movie. Soldiers vs. Dinosaurs pretty well sells itself.

While Bruce Jones was attempting a new take on the story, I went out and found the Showcase Edition. Every story had the same premise and almost completely one-note characterization, and it was still great fun. It’s hard not to like blowing up dinosaurs. And to my joyous surprise there’s even a couple of stories about a Suicide Squad.

Ahhh, now I understand why Chuck Dixon had the birds of prey fight alongside a bunch of wwII soldiers and dinasours for his last arc on BOP Vol 1.

Damn, Brian! Two of my all time favorites in a row! Do Haunted Tank next!

This is, imho, the greatest War that Time Forgot story, as well as featuring the single greatest comic book cover of all time:

http://i165.photobucket.com/albums/u51/The_Mutt_pics/SSWS129.jpg

The Crazed Spruce

April 9, 2010 at 12:23 pm

To quote Dean:

” I cannot believe that THE WAR THAT TIME FORGOT isn’t being adapted into a movie. Soldiers vs. Dinosaurs pretty well sells itself.”

At the very least, they should make an animated short, and add it to one of those “DC Universe” DVDs. They can even adapt one of Kanigher’s scripts!

And hey, can we say something about the art? I’m not a fan of a lot of Ross Andru’s later work, but looking at these stories, it’s no wonder he was one of the greats. Damn, that’s some beautiful linework!

Andru did some of his best work on Star-Spangled War Stories, but the issues I remember most vividly were the ones by Russ Heath. I haven’t seen that page with the quadruplet boys fighting since I first saw it in the 60s, but I instantly recognized and remembered it.

BTW, I had a subscription to Star-Spangled War Stories. The only comic I ever subscribed to. The comics were mailed to me in a brown paper sleeve. Folded in half! And creased!

This looks like a fun read. I know they had a miniseries based on this a couple years ago but I think it was pretty dull (how that’s possible with dinosaurs vs soldiers, I don’t know).

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