web stats

CSBG Archive

What “The War That Time Forgot” can teach us!

With the recent announcement that DC is re-launching a bunch of their war comics, including “The War That Time Forgot,” I thought I’d post this. I started this in 2008 and meant it to be a series of five, but they take a really long time to put together, and none of the other old-school DC war comics are as fun as Robert Kanigher’s insane soldiers-versus-dinosaurs epic anyway, so I’m only doing this one. But it’s a doozy!

I should point out that I don’t have much interest in buying the DC Silver Age superhero stuff, because of what I’ve read, the only thing that holds up is Doom Patrol, but the war comics are something else. Yes, they’re often the same story over and over, but they’re still more “mature” than the superhero stuff (even with the haunted tank and the dinosaurs).

So what can we learn from DC’s war comics? Well, as the Showcase volumes are over 500 pages, quite a lot. And so, in the grand tradition of learning about women through Wonder Woman comics, finding out that comics were better in the Seventies (and then finding out they were far scarier, too), judging early Batman comics completely out of context, and what we can learn from the Kree-Skrull War, let’s look at …

The War That Time Forgot volume 1! Yes, it’s the U. S. Armed Forces versus dinosaurs, as serialized in Star-Spangled War Stories #90-128, April/May 1960 to August/September 1966. Before we begin, I’d like to point out that the panels marked with a (1) were drawn by Russ Heath, the panels marked with a (2) were drawn by Joe Kubert, and those with a (3) were drawn by Gene Colan. Every other panel was drawn by Ross Andru and inked by Mike Esposito. That’s most of the book, by the way.

Keep in mind, too, that I’m going to take these completely out of context. I know what I’m doing. I’m just heading off the criticism of “Well, you’re taking these completely out of context.” Isn’t that part of the fun?

So what can we learn from DC’s 1960s war comics? Well …

You might think only one island in the Pacific has dinosaurs living on it, but you’d be wrong:
There’s “Mystery Island” …

“X Island” …

“Lava Island” …

“Red Island One” …

The island has no name …

“Fireworks Island” …

And, finally …

That’s at least seven islands with dinosaurs living on them. And nobody has ever stumbled across them before? Wow. Of course, each story probably features a different island with dinosaurs, because some of them get destroyed at the end of the story (see below), but these are the only ones that are named or acknowledged. But if there are so many islands with dinosaurs all over the Pacific, why hasn’t someone discovered them before? It’s probably because …

One needs to pass through clouds to pierce the space-time continuum and travel to these dinosaur-age islands …

(2)

(3)

How did the dinosaurs survive, you might ask? Well, Kanigher doesn’t go into that too much, but there is one theory …

But enough about the survival of the dinosaurs or where they lived, undetected, for millions of years! What about the very islands on which they live?

First, islands apparently float on top of the water and are not mountains on the ocean floor, as geologists have been telling us for years! All geologists are liars!

Second, it’s easy to destroy an island. Either waves come along and completely swamp it …

… or you can just bomb the island to pieces …

… or a handy volcano erupts, wiping the island from the face of the planet!

What else can these comics teach us, especially about America’s finest fighters?

If your patrol disappears, the best thing to do is send two men to check it out, because they can deal with the enemy far more effectively!

Never mention that your flamethrower might not work … because it won’t!

JFK was apparently very close to fighting dinosaurs … but he never got the chance!

The Army loves using its soldiers as guinea pigs!

We also discover that there are a lot of assholes in the United States Armed Forces. I mean, a lot of assholes. This lieutenant …

The skipper of this PT boat …

And even when he believes that dinosaurs walk the Earth, he’s still an asshole!

The older brothers are assholes to their younger brother …

This guy is an asshole …

It’s not limited to the Armed Forces, as this reporter is a real asshole …

(For the record, Morgan died because he pushed Mace too hard, and he, Morgan, absolved Mace before he died.)

Morgan’s brother is a real asshole …

These cops are assholes …

And Arnie is an asshole. That’s a lot of jerks running around the South Pacific!
(3)

Of course, some soldiers just can’t help but be heroic!
(3)

We also learn that brothers often don’t know each other’s names. Do they even have any?

Ah, yes, Kanigher remembers that they were unnamed. Good for him!

One thing the Army really values is the ability to form human pyramids. I mean, if you can’t form human pyramids, how can you battle the barbarian hordes who want to destroy our American Way of Life????

American fighting men are also remarkably cavalier about their situation. They don’t like dinosaurs, but getting killed in action? That means it’s time for jokes!

If they’re not cavalier about their lot, they’re kind of gloomy. Come on man, you’re in the American Army – the greatest fighting force ever assembled! Dinosaurs don’t stand a chance against you!

Our soldiers also always carried matches. You never know when you might need one!

For some reason, characters reappear in consecutive issues … and don’t remember that they fought dinosaurs in the previous one! Maybe the Army used some kind of brainwashing on them!!!!

Despite the fact that the soldiers are ass-kickers, they’re not that bright. They think that cavemen lived during the dinosaur age …

They don’t realize that a dinosaur carcass is as good as a live one …

And this paleontologist thinks that pterodactyls had feathers. He got his degree at the Eau Claire Community College Annex.

Meanwhile, this soldier accepts that dinosaurs walk the land, but he doesn’t believe in a giant white gorilla. That’s just silly!

And the Army thinks that this nerve gas will turn soldiers into zombies, but dinosaurs – that’s kooky!

We also learn that you can get the bends in fairly shallow water. The dinosaur can stand on the bottom and reach the surface, yet the frogmen are concerned about the bends. Don’t you need to be deeper in order to have a problem with that?
(1)

The top brass of the Armed Forces isn’t too bright, either. I can understand that they never thought a dinosaur would tear through a parachute, but they never “computed” that something else might tear a ‘chute? Really?
(2)

Soldiers, we learn, also have issues with unconscious comrades.

I mean, come on, man, let it go!

Speaking of insecurities, if a policeman ever does one tiny thing wrong, well, this is what happens …

(Of course, we saw above that his fellow cops are dicks, so maybe he has reason to think this!)

We also learn that, of course, if one person sees dinosaurs, no matter how sane they are or how many other people see them, the government will suppress it! Who cares how many lives it might save! Who cares if they could launch a bigger offensive so that individuals or small groups of people wouldn’t get sacrificed to the dinosaur hordes!

So the government shuts it down in many different ways …

Yeah, “warn the base.” That’ll work!

Why? Why?

Oh, sure there will be an “investigation.” Suuuure!

Even if two people corroborate the story, that’s not enough!

No wonder no one believes – they sent the soldiers to the booby hatch!

Of course, based on what happened to Talbot, maybe the booby hatch is a good place for them!

I mean, look at that guy!

Talbot was swallowed by a sea monster and blasted his way out, so maybe he has a right to go crazy. But still … he seems like kind of a wuss to me! He can’t be a true American, man!

Why? Why?

Another thing we learn about the Armed Forces is that they’re enamored of robots. Yes, robots. Who could forget the waves of robot soldiers storming the beaches of Okinawa? Well, maybe things didn’t work out that way … probably because the robots were too busy fighting dinosaurs … and other robots!

Of course, you’re bound to have serious mood swings when you address the unspeaking robot.

And you can’t talk to the robot about the two most important things in the world!

In war, human-robot relations are key to victory!

But be careful it doesn’t become something unholy … like human-robot love!

And, of course, you often forget that you’re talking to a robot, because they’re so damned lifelike!

And if the United States has a G. I. robot, you just know the Japanese will have a GIANT ROBOT!

Not only will the Japanese have a GIANT ROBOT, it will be SOLAR-POWERED!!!!!

But do robots recognize opposing sides in a war? Wouldn’t they just unite against their human overlords????

Naturally, if the first robot doesn’t work out, the Army is ready with another one!

And, when it comes time for another G. I. robot, we learn the sad and mysterious fate of the first one.
(2)

Unfortunately, this robot doesn’t fare much better. So sad!
(2)

Kanigher also give us fascinating insight into the fairer sex. Girls, you see, are terrified of dinosaur models, for crying out loud! Silly girls!

Not only notable for its insight into the female, this comic also exposes … the plight of the well dressed white kid! Man, there’s nothing worse than being a well dressed white kid – they’re freaks, man!
(3)

We get very little about the actual enemy in these comics. First, we find out that they have a “secret weapon,” but we know it’s really the terror of the dinosaurs!

And then … we see enemy sailors! This is the only time in this entire collection that the Japanese show up. They could have won the war while the Americans were busy fighting dinosaurs!

Some of the panels in this can only be described as … “Because Bob Kanigher!”
“Concentrate your fire on that coconut!”

“Never thought my life would depend on a G. I. robot battling a dinosaur!”

Some kinky people like being in a dinosaur sandwich.

I want to read “Hillbilly With a Heater!”

I really want to read “Hillbilly With a Heater!”

Um, that’s not a spider. It has six legs and insect mandibles. You would think our fighting men would know what a spider looks like!
(1)

These soldiers know what antipasto is, but they can’t tell the difference between an insect and a spider? Our soldiers have weird tastes.

Anson Williams?
(2)

There are quite a lot of interesting turns of phrases in this book. Here are some of the better ones. Mr. Kanigher, you may pick up your Pulitzer any time you wish!

Teeth larger than piano keys? Piano keys aren’t really that big.

(2)

Dinosaurs often “gulp” down bullets shot at them. This is a typical metaphor employed by the soldiers.
(2)

And we couldn’t end with a phrase that probably wouldn’t have made anyone think of sex, but in today’s awful world run by liberals who have intercourse with anything that moves, this panel made me laugh. Yes, I’m a Commie liberal hippie. Please forgive me!

That’s quite a lot we can learn just from one volume of DC’s war comics. Who knows what else we can discover about the Greatest Generation from reading about them in 1960s and 1970s comic books? Whatever it is, you’d be wise to treat these comics as perfectly composed guides to life. Why can’t you just accept that Bob Kanigher knows far more about how to live than you do? DC knew it, and so should you!

8 Comments

Fascinating. But come on, I’ll be impressed when DC brings back its romance titles.

Excellent piece!

Was Hillbilly with a Heater a back-up story not reprinted in these volumes?

“..concentrate your fire on the coconuts” Even George Lucas would have trouble “topping” that beauty.

“Before we’re packaged for a TV Dinner!”? How’d they have that in WWII, when no one had a TV to eat dinner in front of? Wouldn’t “Before we’re packaged for a ration pack!” be better?

I’ve got the issue with “Hillbilly with a Heater” here somewhere. I don’t recall the story being quite as exciting as the title might suggest, but I’ll see if I can dig it out.

Okay, reporting in on “Hillbilly with a Heater.” The story definitely has some down home charm. it’s about a complete hick who gets stuck escorting a tank on foot. He feels pretty useless, right up until the tank gets stuck on a giant anti-tank defense system, leaving it a sitting duck for the Nazis. Then the hillbilly springs into action, single-handedly saving the day. The end.

Of course, the whole story is filled with the hick comparing everything to his farmyard; he starts calling the tank “mama hen” and therefore has to come up with an appropriate metaphor for every plane and enemy tank that appears. And he’s also really pre-occupied with how uncomfortable his boots are, because he’s just a bare foot kind of farmboy, so he takes his shoes off whenever possible, something that has no connection whatsoever to anything else that happens in the story. Hey, he don’t understand all these high falutin army regulations. No sir. That’s because…

… he’s just a HILLBILLY WITH A HEATER!

Greg – “You might think only one island in the Pacific has dinosaurs living on it”

IIRC the first Morgan & Mace story was set in Norway & the dinos came from under the ice.

An earlier Dinosaur Island appeared in a Jimmy Olsen story.

I believe the first GI Robot story in this collection was the first use of the term Responsometer which Kahniger would later use for the Metal Men.

One arm but sixteen feet!! Brilliant

There are a number of anachronisms besides TV dinners in those stories. (TV dinners came along in the Fifties, IIRC, but there were crude, early TVs in the Thirties.)

However, many dinosaurs – including non-flying ones – had feathers! (I’m not sure if that was known in the Forties, though.)

There’s a lot of influence from _King Kong_ and, especially, _Son of Kong_ in these. Right down to the sinking islands.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives