Monday, November 5, 2007

The War That Time Forgot

Here's how this works: I finish reading a comic collection, and I tell you about it, and I try not to go on too long.

This isn't the entry I thought I'd write.

This Showcase volume collects seven years of The War That Time Forgot, a 15-page strip that ran throughout the 1960s in the pages of Star-Spangled War Stories. It has the greatest premise ever - WW2 GIs battle dinosaurs, giant apes, undersea beasts and hundred-foot tall Nazi robots on a South Pacific island - and it runs it completely into the ground. This is not how it should have been. This should have been the best book ever. It's not.

For about 100, 150 pages, this was a tremendously entertaining read. But these stories were not made to be collected in a 550 page volume, where the amazing repetition of the scripts are exposed. Robert Kanigher was writing these for eight year-olds who wouldn't follow a war comic for seven or more years, but I have to wonder whether he wasn't driving them away by using the exact same plot structure in every story! Seriously, if you've read one War That Time Forgot, you've read them all. A fresh-faced GI, who narrates the events from after the fact (confirming he'll survive it), is assigned a suicide mission to pick up where another mission fails, and his transport either gets torn out of the sky by a pteranodon with a wingspan greater than Rodan's which cracks a B-29 in half, or his ship gets sunk by a tentacled horror. If he's in a submarine, it's going down, too. He and his surviving fellows all speak with exactly the same New York lingo and jargon and refer to the monsters as, alternately, refugees from "the age of nightmares"/"the Ice Age"/"the late-night horror show," repeatedly. The GIs will be able to see underwater without a mask, and they will invariably throw hand grenades at the dinosaurs and call their weapons "pineapples." They will either obtain the Macguffin assigned by the brass, who will never believe this story, or they will destroy it so the Japs can't obtain it. Every strip is the same.

This happens about eleven times in this book. I'm serious.

From time to time, some recurring characters will turn up for not more than three or four strips. Among these are the most annoying characters in all of fiction, Morgan and Mace. Mace was responsible for the accidental death of Morgan's brother before the war; Morgan is convinced Mace is a coward and can't wait for him to turn yellow so that he can gun him down for failing to complete the mission. We know this because, in an average 15 page story, this is explained at least six times. I am not kidding. Then we get a flying baby dinosaur called Dino and a kid named Caveboy, and, DAMNATION, THIS BOOK SHOULD BE BETTER THAN THIS.

You do get some rare art by Gene Colan, Russ Heath and Joe Kubert in its pages, and Kubert actually did a little research to see what dinosaurs were thought to look like, as opposed to "whatever the fuck he felt like drawing." But the overwhelming majority of the pages are by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, who can draw helmets and trees and tommy guns all right, but nothing else. Certainly not dinosaurs. Not recommended at all. Dammit.

(Originally posted November 05, 2007 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

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