Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving 2020

May you and yours have a happy Thanksgiving, and, with any luck, you won't have to wrestle with your turkey, unlike poor Archie Andrews on this cover of Archie Giant Series Magazine #628 (January, 1992) by Bill Golliher (and maybe Betty Cooper and Reggie Mantle could help a guy out?).

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Remembering Ricardo Montalban With Khan Covers


Remembering actor Ricardo Montalban on what would have been his 100th birthday (November 25, 1920 - January 14, 2009).

Known for many roles including the enigmatic Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island, as well as a pair of appearances as Armando in Escape From The Planet Of The Apes/Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes...

...he was better known as the genetically enhanced man from the 1990s, Khan Noonien Singh, from the 1967 Star Trek episode "Space Seed" and the movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982).



While Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest have had many of their exploits told in comics...


...Khan has only recently had his adventures told in the funny pages, thanks to IDW.




Major appearances of Khan in the comics include the two mini-series, Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (June-July, 2009) and Star Trek: Khan Ruling In Hell (October-January, 2010/2011) , as well as the recent one shot Star Trek: Hell's Mirror from August, 2020, detailing the adventures of the mirror universe Khan. 

Fans of Star Trek will always remember Montalban's portrayal as Khan: "He tasks me. He tasks me and I shall have him! I'll chase him 'round the moons of Nibia and 'round the Antares Maelstrom and 'round perdition's flames before I give him up!".

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Swamp Thing World Wars

Swamp Thing is not the first person you think of when you think of war comics, but, for two very special issues in 1989, the spirit of Alec Holland was involved in some weird war tales, teaming up with a few characters from the two World Wars as he had sought refuge from an Invasion! of his own (as the Dominators had taken him out of that war, leaving his love, Abby Arcane, on her own).

Brothers In Arms, Part Two

First up, Swamp Thing #82 (January, 1989) under a cover by John Tottleben, in a story by Rick Veitch and Alfredo Alcala, Swamp Thing finds himself waking up in the body of a dead soldier, Alexander Holland, found by Easy Company (and reanimating the body to interact with Sgt. Rock and his crew), earning him the nickname of Lazarus.  

Swamp Thing finds out it is May, 1945, the ending of World War II, and, as a Nazi SS soldier retrieves mystic artifacts from the Castle Von Hammer (including the Claw of Aelkhund sealed behind the wall in the castle with the remains of a French World War I aviator).  Easy Company gets a new assignment, taking out a Nazi meat-packing plant, with Rock and Lazarus going to scout it out.  

While, next to the plant, Anton Arcane meets the Nazi with the artifacts, planning some supernatural feet with them that would save the dying Reich....yet, Arcane had plans beyond what the Austrian painter had, including a sacrifice of one of the bulls (which had supernatural strength) and taking advantage of this war, as he had the past, to perform medical experiments to prolong his own life, as well as make his inhuman Un-Men.  

Rock and Lazarus approached the plant, with Swamp Thing calming a large bull there, with Rock taking that as a sign that Lazarus would unleash the animals as a distraction while Easy Company stormed the plant.  Easy had it easy for once, as a group of allied planes had missed their target and would be able to bomb the plant instead.  Rock went looking for Lazarus, only to find him dead this time (as Swamp Thing had vacated his body, reforming in his usual form, to go after Anton Arcane, who had been his enemy for decades....though Swamp Thing thought they hadn't met yet).  

Confronting Arcane, Swamp Thing was dispatched in fire when confronted with the Claw of Aelkhund, and burst into flames, as Arcane was impaled by the bull Lazarus had let free.  Easy Company later found the bull and had a barbecue, yet Arcane had escaped (as he would later menace Swamp Thing soon after his first appearance).  Easy Company's medic, "Pappy", was really the Unknown Soldier, who had a mission of his own, which was to get the mystic items from the Nazis (which he did).  

This left Rock and Easy, with Sgt. Rock still wondering when that last piece of metal might fall from the sky, ending the war for him.

Meanwhile, back in the modern day, Abby Arcane was met by Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man (who was going by Floro now, and working with the New Guardians during the Invasion!), who said he could not find Swamp Thing in the green (the mystic force Swamp Thing worked with to protect the Earth), but Abby still had faith that her husband was alive.

Sgt. Frank Rock and Easy Company had been fighting World War II for decades in the comics, usually dealing with the hard, cold facts of war, but occasionally dealt with some of the supernatural side, working with the crew of the Haunted Tank and even participating in the Crisis with them and the Losers.  Rock represented the "every man" of World War II, and was said to have died with the last shot of World War II.

The Unknown Soldier was one of those odd things that Sgt. Rock encountered, being an immortal fighting the German forces behind the lines using his disguises during World War II, and even had supposedly helped finish the war ending the threat of Hitler in the end of April, 1945.

Brothers In Arms, Part One

Following Swamp Thing forward put us back in World War I in Swamp Thing #83 (February, 1989) by Rick Veitch, Tom Mandrake and Alfredo Alcala, under a cover by Rick Veitch with a fokker flying into eerily swamp clouds.  



Here, Anais Arcane and her two children, Aniela and Gregori, had taken refuge in the castle of her cousin, Baron Hans Von Hammer, noted as the Hammer Of Hell, a World War I flier (for the Germans, thus making him an Enemy Ace) while her husband fought in the war.  The Baron saved Anais and her family from a plane with two pilots while they were walking in the woods, with one French pilot dead and burned, and the other wandering out of the swamp, still alive but misformed (as Swamp Thing had come into his body, but had less success in stitching it back together).  

Anais had to go to the medical school her other son was attending, as they had planned to kick Anton out for a host of problems, then went searching for him near the battle front (where Anton was taking advantage of the war to perform human experiments, though his mother only saw that he was "helping").  

Taking him back to Castle Von Hammer to help the misformed Frenchmen, Anton reunited with his siblings (not a happy one for his sister or brother), and took to experimenting on the wounded Frenchman (who, while recuperating, still was not able to resist, especially after being subjected to torture under Anton's care.....though he recognized this man as his foe, and his mother, who looked like her granddaughter, Abby).  

Baron Hammer tolerated Anton's presence for a time as he had given the aviator drugs to help him sleep as he dealt with the horror of air battle, and Anton used the Von Hammer library to further his own occult research.  

Eventually, Anais caught Anton using the supernatural objects in spells on the Frenchman in a cavern under the castle, and was disgusted by the evil her son was performing.  Anton turned to kill his mother, who was saved as the Enemy Ace had returned just in time to shoot Anton (who wandered off, surviving due to his early experiments in the occult and medicine, now more determined to prolong his life after meeting a strange swamp man for the first time).  Hammer used the Claw of Aelkhund (which his father had gotten decades ago during a trip to America) to dispatch Swamp Thing off in time again, walling up the room under the castle with it and the dead Frenchman's body, as Anais later learned of the death of her husband.  

Meanwhile, back in the modern day, Abby was informed by the Phantom Stranger, that Swamp Thing was in neither heaven nor hell after the Dominators' attack, but Abby still believed her Alec was alive (though she would have to deal with her ex-husband, Matt Cable, as his support checks were now ending).

The Enemy Ace was a short running feature of the adventures of Baron Hans Von Hammer, a German fighter pilot of World War I, and how a man who could fight ruthlessly in aviation battles dealt with the fact that he had to kill for his country.  The Enemy Ace had a few odd foes, such as the Hangman and St. George, and even traveled in time, being manipulated by the Lord of Time to fight the Justice League and Justice Society.

As Abby dealt with her problems waiting for her husband to return to her, Swamp Thing continued to fall back in time, including the Wild West (with Jonah Hex, Johnny Thunder and more), the Revolutionary War (with Tomahawk) and Camelot (and Merlin, the Demon and the Shining Knight) a story that, sadly, caused much controversy in its time, with the writer of the story leaving DC after not being able to tell the story in the way he had planned, resulting in a months' long delay as a replacement team had to be found to wrap up the story (close to what was originally planned, but missing a key component).

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Creature Commandos Invade The War That Time Forgot

Chocolate and peanut butter are two great things.  Each of them are made better by combining the two...and the same can be said about series set in World War II.

Two of the oddest features of World War II combined for an issue, when the Creature Commandos ended up on Dinosaur Island, fighting the War That Time Forgot in Weird War Tales #100 (June, 1981) by Mike W. Barr, Bob Hall and Jerry Ordway (under a cover by Joe Kubert).

Creature Commandos

But, first, a little history, starting with the premier of the Creature Commandos from Weird War Tales #93 (November, 1980) by J. M. DeMattteis, Pat Broderick and John Celardo, with the U.S. government via a group called Project M (for "Monster") created what would be the Creature Commandos...

...taking convicted con man Sgt. Vincent Velcro and injecting him with experimental chemicals including the blood of vampire bats until he manifested the ability to turn into a bat, with a desire for human blood (though no weakness to the sun or religious iconography); Warren Griffith, a 4F young man from Oklahoma who suffered from the belief he was a lycanthrope, and giving him treatments to make him change into a wolfman at random (not controlled by the moon) and Private Elliot "Lucky" Taylor, who stepped on a land mine on a Pacific island, yet was reassembled as a super-strong, silent patchwork man; with these men turned monsters led by Lt. Matthew Shrieve (whose lust for battle could make him the most monstrous of them all).  

The group continued as the main feature of Weird War Tales after this issue, missing only a few issues, adding a Dr. Medusa to their ranks, as well as teaming up with both versions of the G.I. Robot, right up until the end of the series with Weird War Tales #124 (June, 1983), where they were shot into space (later to be picked up by Brainiac and returned to Earth by Superman).

The War That Time Forgot

Dinosaur Island premiered in Star Spangled War Stories #90 (April-May, 1960) by Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito (though the island didn't get that name until later in the series), and started a series of loosely connected stories featuring soldiers versus dinosaurs during World War II, but with some regular sub-features that it introduced like...

...G.I. Robot (in Star Spangled War Stories #101), the Suicide Squadron (WWII's inspiration for the Suicide Squad, which came first, but this version started in Star Spangled War Stories #110) and the Bird-Man (who fought enemy forces on pterodactyls, starting in Star Spangled War Stories #129), with the series ending in Star Spangled War Stories #137 (February-March, 1968), though Dinosaur Island could still be found, being visited once by the crew of the Haunted Tank, then a few stories in Weird War Tales before the team-up (and a few after)...

...with Dinosaur Island "settling" post-Crisis to be a part of Warlord's Skartaris (and even being a place where Bat Lash and the Enemy Ace fought Vandal Savage in the 1920s before these stories....).

But, back to the task at hand....


Dinosaur Convoy

The Creature Commandos were assigned to follow up on missing recon patrols near a series of Pacific Islands, looking for a Japanese convoy.  

There, they encountered Japanese troops (as well as plenty of dinosaurs), with both Shrieve and the Japanese commander realizing that the dinosaurs could have uses as troops as well.  


The Creature Commandos reluctantly fought the dinosaurs, dispatched the Japanese troops, and even helped rally the dinosaurs to take out the Japanese convoy, with Shrieve taking pictures to document how the dinosaurs could be used by the government against the Japanese.  

Lucky (the patchwork man) destroyed Shrieve's camera, with Velcro (the vampire) explaining that he wouldn't let them exploit the dinosaurs, who were just mindless creatures, unlike the "monsters" of the Creature Commandos they already have in service.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Suicide Mission For Sgt. Rock, Haunted Tank and Johnny Cloud

Talking about the greatest generation, and times when they fought for our freedom.

One time brought together the greatest fighters of that generation for their greatest mission....

...and here is that story, from Brave and the Bold #52 (February-March, 1964) by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert (under a cover by Kubert), when they had to work together on a...

Suicide Mission

An agent needed behind the lines in World War II, so the United States sent its best flier, Johnny Cloud, on a secret mission to retrieve the hero (but, with a plan so secret, his plan had a bomb implanted, rigged to explode to prevent capture).  After a pitched battle against Nazi fighters, Cloud landed his P-41 to find the informant, code named "Martin", sealed in an iron suit, as a torture by Nazis who had captured him.  


Still, the resistance helped the agent escape with vital information, but had no time to remove the suit.  To allow Cloud and Martin to get into the air, the resistance fighter sacrificed his life fending off attacking Nazi troops.  In the air, more planes attacked, but Cloud was saved when a tank joined the fray, taking out the last Nazi fighter.  

After landing carefully (to not trigger the explosives), Cloud and Martin had to hurry to get into the M-3 (the Haunted Tank of Jeb Stuart), as they provided cover for Nazi troops who had been attracted to the air battle.  The troops were little trouble for Stuart and his crew, but soon, a Nazi Tiger tank arrived, bringing more trouble than they could handle.  Still, Stuart went for advise from his ghostly Civil War namesake (who only he could see and hear), and led the Tiger to crashing into Cloud's plane, which exploded on impact, taking out the Tiger.   

Stuart, Cloud, Martin and the crew were rolling on, with the ghost giving Jeb the advice of needing a rock of strength....which, after an encounter with another Tiger tank, they needed.  Sgt. Rock and Easy Company approached, being drawn in by the tank battle.  

Rock and bazooka holding Dead-Eye could decide the fate of the mission, having to take down the Tiger, but enemy fire weakened the two men....yet, as he was dying, Dead-Eye wouldn't stop staring at Sgt. Rock....which gave him the strength to lift the bazooka, firing it and taking out the Tiger tank.  

Rock, Stuart and Cloud had to take "Martin" away on foot, finding the iron suit too hard to manage, finally freed the agent from find out that it was French resistance fighter Sgt. Rock had met before!  The four continued on, being found by another Nazi tank....where the commander wanted to know which of the four was "Martin".  They all claimed to be...distracting him long enough for Sgt. Rock to dive under the tank and use the remaining bazooka shells to blow up the tank.  

The team was able to deliver the agent to the Allies, where the information delivered was able to stop a Nazi terror invasion.  This work and sacrifice resulted in Rock and Stuart being promoted to Lieutenant, and Cloud to Captain....yet Frank Rock was already working on getting demoted, as he only ever wanted to be a sergeant, and top kick of Easy Company.

Now, some quick files on the men of this mission (with a reveal of who was behind the iron mask at the end!).

Sgt. Rock of Easy Company

Sgt. Rock premiered in Our Army At War #81 (April, 1959) by Robert Kanigher, Bob Haney, Ross Andru and Michael Esposito) but became the Sgt. Frank Rock of Easy more readily recognized about two issues later.  The son of a miner, who became a boxer, then worked at a steel mill, Rock enlisted, and embodied the fighting spirit of the average American, finding leading men into battle to be where he truly belonged.

Johnny Cloud

Johnny Cloud premiered in All-American Men Of War #82 (November-December, 1960) by Robert Kanigher and Irv Novick,  Johnny was the son of a Navajo Indian Chief, who called his boy "Flying Cloud", who took inspiration from the clouds.  Johnny suffered discrimination in the air corps, yet became a lieutenant, and leader of his squadron, after dispatching the enemy fighters who attacked his squadron, fatally wounding their leader, Mack, who recommends Johnny as the new leader of the squadron, now nicknamed the Happy Braves.

Jeb Stuart of the Haunted Tank

Jeb Stuart and his haunted tank premiered in G.I. Combat #87 (April-May, 1961) by Robert Kanigher and Russ Heath (though not on that first cover), with Stuart and his M-3 crew going into battle against a Nazi Tiger tank team.  The M-3 was lighter and more maneuverable, taking out the more powerful Nazi tanks, with a little help from the ghost of Civil War General Jeb Stuart (a forefather of Jeb's, and spiritual protector of the tank).  Later, the ghost would appear to Jeb, giving him advice which allowed Stuart and his crew to fight well in World War II. 

Mademoiselle Marie

The "man" in the iron suit was really a doll....a French resistance fighter named Mademoiselle Marie, who premiered in Star-Spangled War Stories #84 (August, 1959) by Robert Kanigher and Jerry Grandenetti, Marie had many missions in France, trying to free her occupied land from the Nazis who had unjustly taken their land.  Marie fought on even after many sacrifices, including her father (though she seemed to lose a father many times, a bit of contradiction in her stories).  Marie even lost her own series, but continued to aid the Allies, popping up to help Sgt. Rock and Easy Company in Our Army At War #115 before her appearance in B&B.

This "Suicide Mission" was reprinted many times, including in Battle Classics #1 (September-October, 1978) and Sgt. Rock Special #2 (1988), both with covers by Joe Kubert, detailing the hard work that our armed forces must endure to protect our freedom!

These heroes would also join forces many times in the future as well (with additional heroes, like the Losers and the Unknown Soldier), keeping an ever vigilant battle against the forces of evil, to prevent them from winning the fight, no matter the sacrifice.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Superman Joins The Ant Army

Usually Superman is here to fight the alien menaces which come to plague us, standing as a champion of truth, justice and the American way.


But, in this classic Action Comics tale with cover by Curt Swan and George Klein, Superman joins them (the bad guys), as he turns into an "ant-man", and participates in....



The Invasion Of The Super-Ants!

In the story by Edmond Hamilton and Al Plastino from Action Comics #296 (January, 1963), Clark Kent and Lois Lane are checking out the new ant exhibit at the zoo, with Clark extolling the virtues of ant life with how much more they could accomplish if they were human sized (and Lois not so convinced).  Meanwhile, on the outskirts of Metropolis, a newly married couple come across giant ants when hiking, and find themselves trapped on a mountain (until the ants help them out).  

Giant ants are discovered in all the surrounding area of Metropolis, causing trouble where ever they are.  The media put out a call to Superman, who heads out to stop them...but can't, as the ants have green Kryptonite nearby to stop him.  So, Superman checks with the U.S. Army (also sent to stop the ants).  

Superman works with them (including Col. Larson) using a lead lined tank, but that plan is stopped as well, as is the army's plans of using poison gas.  The ants continue their raids, finding only certain elements, and then taking Lois Lane from the Daily Planet to be their queen!  

Desperate, Superman heads to a red Kryptonite cloud, and remembering how it affected his dog, Krypto, tries a desperate becoming partially ant himself!  The red K changed Krypto into what he was thinking of, so Superman gambled he could get ant antennae this way.  

When communicating with the ants, Superman learned they came from a world where the humans had annihilated each other with atomic weapons (which also mutated the ants to become intelligent and human sized).  So, the giant ants then traveled the cosmos, looking to save planets from their own technology.  They had problems here on Earth when their ship crash landed and needed repair....and they took Lois Lane, hoping Superman would then find a way to communicate with them.  

As their ship was repaired, even the green Kryptonite was explained (it was their ship's fuel, not meant to harm Superman at all!).  

Superman went to the United Nations after, to have them try to avoid a Great Disaster with atomic weapons (though that didn't always work shown here!).  

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Superman Joins Sgt. Rock's Easy Company

Super-heroes and soldiers seem an odd mix, but it did happen quite a bit in the comics.


The gold standard of super-heroes was Superman, and the best of the war comics featured Sgt. Rock...., here is a simple tale of the time these two characters met under a cover by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano!



The Miracle Man Of Easy Company

Cary Bates, Joe Staton and Jack Abel gave us the story from DC Comics Presents #10 (June, 1979), starting off in modern day Paris, with Superman getting an award for saving the city from an asteroid.  But, the award was booby trapped with a bomb, which Superman couldn't just throw away (as it was also coated with an adhesive strong enough to hold it to Superman).  

To save Paris, Superman flew into space above it....and disappeared when the bomb went off.  Superman awoke on the ground in Paris of 1944, seeing two Nazi soldiers taking off their American soldier disguises, yet found...he could not remember his own name!  

Looking at his outfit and realizing this would look odd to people, he appropriated one of the American soldier uniforms (wondering why there were fresh WWII uniforms on the least remembering he was from 1979), and heard (from an impossible distance) approaching American soldiers.  The soldiers were the combat happy joes of Easy Company, led by Sgt. Rock, who were looking for Nazi saboteurs disguised as American soldiers (they had already dispatched all but two of them).  The soldiers found the amnesiac Superman, and questioned him, not sure about his lack of memory, but took him in (fending off a Nazi attack).  

Superman answered enough of Easy's tests to lay some of their fears to rest (but, now Sgt. Rock was unsure whether this new Tag-Along would be able to perform under combat).  Soon, the troop was set upon by a Tiger tank, with Tag-Along holding the bazooka, which he was ready to fire....but didn't (Superman had a code against killing).  In frustration, he hit the ground, which caused a chasm, that engulfed the tank (Superman didn't know his own strength).  

Easy Company took take of the Nazis in the tank, while Tag-Along started to wonder about his powers, thinking about Nazi Supermen....and realizing he was Superman.  Just in time, as Easy Company was now set upon by a Nazi fighter plane (but, the now fully super Superman snagged the bomb it dropped before it got to the troops).  Superman then set the plane down out of range and froze it.  Superman was wondering why Rock's Easy Company was such targets....and realized he was at fault.  In the gear he took to be Tag-Along, was a Nazi transmitter so Easy Company could be tracked.  So, to even up history, Superman put a little super-scare into the local Nazi commandant, then faked Tag-Along's death (allowing Easy to bury him) so they could go on in their own natural history before Superman returned to his own time (to find out how he got here in the first place!).

It was in the next issue where Superman found out who planted the bomb, all in a team-up with Hawkman...all in a wonderful tale summarized here (along with a few other the Hawkman and Superman team-ups!).

This tale brings up a few odd thoughts...where did Superman get his military training?  (He did have some when he joined the army, back in Superman #133).  

Why wouldn't Sgt. Rock and Easy know super-heroes?  (While on Earth-2, super-heroes were contemporaries of World War II, on Earth-1, Superman was one of the first heroes, who first appeared only relatively recently....with super-heroes only the things of comic books!).

But, just enjoy this tale as the simple one that it was, as dedicated to Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert!