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DC Comics History: The War That Time Forgot (1964 - 1967: The New Look)
By Deejay Dayton

February 16, 2020 - 07:07



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The War That Time Forgot continued to play around with the concept during the period 1964 – 1967: the New Look. While the only truly constant factors were Dinosaur Island and World War 2 soldiers, the series introduced a new version of the Suicide Squad, as well as a second GI Robot, and had a few recurring characters as well, such as Mace and Morgan, and Bird-Man. Robert Kanigher scripted, but a wide variety of artists contributed to the series.

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One of the best War That Time Forgot tales appeared in Star Spangled War Stories 132. The story bears a distinct resemblance to an earlier tale, with a cop and the felon who escaped from him during a train wreck.  But in the earlier story the two men were brothers.  In this tale, there is no filial relationship between the men.  Both wind up entering the army, and are taken prisoner by the Japanese. They escape from a POW camp together, and wind up stuck on Dinosaur Island. While they have to work together to survive, the former cop intends to bring the felon in, while the bad guy is planning to kill the ex-cop the first time he has the chance.  That bears some similarity to the previous tale as well. But the ending is far darker than the earlier version.  Here, the criminal triumphs, when the cop gets pulled down and eaten by one of the dinosaurs.  But his "victory" is no such thing, as he is now trapped on Dinosaur Island himself. This story was reprinted a number of time, the first being in the mid-70s, in a Heroes War against the Monsters issue of DC Special that I had as a child, my first encounter with the War That Time Forgot.

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It’s a bit surprising that it took until Star Spangled War Stories 130 to bring an American and a Japanese soldier together on Dinosaur Island. It seems a natural idea, given that so many of the tales have two men who, for one reason or another, are pitted against each other as well as the dinosaurs. In this story they are the two survivors when their submarines get into a battle. Each is prepared to kill the other when they first run into each other.  But then, you know, big scary dinosaurs, and they put aside their differences in order to battle the beasties. It ends with the Japanese soldier not having learned anything about the value of peace and friendship, prepared to kill the Amercan now they they are leaving the island.  But then one of the dinosaurs pops up, like the finger of fate, and eats him.

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Russ Heath provided the art on a number of War That Time Forgot tales, and I want to highlight the one from Star Spangled War Stories 122. Quadruplets make up the cast of this story, and while they do all enter the army together, in this tale they function as two sets of twins. One pair are frogmen, sent ahead to secure a safe beach on what turns out to be Dinosaur Island.  Not much chance of finding a good beach there. Heath's art on the story is superb, and the creatures look far more frightening than in previous instalments. The twin frogman fight against, and eventually kill, the dinosaurs menacing the beach.  But the tank the other twins are landing in gets attacked as well, and the men almost drown.  The frogmen pair save their brothers, but the two on the tank passed out, saw none of the dinosaurs, and do not believe the outrageous tale the frogmen brothers tell them.

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Joe Kubert did the art for a very unusual War That Time Forgot outing in Star Spangled War Stories 124. The tale is told as a flashback, by a soldier in an asylum, who claims to have killed his best friend, who turned into a dinosaur. And that is basically what happens in the story.  But there is Kubert art along the way, which makes it all captivating. The two men wind up on Dinosaur Island, and the one who will become a dinosaur has read many tales of such things happening, and fears it.  There is not really any attempt to provide an explanation for what takes place, it just does. He maintains a degree of humanity, even in his dinosaur form, but feels that fading away, and begs his friend to kill him before he becomes a complete monster. Not a bad story, perhaps a bit more suited to DC's horror comics, though those were a few years in the future.

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There is some lovely Neal Adams art, and one of Kanigher's weakest scripts, in the War That Time Forgot tale in Star Spangled War Stories 134. The story deals with two officers on a PT boat, which winds up plagued by the creatures on Dinosaur Island. While the visuals throughout are superb, it's really irritating the way the junior officer keeps yelling at the skipper that he is cracking up, and demanding to take charge. I really wanted one of the dinosaurs to just eat the guy, but it doesn't go that way.  The skipper proves himself by saving the junior officer, who stops yelling insults at his commander. Still, I like to think the guy was court-martialed afterwards.

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The Suicide Squad get a reboot in Star Spangled War Stories 116, which develops that organization more than the War That Time Forgot. Although the characters are still fighting dinosaurs during World War 2, and doing it in the Arctic, this story has far more to do with the relationship between the two men, Mace and Morgan. Morgan blames Mace for the death of his brother, which occurred during a bobsled competition at the Olympics.  Mace has always felt guilty for it as well, though it is clear that in no way did he actually cause the brother's death. 

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But now the two men find themselves in the same unit, and Morgan seems just as intent on seeing Mace die as he does in avoiding the dinosaurs. We also see that the Suicide Squad is a division of the military, a unit that comprises more than just the two men participating in this mission. Though the two succeed in their mission, and find a destroyed Japanese sub, and Mace even saves Morgan's life, the tension between the two has only barely abated by the time the story ends. Never before had a Suicide Squad story shown conflict like this between its members, something which would become a defining feature of the team.

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Mace and Morgan are back, as the Suicide Squad members get sent to Dinosaur Island itself in Star Spangled War Stories 117. Having survived their dinosaur encounter in the far north, Mace and Morgan are sent to check on an experimental bomber that vanished.  Or at least that's the story they are told, as they get sent to Dinosaur Island. Morgan is still just as down on Mace, still blaming him for the death of his brother.  They are at the right place to see a baby dinosaur hatch from its egg, and protect it from a giant snake. This serves them well in the long run, as the baby dinosaur frees them from a trap the other dinosaurs have lead the two men into, and then fights off a pterodactyl at the climax of the tale. The story ends with the two men adrift on a raft.

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The Suicide Squad story from the previous issue of Star Spangled War Stories continues in issue 118. The story picks up immediately after the ending of the previous issue, with Mace and Morgan on a raft.  Morgan is still threatening to kill Mace, who must be getting very tired of that.  They think that they have made it a safe distance from Dinosaur Island, but find how wrong they are. The baby dinosaur has not forgotten about them, and not only fights off the dinosaur that tries to sink them, he even lifts their raft to fly them to safety. That doesn't work as well as intended.  The Japanese airforce happen to be passing overhead, and try to shoot them down.  The baby dinosaur takes Mace and Morgan back to Dinosaur Island, where they encounter some injured American fliers. They use one of the American jets, and with the aid of the baby dinosaur fight off both the Japanese and a pterodactyl.  By the end of the story, it feels as if Mace and Morgan have finally bonded to a degree.  At least enough that Morgan has stopped threatening to kill Mace every page or so.

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Mace and Morgan make their final appearance in the War That Time Forgot story  in Star Spangled War Stories 120. The splash page for the story shows the weird combination of characters that this tale tries to balance.  On the top we see the Suicide Squad logo, with Mace and Morgan, still with tension between them.  A big dinosaur type creature in the centre.  And then, at the bottom, a smiling Caveboy riding the baby dinosaur.  Oh, my. Caveboy is shown right from the top of the story, a human who has somehow survived on Dinosaur Island, coming to the aid of the trained and armed soldiers, with nothing but his club.

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It completely negates the heavy and serious tone that the Mace and Morgan stories have.  On the one hand, the men are still bickering violently.  On the other, a cheery baby dinosaur is carrying them and Caveboy to safety. Caveboy even figures out bombing techniques by the end of the story, aiding Mace and Morgan as they mine Japanese subs, before the baby dinosaur flies everyone to safety.

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Two other members of the Suicide Squad get introduced in the War That Time Forgot tale in Star Spangled War Stories 119. This time its the Sheriff and the Wild One whose interpersonal issues add drama to the dinosaur attacks in the story. Both men are from the western town of Dusty Hollow.  The Sheriff send the younger man to prison, and later enlisted in the army, joining the Suicide Squad.  The Wild One went from prison into the army, and is new to the team.  The Sheriff has been appointed to train the younger boy about what it means to be a member of the Suicide Squad.  One might think that was, basically, a readiness to die, which would not be an easy thing to train. The two men take a sub out to Dinosaur Island, to find out what happened to the previous Suicide Squad team sent there - presumably Mace and Morgan - who had not been heard from since. Lots of good dinosaur action in this one, but a much easier resolution than in the last three stories.  The Sheriff keeps risking his life to save the Wild One, who repeatedly insists that he would be happy to see the Sheriff die.  But at the climax of the tale, the Wild One saves the Sheriff's life.

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The Suicide Squad story in Star Spangled War Stories 121 (June/July 1965), is one of the better War That Time Forgot tales. We meet a young pilot on a Suicide Squad mission, who used to be a policeman before joining the service.  To his shame, he lost one felon - his own brother.  Right after admitting that failure, he and the other pilot see a submarine get grabbed by a giant crustacean. The former cop jumps out of the plane to fight the dinosaur, and winds up alongside a diver from the sub - who turns out to be his brother! We see how the younger brother wound up apprehending the elder, and was escorting him to prison when the train got into a wreck.  The elder brother too his opportunity to escape, and hid out by joining the navy. But now they are face to face on Dinosaur Island.  The younger brother intends to turn the elder one in if they manage to get back, but the elder pulls a gun on his sibling.  The dinosaurs, though secondary to the story, function as in most horror stuff, as agents of destiny.  When the pair of brothers gets threatened, the elder recants his behaviour, and saves his younger brother, dying in the process.

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A new G.I. Robot debuts in the War That Time Forgot tale in Star Spangled War Stories 125. Because it's a Suicide Squad story, the two soldiers involved in testing the new G.I. Robot are at each other's throats, with the robot as the problem between them.  The new G.I. Robot does not speak, although he does have a mouth, unlike the previous one.  Curiously, he is named Mac, which was the name of the soldier who worked with the first G.I. Robot, Joe. Like Joe, Mac has the tendency to crush the soldiers he is working with while trying to help them.  And, again, they wind up testing G.I. Robot on Dinosaur Island, although that was not the plan. While the one soldier is convinced that Mac will be a great asset, the other sees it as a deadly danger, and tries to destroy it.  But Mac proves himself, sacrificing himself to save both soldiers from a dinosaur attack. That's it for Mac.  The next G.I. Robot, Jake, appears in Weird War Stories in the early 80s.

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The Suicide Squad also appear in the War That Time Forgot tale in Star Spangled War Stories 127. This story is told as a flashback.  The Suicide Squad report in on their successful mission to destroy a Japanese battleship, the Karuna.  But one of the soldiers on the mission, Talbot, has been driven hopelessly insane. The team approach a cloud-covered island, which of course turns out to be Dinosaur Island.  Talbot almost immediately gets swallowed by a giant fish.  He manages to blast his way out of the fish's body, but the experience has rendered him mad. Still, his insanity comes in useful when the men get captured by the Japanese.  Between Talbot's lunacy and risks, and the giant dinosaurs attacking the ship, the Karuna gets destroyed.

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A new recurring character is introduced by Kanigher and Heath in the War That Time Forgot tale in Star Spangled War Stories 129. The story begins years before World War 2, which makes the airplane shown in the sequence fairly anachronistic, I think.  Anyway, the planet gets attacked by a pterodactyl, and the concerned mother sends her baby son out in a parachute.  Not sure exactly how she thought that would help the infant, being abandoned above a deserted island populated by dinosaurs, but whatever. The boy grows up there, and gets befriended by a pterodactyl.  Maybe even the one that killed his parents.  He learns to ride it, but one day gets spotted and rescued by a passing American ship.  he is taken back to the US, and grows up there, joining the army years later, and getting stationed as a pilot in the Pacific theatre during the war. He makes it back to the island, and even finds the pterodactyl who raised him. Together they fight dinosaurs, and take out both a Japanese ship and some Japanese bombers.  At the end he heads back to his commander, but tells him nothing about the island.

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The tale gets a follow up in Star Spangled War Stories 131. On another mission against the Japanese, the man raised on Dinosaur Island has to crash land, but makes it back to his old home.  His old friend, the pterodactyl shows up, giving him another lift to safety from the dinosaurs.  But the Bird-Man, as he gets called in this story, discovers that the Japanese had been on the island, and had been slaughtering the pterodactyls. So Bird-Man attacks a horde of dinosaurs, and leads them in a direct line to the Japanese subs. Together they take out the entire fleet, and then once again he signals for a rescue from the Americans, but keeps the secret of the island from them.

The War That Time Forgot continues in the next period, 1967 – 1970: It’s a Happening!

 

The War That Time Forgot: Star Spangled War Stories 115 – 134 (June/July 64 - Aug/Sept 67)

 

Next up – Sea Devils!


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