Wednesday, September 7, 2016

How did Dinosaurs end up in World War II?

It's my understanding that writer Bob Kanigher and artist Ross Andru considered the first "War That Time Forgot" story to be a one-shot. That is bizarre. It is simply beyond me that they could look at what they produced and not instantly realize that it would be a concept beloved by comic book geeks for generations to come. Take a look at Andru's cover image above. Is it possible NOT to love that?

"The Island of Armored Giants" appeared in Star Spangled War Stories #90 (April/May 1960). A squad of Marine raiders is going to parachute onto a Pacific island to find out why the previous two patrols (which were landed on the island by sub) vanished.

It's not long before the Marines find out what the problem is--they get attacked by a pterodactyl right after they bail out of their planes. The tank that's dropping with them is lost and only six men in the patrol make it down alive.

They find lots of Japanese equipment on the island, but not a single Japanese. When a dinosaur rises up out of a cleft in the ground, the ranking Marine instantly deduces that prehistoric creatures have been woken from suspended animation by an earthquake. He is, after all, a corporal, so he knows about stuff like that.

The Marines use an abandoned Japanese tank to kill the dinosaur, but three of them are killed when it collapses on the tank. The surviving three of them man an AA gun to take out another pterodactyl, but one of them is killed in that battle.

This is a simple and effective way to generate suspense--the small squad is getting gradually whittled down while trying to escape the island. That, combined with the pure awesomeness of watching World War II soldiers battle dinosaurs, is what makes this story work so well.

The surviving two men swim out towards the sub that was stationed nearby the pick them up. But the sub is attacked by a sea monster. It's up to the two marines to figure out a way to save the sub so they can also save themselves.

The Question Mark patrol would return a few issues later in a story that picks up where this one ends. The War That Time Forgot would soon be a regular feature in Star Spangled War Stories. The series never worried that much about continuity, so every single soldier or sailor who encountered dinosaurs would be surprised by their existence. An early story also had Dinosaur Island wiped out by a barrage from the U.S. fleet. But dinosaurs kept popping up, usually in the Pacific but with a few unfrozen dinosaurs in the arctic interfering with attempts to blow up German rocket or U-boat bases.

So, if we assume the same continuity for all the stories (and why would we not do so?), then there are several islands in the Pacific and a few other isolated locations on which dinosaurs still exist. Of course, we all know this is true from the 1933 documentary King Kong and Edward Malone's memoirs about the Challenger expedition to South America, so this doesn't surprise us. But we must be critical of the Allied High Command. They kept the dinosaurs such a secret, that the poor guys on the front lines kept running into them unexpectedly. I thought better of Nimitz and MacArthur. I really did.

Next week, Superman has a rather confusing day.

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