Contents: Star Spangled War Stories #90 (April-May 1960), #92 (August-September 1960), #94 (December 1960-January 1961) to #125 (February-March 1966), #127 (June-July 1966), and #128 (September 1966)
Key Creator Credits: Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, Mike Esposito, Joe Kubert, Russ Heath, Gene Colan, and others
Key First Appearances: Dinosaur Island, G.I. Robot
Overview: It’s the early 1940s. The United States is fully involved in World War II. In the Pacific, the U.S. Armed Forces are fighting the enemy at sea, in the air, or on the ground of uncharted islands. But their foes do not appear to flying the flag of the Rising Sun. Instead, their enemy is a throwback to the prehistoric age, as Tyrannosaurus Rexes, Pterodactyls, and other dinosaurs are fighting our troops. This is Showcase Presents The War That Time Forgot Vol. 1.
We are introduced to a mysterious island always cloaked by a fog. As our featured characters travel through the mist, they find themselves under attack by the dinosaurs. Depending on the story, the soldiers find some way to escape the non-stop threats to escape the island and be rescued to fight again another day. Over time, this location became known as Dinosaur Island, but that comes much later beyond this title.
Now, in times of war, it is quite common for the military to invent all kinds of new weapons that they hope will speed up the end of the war, or save soldiers lives. One such invention is the very first G.I. Robot, a robot programmed to respond to thousands of combat situations. Sent to the island to test G.I. Robot, a human soldier goes along (reluctantly) to verify that the soldier responds correctly when the bullets start flying.
Another creation of the military is the introduction of the Suicide Squad. Living up to it’s name, two men are sent out on a mission that they are not expected to survive. Of course, in the military’s infinite wisdom, they often pair two soldiers who hate each other, usually because one of the soldiers killed a family member of the other soldier. Not that it should come as a surprise, but both soldiers survive without killing each other, or becoming dinner for a hungry dinosaur.
The vast majority of these issues are written by Robert Kanigher, with art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. Towards the end of this collection, we see some other familiar names appear that are recognized for their DC war comics work, such as Joe Kubert and Russ Heath. These are generally one-and-done stories. Some characters may re-appear from issue to issue, but the stories do not carry over.
Why should these stories be Showcased?: This is an interesting situation that I see here. I personally don’t know that these stories should be featured based on their content. The stories are formulaic and safe. The art is good for its era, but it’s simplistic in detail. What makes these stories important is that these ideas and concepts introduced here were used by the next generation of comic creators, and the ones after them. G.I. Robot has been re-used many times. Dinosaur Island has become a go-to locale in the DC Universe for any number of stories. And you would have to be living under a rock not to know where the Suicide Squad concept has gone to over the last 40 years. For those reasons, I can understand and support featuring these comics in this collection.
Footnotes: In many of the latter stories in this collection, they feature members of the Suicide Squad – soldiers taking on assignments which they are unlikely to survive. However, this is not the first reference to the Suicide Squad by Kanigher, Andru, and Esposito. They introduced that concept in The Brave and the Bold #25 (September 1959), where a group of adventurers faced off against monsters, giants, and yes, even dinosaurs.
If you like this volume, try: Jurassic Park from Michael Crichton. Yes, the novel, not the movies or video games or anything else that spun out of this concept. It won’t hurt anyone, myself included, to put down the four-color funny books for awhile and read an actual book or two. Crichton released this novel in 1990, after working on it for numerous years. You know the story, how scientists cracked the code to bring dinosaurs back to life, and that led to a billionaire funding a dinosaur theme park, and things went down hill from there. As you can imagine, once you get past the first 50 pages with a lot of the science details, it becomes a page turner as the dinosaurs run amuck in the park.
However, if you want to go old school, dig up a copy of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Land That Time Forgot. Originally published as serials in a magazine, this was collected as a novel in 1924. Set during World War I, soldiers stranded in the Antartica come across a hidden land where dinosaurs still roam the Earth. In many ways, it was this novel that inspired (or influenced) Kanigher, Andru, and Esposito with The War That Time Forgot.