Spooktoberfest Special: Hitler’s Halloween Freakout!

Generally speaking, Weird War Tales #114 is not very good.

As another blazin’ battle blockbuster by none other than Robert Kanigher (a fact that’ll become readily apparent in a few minutes) and Fred Carrillo, this issue hit stands at about the same time I did (August, 1982) with a story starring the Creature Commandos.

I’ll admit right off the bat that I’m not all that familiar with the team. Why? Because the Creature Commandos represent one of the greatest gaps in quality between concept and execution in the history of comics. I mean really, on the one hand, they’re monsters fighting Nazis, but on the other, well, one of them is named “Velcro.” And he’s a vampire.

Velcro the Vampire.

Yeah.

And the rest of the team doesn’t really hold up either: You’ve got Dr. Medusa (who inhaled some vaguely sciencey fumes that turned her hair into snakes), werewolf Warren Griffith, “Lucky” Taylor (described as being a “mute” Frankenstein’s Monster despite the fact that he mumbles to himself off and on throughout the story), and they’re all bossed around by Lt. Shrieve, who is not a monster in the traditional sense, but manages to fit right in by being a total and complete dick.

So yeah, as we’ve all no doubt learned from Dave Campbell, even a character named “Dr. Medusa” can’t save this one from tanking pretty hard in its bid to become the finest of all Monster Versus Nazi Action Epics.

There is, however, one redeeming quality: It has what is quite possibly the greatest cover blurb of all time:

 

 

In my time as a comics reader, I’ve seen covers promising to shatter my senses and melt my mind, but before I grabbed this one, I’d never seen one that promised me HITLER WOULD FREAK OUT.

Unfortunately, once you get past that, there’s a pretty sharp drop-off in quality, owing mostly to the fact that Hitler never actually freaks out once in this thing. But I will say this for it: Whether or not it happens in the way that Kanigher & Co. intended, this is actually one of the most genuinely disturbing comics I’ve ever read.

After all, anything that opens with a scene like this

 

 

…probably isn’t going to end very well.

So here’s the deal: Sent on a mission to retrieve Professor LeClair–a nuclear physicist who was working on the atomic bomb before the war–the Creature Commandos and their complete asshole CO find out from his hot teenage daughter that he’s been captured by Nazis who, unaware of his previous work with Einstein, have sent him off to a concentration camp. This, as you might imagine, presents something of a problem, so the Commandos are reassigned to infiltrate Nazi Germany and rescue LeClair.

I’m going to go ahead and assume that everyone reading the ISB has seen the landmark triumph of cinema that is Snakes on a Plane, so bear with me here for a minute: You know that part where one of Ricky Verona’s henchmen voices his thought about how maybe taking out an entire passenger airplane with a bunch of pheromone-crazed snakes might not be the best plan, and Ricky responds by yelling “Don’t you think I’ve tried everything else?!”

That is, without question, my favorite part of the movie, because, well, actually no, I don’t think Ricky Verona tried every possible way of killing off the witness before he finally had to resort to snakes on a plane, because if he had, the movie would’ve been about sixteen hours long.

What does this have to do with Weird War #114? Everything. In order to get LeClair out of the clutches of the Ratzis, the top brass at the OSS decide that the absolute best course of action here would be to dress up the Creature Commandos as a traveling circus (complete with Shrieve whipping and berating them as a ringmaster, representing absolutely no change from his normal behavior) and send them behind enemy lines, where–after a stirring display of headstands–they get the okay from the Furher to tour the concentration camps.

 

 

Let’s stop here and think about that for a second, shall we? A Traveling Freakshow That Only Tours Concentration Camps. I’m not sure what exactly Kanigher was going for there, but that concept is absolutely terrifying.

Especially when you consider that it involves scenes like this:

 

 

 

And of course, my personal favorite:

 

 

Monsters… with machine guns… dressed as clowns. Enjoy your nightmares, folks!

 


 

BONUS FEATURE: The Official Reason

 

In the absence of the cover’s promised Hitler freakout, the absolute greatest thing about this comic becomes a missive sent to the letter column by Staten Island’s Mark Amundsen. Unfortunately, my copy’s stained and a scan wouldn’t be all that legible, so you’ll have to take my word on this one, but I assure you, what I’m about to write here actually appears word for word in the issue.

Anyway, after his disappointment in WWT #110 (the Creature Commandos’ first appearance), Amundesen writes (among other things):

 

Robert Kanigher is DC’s greatest and most versatile writer, yet ye takes so many liberties he is infuriating. I am a stickler for explanations.

For instance: When the Commandos looked into the lake, they saw themselves as they once were. This was a great device. The contrast helps us realize how sad their plight is. But why did the lake reflect their images in this way?
It’s all very well and good to say that Dr. Rhodes has a Medusa hair style. But why? I find it hard to believe that a mixture of chemical fumes could transform her hair into snakes. Humbug!

 

The actual response from editors E. Nelson Bridwell and Julie Schwartz is as follows, and again, I swear I am not making this up:

 

Why?

Why did the uniform of the Flash shed tears the day Barry Allen hung it up? Why did the Viking Prince scream “Kill Me–Kill Me!” in the heat of battle? Why did Herbert Small’s (silent) canary cry upon the deaht of the lonely postman? Why did the Metal Men die issue after issue after issue? Why did Rock kill Johnny Doe? Why did a GI metamorphose into a dinosaur? Why did Superman substitute for the State and act as prosecutor when Lois Lane was charged with murder? Why did RK gather photos of Wonder Tot, Birdboy, Merman, et al, stuff them in his desk and cause said characters to vanish? Why was Rex, the Wonder Dog, able to think coherent thoughts?

The Kanigher touches.

 

That’s right, folks, you heard it here first: DC’s official position on the matter as of August, 1982?

BECAUSE BOB KANIGHER. THAT’S WHY.

Friday Night Fights: Hellboy’s Spooktoberfest Showdown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When darkness falls across the land,
The midnight hour close at hand,
When creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize your neighborhood…
Bahlactus always stands his ground,
‘Cause he’s got the soul for getting down!

 

The greatest battles of punching versus monsters–including “The Corpse,” as pictured above–can be found in Mike Mignola’s amazing Hellboy v.3: The Chained Coffin and Others, the spookiest Spooktoberfest Special of all!

Spooktoberfest Special: OH NO Redux!

From GHOSTLY TALES #82 (October, 1973):

Chris Sims never thought much about ghosts until the day he dared to mock… THE SUPERNATURAL!!

He fancied himself a writer, did young Mister Sims, always having a laugh at the expense of the most chilling stories, finding safety in his jokes the fact that they were, as he said… “only stories.”

Ghosts and ghouls held no terror for him, but the favorite targets of his scornful derision… were actually skeletons!! “Hey everyone,” he’d just written, “have a look at these silly old comic-book covers! They’re full of drawings of skeletons popping up in unusual places, which–of course–could never really happen!”

He finished his typing and yawned, looking over to check the time: Twelve o’clock! As any occultist would know… The Witching Hour! But he paid no heed to the time best left to the creatures of the night, and wandered sleepily into the kitchen for a drink.

And that’s when something… caught his eye!

It was a simple box of Honey Smacks, and the back was what he saw then, leering at him from atop the icebox! A seemingly happy scene of a school… a school that would soon teach him a lesson in terror!

 

 

“Huh. Puzzles you can do while you eat breakfast. That’s a pretty good ide–”

He stopped short, his blood running cold as he took a closer look.

 

 

 

 

“This cereal box puzzle drawing… IS ACTUALLY A SKELETON!! AND IT KNOWS KARATE!!!

Heh heh heh… Looks like young Mister Sims found out that skeletons really can be everywhere, doesn’t it? But don’t let that scare you away from your breakfast, boys and ghouls! After all.. it’s the most important meal of your life!

EEEHEHEHEHEHE!

Spooktoberfest Special: OH NO!

The passengers on the #3 bus to the Downtown/Stadium Area…

 

 

…ARE ACTUALLY SKELETONS!

 

Yes, as ISB readers might recall from when I first stumbled on the formula last year, DC was able to keep up with the astonishing demand for horror comics in the mid-70s by publishing no fewer than seven titles whose covers were based almost entirely around putting skeletons in places where skeletons would not usually be found, often with horrifyingly ridiculous results!

Skeletal bus drivers, skeletal ski instructors, skeletal lighthouses… The madmen creating these terrifying tomes would stop at nothing to ambush the reader with a shot of osteological dread, and with the climax of Spooktoberfest rapidly approaching, I thought it might be time for another gruesome gallery of things… that are actually skeletons!

 

 

“Good Lord! Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson… IS ACTUALLY A SKELETON!!

 

 

“Uh, honey, I know it’s our special day and everything, but I’m pretty sure your cousin Ethel… IS ACTUALLY A SKELETON!!

 

 

“Could it be Lupus, or is Dr. House… ACTUALLY A SKELETON?!

 

 

“This is madness! King Leonidas… IS ACTUALLY A SKELETON!

 

 

“I say, leftenant! It appears the cloud cover the Jerries were using… IS ACTUALLY A RUDDY SKELETON!!

“Quite. Ah well, stiff upper lip then, Bertram.”

 

 

“Jinkies! That fifteen-footer that Chic’s hot-dogging… IS ACTUALLY A FLIPPED-OUT SKELETON!

 

 

“Oh man. Either I am tripping balls over here, or the Eastern face of Mount Rushmore… IS ACTUALLY A SKELETON!!

…And there’s also a witch over there by Jefferson, which is somehow even weirder.”

 

 

“Hey kid, watch out! That skeleton is ACTUALLY A–hey, wait a minute…”

 

The original “Actually a Skeleton” post from January 2006 can be found over on ISB Classic, and while I’m FREAKING OUT and the fact that there’s actually more than one surfing-themed skeleton cover, I’m not sure anything’s ever going to top “Dios Mio! Un esqueleto!”

Spooktoberfest Special: And Now…

A Brief Re-enactment of the Halloween Party Scene from
The Karate Kid, Starring the Cast of Jonah Hex #84:

 

 

The End

 


 

BONUS FEATURE: Behold! The Sims-O-Lantern!

Because really: What’s more terrifying for the local trick-or-treaters: A traditional triangle-eyed pumpkin face…

 

 

…or A BEAR HOLDING A SHARK?!

 

As faithful ISB readers might recall, the above image represents the second time that I’ve carved a pumpkin, and once again, I can highly recommend the pumpkin stencils at HomestarRunner.com, without which a Sims-crafted Bearshark O’Lantern would not have been possible.

Spooktoberfest Special: Halloween Havoc!

There’s no denying that some things just go great together. Chocolate and peanut butter, Lennon and McCartney, Power Man and Iron Fist; these are all things that came together to form something way more awesome than they were separately, and when I was a kid, I figured that the two great passions of my misspent youth–comic books and pro wrestling–would be a similar pairing.

Needless to say, I was wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.

And it didn’t take the late-90s movement that brought us Nash and Chaos Comics Presents the Undertaker to show me the error of my ways either, because it’s a lesson I learned back in 1993 thanks to Marvel Comics and World Championship Wrestling:

 

 

And in a bit of personal history that just goes to prove that I grew up a wrestling fan in South Carolina, I actually picked my few issues of this thing up off the magazine rack of an honest-to-God bait shop on a family fishing trip to Lake Marion.

Anyway, if there was one thing you’d think comics could get right, it’s be dudes in spandex punching each other, but I’ll be honest: this thing sucks hard. Then again, that’s oddly appropriate, considering that it’s a tie-in to WCW’s Halloween Havoc, which was generally considered around my house to be the worst Pay-Per-View event of the year, every year.

This was, after all, the showcase of the awesomely terrible Chamber of Horrors match from 1991, wherein poor Mick Foley had to stand around the switch for an ersatz “electric chair” for like five minutes until Abdullah the Butcher finally got in the chair and did the best pretend-electrocution ever captured on Sports-Entertainment Television.

Oh well, coulda been worse, I guess. At least RoboCop didn’t show up for that one.

But like I was saying: Despite the fact that it was released in December (complete with a February cover date and a Yuletide greeting from then-EIC Tom DeFalco on the Bullpen page), it’s actually a Halloween tie-in, but even with the promise of Sting finally throwing down with his comic book nemesis, The Ghoul, the only thing even remotely spooky about this thing is how horrifyingly awful it is.

There is, however, one redeeming quality:

 

 

Yep: It opens with a double-page kick to the face. Admittedly, it’s a horribly drawn kick to the face on the late “Flyin'” Brian Pillman courtesy of artists Ron Wilson and Steve Montano, but at least Ron Simmons was involved. So you take what you can get, I guess.

But seriously: The art in this thing is awful, and considering that Wilson was the penciller on John Byrne’s The Thing not ten years before, it’s pretty shocking that it’s this bad. How bad, you ask?

 

 

So bad that the expression on his face doesn’t match up with the mirror.

 

Look, I’m not saying WCW #11 should stand out as the highlight of anyone’s artistic career or anything, but man.

Probably best to move on. After all, it’s not all about the horrible art! There’s also the horrible story to consider, a gripping tale of horror and intrigue by Mike Lackey that is undeniably terrible, but still better than at least half of Vince Russo’s work in the ’90s.

See, at this point in the comics, perennial good guy (and de facto star) Sting had been stricken with amnesia and brainwashed into becoming an evil version of himself (“The Black Stinger”) by none other than Terror, Inc.!

 

 

Whoops, sorry. Got my notes mixed up.

That’s actually The Ghoul, who claimed to be Sting’s trainer, who–after being cast to the wayside when his student rose to fame–exacted his amazingly complicated revenge scheme to turn everyone against Sting with the help of a flunky who looked suspiciously like Vince McMahon:

 

 

You know, I hate it when I miss the money shot.

Still, no man is an island, but with the entirety of the WCW locker room–here represented by luminaries like Van Hammer and Johnny B. Badd–turned against him, who could possibly show up to help Our (alleged) Hero?

For the answer, what I want right now is for all you fat, outta shape comics blog reading wannabes to sit down and shut up while I show you what a terrible drawing of a real man looks like!

 

 

Yes, the only man to ever appear on Nitro and Raw on the same night during the height of the Monday Night Wars, seen here making his comic book appearance as a deus ex machina in pink spandex. God bless you, Rick Rude.

Anyway, to make a long story short (too late!), Rude and Sting eventually punch the Ghoul hard enough that Sting gets his title back and everything works out okay…

 

 

…and then they promptly move on to worrying about their next big threat: A man so tough that he doesn’t shy away from wearing targets on his knees. It would’ve been an immensely satisfying ending to the whole shebang, if only I hadn’t realized even at eleven years old that it was without a doubt one of the worst comics I have ever read.

And yet, I still have a lot of nostalgic affection for it, for reasons that can probably be best be summed up by Sting himself:

 

 

Icing on the cake indeed.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go bash myself in the head with a steel chair until this thing starts to make sense.

Spooktoberfest Special: Rules of Survival

And now, your Spidey Super Stories Moment of Spoooookiness for this week:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, children, what have we learned?

 

1. Mary Jane should maybe wear skin-tight super-hero costumes all the time, even in books for eight year-olds. Especially in books for eight year-olds.

2. Have a secret identity? Go ahead and dress up as your alter-ego for a costume party! Anybody who suspects anything is easily dealt with thanks to drugged Jacks O’Lantern and brazen lying.

3. Remember, Kids! There’s an evil green monster-man right outside your window who wants to steal your candy, and he’s going to come back next year and toss your loved ones off a bridge. Oh, and Spider-Man cannot (or will not) stop him. Now sleep tight!

 

Despite the fact that he says in one story that it’s the middle of July, Spider-Man fights Jack O’ Lantern and hits up the Electric Company’s Halloween party in the pages of Spidey Super Stories #56.