Thursday, March 6, 2014

Creature Commandos

Long before rpgs got to the idea of making World War II a "weird war" (here and here) comics books had stormed that beach. There were Pacific islands of dinosaurs, G.I. robots, and whole platoons of ghosts and undead. The weirdest of the weird warriors may be relative latecomers to the game: the Creature Commandos, whose adventures are now helpfully available in a collection.

When writing Weird War Tales in the late seventies, J.M. DeMatteis took an idea to editor Len Wein that Wein reportedly though was "so silly" that it would work. That idea was a special forces unit comprised of characters resembling the Universal Monsters.

It's 1942: American scientists are delving into psychological warfare. They devise a program to realize certain cross-cultural archetypes of fear in the flesh. Thus, Project M (for Monster) is born Warren Griffith, a sufferer from clinical lycanthropy, is turned into a werewolf for real. Looking to avoid jail time, Vincent Velcro allows himself to be injected with some vampire bat derived chemicals and becomes a vampire. Marine "Lucky" Taylor just had to step on a landmine to get patched up by military surgeons into sort of a Frankensteinian monster.

I imagine Project M spawned a number of Congressional hearings and lawsuits, by the seventies. In 1942, the brass is utterly disgusted by the Creature Commandos, but sends them against Nazi Germany, anyway--and that's only the beginning. They drop in on Dinosaur Island, fight super-strong children (products of Nazi experiments), tangle with Atlantean survivors, and tussle with Inferna, daughter of Hades and Persephone. Along the way they team up with G.I. Robot J.A.K.E. (two models), and get a female team mate: Dr. Myrra Rhodes, who has snakes for hair thanks to inhaling strange fumes.

So, yeah. A lot of gaming inspiration to be had.

10 comments:

JimShelley said...

I love these guys. Why there never been a movie with this concept is beyond me.

dave baymiller (baran_i_kanu, DaveB) said...

That was a lot of fun to read back n the day along with JAKE and the war that time forgot and the Haunted tank.

Tim Shorts said...

ha, wow that sounds like a fun read. Never heard of it before.

Chris C. said...

Wow, I never even heard of that before, and yet I've long been a fan of the (non-supernatural) WWII adventures of SGT. ROCK. I can't help noticing Kanigher's name and Kubert's art on the cover.

Trey said...

@Jim - I've heard rumors Del Toro was interested in Frankenstein Agent of SHADE, which included these guys.

@Chris - Kanigher wrote some of the later stories.

Kaiju said...

Yes! Good stuff.

Telecanter said...

One of the few comics I actually collected :)

If I remember correctly they had a human seargant who hated them, but hated the Nazis more.

The most memorable issue for me was the super strong children you mentioned. They were in a concentration camp and had been given super serum, but it wore off after a time leaving them like empty sets of clothes. The poor commandos didn't want to fight the kids but were given no choice.

Trey said...

@Telecanter - That's correct, Shrieve is the sargeant's name.

Sean Robson said...

I really miss stuff like this. I never read Creature Commandos, but I was a big fan of Weird War Tales. I also fondly recall an issue of G.I. Combat in which the Haunted Tank was accidentally parachuted into the mouth of a volcano and found themselves pitted against dinosaurs of the lost world.

John Till said...

Somehow I missed out on the Creature Commandos (I mean I was aware of them but never read them) but I was a faithful fan of the Haunted Tank.