Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Weird War Tales #32. The madness and the mystery. "Cheeze it, luv!"

Weird War Tales #32
Cursed are those who live in interesting times, and few times are more "interesting" than wartime. That realisation gives us all the excuse we need to plunge once more into the mystery and the madness of Weird War Tales, the comic that set out to give wholesale slaughter a bad name.

Because we're luckier than most of the characters in this month's issue, we get, not the normal three stories, but four. In the first, Bill Finger and Gerry Talaoc tell of a sceptical soldier whose friend keeps telling him his destiny's controlled by the stars. And, wouldn't you know it, as he lies injured, hit by a German tank attack, the constellations come to life to scatter his persecutors like chaff. Why the stars take it upon themselves to save him, given that he's never had a good word to say for them, is never explained. Like Stan Ridgway in the song Camouflage, we and he have to just put it down to the strangeness that can happen in warfare.

Weird War Tales #32, giant chicken
The next tale is a Day After Doomsday job that definitely makes no sense. A couple who live on a farm in what we're told is "rural Great Britain" drink from their well and almost immediately shrink down to the size of mice, to be eaten by their own chickens. From the talk during the tale of how the days are so hot lately - and of radiation having seeped into the well - we're clearly led to assume there's been a nuclear war but one they've somehow failed to notice or hear anything about. I don't know; rural Great Britain, eh?

Giant chickens aside, the tale's main claim to greatness is that it features the line, "Cheeze it, luv!" a phrase that, in over forty years of living in Britain, I've never heard once.

From a Great Britain that's unrecognisable to natives of that land, we move on to a story whose metaphorical landscape's instantly familiar to Weird War Tales readers, as a crusader makes a deal with what seems to be the devil. According to the terms of their pact, the crusader will live forever unless he asks to die, and inevitably then starts to suffer a string of mishaps that make him realise that, in striking the bargain, he wasn't as clever as he thought he was.

The fourth story sadly seems to have no purpose other than to fill two pages, as a bunch of soldiers land on an island guarded by robot soldiers and get them to wipe each other out. "Still no match for the human brain," remarks one soldier. "Not now," warns his colleague, "...but what about future wars?" It's a message I think we can all take to bed with us tonight and ponder deeply upon.

The story of the soldier saved by the stars is probably the best of the bunch but, for me, the real highlight of the issue isn't a story at all.

It's an ad.

Weird War Tales #32, Duke the rescue dog
I love the ads in old American comics - the stupider the better - and in this one we get a plug for Duke, the super action dog. In the space of just four panels, we get to see the plastic pooch slide down a rope, use a periscope and run around with a flashing light, not to mention using a winch that'll no doubt save some poor soul from doom. I may be over-rating Duke but I get the feeling that none of the misfortunes that afflict our protagonists in this month's issue would've befallen them if they'd only had half the brains of that dog.

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