Wednesday 10 September 2014

Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #2 - War Toy.

Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #2, War Toy
I'll be honest. Tonight, I was going to cave in to public demand and see what our favourite DC heroes were up to exactly fifty years ago.

The only problem is that when I tried to write the post, I couldn't think of a single thing to say about any of the covers in question.

It really does smack you in the face how undynamic and uninteresting DC covers from that era were compared to their livelier Marvel counterparts.

But, if you want to see DC's covers from September of 1964, you can do so by clicking on this very link.

 If you can think of anything interesting to say about any of them, you're free to post those thoughts in the comment box below and succeed where I failed.

In the meantime, having been defeated by DC, I shall retreat into the familiar and descend into the happy days of Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes.

Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #2, War ToyAs you may know, the UK Planet of the Apes comic was in the habit of reprinting sci-fi tales from US Marvel's black and white range; and one of the more memorable of those tales was a thing called War Toy.

It's the tale of a robot created to fight in wars, so that people don't have to.

Sadly, the military give him short shrift and he has nothing to do until aliens invade Australia, at which point he's sent into combat and plays a major part in the Earth's victory.

That's the happy part.

The unhappy part is that no sooner is that war over than the military dump him again and he's left to try and make a life for himself on Civvie Street.

Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #2, War Toy
Having been created purely to fight in wars, he fails miserably to do this and, eventually, his parts breaking down, he's taken into hospital where we find him on his death bed.

It's not what you'd call a happy tale. In fact, it's what you'd call downright angry, clearly meant to draw parallels with the treatment of human veterans of war, trained to serve their country and then forgotten and neglected once the fighting's over.

Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #2, War Toy
I had always assumed it was an adaptation from a literary short story but it seems, from the credits, that it's an original tale, in which case, all credit is due to writer Tony Isabella and artists George Perez and Rico Rival for creating one of Marvel's more memorable 1970s tales.

I suspect I'm not the only one who found it memorable because the other thing I've always assumed about it is that the movie Short Circuit was to some degree inspired by it, as there are some fairly obvious similarities.


Kid said...

Okay, you sold it. I'll keep an eye out for it on eBay. Sounds a wee bit like Machine Man as well.

Simon B said...

Unknown Worlds... was a classy mag, all right. Some great adaptations and original stories. Of course, pre-Star Wars, Marvel struggled to sell science fiction comics so it didn't last long. The cover to this issue, by Mike Kaluta, is just fantastic! One of my faves...

Anonymous said...

The "public demand" to show DC covers didn't include me - stick to Marvel, infinitely better. I was a loyal reader of Marvel UK's POTA weekly but I don't recall War Toy at all. The art is by Rico Rival though who was the artist on several POTA strips including that one with the apes version of Camelot and an orangutan King Arthur.

Anonymous said...

"God and soldier, we adore
"In time of trouble, not before.
"When danger's past, and wrongs are righted,
"God's forgotten, the soldier slighted."

The recent scandals in the US Department of Veterans' Affairs prove that "War Toy" is as relevant now as ever. Unfortunately.

Re: the DC covers, the "Two Way Deathtrap" for Batman #166 had been used in Detective #238 and would be used again in Batman #207. By then, Batman's reaction must have been like Maxwell Smart. "Ah, yes. The old drown-or-get-shot trick."

The Justice League issue was the conclusion of a two-parter, the annual JLA-JSA team-up. It introduced the Crime Syndicate, the JLA's evil counterparts. They were from Earth-3, where only villains had super-powers.

Detective Comics was a full-length story teaming up Batman and Elongated Man, instead of the usual format (Batman in the lead feature, EM in a separate back-up story). Similarly, Mystery in Space apparently teamed up Adam Strange (or his descendant) and Space Ranger in one double length story instead of having them in their usual separate strips.

World's Finest #144 might be of some minor historical interest. It's where Jimmy Olsen learned Batman's secret identity. To this day, I don't know why Jimmy could be trusted with Batman's secret, but not Superman's.

Steve W. said...

Anonymous, I can only salute you. Your knowledge of Silver Age DC exceeds my own by several million percent.

Anonymous said...

Fun fact: Captain Storm was the first DC Silver Age action hero to premiere in his own self-titled comic. He later ended up in "Our Fighting Forces" as a member of the Losers, along with other characters (Johnny Cloud, Gunner & Sarge) who had lost their solo strips.

PT boat officers were still a hot topic in America in 1964, thanks to the late President Kennedy (who was the officer-in-charge of Patrol Torpedo Boat #109 in WWII). That may account for DC's initial confidence in Capt. Storm. The later relegation of Storm and the others to an ensemble strip may indicate a general decline in the popularity of war comics.

A recurring theme in Storm's comic was his having to prove himself when the crew (and even other officers) doubted his ability. Their doubts seemed to have considerable justification, though. In issue #3, he gets ambushed, and his boat destroyed, for the second time in six months.

John Pitt said...

Hey , I feel bad now for putting pressure on you! Thanks for the link anyway - didn't know Mike had Rip Hunter's time machine. MUST bookmark that page. Strangely, I only had ONE that month - the aforementioned WF, where you may have noticed they swap enemies? BUT there were a couple of titles there that I'd never heard of!!
Also, as UK's POTA is my all - time fave Marvel UK comic, this post is a big " hit" all round with me. Thanks, Steve!

Steve W. said...

You don't need to feel bad, John. The fault is all mine. And possibly DC's.

John Pitt said...

Revisiting Mike's Amazing World, I notice that 30 years ago is also very interesting for both Marvel AND DC, if you fancy it?

Anonymous said...

Spider-Man Annual #1, Daredevil guest starred in Spider-Man #16, Hawkeye debuted in Tales of Suspense, and the Hulk appeared in Tales to Astonish, where he would soon replace Giant-Man.

Speaking of PT boats being a hot topic in 1964, Dell's "PT 109" comic came out the same month as Captain Storm #3. It may have been part of Dell's Four Color or Movie Classics (or Movie Comics?) series. It appears to have been an adaptation of the movie, which starred Cliff Robertson as Lieutenant John F. Kennedy.

Steve W. said...

Thanks for the info, Anon. :)

TC said...

I didn't start reading "serious" superhero comics until 1966 (the Batman TV series was the gateway drug for me), so the only comic I had brand new with a cover date of September 1964 was Daffy Duck #38. But I did later buy used copies of the Batman comics at a local comic shop, and I read reprints of Spider-Man #16 and Annual #1 in Marvel Tales, Iron Man & Hawkeye in Marvel Collector's Item Classics, and the JLA and JSA vs. the Earth-3 villains in a DC 100-page Super-Spectacular.

I vaguely remember seeing both "Hey There, It's Yogi Bear" and "PT 109" at the drive-in movies, but, AFAIR, I never had the comics.