Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Classics - Star Spangled War Stories #124

I remember reading quite a few issues of Star Spangled War Stories as a kid - probably because it's simply one of the most ingenious ideas for a comic book ever!

The concept is simple: combine World War II battles and dinosaurs! What kid in the '60s wouldn't love that?

Most stories centered around an island in the Pacific Ocean where the battle between the Allies and the Japanese military could be framed - and then into the mix they'd throw some random dinosaurs.

It made for lots of hair-raising, non-stop action. I suspect it was also lots of fun for the artists involved, and some of DC's best worked on the title. This issue, for example, features incredible art by Joe Kubert, with a backup feature by Jack Abel (the writers aren't identified).

But even a great concept like this needs more than just a great idea and terrific art - and that's where many issues, including this one, dropped the ball.

I should admit that I picked this issue at random. Most of the ones I read as a kid vanished over the years, and this one I picked up at a convention a couple of years ago for the princely sum of a dollar. I grabbed it for the great cover and the title of the backup feature - "Hillbilly with a Heater!"

But the writing is pretty bad. The first story features a soldier forced to fight a friend and fellow soldier who has somehow been transformed into a dinosaur (a giant red T-Rex, naturally). The dinosaur spends the story attacking and begging his friend to kill him. Yep, it's as bad as it sounds.

The "Hillbilly" feature is a more straightforward (if silly) war story about a hick who hates wearing Army boots - but must suffer through it while fighting a never-ending wave of German soldiers. All with nary a dinosaur in sight.

The comic is fun, of course - but it needed better writing or some ongoing characters to cover up its weaknesses. But I loved these comics as a kid, and that's why I consider them classics.

If you read them when you were a kid, I'll bet you agree.

Grade: C+

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