And the Characters of Weird War Tales
Created by J.M. DeMatteis, Pat Broderick and John Celardos
Creature Commandos: Weird War Tales #93 (Nov. 1980)
Dinosaur Island: Star-Spangled War Stories #90 (April 1960)
Thanks to John Wells
Project M (for Monster!) was a World War II secret government organization which specialized in experimental biotechnology. Their known creations include the Creature Commandos, Miss America and the G.I. Robot. The Project's main scientist is one Professor Mazursky. He was aided by Robert Crane (friend and eventual host of the original Robotman). They operated from a secret underground complex on Ferris Island in New York. (Young All-Stars #12)
In 1942, Project M created the Creature Commandos humans turned to freaks. They were:
- Lt. Matthew Shrieve was their leader. Though fully human, he possessed a monstrous spirit and an inhuman appetite for destruction.
- Warren Griffith, a simple farm boy who suffered from lycanthropy. Project M gave him the true ability to change into a werewolf
- Sgt. Vincent Velcoro volunteered for the experiments to commute his 30-year sentence in the brig (he crippled his superior officer). He can change into a bat and requires human blood to survive.
- Pvt. Elliot "Lucky" Taylor barely survived stepping on a mine. He was stitched back together against his will à la Frankenstein and without vocal cords. A tragic figure, Taylor could not express his feelings for...
- Dr. Myrra Rhodes (Dr. Medusa). When she inhaled strange fumes and grew snakes for hair.
Project M yielded other interesting specimens. Most notably, they were behind the creation of the heroine, Miss America (Joan Dale; see also Freedom Fighters). Prof. Mazursky kidnapped her after his original subject perished. At first, his experiments appeared to have left her incapacitated. He returned her (without memory) to the surface world. After that, she began a masked heroing career and was critically injured at Pearl Harbor. (All-Star Squadron #31) Project M recovered her and nursed her back to health. While there, Project M was visited by the Young All-Stars, who discovered that Project M had been infiltrated by Per Degaton and Deathbolt. Deathbolt sought a new host for the brain of the Ultra-Humanite. Ultra took root in the body of a dinosaur recovered from Dinosaur Island. The All-Stars, however, drove the villain from this host. Also during this visit, the All-Stars witnessed the unfinished G.I. Robot, a giant ape, and one of the earliest recorded androids. NOTE: The giant ape may be the female ape from Paradise Island that the G.I. Robot became enamored of in Weird War Tales #120. The android seen in Young All-Stars was said to have been created according to the theories of Dr. Rossum, the title character of the 1920's science fiction stage play "Rossum's Universal Robots"; this was the first recorded usage of the word "robot."
Their first mission was in France, where they destroyed Nazi androids duplicates of world leaders. (Weird War Tales #93) They often based themselves out of London, as in their next mission to France to free scientist Dr. Renee Frederique. (#97) They found she'd been captured and replaced by a Nazi agent. The Commandos ultimately found her in a death camp but their mission was to kill her! Her knowledge of a chemical nerve gas was too risky in the Nazis' hands. For his part in such a senseless killing, Taylor attempted suicide. When the doctors "repaired" him, he was left with rudimentary vocal cords. (#108) In another morally dubious mission, Shrieve impersonated Nazi Col. Emil Kruger and they sacrificed the lives of dozens of super-soldier children. (#102) They redeemed themselves and won Metals of Honor when they saved a group of blind French children from the Nazis. (#118) Shrieve ultimately decided that his personality clashed too much with the Commandos. But he was assigned to a desk job and no one else would volunteer to lead the Commandos. They were brought back together in saving a gathering of French civilians. (#117)
They were given across the globe, including the U.S. In upstate New York, they squashed a band of Nazi sympathizers. (#105) In 1943, the Commandos ventured to the mythical "Dinosaur Island" in the South Pacific. They were supposed to solve the disappearance of several Allied spotter planes. They discovered an Axis naval fleet and were able to turn the dinosaurs on the Japanese boats. Shrieve took pictures for his commanders as proof of the island's existence. But Taylor destroyed them; he reasoned that the war machine could only bring destruction to the dinosaurs. (#100) When next they returned, they met the first J.A.K.E., the G.I. Robot. J.A.K.E. had been left in the ocean after attacking an enemy ship. It was there he met the Commandos' when their plane was attacked by a dinosaur and crashed. Together, the heroes discovered an underwater civilization, a colony of ancient Atlantis. These Atlanteans were androids and possessed J.A.K.E. The robot ultimately overrode their commands and sacrificed himself to destroy an old Pacific colony of Atlantis. (#111) The Commandos met J.A.K.E. 2 in the "hospital" after the robot had been injured. Together, they saved a Scottish princess from the blitz. (#115) NOTE: Dinosaur Island was also frequented by the Suicide Squad in Star-Spangled War Stories in the 1960s and again in Suicide Squad v.2 #10.
The Creature Commandos encounter the remnants of a Pacific colony of Atlantis. Atlantean science had created a group of robots to carry on the work of Atlantean conquest. (Weird War Tales #111, 5.82)
Their fate was told secondhand: supposedly, the Creature Commandos and J.A.K.E. 2 were spared from a government-directed death sentence to man a rocket aimed at Berlin. Instead, the rocket went radically off course and headed deep into outer space. (#124)
The fate of the Commandos after the War was uncertain; there are varying accounts. The purported heads of the Creature Commandos were among the trophies on the wall of monster hunter, Nelson Strong (Swamp Thing #145). These exhibits are questionable since at least one member of the team, Velcoro, survived into the present as a vampire specialist and consultant of S.T.A.R. Labs. (Team Titans #17-19)
Eventually, though, they did return to Earth and to Project M, where they continued to serve as a special operations force. To keep pace with their aging physiology, "the Doctor" (Mazursky, who'd originally transformed them) continued to perform various body modifications. This effectively extends their lives, but at the cost of their humanity.
In time, the team members adopted code names (see table below). Project M continued to grow in size, and the originals came to form the main field team: M-Team Alpha. The Alpha team was also joined by new operatives. Presumably, Lt. Shrieve died or retired along the way (he was not biologically altered). In his place was Capt. Lucius Hunter, who in modern times was said to be 74 years old, and a recipient of similar body modifications. Hunter was part of the well-known battalion, the Hellcats (Our Fighting Forces #99). Aten is bound like a mummy and serves as a communications specialist. The Bogman was amphibian-like but injured when Gunner was awakened. And Gunner MacKay, who was part of the wartime duo "Gunner and Sarge." They died within minutes of one another after being gunned down by enemy troops (Losers Special #1). Gunner was subsequently retrieved and revived by the Doctor at Project M.
On a recent undercover investigation, Medusa spent five years learning that Earth's dimension was in danger of invasion by an alliance from Terra Arcana. This other-dimensional alliance was headed by Lord Saturna and included other conquerors, including: Hyathis of Alstair, (who was killed by) the Queen Bee III, Tazzala of Korrl; Sayvar, reptile lord of Llarr; Kraad of Kranaal; Simon Magus of Blackstaff; Xotar the Weapons Master; Kromm of Mosteel (killed by Saturna); and the Troll King (killed by Velcoro). (Creature Commandos #1)
To conquer the one remaining dimension Earth's Saturna's alliance enlisted the help of one Mr. Murray, a representative of a powerful consortium on Earth. This group from Earth gave weapons and teleportation technology to the alliance in return for alien real estate. Tazzala and Magus soon betrayed Saturna, cutting their own deal with Murray. In the M-Team's raid on Terra Arcana, Velcoro and Gunner were captured by Claw, the Unconquered. (#5) Soon Claw was convinced to ally with them, and his people joined the battle against Saturna. (#6-7) In the end, Tazzala killed Saturna and was, herself, killed. Terra Arcana was then left in the hands of it's people. (#8)
The Creature Commandos mini-series is not billed as "Elseworlds," but the author Tim Truman describes the events as taking place "a second in the future." Various modifications were made to the team member's names and appearances. Truman renamed Velcro and Myrna as "Velcoro" and "Myrra."
Tim Truman said of his series: "Illustrator Scott Eaton and I have created a clean slate that touches on the old series, but isn't explicitly tied to it." He said he based Patch's character on the DCU's Patchwork Man (Swamp Thing v.1 #2); Patch is not that same character, though. The villains in this series are old JLA villains dating back to 1960-63. Xotar's first appearance was Brave & Bold #29. Simon Magus, Saturna, the Troll King are from Justice League of America #2. Hyathis, Kromm and Sayvar from issue #3. Tazzala is presumably some relation to Zazzala, who appeared in JLofA #23. Kraad is from JLofA #25. Most of these villains had not been used since their invention, so any changes to these characters can easily be attributed to the Crisis. Nothing here clashes too terribly with existing continuity. The usage of Claw, the Unconquered in this series is much closer to his pre-Crisis origins (he had his own 12-issue series in the 1970s), than the one from the Primal Force series.
Tim Truman is great at aliens and warlords. The Creature Commandos mini-series is a worthy read, and the art by Scot Eaton is a wonderful balance between the "Image look" and solid rendering of, say, Steve Epting and Butch Guice. A brilliant and fun use of those old JLA villains.
The Commandos/G.I. Robot team-ups were full-issue stories. When it didn't star those characters, Weird War Tales carried several stories per issue. Dan Spiegle drew #111.
|Creature Commandos||1st appearance||Status/Notes|
|Lt. Matthew Shrieve||Weird War Tales #93||Unknown|
|Wolfpack (Warren Griffith)||Active in the Commandos|
|Patchwork (Pvt. Elliot "Lucky" Taylor)||Active in the Commandos|
|Velcoro (Sgt. Vincent Velcoro)||Active in the Commandos|
|Medusa (Dr. Myrra Rhodes)||Weird War Tales #110||Active in the Commandos|
|Gunner (Gunner MacKay)||Our Fighting Forces #45||Active in the Commandos|
|Hunter (Capt. Lucius Hunter)||Our Fighting Forces #99||Active in the Commandos|
|Aten (unrevealed)||Creature Commandos #1||Active in the Commandos|
|Bogman (unrevealed)||Creature Commandos #1||Active in the Commandos|
Created by Bob Kanigher, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito
FIRST APPEARANCE: Original: Star-Spangled
War #101 (Feb./Mar. 1962).
J.A.K.E. I: Weird War Tales #101 (July 1981). J.A.K.E. II: Weird War Tales #115 (Sept. 1982).
The G.I. Robot was a mechanical man who was built in the laboratories of Project "M" in the spring of 1942 (Young All-Stars #12, 28). Two early models were destroyed on missions to Dinosaur Island (Star-Spangled War Stories #101-103, 125) before the creation of new model: the Jungle Automatic Killer, Experimental (or J.A.K.E.). Marine Sgt. Coker was assigned to test J.A.K.E. 1, a prototype for robot soldiers, under actual combat conditions. Coker came to think of J.A.K.E. as a friend after it repeatedly saved his life. (Weird War Tales #101, 108) J.A.K.E. was eventually blown up saving an American fleet from destruction. (#111)
J.A.K.E. 2, proved the most durable of the G.I. Robots, carrying out at least seven recorded missions (Weird War Tales #113, 115-118, 120, 122). It was sent to the Pacific and worked with Coker and other Marines as well as with the robot dog "Cap" and a robot cat. In a perhaps apocryphal account, J.A.K.E. 2 and the Creature Commandos were spared from a government-directed death sentence to man a rocket aimed at Berlin. Instead, the rocket went radically off course and headed deep into outer space. (#124) The skull of one G.I. Robot was subsequently seen in the trophy room of Nelson Strong (Swamp Thing #145) while the entire body of another was on display in 30th Century Earth's Time and History Museum. (Legionnaires #68)
Another version of the G.I. Robot shows up. (The War That Time Forgot)
Created by Howard Liss and Jack Abel
Lt. Ben Hunter was assigned the task of heading up a squad of ex-cons that was soon dubbed Hunter's Hellcats who operated in both Europe and Japan (Our Fighting Forces #106-123). The Hellcats included Alley Cat (#118), Brains (#106), Brute (#106-122), Buzzard (#118), Cracker (#107), Hard Head (#106), Heller (#121-123), Juggler (#109-111, 113-119, 121-122), Light Fingers (#106-107), Little Joe (deceased, #120), Long Shot (#107), Snake Oil (#106-122), Whisper (#118) and Zig Zag (#107). Though the fate of the individual Hellcats is unknown, Hunter himself survived and attained the rank of Colonel. His twin sons, Phil and Nick, subsequently served in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars (#99-106). At the age of 74, Hunter took the place of Lt. Shrieve as leader of the Creature Commandos. He has received body modifications similar to those of the other Commandos. (Creature Commandos #1)
» FIRST APPEARANCE: Our Fighting Forces #99
Created by Bob Kanigher, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito
» FIRST APPEARANCE: Our Fighting Forces #45 (May 1959)
Gunner MacKay and Sarge Clay were part of a Marine unit assigned to a Japanese-held island (All-American Men of War #67-68; Our Fighting Forces #45-94), occasionally joined by a dog named Pooch. (beginning in OFF #49) Gunner and Sarge were later part of the U.S.-sanctioned special force known as the Losers. (G.I. Combat #138; OFF #123-181) Gunner and Sarge were also visited from 21st century heroes Black Canary and Green Arrow II during a mission on Dinosaur Island. (Birds of Prey #44-46) A vision of the Losers' collective demise was shown from the spring of 1944 (Crisis On Infinite Earths #3), but Gunner & Sarge survived until the spring of 1945. In a final battle, the duo died within minutes of one another after being gunned down by enemy troops. (Losers Special #1) Very soon afterwards, Gunner was retrieved and revived by the Doctor at Project M, where underwent cybernetic body modifications and reluctantly joined the Creature Commandos. (Creature Commandos #1)
NOTES: The pair of soldiers was later immortalized in Jonathan Lord's 1949 film, "Gunner and Sarge" (Silverblade #5).
» FEATURED APPEARANCES:
- Action Comics #872
- Weird War Tales #93, 97, 100, 102, 105, 108-112, 114-119, 121-124
- Justice League: Generation Lost #15-17
- Superman #692
- Secret Origins v.2 #26
- Young All-Stars #12-14
- Star-Spangled War #90, 92, 95-125, 127-137
Gunner & Sarge:
- All-American Men of War #67-68
- Losers Special #1
- Our Fighting Forces #45-94
- Weird War Tales #101, 108, 111
- Weird War Tales 113, 115-118, 120–124
- Our Fighting Forces #99-106
- Creature Commandos, 8-issue mini-series (2000)