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Weird War Tales

At the beginning of the 1970's, the Comics Code - which had held publishers in a state of censhorship for two decades - suddenly softened on several items, one important one being the showing of horror situations and characters. Vampires, zombies, and other similar undead monsters could now be shown in mainstream comic books once again, and publishers took advantage of the new-found liberty to give kids what they wanted - which for many of us was plenty of violence and horrible monsters. A number of horror comic titles thus sprang up all in a relatively short period of time; one in particular seemed to combine two crowd-pleasing genres into a single satisfying title.

Weird War Tales Weird War Tales thus was born: it combined the gritty realities of war comics, which had been around since at least the 1940's, with horror and fantasy, which had also been around a long time, but the expression of which had been strangled by the afore-mentioned censorship. An anthology title with no real revolving characters (at first), the series mainly pitted American G.I.'s against enemy soldiers who turned into (or were helped by) ghosts, werewolves, vampires, ghouls, etc., etc.

The book combined new stories with reprints from older DC horror-anthology titles. Joe Kubert, DC's main war buff and artist extraordinaire of the time, was the driving force behind the earliest issues of the series - he wrote and drew several stories as well as editing the entire package. Other notable artists included Alex Toth, Russ Heath, and Reed Crandall - men who were no strangers to making good war comics.

With the 8th issue Joe Orlando took over as editor, and the title shifted focus slightly, becoming more of a regular horror-anthology comic (DC had several of these running at the time), just with each story having a military theme. The scripts for the new stories continued to be high-quality, as did the art, much of which was done by the stable of Filipino artists that DC hired at the time: men like Tony Dezuniga and Alfredo Alcala, who would continue to work on the company's titles for years; Alex Nino contributed many unforgettable pages for the book over the next few years.

In issue #93 debuted the Creature Commandos, a Monster Squad -like military team with the traditional movie monsters as its members. Written by J.M. DeMatteis and penciled by Pat Broderick, the concept for this was decent enough, but the stories were pretty much mediocre. A new crop of 'The War That Time Forgot' tales (a related group of stories that originated in Star-Spangled War Stories) began the next issue, however, to greater acclaim.

The main focus of the book, however, stayed the same throughout its 124-issue run: an anthology title that combined war and horror comics. That's it - simple and straightforward. But it was good enough to keep kids reading of Nazi ghouls, haunted U-boats, and demon-possessed biplanes for over a decade.

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