Strange Advs #138 (Giant Dogs, etc.)

STRANGE ADVENTURES #138; March 1962; DC Comics; Julius Schwartz, editor. 

This issue features the Atomic Knights story "Attack of the Giant Dogs!" which
seems to be one of the best remembered tales of that series.  However, the cover
featured story is "Secret of the Dinosaur Skeleton!", and on the cover (which
I think is by Murphy Anderson), a black-clad, bearded man directs a ray from
a camera-like device at the mounted saurian skeleton in a museum exhibit, and,
much to the startlement of the other visitors, the skeleton begins to move. 
"When I bring this brontosaurus back to life, we shall both rule the Earth--
as we did 60 million years ago1"

Review by Bill Henley

The cover story looks to me to be drawn by Gil Kane (pencils) and Joe Giella
(inks).  Both this story and the following one read to me like the work of
writer Gardner Fox, though I can't say for sure.  On the splash page, "the man
called Xandar" has succeeded in totally animating the brontosaurus skeleton  and
it is following him through the city streets rather like a faithful dog, as
bystanders stare goggle-eyed or flee in panic.  The story begins with "wealthy
explorer Jim Hanson, skin-diving among the strange stone ruins of the Caroline
Islands in the Pacific" when he spots a metal door and opens it.  Inside, he
finds a chamber kept free of water by a force-field wall-- and a man just
waking from a deep sleep.  And it seems his alarm didn't go off on time; "GREAT
MU!  According to the CILISA-CLOCK, I've been asleep 130 million years!" 
Xandar, the awakening sleeper, takes control of the mind of skin-diver Hanson,
probes his memories to learn about the world he now finds himself in, and directs
Hanson to bring him to the surface.  But unknown to either of them, another
sleeper in another nearby underground chamber, a pretty blonde woman, has also
received her wake-up call.  "XANDAR must be free!  The automatic controls on my
own Hibernivault are geared to wake ME-- wheneve HE awoke!  Now-- I must
summon help!"  Meanwhile, still under the mental command of Xandar, Jim Hanson goes
to a nearby island and digs up the bones of a brontosaurus.  "Nobody's ever
found a complete skeleton of a fossil-reptile before!"  Xandar directs Hanson
to take him and the skeleton on his ship back to civilization, where the
skeleton can be assembled as a museum exhibit.  Dressed in modern clothing, Xandar
looks ordinary enough (if a bit sinister with his dark hair and goatee) but his
thoughts are not those of a typical 20th century man; looking at the
moonlight over the sea, he muses, "That satellite of Earth-- how odd it seems!  When I
lived on Earth-- there was no moon!"

While the museum display of the brontosaurus bones is being put together,
Xandar constructs his camera-ray device, animates the skeleton, and takes it
walking through the streets, warning onlookers, "I possess great powers-- so just
leave me alone while I fulfill my mission here!"  Commandeering Hanson and his
boat again, Xandar sails back to the remote island where he found the
skeleton, and uses an "aero-cell converter" to put flesh and blood back on the
dinsaur.  "Now together we shall open the greeat weapons chamber which I hid away
when my land of Mu faced destruction!  Soon-- we too shall rule the world!"  But
meanwhile, the female pilot of a small airplane has been mentally coerced to
land on remote Dublon Island, where she discovers the secret chamber of the
second sleeper.  "I only hope I'm in time!  it took me so long to find someone
nearby-- Xandar might already have succeeded in his plan to conquer the world!"

As Xandar uses the strength of his pet brontosaurus to open the hidden
weapons chamber inside a cliff, the woman from the past lands on the island and asks
for the help of Hanson (who is apparently no longer under Xandar's spell). 
She reveals that her name is Oarda and she was once the scientist=queen of the
ancient realm of Gondwanaland, as Xandar was the king of the rival realm of
Mu.  After Mu was defeated in War, Oarda placed Xandar under a "psycho-block" to
prevent him from making further war with the incredible weapons he had
created.  But Xandar evaded the block by forming a mental link with the brain of his
pet brontosaurus.  Somehow, even though dinosaurs are not known to science
for their great mental capacity, the "dinosaur-brain" enabled Xandar not only to
evade the mental block but to create incredible new weapns.  These weapons
were so powerful that they unleashed a cataclysm the destroyed the island
continents of Mu and Gondwanaland-- and created the Moon out of the fragments.  But
Xandar and Oarda both survived, and as Xandar locked himself in suspended
animation to await the chance to renew his career of conquest, Oarda foresaw his
plan and created her own sleep vault so that she could be on hand to thwart

When Hanson asks how he can help, Oarda forms a plan in which she will reveal
herself to Xandar and lure him away.  While she distracts the villain, Hanson
uses one of Xandar's  giant weapons to destroy the brontosaurus that holds
Xandar's brain-power (breaking, however, all kinds of endangered-species laws). 
With the saurian destroyed, Xandar is dependent only on his own brainpower
and the ancient mental block Oarda set against fighting kicks in.  Frustrated
that he cannot shoot Oarda just as he has her cornered, Xandar hurls his ray-gun
away in frustration and is himself destroyed when it discharges.  With the
villain gone, a tearful Oarda looks up at the Moon and muses, "When men finally
journey to the Moon, I shall go with them-- to return HOME-- after 150 millino
years?"  (Did Oarda's old civilization somehow survive after her homeland was
wrenched off Earth to become the Moon?  This touching scene seems to imply as
much, though it's not made clear.) 

Following house ads for MYSTERY IN SPACE (Adam Strange as "The Spaceman Who
Fought Himself!"), JLA #10 ("Fantastic Fingers of Felix Faust!" and AQUAMAN #2
("Captain Sykes" Deadly Missions!"), the second story in this issue is "The
Man Who Climbed Into Space!"  Art appears to be by the JLA team of Mike Sekowsky
and Bernard Sachs.  Walt Davis, "one of the greatest sportsmen and mountain
climbers on Earth", is halfway up Mount Makalu in the Himalayas when he is
seized by a giant metal claw and passes through "inter-dimensional space" to the
bailiwick of a giant  alien, who places him in a cage hanging from the ceiling.
.  The angry climber warns the alien, "You'll never keep ME in a cage, that's
for sure!  I can get out of here nearly as easily as you put me in!"  The
giant alien ignores him, but then a green alien who is a fellow prisoner
telepathically asks if he can really make good his boast of escape, and Davis says,
yes, he can, with his mountain--climbing equipment he still has with him.  The
green alien tells Davis that Nord, the giant alien, kidnapped Davis because he
was about to discover a "globe-machine" hidden in the walls of Mt. Makalu. 
The purpose of that device, according to the green alien, is to transport Earth
across intergalactic space to replace Nord's homeworld, destroyed by a nova--
and no native Earth creatures will survive the trip.  But if Davis can escape
the cage, perhaps he can use the "Cosmicclaw" device that grabbed him to
destroy the deadly globe-machine.  Davis uses his mountain-climbing grappling hook
to catch a hook on the wall and swing his cage back and forth until it smashes
agains the wall and the bars are bent.  Escaping, he follows the green
alien's instructions to use the "Claw" to destroy the globe-machine.  But when the
giant alien Nord discovers what has happened, he tells Davis that he has doomed
Earth instead of saving it.  The green alien Myolar is a liar; he is actually
part of a race that intends to conquer Earth, and the globe device Davis
destroyed was intended by the benevolent Nord to defend Earth, not transport it
through space to destroy it.  Still in Nord's cage, Myolar watches triumphantly
on a "telespace-screen" as his homeworld's space fleet devastates and conquers
Earth.  But then--Earth's sun goes nova, destroying the fleet of Myolar's
people, the Nuardi.  "It looks like we are the last men alive of our races,
Earthman!"  On the contrary, Davis tells him; he's been snookered, thanks to an
elaborate plan he and Nord came up with and Nord put in effect with the immense
power of his "Cosmicclaw".  First Nord removed the real Earth safely to another
star-system, along with the other planets, then he put an uninhabited planet
in Earth's place and reshaped it to resemble Earth's continents and even its
cities.  And then he used the "Claw" to reach into the sun and set off a nova. 
And so the Nuardi invasion fleet has been destroyed, but Earth survives, and
can be brought back to its original location after the nova subsides.  "How
did you ever think of a solution like that to your problem?"  "YOU gave me the
idea-- in that lie you told about Nord wanting Earth because his own sun had
nova'd!  Thanks, Myolar-- for helping me save my planet!"

Following a couple more house ads for FLASH ("Reign of the Super-Gorilla!)
and GREEN LANTERN ("Strange Trial of Green Lantern!"), and a "Spotlight on
Science" educational lettercol, we come to the Atomic Knights story "Attack of the
Giant Dogs!" by John Broome and Murphy Anderson.  Most fans who remember the
Atomic Knights at all seem to remember the giant dogs.  I remember them too,
and I think this was the only Atomic Knights story I actually read during its
original run in STRANGE ADVENTURES.  I was intrigued as a kid not only by the
dogs but by the whole premise of the strip; I was a precocious reader of science
fiction, and stories of rebuilding civilization after the atomic war were a
staple then in prose SF, but rarely appears in comics.  And yet, after reading
this story, I don't think I ever read another Atomic Knights story until the
series started appearing in the all-reprint SA starting in 1969.  I wasn't a
regular reader of STRANGE ADVENTURES (despite being a fan of companion title
MYSTERY IN SPACE with Adam Strange) and I guess between the Knights stories not
being cover-featured and only appearing in every third issue of SA, I didn't
keep track of the series.

Anyway, the title of the story is a bit misleading, as the giant dogs don't
attack the Atomic Knights-- rather, the Knights use the dogs to attack their
foes, the would-be conquerors from ancient Atlantis!  On the splash page, two of
the Knights charge their canine steeds at the crossbow-shooting Atlantide
warriors; "We're weaponless against those armed warriors-- but we're counting on
the speed of our dog-mounts to overcome them!"  As usual, the opening captions
run through the premise of the series and list the members of the Knights:
Gardner Grayle, leader; Douglas Herald, schoolteacher; Marene, Herald's sister
(and, as we shall see, Gardner's love interest); Bryndon (aka Bryndam), one of
Earth's last scientists; and Wayne and Hollis Hobard, brothers and
ex-soldiers.  All have donned sets of medieval armor, somehow made radiation-resistant by
the passage of time, to defend the surviving community of Durvale and fight
for law and justice in the post-atomic world of 1986.  The Knights are summoned
on a scouting mission to investigate "strange tracks" found in one of the
colony's struggling farm fields.  Most of the tracks have been washed away, but
one is found in a patch of clay, and "GREAT RAGUNS!  If I didn't know better
I'd say it was the print of a dog-- a GIANT DOG!  But there never was a dog this
size!"-- and besides, the postwar radioactive fallout killed all the animals
"in this country-- if not all over the world".  But nonetheless, the Knights
follow the trail as another track leads them to a valley to the northwest. 
There they find a crashed spaceship, which Bryndon recognizes, for he helped
launch it before the war-- and it contained two dogs sent up to test whether the
space radiation would be harmful. But "they couldn't have anything to do with
those huge prints they saw!  They were just ordinary dogs-- a couple of
Dalmatians!"  But then Gardner catches sight of them, and they aren't ordinary any
longer-- they have, indeed, grown to the size of horses.  Bryndon forms the
theory that the two dogs were enlarged by the strange North Pole radiation and,
after the spacecraft landed, managed to survive by eating simple surviving
plants like lichens. 

With lassos and patience, the Knights manage to capture and calm the giant
dogs.  But when they lead their new pets back to Durvale, they meet a cold
reception from some of the townspeople; "Giant dogs?  Who needs "em?  Just two more
mouths to feed if you ask me!  And WHAT mouths!"  But Marene is delighted by
the dogs, and the Knights are determined to keep them.  Some time later,
Gardner and Marene take the dogs for a walk, and as they take a rest on a
"windswept hill", Gardner stumblingly begins to speak, "Marene, there's
something...I've been ask you...."  "Is he going to propose to me?  At last?" 
But with bad timing, the dogs start to bark and growl, warning of danger back
in the direction of Durvale.  Breaking off his romantic speech, Gardner
hurries back to town, as Marene follows with the dogs.  Arriving back in town,
Gardner finds it under attack from the Khagan and his warriors-- survivors of
ancient Atlantis transplanted into the post-atomic world in a previous story.  They
are now armed with crossbows which are sufficent to cow the ordinary citizens
of Durvale and even threaten the armor-clad Atomic Knights.  And the only
weapon the Knights have is a Ragun which is nearly out of charge.  Gardner
temporarily bluffs the Atlantides with the ray pistol and then comes up with a plan
of attack.  He and Wayne Hobard quickly train the two dogs to accept them as
riders, and use their tracking abilities to find the Atlantides' hidden base. 
Riding the dogs at a charge, the fast-moving Knights evade the enemy's
crossbow bolts, grab crossbows of their own, and force the surrender of the
Atlantides and their leader, the Khagan.  Following this victory, the Durvale foik are
much more eager to accept the giant dogs, even with their large appetites. 
"In due course of time, a small population increae in Durvale," as the dogs
produce a litter of puppies, which are normal-sized to start with, but "whether
they'll stay that way, or start to grow as big as their mother and father...only
time will tell!"  Gardner notes that if the puppies do grow into giants, all
the Knights will have mounts, while Marene is more concerned with the
prospects of another kind of family; "He hasn't spoken yet-- but I know he will SOON!"

A final house ad in the issue heralds the apperance of a new team; "More
Startling Than TOMORROW'S Science-Fiction is the METAL MEN-- heroes forged out of
smoke and flame to battle unique threats!  this metal band lives-- and dies
fighting fantasting furies for mankind in the astonishing April issue of