Weird War #124, "Destination Unknown"

The 'Creature Commandos' was a series created by J.M. DeMatteis.  The concept was American soldiers in World War II, altered by scientists to have the abilities and appearance of monsters, the better to terrify the enemy.  It seemed an odd project to me to come from the sensitive mind that created Moonshadow.

But the Commandos were the most popular feature in DC Comics' WEIRD WAR title – and Weird War continued monthly publication while DC's other war books published less frequently and cancelled altogether.   Probably Frankenstein's monster and the Wolfman in army fatigues were an easy choice for the impulse shopper at the newsstand.

A few episodes in, DeMatteis left the series, which was assigned to Robert Kanigher.  Although this hand-off was from a modern writer to one with a much older style, Kanigher seemed a natural fit, having already created The War That Time Forgot, Haunted Tank, and G.I. Robot.  Kanigher quickly made the Creature Commandos his own, with baroque captions, striking one-note characterizations, and imaginative, unlikely plots.  The team repartee gave pleasant echoes of the Metal Men to me.  Ross Andru contributed some covers.

Anyway…to the story…

Weird War #124 (June, 1983), "Destination Unknown"

Robert Kanigher, story; Fred Carillo, art;

E. Nelson Bridwell, editor (although Robin Snyder was involved without credit)

The one page story begins with six figures tied to posts, as if being burned at the stake.  They are -- the Creature Commandos, G.I. Robot, and a dapper fellow with sport jacket and pipe.  A military officer reads their execution order, "For rebelliously displaying signs of humanity, the general court-martial sentences the accused to death by firing squad.  Signed, Paul Levitz, General, Commanding."

Our heroes interrupt to say thanks to Sam Kujava and thousands of character witnesses who believed in them.

But just as the firing squad takes aim, Lt. Shrieve, the Commandos former field leader,  arrives by jeep.  He has a commutation and final mission.  "To man an ICBM!  Hitler's chancellery in Berlin!"

Our heroes file into the rocket.  (In a small panel, G.I. Robot's robot dog and cat join them. )

However, when the rocket blasts off, a technician shouts in surprise:  "The rocket's malfunctioning!  Out of control!  For an unknown destination beyond the stars!"  Shrieve says, "They've done it!  They've done it!"  (Although he was a goad and a bully, this line suggests that Shrieve helped plan an escape?)

"Passenger list:  Taylor the mute monster, Dr. Medusa, Velcro the Vampire, Griffith the werewolf, the G.I. Robot and family, and R.K."  (Something about the lettering and empty space in the caption suggests that the "R.K." initials replaced something longer.)

That was the last issue of WEIRD WAR.

This was not Kanigher's last script.  As far as I can tell from the GCD, he continued to write GI COMBAT and SGT ROCK for five more years until the last issue of ROCK, #422 (1988).

The Commandos didn't appear again until 2009, in ACTION #872.  Amusingly, the continuity of this last, one-page appearance was respected, as Superman found their rocket in space as part of Brainiac's collection (along with Ultra the Multi-Alien).  Geoff Johns was the writer.

Summary and notes by Charlie Boatner