My brother Ken was still reading the occasional war comic, and so this issue of WEIRD WAR TALES, which eventually came into my possession. This is the kind of comic book that really doesn’t get made any more, one designed to be read and enjoyed once, by any novice reader, and then discarded. There were no continuing characters, no continuity to work through–just war stories with a supernatural bent to them. DC kept these kinds of books coming out for far longer than just about anybody else. But they never grabbed me especially.
And really, I expect it’s because I didn’t have any hook into what was going on. (The same was true for me on most other mystery/supernatural comics, as well as straight-up war books, westerns, romance comics–you name it. I had a very specific style of fantasy that I wanted in my comic books at this point, and it came with capes and tights most often.) I also found the short length of the stories unfulfilling, even when there was a premise that I enjoyed. Everything ended too quickly for me. Strangely, I had no such qualms about, say, a six-page Atom back-up strip, so maybe that was just a personal excuse.
Anyway, every issue of WEIRD WAR TALES was a mixed bag, better or worse depending on what stories were in it and who had worked on them. The first concerned and uptight Colonel on assignment in India. After a patrol is led into an ambush and wiped out, the Colonel executes Sergeant Ram Singh, who had warned against the trail they were taking and who was the only survivor of the massacre. Singh’s father, a noted fakir, petitions the Colonel for leniency, but when the officer refuses, the fakir gives him a series of strange prophesies that will haunt him in the days to come.
As predicted, the Colonel has a near-miss with death, and after he executes Ram Singh he learns definitively that the Sergeant was innocent of the charges and that he ordered the death of an innocent man. Haunted by the fakir’s last prediction, that he will himself commit murder in front of a thousand eyes, he goes tot eh man to try to force more details from him–and of course accidentally kills him. And he does so in a temple with mirrored walls, so he seems to see thousands of eyes staring back at him, and he takes his own life rather than facing the consequences of his actions.
The next story is the one that I remember from this book, the cover-featured tale. Perhaps I remember it because it features Hitler, a fixture in so many WWII-era super hero comic books. It opens with Hitler on his last day alive. He kills a crazy long-haired man that his SS officers bring before him before embarking on a crazy plan for survival: he’s going to be entombed in a suspended animation capsule to emerge in 100 years, when he can resume his quest for power.
The idea here is that all things repeat over the course of time, so in 1100 years Hitler will be able to avoid the mistakes he made in his campaign and emerge victorious. (Never mind that there was no Hitler 1100 years before the Third Reich…) Everything goes as planned, and the Fuhrer revives 1100 years later, his uniform in tatters and his hair long. As he races out into the corridor, he’s grabbed up by soldiers, who take him to their leader. With barely a look, the leader shoots Hitler down just as Hitler himself did in the opening–the kicker, of course, is that the future leader looks exactly like Hitler himself.
The issue wraps up with what I now think is the best thing in it, a little two-page story told almost entirely in silhouette. On a dark, moonless night during the Civil War, two soldiers find each other in the darkness and share a drink and help one another out–until they realize that they’re actually on opposite sides, at which point each man guns the other down.