My brother Ken continued to intermittently read assorted war comics, most of which eventually ended up with me, This issue of WEIRD WAR TALES was the next. In the 1970s, DC had some success with the word WEIRD, cross-breeding their supernatural/mystery titles with other genres–WEIRD WESTERN TALES has given the world Jonah Hex, for example, and ADVENTURE COMICS was briefly cover blurbed as WEIRD ADVENTURE COMICS when the grim Spectre was the lead feature.
WEIRD WAR TALES at this point didn’t follow any continuing characters. It was a true anthology series, where different creators would tell one-off stories with a supernatural or horror slant but all situated against the backdrop of armed conflict. As much as anything, the artwork was the real star of series such as this, as the opportunity for cool visuals was always present and that was one of the few regular draws that a book like this possessed. On the flip side, these were the ultimate impulse purchase comic books, as you never got multi-part stories or elaborate character continuity to deal with. You paid your money, you got your stories, you went on your way. Easy-peasy–but not really my thing.
These titles also employed a number of journeyman creators, guys who didn’t do much work on super hero titles, and so didn’t garner fan acolades the way their fellows did. One of these was Jack Oleck, who wrote the opening story in this issue, In it, a brutal Japanese Major with a penchant for slaughter learns that one of the priests in a captured monastery has uncovered the secret of immortality. The priest and his retainer went out into the mountains many years ago, but the major is determined to capture him and bring the secret back to his superiors.
The Major leads an expedition into the mountains, one that slowly erodes the company of men he’s traveling with as their picked of by the Chinese. But eventually, he catches up with his quarry, Shooting the younger man, he carries the old priest back to his comrades–but they can’t seem to get the secret of immortality out of him. And no wonder. In the relatively-obvious twist, the young guy the Major shot was the long-lived priest with immortality, and the old guy was his retainer, now aged after decades of service.
After a single-page filler comedy strip by Dave Manak came a quickie two-page story. In this one, a besieged British General is given a prophesy that he will meet his foeman face-to-face, and he will die. But the city falls before this can happen–and yet the prophesy is fulfilled when the Mahdi is presented the decapitated head of the fallen General. Not a whole lot to it, but at two pages, it’s a fine little throwaway.
The final story in this issue is the most memorable, thanks to the always top-notch artwork of Russ Heath. In ancient times, a flying saucer descends from the heavens, and begins to rout every Earthbound force thrown against it. To the less educated peoples of the era, the saucer represents an angry God, and they try to sate it with offerings as well as with weapons. But nothing stops it.
When the nomadic desert tribes leave the saucer an offering of a beautiful maiden, it comes in for a landing and a massive robot emerges. But a young shepherd boy confronts the robot, attempting to protect the woman. He uses his sling to destroy its mono-eye lens, destroying it. As time and the desert sands cover any trace of the saucer and its pilot, we are told that this story will give rise to the legend of David and Goliath.