The Creature Commandos

The Creature Commandos
Alternative editions:
The Creature Commandos review
Alternative editions:
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: DC - 978-1-7795-2439-3
  • Release date: 2014
  • UPC: 9781779524393
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

Although DC war titles maintained and even increased sales during the early 1970s superhero slump, the editors beefed up both supernatural and anthological elements. Thus in 1971 a title merging horror scenarios with battle yarns seemed a forgone conclusion, and Weird War Tales became a DC mainstay for twelve years and an experimental forge for many young creators to learn the craft and business.

Tentatively at first, then regularly the Creature Commandos featured over the last three years of the run, so this vintage tome offers a broad blend of genre mash-ups for armchair combat fans with a taste for the dark and uncanny to relish.

J. M. DeMatteis and Pat Broderick introduce ‘The Creature Commandos!’ It’s Spring 1942 and America’s Project M (for Monster) and US Army Intelligence officer Matthew Shrieve creates a specialist team for rapid strike missions using mankind’s primordial terrors as a psychological weapon.

Their prime candidates are three originally ordinary soldiers altered by science into analogues of Hollywood horrors. After stepping on a landmine and surviving experimental surgery Marine private Elliot “Lucky” Taylor is now a mute Frankensteinian colossus, whilst cashiered sergeant Vincent Velcro chose a course of bat blood serum treatments over thirty years in the brig and is now a shapeshifting bloodsucking vampire. Unable to enlist because he suffered from “blood disorder” lycanthropy, Warren Griffiths was “treated” until he became an impermanently manifested werewolf. The proposed team would be completed by Shrieve himself: a human problem solver (for which read “callous psychopath”) in command of a relentless ruthless squad designed to strike fear into the hearts of the foe.

Allied Command are disgusted and never want to see the squad again, but as it’s wartime they’re dumped in occupied France, ordered to do as much damage as possible. The first mission drops them on Castle Conquest, where Nazi robotic experiments prove no match for their savagery, but success is somewhat spoiled after Shrieve is shown to consider them utterly expendable freaks.

DeMatteis continues the series, with Filipino artist Fred Carrillo introduced for the follow-up and responsible for drawing most escapades thereafter. Always a clear storyteller, there’s no great distinctiveness to his pages.

Subsequent adventures include dinosaurs, chemical assassins and a nest of Nazi sympathisers in New York state before veteran Robert Kanigher becomes writer. He increases the drama over a two part debut, with brilliant but underappreciated artist Dan Spiegle. Shrieve’s bullying of “his freaks” is incessant and obsessive, and when he’s seriously injured the monsters have to decide whether it’s worth saving him. Kanigher supplements the team with army plastic surgeon Myrna Rhodes, mutated into a doppelganger of the mythical Medusa after a chemical bath, and adds already running co-star G.I. Robot as an occasional team member. This is a mixed blessing, considering the mechanoid later discovers love with blind blonde British princess Dana!

By this stage the writing was on the wall for genre comics, and internal logic and consistency is under mounting pressure. Toward the end the team visit Lourdes, the future, and face robot doubles.

The Creature Commandos is a dark delight. It’s chilling, thrilling, daft, emotionally intense, and utterly outrageous, so a deliciously guilty pleasure for any lover of fantasy fiction and comics that work on plot invention rather than character compulsion.