Monday, October 14, 2013

31 Werewolves | Creature Commandos

It took DC a lot longer than Marvel to work the classic monsters into their universe. Though I don't doubt that there were random appearances of vampires and werewolves over the years, it was 1980 and Weird War Tales #93 that finally gave the monsters their due.

War and horror comics were big genres in the '70s and DC published several of each. War comics had gotten popular after WWII and DC answered the demand with series like Star-Spangled War Stories and Our Army at War, which were both eventually renamed after their respective recurring characters, Unknown Soldier and Sergeant Rock. Meanwhile, the Comics Code Authority relaxed some of its rules in 1971, bringing about a resurgence in horror comics from lots of publishers, but especially Charlton and DC. DC returned House of Mystery to its horror roots (after spending a good part of the '60s on Martian Manhunter and Dial H for Hero) and introduced new horror titles like The Unexpected and The Witching Hour.

Introduced in 1971, Weird War Tales was a combination of the two genres, featuring war stories with supernatural elements and J.M. DeMatteis and Pat Broderick created the Creature Commandos as part of DC's attempt to revive interest in the nine-year-old series. The team was a group of soldiers brought together and modified by a secret government organization called Project M. The unit was led by a normal human, but consisted of a Frankenstein-looking soldier who'd been stitched back together after stepping on a landmine, a criminal who was given vampire-like abilities, the Gorgonesque Dr. Medusa, and a farm boy named Warren Griffith whom Project M turned into a werewolf.

The Creature Commandos appeared off and on in Weird War Tales for a total of 18 issues until the series was cancelled with #124. They remained more or less dormant after that until 2000 when Tim Truman and Scot Eaton revived them for an 8-issue mini-series, adding a mummy, a Creature from the Black Lagoon-like monster, and a cyborg. In Weird War Tales, Griffith had been more or less a normal person (though one who suffered from clinical lycanthropy) who - thanks to Project M - could also change into real werewolf form, but Truman and Eaton made him more feral and out of control.

Besides a few appearances in DC events like Villains United and Justice League: Generation Lost, the Commandos' next major role was in the Flashpoint mini-series, Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown. This version replaced the Frankenstein-like soldier with the actual Frankenstein Monster, but the other major Commandos stayed the same, including Griffith as the werewolf. That version of the team carried over relatively intact to support the Frankenstein Monster in his 16-issue series, Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE.


Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

The way you say that war and horror comics were popular in the '70s make it sound like a real "you got peanut butter in my chocolate" kind of moments.

Then again, when I was 13 years old I was scribbling down idea for my own Justice League of Monsters comic that had the same Universal monsters lineup, so its a very appealing concept and one thats been reintroduced in many different titles across various types of media.

Maybe thats why I got such a kick out of Dreamworks "Monsters vs Aliens". It seemed like such a fresh take on the idea of a monster team, using atomic age mutations rather than the typical undead or supernatural bunch.

Michael May said...

I didn't mention it, but Weird Western came about the same way. "Hey, people like horror comics... and people like Westerns..."


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