Hey everybody, just a quick interlude to tell you that for the very first time, Magazines and Monsters has a guest blogger! That’s right, someone other than yours truly will be at the helm of the blog this week, and I couldn’t be more excited! This person needs no introduction, but, well, since it’s his first time, I’ll let you know who it is anyway. This week’s blog post is brought to you by none other than the man behind the Longbox of Darkness podcast, Herman Louw! A little hint before I go on, that you can always check the links on the sidebar of the blog for other fun websites and podcasts including the LoD podcast! Alright, here we go!
Ah, War Comics Month. Lieber Gott, how I have missed you. I wish you could be mein forever. I always hate to bid you auf wiedersehen…
Alright, let’s get serious for a minute here, folks – WAR is nothing to joke about, even in a bad German accent. It’s a harrowing experience for those involved, one that will grind your soul to powder and will almost certainly turn you into a glassy-eyed PTSD zombie if you survive it, or into bloody chunks of meat if you don’t. But you know all this already, don’t you? At least, you would if you’ve been reading Magazines and Monsters for the last few weeks. After all, Billy has been posting write-ups of scintillating WEIRD WAR TALES issues from DC Comics’ Bronze Age pretty regularly of late. And no, before you ask, I am not the esteemed Mister Billy D, Blogmaster Supreme. I’m his podcasting pal Herman from INTO THE WEIRD and The Longbox of Darkness, guest-blogging to commemorate the end of yet another momentous month of comic reading. And what an honor it is to have a post of mine published on Magazines & Monsters, which has been one of my favorite blogs since 2018.
So why, if I’m supposed to be bringing my A-game and making a good impression as a first-time blogger on the site did I choose to start this post with such a flippant and callous statement? After all, WAR is something that should NOT be sought after or enjoyed. So why do so many of us love the hell out of #WarComicsMonth?
Well, the answer to that question is simply this: stories of WAR make for some damn fine comics. Movies too, but that’s a whole other post in the making. And the issue of WWT that I picked for your delectation is certainly no exception to the rule. For those blessed few who have listened to my horror podcast The Longbox of Darkness, you’d know that DC’s WEIRD WAR TALES is my absolute favorite horror anthology comic book. I place it higher than even such titans as EC’s Tales From The Crypt, Warren’s CREEPY, DC’s The House of Mystery, and Marvel’s VAMPIRE TALES. The title has been with me since I first started reading comics as a snot-nosed five-year old, and hopefully I’ll still be reading an issue of it when I check out of this life at the ripe old age of 99.
So without further preamble, let’s look at the cover of the issue I’ve chosen. Feel free to drool over some Joe Kubert splendor while you’re at it.
This is one of Kubert’s most effective covers, as it not only draws you in with the mystery of that bright red Nazi coffin and the pale clawed and gnarled hands opening the lid from within, but also with what it implies. (Just who exactly is in that coffin? Could it be Herr H… Nah!) The expressions on the faces of the sailors are enough to drive the terror home. This definitely won’t be an ordinary voyage, Weird War Lovers.
Before we get into the gist of it, I do have to mention the creative teams involved in this particular story, entitled “Beyond Gotterdammerung”. I specifically selected this issue because blog host Billy loves writer Zany Bob Haney, and this is one of his finest stories. E.R. Cruz supplies the art, and he’s no slouch either. Romeo Tanghal provides the opening splash of WWT Horror Host DEATH who imparts some chillingly resonant comments on the nature of Soldiers and the weapons they wield. Drink in the haunting words and images of these creators, dear readers… and despair!
For anyone familiar with Bram Stoker’s novel DRACULA or the Francis Ford Coppola film, you might remember The Demeter, the Russian sailing ship that carried the dreaded Count from his homeland of Wallachia to Port Whitby in England. You might also recall what happened to the hapless crew of that ship, and how the vessel finally arrived at its destination, spattered with gore and bereft of life, a dead navigator tied to the rudder with a look of hellish fear stamped on his dead features. I daresay after reading the story by Haney that he must have had the Demeter at the forefront of his mind, because the crew of U-Boat 239 suffers almost the exact same fate as those that manned the doomed Demeter.
After learning from an admiral that Germany is kaput, and receiving instructions to ferry precious cargo in the form of a coffin from Europe to South America, Lieutenant Hegel and his faithful crew set off across the Atlantic, avoiding Allied ships, depth charges, sea mines, and submarine nets. Hegel has been given a letter by the admiral who gave him his mission, a letter pertaining to the sinister scarlet coffin onboard, but one that must only be opened when they’ve reached their destination.
When U-239 enters the open sea Hegel becomes aware of sinister happenings on his ship. Crew members start turning up dead, apparent victims of either suicide, horrific machinery accidents, or violent arguments. Not a superstitious man, Hegel thinks nothing of this and writes it off as depression triggered by despair at Germany’s loss, or something akin to survivors guilt. He couldn’t be more wrong.
Hegel soon comes upon a stowaway on his ship. When he realizes the identity of this stowaway the shock is almost too much to bear. The scene eventually culminates in a Sieg Heil from Hegel as he looks upon the face of Germany’s great dictator. Mein Gott, der Führer has returned! Rassistisches Schwein!!
The Führer explains his presence, and Hegel believes every word. That is, until he observes good old Adolf munching on his last crewman’s jugular before tossing his victim overboard like so much sharkbait. Auf wiedersehen, Blutwurst!
After witnessing this fresh horror, Hegel has no choice but to open the envelope and read the letter the admiral had given him. In it he learns of the last hope of Germany, the immortality formula of the sinister Dr. Schlosser, and the resurrection of history’s greatest evil. Hegel also comes to realize that he and his crew were more than ferrymen for the Führer, they were also meant to be his vittles.
No longer content to be a mere walking bloodbag, Hegel fashions a wooden stake and goes against all his Nazi indoctrination and national pride by ramming it into the Führer’s heart repeatedly, thereby ensuring the irredeemable dictator’s second, and hopefully permanent, death. Wracked with hopelessness and horror, Hegel turns his Luger on himself, and sprawls lifelessly across the twice-dead corpse of his Leader. He died alone, but at least he died with dignity.
The story leaves us with a final twist, as is to be expected of the best stuff Weird War Tales had to offer. As it turns out, the coffin transported by Leutnant Hegel and his brave crew was not the only one! This revelation comes from the mouth of the evil Dr. Schlosser himself, as he prepares to take possession of an entire row of red boxes, dragged up from the holds of deserted U-Boats that mysteriously glided into a South American port…
And that’s it, monster-obsessed ones. I hope you had as much fun reading this post as I had writing it. Make the most of War Comics Month, and get out there and read some great comics set during the time of mankind’s greatest conflicts. Not because you love WAR, but rather because you realize how precious our lives are as we experience these horrors vicariously through the eyes of fictional characters. That’s one way to deal with all the nightmares, right? Until next year -Herman
Huge thanks to Herman for pinch-hitting this week! This concludes #warcomicmonth, but definitely look for it next year and every year in November!