Saturday, October 13, 2007

Dr. K's Halloween Countdown Presents: Weird War Tales 120

The Halloween Countdown at the 100-Page Super Spectacular continues with a team-up of sorts between two of Bob Kanigher's greatest creations: G. I. Robot and The War that Time Forgot.

A cover with a giant gorilla and a robot, who shoots bullets from his fingers, fighting a pterodactyl should be the greatest work of art ever created, but this cover, by Ross Andru and Klaus Janson, just doesn't work. I think it's a combination of the garish colors and Janson's rough inking (which I normally like) that cause this cover to fail to reach true awesomeness.

On the other hand, the story inside, titled "The Monster Was a Lady," far exceeds any expectations.

G. I Robot is a Bob Kanigher creation that does not get much attention these days, unlike The Metal Men or even The War that Time Forgot, and that is unfortunate. Perhaps it's because the feature did not last very long in Weird War Tales, running just under two years. And in his last appearance, from the final issue of Weird War (124), the robot is loaded with the members of the Creature Commandos onto an ICBM that is shot into space.

G. I. Robot is J.A.K.E., which stands for "Jungle Automated Killer, Experimental" (a name that makes all other acronyms look like crap), who fought during World War II in the South Pacific, along with his robot dog named C.A.P. and an unnamed robot cat. J.A.K.E. never speaks, and much dramatic tension in his stories comes from human soldiers debating about his ability to feel.

The lead story in Weird War Tales 120 (1983), "The Monster Was a Lady," with art by the severely underrated Fred Carillo, opens with J.A.K.E. out surfing with his dog and cat, and if I just stopped there, that should be enough to blow your minds. However, I can promise you that this story only gets better.

While surfing, J.A.K.E. comes under fire from a Japanese fighter, and before he can bring the plane down with his finger-fired guns, his dog takes a shot to the back.

While C.A.P. is undergoing repairs, J.A.K.E. and his human partner, Sgt. Coker, spend some quality time together:

One of the common themes in these stories is not only J.A.K.E.'s ability to feel emotions, but also his heterosexuality. In an earlier story, for example, the Japanese build a female geisha robot "honey trap" to destroy J.A.K.E., and it almost works (and, yes, the robot is refered to as a "honey trap" in the story). Here, J.A.K.E.'s oggling of the Rita Hayworth pin-up serves as foreshadowing of events to come.

Later, J.A.K.E. and Sgt. Coker are given orders to find a Marine unit that was lost on a nearby island. The island, however, happens to be the one inhabited by the dinosaurs and other creatures of The War that Time Forgot, including a giant female gorilla.

Some strange silent communication occurs between G.I. Robot and the gorilla, and Sgt. Coker wonders why the robot didn't automatically attack, as he is programmed to do. Coker's reference to the pin-up gives a not so subtle hint why.

That's right: what ensues in between fights with dinosaurs is a love story between a giant ape and a robot--a romance that fulfills all of James Kochalka's wildest dreams (Please see my earlier post for a discussion of this particular issue).

Is there even a word to describe giant-ape-on-robot action? Would it be something like "macrosimiotechnophilia"?

However, in the final battle with a pack of T. Rexes, the romance proves short-lived.

It's doubly unfortunate that the giant ape doesn't get to play with the T. Rex's broken jawbone the way that King Kong did in a similar situation.

To add to the ambiguity about J.A.K.E.'s "feelings," the sergeant gets word that C.A.P. has recovered from his repairs, and this leads to an interesting final panel open to interpretation:

Can a robot truly cry? And if so, for whom does he shed his tear?

2 comments:

Chance said...

That is seriously weird. GI Robot. Wow.

Bret said...

Yes, robots can cry, but then space gods call them ****.