Created by Rob Kanigher, G.I. Robot is a comic book character from a simpler time when monthly comics tried wild new concepts, including war comics. Recently Marvel tried to re-introduce the Phantom Eagle in ‘War is Hell’ while DC has published the War That Time Forgot and both The Unknown Soldier and the Haunted Tank, but all of these projects are revivals of comics that were once vibrant and new… and bizarre.
First named simply Joe, the G.I. Robot served alongside expeditions to Dinosaur Island. After nobly sacrificing himself for the life of his fellow soldiers, his legacy was born and subsequent models drafted. A mute robot soldier, G.I. Robot served in the pages of Man at War, Weird War Tales and other series before Roy and Dan Thomas told the tale of the doomed first model in the pages of The Young All-Stars (a series worthy of reprint!).
The initial jungle model (The J.A.K.E. I) was nearly destroyed thanks to the interference of the villainous Per Degaton and the Ultra Humanite. The attack was thwarted by the Young All Stars and the sturdy mechanized soldier entered the service. Armed with machine guns, mini-torpedoes, and other armaments, J.A.K.E. was a one-man army.
The Jungle Assault Killer Experiment (nicknamed J.A.K.E.), was developed during the Second World War as part of a US government project named Project M to produce automaton soldiers. Headed by Professor Mazursky (hence the ‘M’), Project M was aimed at fighting the Axis Powers on a psychological level by introducing monstrous forces to the battle field. Where are they now, I ask you. The chief result of Project M was the Creature Commandos, consisting of a Frankenstein Monster, a Werewolf, Vampire, Medusa and of course G.I. Robot.
Featured in various theaters of war including the horrific (but super cool) Dinosaur Island, the G.I. Robot was a fantastic visual to young readers who perhaps had grown bored with the monotony of war comics. Fans of the New Frontier animated feature have already seen Dinosaur Island in all of its monstrous glory.
The Weird War Tales comic books of the 1980′s brought the character to the forefront of spinner racks. There was many a drug store visit when I would just stare at the absurd mute robot firing back at Nazi’s or dinosaurs and wonder… ‘what is this??’ It’s difficult to express the kind of creativity that was present at the time, but the wild variety of genre comics was so vast that it offered up several options aside from men in tights smacking each other silly.
Re-introduced to the field in the pages if Checkmate, it appears that G.I. Robot’s work is far from done. The character is also scheduled to appear in an upcoming episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold alongside the caped crusader.