Weird War II: Kirby talks "The Lost Squad"

The allied soldiers of World War II thought they had seen all the horrors the War had to offer until Nazi Germany unleashed it's secret weapon, a legion with the power to command dark sinister magic and armed with high-tech experimental weaponry. To combat the new Nazi menace Allied Command assembles an elite unit known as the "Lost Squad." Writer Chris Kirby and artist Alan Robinson chronicle the Squad's first two missions in a six-issue mini-series beginning this month from Devil's Due Publishing. CBR News spoke to Kirby about the series.

"The Lost Squad" was born out of Kirby's desire to have some fun with different genres. "I wanted to write a genre-blender adventure story with weird Buck Rogers type rocket technology and weaponry mixed with some pulpy horror," Kirby told CBR News. When Kirby discovered Alan Robinson's artwork on the Digital Webbing Boards, he knew he found the perfect artist for his story. "Alan's art has a cool Mike Mignola feel and he handles the horror and sci-fi tech stuff well," Kirby said.

Kirby and Robinson's first "Lost Squad" tale was an eight page back up story published in issue #7 of the anthology "Digital Webbing Presents." The two desperately wanted to tell more stories featuring their characters and it was Kirby's meeting with Devil's Due Project Manager Marshall Dillon that gave them that chance. After hearing Kirby's pitch for a new "Lost Squad" series, Dillon signed Kirby and Robinson to Devil's Due.

When "The Lost Squad" begins, World War II has taken a surprising and horrific turn against the Allied Forces. "It's 1942 and the Allies have been vanquished from continental Europe," Kirby said. "The German army has unleashed a new division of soldiers trained in the ways of magic, equipped with experimental weaponry, and bent on acquiring the world's most powerful artifacts to defeat their enemies and rule the world. The Allies have scrambled to assemble a group of soldiers with special powers to fight a secret war against Hitler's occult troops.

"The Lost Squad was formed by Gen. William 'Wild Bill' Higgins, who borrowed the idea of an elite squad that waged war on Germany's occult troops from the British," Kirby continued. "The British team was all but wiped out on a recent mission and it's leader and sole survivor, Major Smithenry, is on loan to the U.S. Army to help set up an American counterpart. Smithenry oversaw the selection of the entire American team-- a group of hardened soldiers, misfits and 'lost souls' each blessed/cursed with unique talents, both natural and supernatural."

The squad's membership is an eclectic combination of specialties, powers and personalities. "The Squad consists of a stodgy soldier who was once a Knight Templar in the crusades, a fallen priest who quit the faith after an exorcism went wrong, a jarhead Sergeant who can communicate with the dead, an egg head professor who's a whiz at solving puzzles and blowing things up, a sharpshooter who can read a person's thoughts by touch, an ex-con who's the descendant of Aztec warriors and a trio of immature, synthetic soldiers grown in a university lab as a part of a secret defense department program."

Issue #1 of "The Lost Squad" is a stand-alone issue that introduces the characters and chronicles their first mission. "Pressed into service without much time for acclimation to one another, the squad's first mission is a rapid deployment to Poland to retrieve what might be the biblical 'Second Seal' foretold in Revelations," Kirby stated. "Once broken, the seal would unleash the second horseman of the Apocalypse-- WAR."

The first issue also serves as a prologue to the main story, which begins in issue #2. "In the main story arc, 'Operation: Crystal Ball,' the Squad is dispatched to find a secret German 'ghost' train that is circling the French countryside and eliminate a device, 'Codename: SYBIL,' aboard that, according to British Intelligence, can actually see into the future," Kirby explained. "The Squad realizes that if indeed the German's possessed such a device, they would surely know that the Squad was coming. Once the Squad learns the true nature of the SYBIL device, the story takes a turn from a search-and-destroy and into a rescue mission."

Opposing the squad is an onslaught of enemies armed with dark magic and high tech weaponry, lead by one the Reich's occult experts, Johann Kessler, a nasty soldier with a penchant for the black arts. "He's a member of the elite 'Magus Korps,'" explained Kirby, "a group of spell-casting soldiers that can control platoons of demon soldiers: unarmed volunteers that allow themselves to be possessed by evil spirits on the battlefield and go berserk, ripping everything to shreds in their path. The Wehrmacht also tosses Jetpack commandos, a tricked out motorcycle gang, and giant mechanical spider-tanks at the Squad."

The tone of "The Lost Squad" is action adventure with a horror/supernatural feel, or as Kirby described the book-- "Hellboy" meets "Sgt. Rock." "Growing up, I had been a big fan of the old war comics, the Joe Kubert/Robert Kanigher stuff," Kirby explained "I read those books along with 'Eerie' and 'Creepy' and thought it would be fun to mix the two. Toss in a little Neil Gaiman and mix with Mike Mignola's 'Hellboy' and I think you'll come close to what we're striving for."

If sales permit, Kirby and Robinson have many more adventures planned for "The Lost Squad." "This is the first of, hopefully, many stories about the boys," Kirby said. "I have five or six ideas for different missions for the Squad, either as self-contained one shots or longer mini-series, all set in WWII."

It's also quite possible that WWII wasn't the first time a unit known as "The Lost Squad" battled the forces of tyranny and supernatural evil. "Without giving anything away, there is a possibility for spin-off stories that would highlight other elite squads throughout history," Kirby explained. "I'd love to do a Lost Squad story set in the Napoleonic Wars or the Civil War."

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