Monthly Archives: March 2016

Wet And Dry (But Mainly Wet)

There’s a distinctly watery feel to this latest batch of Commando stories (Issues 4899-4902 – On Sale 24th March 2016 in the UK). Until you get to the last one where the Phil Gascoine’s dusty khaki-coloured cover leaves you in no doubt that this is a waterless waste.

But that’s not what struck me most. Not for the first time, this selection illustrates (ho ho) the freedom that the war comic allows the writer when it comes to locations. This bunch have two in the Far East, one in Northern India and a fourth in Greece. Okay so a writer could put their characters in any one of these locations but, given the global nature of war from the 19th Century on, that writer doesn’t have to make up any reason for their characters to be there beyond the Services sending them. And that allows characters the reader can readily identify with, both culturally and physically. And that allows them to identify with the experience of the players is the story.

That identification is of a totally different kind to that experienced when reading of the adventures of another spandex-covered super and lay at the core of most British war comics. The difference between the superhero and the everyman hero.

No prizes for guessing my preference.


Massacre In Malaya — Commando No 4899

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In the arid jungles of Malaya in 1941, British and Commonwealth forces held out against the relentless advance of the Japanese.

Private Josh Combe and his unit were determined to protect the life of a civilian boy who had been left silent, traumatised and alone by the murderous actions of a pair of enemy officers.

In a last-ditch attempt to get to friendly territory they would have to take to the river to survive.

 

 

Story: George Low Art: Olivera/Rodriguez Cover: Janek Matysiak

Preview: Massacre In Malaya


Sailor With Wings — Commando No 4900

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Lieutenant-Commander Jim Treggaron, pilot in the Fleet Air Arm, had the blood of the old Cornish pirates in his veins — or so his men said. Otherwise, he’d never have tried to organise his Swordfish squadron to operate from a little beach in Greece. They were supposed to fly from their aircraft carrier.

However, Jim found a bunch of tough Resistance helpers, a cave full of old RAF fuel and ammo, and a beach long enough for take-off.

The Italian navy was in handy range so zooming into action went the

SAILOR WITH WINGS

Introduction

Peter Ford is undoubtedly one of Commando’s unsung heroes from the earliest days of the title — and is a rare example of an excellent artist who was also a great scriptwriter. In terms of art, one of his specialties was aircraft illustration. Even from the first, dynamic page opposite it is apparent that we’re in for an action-packed, aeronautical treat.

Buccheri’s cover is superb too — although one does wonder if Peter Ford had hankered to supply the cover too and make this book a creative Commando hat-trick!

Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Sailor With Wings, originally Commando No 239 (December 1966)

Story: Peter Ford Art: Peter Ford Cover: Buccheri

PreviewSailor With Wings


 

Full Steam Ahead — Commando No 4901

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So, just how did two downed Royal Australian Air Force pilots end up on a secluded Pacific island — as prisoners of a long-forgotten Imperial German Navy unit whose unhinged leader was determined to complete a decades-old mission?

Sergeant Matt Herford and Corporal Ben MacAuley would have to commandeer an ancient, steam-powered torpedo boat in an attempt to escape and warn their superiors of an imminent threat.

It’s a tall tale indeed, fantastic in every sense of the word.

 

 

Story: Stephen Walsh Art: Keith Page Cover: Keith Page

PreviewFull Steam Ahead

 


 

Branded A Coward — Commando No 4902

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The heroic last stand of Lieutenant Hugh Overton in the mountains of the Indian North-West Frontier won even the respect of the enemy tribesmen who had wiped out his patrol to a man.

Yet by his own people Hugh was branded a coward, a deserter who had fled in terror in the face of the enemy, condemning his men to death!

 

Introduction

At first glance you might think that this book has several overly familiar traits that you might expect to find in a Commando story.

An officer wrongly accused of cowardice. Check.

An object – in this instance a silver cigar case – which serves as an important plot-point, or “macguffin“, according to film director Alfred Hitchcock. Check.

A relative of the accused who is determined to find out the truth. Check.

However, thanks to the conviction of all the creators involved, it all still works — no matter how superficially familiar the tropes of the tale itself may seem.

Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Branded A Coward, originally Commando No 2440 (January 1991)

Story: C.G. Walker Art: Keith Shone Cover: Phil Gascoine

Preview: Branded A Coward

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Don’t Go Changin’?

As Commando rolls on towards its 55th birthday in June this year, it’s safe to assume that it doesn’t sell in the numbers that once it did, and yet it endures, doling out hot rations of action and adventure every two weeks. But here’s the thing, would it sell more if it changed to be more in line with the other comics on offer today? Is it just trading on nostalgia and a habit-buying by its readers?

That’s a discussion for a separate place, for now we can be grateful that it provides good stories of a bygone era with a bygone sensibility. Along with its size, that’s a Unique Selling Point.

Commando Issues 4895-4898 – On Sale 10th March 2016 (UK)


Home Front Heroes — Commando No 4895

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The crew of a Boulton Paul Defiant night-fighter were puzzled. Why was an Airspeed Oxford trainer aircraft flying above England under cover of darkness? The gunner wondered if perhaps something secretive was going on.

How right he was. But there was no way that he could have known that the Oxford was being flown by a German crew, and was an integral part of an audacious plan by the Nazis to snatch back one of their spies.

At times the Home Front was almost as dangerous as the Front Line.

Story: George Low  Art: Mario Morahin  Cover: Ian Kennedy

Preview: Home Front Heroes

 


The Great Escape — Commando No 4896

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Ted Malloy knew him as Corporal Don Granger of the Australian Army, his best pal, young, dark-haired and full of spirit.

The Kachins, a Burmese tribe, knew him as “Urgu” — their Holy Man, chief and river god, tall with a lined face, bronzed skin, a mop of snow-white hair, and no memory of any past.

Ted and Don were the only two men ever to escape from “Death Valley”, the dreaded Japanese labour camp, where men died by inches under the blazing sun and the whips of the guards.

The tale of how Ted got clear and how Don became Urgu truly is a thrilling one.

Introduction

It did not come as much of a surprise to learn that a Commando book carried this title. It appeared a mere two-and-a-half years after the cinema release of director John Sturges’ classic prisoner-of-war movie in July 1963.

However, this story has only appropriated the movie’s title as the setting and content are completely different. In fact, with its jungle tribes and allusions to river gods, our tale probably owes more to the fantasy fiction of author H. Rider Haggard, but given a gritty, World War II twist.

Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

The Great Escape, originally Commando No 198 (January 1966)

Story: Spence  Art: Victor De La Fuente  Cover: Scholler

PreviewThe Great Escape

 


The Mortar Boys — Commando No 4897

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Brothers Vic and George Adams were part of a Pacific Expeditionary Force mortar team. They had been tasked with engaging the Japanese on Mono Island in the South Pacific.

Their superior officer, Lieutenant Jeff Danten, was not keen on mortars, seeing them as a waste of time compared to a decent machine-gun. It didn’t help that Danten was also impatient and reckless, too eager to get into battle without decent tactics.

It looked like the Mortar Boys had more than just the enemy to worry about…

 

Story: Mark Blackham  Art: Vicente Alcazar  Cover: Janek Matysiak

Preview: The Mortar Boys

 


Fight To The Last — Commando No 4898

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When Fred Burke made a vow to his dead mate that he would fight to the last to see the war won, it wouldn’t be his fault if the Allies lost, for Fred was a man of his word. So in Fred’s book anything went — like breaking out of a prison camp for a start, then after commandeering a civilian vehicle, battling alongside the partisans to hold a vital bridge. Fred just went on fighting and fighting…

 

Introduction

This is a relentless tale where Lance-Corporal Fred Burke is driven by a promise made to his best friend that he will never give in until the War is won.

It’s a testament to the work of all the creators involved that, despite the fairly straightforward premise, our hero is so full of determination that we can’t help but admire his integrity and courage and are with him every step of the way.

Therefore, in terms of script, art and cover, Fight To The Last remains a classic, textbook Commando to this day.

Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Fight To The Last, originally Commando No 1108 (March 1977), re-issued as No 2443 (February 1991)

Story: N. Allen  Art: Mones  Cover: Ian Kennedy

Preview: Fight To The Last