By various (Carlton Books)
DC Thomson is probably the most influential comics publisher in British history. The Beano and Dandy revolutionised children’s comedy comics, the newspaper strips Oor Wullie and The Broons (both created by the legendary Dudley D. Watkins) have become a genetic marker for Scottishness and the uniquely British “ordinary hero” grew from the prose-packed pages of Adventure, Rover, Wizard, Skipper and Hotspur.
In 1961 the company launched a half-sized title called Commando. Broadly the size of a paperback book, it had 68 pages per issue and an average of two panels a page. Each issue told a complete war story (usually of World War I or II – although all theatres of conflict have featured since) and told tasteful yet gripping stories of valour and heroism in stark black and white dramas which came charged with grit and authenticity. The full painted covers made them look more like novels than comics and they were a huge and instant success. They’re still being published at the rate of eight every month.
This volume collects an even dozen of these mini-epics, selected by series editor George Low, and although much of the collection’s marketing concentrates on the nostalgic element by exhorting the reader to remember dashing about the playground shouting “Achtung” or “Donner und Blitzen” and saluting like Storm-troopers, these tales – subtitled “The Toughest 12 Commando Books Ever” are fine and compelling examples of comic storytelling.
Because of company policy these tales are all uncredited, (and I’d rather not prove my vast ignorance by guessing who did what), so you’ll have to be content with the work itself, although the many fan-sites should be able to provide information for the dedicated researcher. So if you’re looking for a more British comics experience, well-written and wonderfully illustrated, check out ‘Guns on the Peak’, ‘The Fighting Few’, ‘Bright Blade of Courage’, ‘The Haunted Jungle’, ‘Tiger in the Tail’, ‘The Specialists’, ‘Mighty Midget’, ‘VLR: Very Long Range’, ‘Flak Fever’, ‘Fight or Die!’, ‘Fearless Freddy’ and ‘Another Tight Spot…’ in this brilliant compilation.
Let’s make it as traditional as watching The Great Escape on a bank holiday.
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