Achtung! Achtung! Got Im Himmel, and with big dollops of Donner and Blitzen, nowhere is safe from the march of the whacky?
Because it has emerged that the commando comic, now over 60 years old, has decided to give up jingoism.
what Destroy the thoughts! Of course they can get rid of machine guns and Spitfires.
Henceforth, it seems, schoolboys can read war pamphlets in which lantern-jawed Tommy tells the vile ‘Huns’ to ‘eat lead’ or ‘Fritz’ to ‘take it’.
Both boys – let’s face it, girls don’t read this stuff – would happily punch holes in the frame of the glossy ‘japs’ while shouting ‘banzai’! or ‘Aiiieeeeee!’ on their lips.
Instead, according to Callum Laird, former editor of Commando and holder of a doctorate in ‘Conflict and Character Representation in British War Comics’, the magazine is becoming less gung-ho and ‘presenting a more nuanced and compassionate portrayal of wartime. life’.
Henceforth, it seems, will schoolboys be able to read war pamphlets in which lantern-jawed Tommy exhorts the vile ‘Huns’ to ‘eat the lead’ or ‘take it’ to the ‘Fritz’.
Although it is clearly the most iconic of the war mags, Commando was certainly not the first
Guy Walters grew up collecting Commando magazines and says it’s important not to lose their essence
As an example of the shift, Dr Laird cites a 2020 commando comic called Stan’s War, in which a Polish soldier is deported to Britain at the end of the war. Laird says the post-Brexit developments inspired him to write it.
‘In Fife, where I’m from, there are a lot of Polish people,’ he says. ‘I was very aware that after Brexit we had Polish friends who went back. It was a time of polarized debate about immigration. Comics offer an opportunity to explore these issues in more nuanced ways.’
In other instances, Commandos produced a series of VE Day stories told from the point of view of a German soldier, as well as stories about the differences between German soldiers and their fascist brothers-in-arms.
‘It just goes to show how things change,’ says Dr Laird.
Based on these words, it seems that Commando comics are increasingly becoming mouthpieces for a certain kind of radical-liberal Remoaner politics, rather than the good old war stories – or so it seems – simple celebrations of heroism. , healthy patriotism and the fight between good and evil.
Men of my generation – I’m 50 – were raised on these magazines, which also included War Picture Library, Victor and Valiant. Featuring a world of evil Germans, heroic Brits, lippy Aussies, brave Yanks, fearsome Japs and treacherous French.
Many would be surprised that comics are still going, let alone going strong. Although DC Thomson, the publisher of Commando, does not disclose the magazine’s circulation, a few years ago it claimed that the comic sold an average of 9,600 copies per fortnight, which would represent about 50,000 readers.
Although it is clearly the most iconic of the war mags, Commando was certainly not the first. In fact, it was launched by DC Thomson to counter the successful war picture library produced by their main competitor, IPC.
The first editor was Charles ‘Chick’ Checkley, who had served in the RAF during the war. His deputy, Ian Forbes, was in the Royal Corps of Signals, meaning both had combat experience. Checkley and Forbes realized that the best way to combat the competition was to make the story realistic and with accurate period details.
Commando is now 61 years old and it’s clear that comics today can’t stay the way they were born. But those who love these magazines must act as protectors so that the soul is not lost
Guys – let’s face it, girls shouldn’t be reading this stuff – they won’t be gleefully punching holes in the frame of the dreaded ‘Japs’ while they scream ‘banzai’! or ‘Aiiieeeeee!’ on their lips
The formula worked, and during its heyday in the 1970s, Commando sold a whopping 750,000 copies in just one month.
It is true that some of that old-fashioned stereotyping does not fit well in the contemporary context. The likes of Boches, Jerry, Squareheads and Fritz are not words of the day.
But it should be remembered that they are at least historically accurate and were the words used by British and American combatants at the time.
Where I think Dr Laird is perhaps being unfair – although I bow to his doctorate in all this – is the lack of subtlety suggested in the Commando comics. I still have all the war magazines I collected at school in the 1980s, and looking at them today, I realize that the stories were much more nuanced than I remembered.
Take, for example, the 1969 issue – a special kind of adventure – published in 1986, which concerns whether a decorated British officer is really a coward. One such theme is in the 1977 issue — The Fight Against Fear — about a private named Sam Snead who is far from being a brave Brit.
This relative sophistication made Commando superior to rival publications—its protagonists were often flawed.
Occasionally, a soldier’s worst enemy is some monster within, such as a sibling born to a brother with a high casualty rate in the Battle of Britain; or lack of self-esteem due to a powerful father who was a World War I hero; Or maybe just plain fear.
Nevertheless, at the end of their personal odyssey, these men find personal salvation from the horrors of war. The final frame of each comic has our hero reconciling with his former rival and finding peace of mind.
Along the way, of course, many Germans and Japanese were killed. a lot
Yet despite all the violence, it feels almost innocent compared to the graphic nature of many modern computer games such as Call of Duty.
It is commendable that Commando and his men are truly works of art. Many of the covers and stories were drawn by legendary illustrators such as Gordon Livingstone, Ian Kennedy and Ken Barr, all with a painstaking attention to detail that would leave no warmongering DC Thomson writing letters of correction.
With stories containing around 120 frames, each comic takes an artist four weeks to six months to create. Besides immersing himself in military detail, the artist also has to follow the writer’s script to the letter.
While the formula is not set in stone, there are some strict guidelines. Stories based on the discovery of a secret Nazi weapon are rejected for being too cliche. Women are almost never featured, in part because women who fought in World War II didn’t see the intense combat needed to make a compelling comic.
The quality and sophistication of the plot, characters and illustrations means that there are many Commando lovers out there who try to collect every single one of the magazine’s 5,558 issues.
It’s an expensive business and initial copies can turn well into four figures. Currently the most expensive copy on eBay is Issue 5 — Hellfire Landing — published in 1961, with a seller asking £1,484.
One of the most recent issues is the classic Commando title — Hard to Kill! — but the setting in the 1950s Malayan Emergency is not the main commando background of World War II. Indeed, over the years, the comic has covered stories from the Vietnam War, the Roman invasion of Britain, and the Spanish Civil War.
Commando is now 61 years old and it’s clear that comics today can’t stay the way they were born. But those who love these magazines must act as protectors so that the soul is not lost.
Commando is unlikely to deal with today’s issues of sexuality and gender, but one never knows. Mind you, a commando comic set during the culture wars can be the bloodiest of all.