Saturday 26 February 2011

In Your Face!!! Ken Barr's Commando Covers Part 4

These things are so spectacular and so seldom seen that I'm hoping reprising some of the most incredible artistry to see print in UK pocket libraries is going to persuade you to petition Commando HQ to add some of these to their reprint schedule as part of the festivities surrounding Commando's half century birthday.

All images © DC Thomson 2011


  1. Your analysis of the special appeal of those early Commando covers is spot on Peter - and oddly enough it tends to explain why, as a rather wimpy six-year-old, I preferred the slightly more wholesome appearance of such rival Fleetway titles as Air Ace. The fact is that I can remember being seriously disturbed by testosterone drenched images like the soldier with 'Too Tough To Kill' etched on his forehead on no.58's "Tattoed Hero" - his steely eyes and gritted teeth positively seething with anger and menace.

    In the event the explanation given in the script for this tattoo seemed quite contrived, which makes me wonder whether there were instances in which DC Thomson followed the American practice of producing an eye-catching cover first then commissioning somebody to write a story around it. I'd certainly be interested in seeing this particular issue reprinted, if only to learn the identities of its writer and artist (though in these more enlightened times it would, of course, be necessary to edit out all mention of 'Eyeties', 'Wogs' and 'Fuzzy-Wuzzies'!).

  2. Well to answer your question regarding the identities of artist and writer Phil. The artwork was supplied by Francisco Cueto, who was a Spanish artist working with Barry Coker's Bardon Agency. Among his many assignments was an incredible stint following Alex Toth as Zorro artist for Western Publishing. He created artwork that was amazingly close to the grand master's work and his Commandos were also very impressive.

    The writing chores were courtesy of Eric Hebden a retired major who had served in Gibraltar and also been involved in work on radar. He was a truly prolific writer, working for both Fleetway and DC Thomson and his son Alan also works as a comics scriptwriter and has written some 300 Commandos.

    The writer's working title for this issue was unsurprisingly "Too Tough To Kill", the "Tattooed Hero" editorial flourish was typically Chick Checkley and yes I am inclined to think that some of these covers served as the writer's springboard. Some of the scripts laboring mightily to reach the point where the cover scene is finally realized.

  3. Thanks Peter! Funnily enough I was already familiar with Cueto's work elsewhere (for example he drew some of my favourite Spider stories for Fleetway's 'Stupendous Series'), but his inking here seems oddly uncharacteristic - almost as though he was asked to imitate Luis Bermejo's house style.