Sunday 6 February 2011

Ten of the Best - The Early War Picture Library

As this year sees the fiftieth anniversary of Commando comics,  I thought it might be instructive and hopefully fun to take a brief detour and look at the comics that started the whole trend off in the first place so here's the first ten covers of Amalgamated Press's War Picture Library which was launched on a tentative two a month basis in October of 1958, some thirteen years after the cessation of hostilities.

As a result of some superb investigative work by Steve Holland (author, ephemera historian and host of the essential Bear Alley Blog) and David Roach (comic artist, comic historian and co author with Jon B. Cook of the Warren Companion) we can say that War Picture Library was intriguingly almost a continuation of Leonard Matthews Thriller Picture Library, with many of the issues you are looking at either TPL one offs such as War Picture Library Number 1,"Fight Back to Dunkirk" which was originally slated as a Thriller Picture Library special under the title "Dunkirk". This in part explains the somewhat anachronistic cover for WPL number 2 with Patrick Nicholle's carefree adventurer starkly contrasting with the elemental ferocity of De Gaspari's "Fight Back to Dunkirk" soldier. Nicholle presumably being commissioned to provide yet another in his ongoing series of Battler Britton covers for TPL, Battler Britton scripts being notorious for their gung-ho implausibilty, whereas the editorial team at WPL were striving for an altogether grittier feel to their line of comics.

Needless to say when the transfer of these scripts was effected from the sunny halls of AP Creative Maestro Leonard Matthews' Thriller Picture Library to the shrapnel torn corridors of Alf Wallace's War Picture Library, Patrick Nicholle was conspicuous by his absence. The covers for the early years of War Picture Library's run were the fiefdom of the superb Italian painter Giorgio De Gaspari. The exceptions to this rule (aside from issue 2) are issues 5 and 10 which are the creations of Septimus Scott, these being painted in oils at a much smaller scale.

Copies of these now extremely rare early issues are available from The Book Palace as is a truly essential index to these amazing comics edited by Steve Holland and David Roach. More on this book shortly...

All images © IPC Media 2011.


  1. I always wondered about Number 2 and how it didn't really fit in. I think you're being too kind on Battler Britton. Great post by the way. I've also "onposted" (if that is a word) from my site.

  2. Many thanks Jovan and if you have a moment or two check out "Flash Point" from Air Ace No. 35 which was included in the Prion collection "Aces High". This story whose only redeeming feature is Joe Colquohon's artwork was definitely a Battler Britton story, in fact the rewrite left in one reference to him.

    God only knows how this crap made it into "Aces High" when "Day of Reckoning" didn't.

    Gripe ...

    Grumble ...

  3. I think I have a copy of Day of Reckoning in my collection - I'll have to review it. I also wish I had a copy of Flash Point so I could slam it - sorry I mean look at it as well. I'm in the process of putting together a review on a Battler Britton Air Ace 308 Ghost Ship. Not suprisingly I've taken a dim position on it.

    One other there a ready list or source that matches artists to issues as I would like to link to it.

  4. Hi Jovan - good to hear from you again. Regarding the list of artists and writers - they are all listed in the War Libraries Index along with reproductions of a lot of the original cover art and listings of all Fleetway war comics; Air Ace, Battle,Giant War Picture Library, War at Sea, War Picture Library etc, etc.

    Available from either Amazon or direct from Book Palace Books.

    Check the links. I should be on a commission but I'm not, I've had a copy of this book for about the last five years or so and it really is bloody brilliant. The cover artwork color photos are stupendous and the sample repros of the pages from these comics are way better scanned than the Prion books.