Thursday 27 January 2011

Commando Hits It's Half Century

2011 is a significant year for DC Thomson's Commando comic. As previously recounted on this blog the comic debuted in the summer of 1961 and as the UK's longest running war comic has now hit it's half century. There are some exciting developments as the title not only casts a nostalgic look back at it's illustrious past but also takes a step into the world of future publishing with subscribers able to avail themselves of the space and wallet friendly alternative of a  digital subscription.

The plan is to reprint all the first twelve issues of Commando in reverse order so issue 12 "The Desperate Days" is where the project kicks off. As Thomson's unlike their competitors actually hung onto the artwork created for those comics, collectors will be able to see superb reproductions of Ken Barr's paintings, not to mention the equally compelling artwork of Gordon Livingstone, Raphael Auraleon and Ferran Sostres which helped make those comics so gripping first time around. It's good to see the reprints retaining the original cover lettering which just adds that extra degree of cool retro to the whole project.

So the bad/ good news is that even if by some minor miracle you have the original editions, you're going to have to buy them all over again (bad news) because the quality of repro on those Ken Barr covers is the best they've ever looked (good news).

Added to which editor Calum Laird as part of the ongoing campaign at Commando HQ to shed more light on the creators behind these little gems, includes an introduction to each of these stories. The reprint net is however being thrown further than just the first twelve issues and other titles from the 1960's are also being released.

I'm hoping that the list will include "Man Trap", which I still think is a brilliant pairing of Matias Alonso's in your face Hogarth'esque (but even darker) artwork and a superb script (Boutland) with a Jordi Penalva cover as the cherry on the cake.

But aside from embracing digital technology Commando remains one of the very few (we're talking counting on the fingers of one hand) UK titles to produce new action and adventure comics on a regular basis, the stories take in a much broader historical sweep than they did fifty years ago and they continue to be provide great entertainment for a modest outlay - very modest if you opt for the minimalist friendly download.

Just think no more embarrassing scenes as you try to intercept the postman before your missus realizes that you are making further demands on 'lebensraum' for your burgeoning collection.

So take a trip over to the Commando website (which is one of the best website's I've come across by a comic publisher - very interactive and really informative) and then agonize over what sort of subscription you want/ need .

All images © DC Thomson 2011


  1. Oh my goodness gracious are we on the same page with this post. I have every, single collected edition of this magnificent enterprise, as well as all the collected edition of all the War Picture Library, Battle Picture library, War Picture Library, and (my personal favorite) Air Ace Picture Library (whew). I consider Commando and the aforementioned brethren some of the greatest stuff ever done in the comic book genre. These titles established an incredible standard for art and writing. Hats off to an excellent post. I would subscribe to Commando is a heartbeat save the high cost of a USA subscription. Oh, those lucky, lucky Brits!

  2. Oops, I see I mentioned War Picture Library twice. Well, that's okay. It deserves it!!

  3. Amazing Mykal! I knew that there were a few copies that made it over to the U.S. in the sixties, in fact Tony Coleman who was a UK artist working at Woody's studio had a few copies knocking around which Woody and Dan Adkins made use of when they were working for Blazing Combat, but you are the first US comics enthusiast I've come across with what sounds like an epic collection.

    In which case you must have Battle Picture Library No. 9 "Crack Up" drawn by a certain Mr John Severin.

    How's about that for a US/UK crossover???

    I've got several blog postings (and they're all still intact) on Renzo Calegari, Gino D'Antonio and Ian Kennedy including his tour de force "Day of Reckoning" as well as Giorgio D' Gaspari who painted the best of the early covers. And check out earlier postings on Commando and Ken Barr which tells the story of how he came to create the dagger logo and create some of the most stunning cover artwork seen on UK pocket libraries.

    Mind boggling to know that you've actually got complete runs of these amazing comics.

    Congratulations - they're difficult enough to track down over here - let alone the US!

  4. Leo has a huge collection of these comics. They are all looking quite threadbare these days, or I should say well-loved - and as much by the younger Hartas lads as by Leo himself. And then what should pop up at #1 today on "What's Hot" in iTunes books but... the Commando Comics app! It's great to see these classics continuing to enthrall generations of boys of all ages.

  5. eter: I don't have the full runs, just all those collections of those titles which represented (in theory) the best of those titles. The volumes (there was about 18 of them) were published by Carlton Publishers and Prion Publisher. Are you aware of them? Here is a link to one of my favorite volumes: Aces High! The Ten Best From Air Ace Picture Library!

    We are in complete agreement as to their quality. I only wish I had a complete run of all those titles! I make do with these "best of" volumes. They are truly spectacular.

  6. Great news on the app front Dave, I'll zip over to iTunes and take a look. Jon's Elly series is now up to No.7 BTW and he's adding in a few non intrusive bells and whistles which are now automatically added to all the books in the series. Something you can't do with the good old paper and printing ink mode.

    Mykal, I've indeed got quite a few of those giant-sized reprints and they are great. Fellow blogger and writer Steve Holland edited the Prion books and made some great selections, including the John Severin story. The one story that he omitted (and I did plead with him about it!) was the Ian Kennedy artworked "Day of Reckoning". This story is rightly regarded as a masterpiece by Kennedy devotees and in the end to "right the wrong" of Steve's omission I posted the story in four bite sized chunks on the blog to provide some kind of record of Ian's work on this amazing script.

    Type in Day Of Reckoning in the search bar at the top of the page, make yourself a cup of coffee and get airborne!

  7. Good job your studio window is adjacent to the front door. If it was overlooking the garden you'd have no chance of beating the 'missus' to the post and would end up square-bashing on a regular basis. Teufel!!

  8. C'mon Simon, time to renew your subscription!

  9. P.S. I'm seriously agonizing over a poster of that Ken Barr "Desperate Days" painting.

    But the days are desperate enough as is at the Richardson household. Food supplies are running low and the neighborhood cats quicken their pace when they walk past our house.