50 years on, artist Cam Kennedy is reunited with his first ever Commando – and it isn’t the issue everyone thought

There was a surprise in store for comic artist Cam Kennedy at this weekend’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival, when downthetubes contributor Colin Noble reunited him with a comic he drew 50 years ago that set him out on his career at DC Thomson.

At the end of an early morning “Live Draw” yesterday, with Cam drawing Judge Dredd and Ian Dan Dare, chatting about their careers and influences, Colin presented Cam with a copy of Commando 363 – which includes his first work on the title, first published in in late October 1968.

Colin Noble - Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2018

Colin Noble at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2018. Colin kindly provided a display of commandos for the “Live Draw” with Cam and Ian Kennedy

Cam had earlier outlined after submitting samples to the title’s first editor, Charles Checkley, after living in France, he’d been commissioned to work on the long-running war comic, which is still published today.

“Until now, it was thought that Cam had drawn 28 issues, beginning with Issue 448, ‘Come out Fighting’, published in 1969,” says comics archivist Colin, “and we all gloried in that early artwork with its grittiness and almost subconscious nod towards the great Victor De La Fuente… But it ain’t so.”

Colin has compiled a detailed list of Commando credits, but some are vaguer than others, many with single names. In the case of Issues 21 (“Blood River”) another “Kennedy” is listed as artist, also credited by the publisher as drawing the strips for Issue 363 (“Jungle Phantom”) and 392 (“The Hunted”). But Colin discovered quite recently that they weren’t all by the same artist, as DC Thomson thought.

“I have Issue 21, and the contributor is definitely a third Kennedy contributor,” says Colin. “Their style does not match Ian’s or Cam’s.  However, I didn’t have either 363 or 392 so I had to rely on friends to help me to figure out if these issues featured art by a ‘known’ Kennedy or whether they needed to be attributed to the unknown Kennedy artist.

“So after annoying my friends Stephen Hume and Doug Brain, both came up trumps with pictures to allow me to confirm which Kennedy was the mystery artist.  Once I had checked the internal art, it was screaming at me that the internal art artist on both ‘Jungle Phantom’ and ‘The Hunted’ was a very young Cam Kennedy.”

Here’s a selection of his art from what we now know is his first ever Commando issue, that has not been seen since 1968. Colin was delighted to be able to present Cam with a copy of the comic at the Festival, roughly around the fiftieth anniversary of its original publication.

Commando 363 - Jungle Phantom - art by Cam Kennedy

Commando 363 - Jungle Phantom - art by Cam Kennedy

Commando 363 - Jungle Phantom - art by Cam Kennedy

Commando 363 - Jungle Phantom - art by Cam Kennedy

Commando 363 - Jungle Phantom - art by Cam Kennedy

“In case anyone struggles to understand how significant Commando 363 is, if his work had been rejected. Cam might have continued as a commercial illustrator and would not have drawn the other 29 issues; he might not have continued in comics and later worked on ‘Judge Dredd’, ‘The VCs’, ‘Fighting Mann’, ‘Rogue Trooper’, StarblazerStar Wars, co-created The Light and Darkness War, drawn Batman or Nick Fury – to name but a few.

Now I have found this out in July and some will be wondering why I did not publish this before as it is a BIG DEAL.  Well, hopefully earlier today, I have gotten to surprise Cam at the Lakes International Comics and Arts Festival with an example of this earlier work”.

Congratulations to Colin on his detective work – I’m sure he may uncover other British Comics surprises thanks to his research, and you can track his progress over on his own NothingButAFan site.

Cam’s (Updated) Commando Credits

363 – JUNGLE PHANTOM (October 1968)
392 – THE HUNTED (January 1969)
417 – DESERT SQUADRON (July 1969)
431 – THE FUGITIVES (October 1969)
reprinted as 1279)
448 – COME OUT FIGHTING (December 1969)
469 – DEATH OF A WIMPEY (April 1970, reprinted as 1335)
471 – MIGHTY MIKE (April 1970, reprinted as 1355 and 4368)
491 – LAST LAUGH (August 1970, reprinted as 1427)
504 – STORM OF STEEL (October 1970)
522 – BIG MIKE (January 1971, reprinted as 1507 and 4439)
545 – DIARY OF A HERO (April 1971, reprinted as 1555 and 4375)
556 – TWO MEN WENT TO WAR … (June 1971)
568 – BOSS OF THE BARBARY APES (July 1971, reprinted as 4433)
590 – REVENGE OF THE VIPER (October 1971)
604 – DESERT DOUBLE-CROSS (December 1971, reprinted as 1780)
613 – HERO ON HORSEBACK (January 1972, reprinted as 1739)
629 – THE BLACK EAGLE (March 1972, reprinted as 1732)
642 – THE WAR-DEVIL (April 1972, reprinted as 1748)
652 – CHARIOT OF WAR (June 1972, reprinted as 1788)
666 – WHERE THE ACTION IS (July 1972, reprinted as 1827)
676 – ACTION STATIONS (September 1972, reprinted as 1811)
702 – VALLEY OF THE LOST (December 1972, reprinted as 1876)
729 – BRING ON THE TANKS! (March 1973, reprinted as 1924)
750 – HURRI TO THE RESCUE (June 1973, reprinted as 1940)
765 – TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SAILOR (August 1973, reprinted as 1987)
785 – LET BATTLE COMMENCE! (October 1973, reprinted as 1996)
804 – GAS-BAG GUNMEN (January 1974, reprinted as 2036)
825 – FROM OUT OF THE SEA … (March 1974, reprinted as 2099)
860 – MASSACRE AT MENDHI PASS (August 1974, reprinted as 2155)
878 – PIRATES WITH WINGS (October 1974, reprinted as 2172 and 4626)

• There are more details of Commando on the official DC Thomson Commando website

Commando © DC Thomson

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