Fantastic Forces – The Longest Road

Real-life British Soldier immortalised in new comic to mark Remembrance

Fantastic Forces – The Longest RoadTo mark Remembrance, and help build public awareness of the work and sacrifices of those serving in the Armed Forces over the last century, the British Forces Broadcasting Service has immortalised a real-life British solider in the pages of a comic book, as Fantastic Forces – The Longest Road, written by Ferg Handley with art by Mike Collins, coloured by Kris Carter and lettered by Ian Sharman.

Launches today on www.forces.net/stories, the free-to-read comic is a project from BFBS, who provide media services to the UK armed forces worldwide, and invited people around the world to share their stories of past or present British military figures who have inspired them. The competition was judged by an expert panel.

There were some hugely moving entries of real-life superheroes, but one story shone out above all the rest, put forward by Philip Livingstone about his father William ‘Bill’ Livingston, who bravely served in World War Two. (It’s a long story, but Philip’s birth certificate has an E at the end of his name, and he kept it).

William enlisted in the 5th Royal Tank Regiment in the summer of 1939, with Britain on the verge of war. He was underage at the time, but this went unnoticed until he was posted to North Africa, where the regiment joined the 7th Armoured Division, better known as the ‘Desert Rats’.

After the defeat of the Afrika Korps, he served in Italy before taking part in the liberation of France and the Low Countries, followed by the invasion of Germany.

Fantastic Forces – The Longest Road

Fantastic Forces – The Longest Road

Bill, a lorry driver, lost many friends during the war, and narrowly escaped death on several occasions. Present at the liberation of the concentration camp at Belsen, he soldiered on until the final Allied victory in 1945.

Bill’s story has been researched and told by renowned writer Ferg Handley, who has been writing military-related comics for 20 years – including more than 300 scripts for DC Thomson’s, Commando. The pages have been illustrated by Mike Collins, who has been drawing strips for Marvel Comics since the 1980s, with titles including Spider-Man, Transformers and Doctor Who. He also worked with DC Comics on key titles including Batman and Superman and, more recently, on SelfMadeHero’s Apollo graphic novel.

Artist Mike Collins at work. Image: Forces News
Artist Mike Collins at work. Image: Forces News
Art for The Longest Road on Mike Collins' drawing board. Image: Forces News
Art for The Longest Road on Mike Collins’ drawing board. Image: Forces News

The comic captures the story of an unsung hero, who bravely endured the war side by side with his regiment. Never giving up, despite all the horrors surrounding him.

Actor Antony Cotton, ambassador for Armed Forces charities Help For Heroes and SSAFA, formerly known as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association, presents Philip Livingstone with a print edition of Fantastic Forces - The Longest Road. Image: Forces News
Actor Antony Cotton, ambassador for Armed Forces charities Help For Heroes and SSAFA, formerly known as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association, presents Philip Livingstone with a print edition of Fantastic Forces – The Longest Road. Image: Forces News

“I’m thrilled that my dad’s story has been chosen by BFBS to be made into a comic book,” says Bill’s son Philip Livingstone, who put his father’s story forward. He was such a strong man and I find his story very inspiring.

William ‘Bill’ Livingston. Photo courtesy Philip Livingstone
William ‘Bill’ Livingston. Photo courtesy Philip Livingstone

“He was so young when he joined the army and I am still amazed that he continued to fight despite everything that was thrown at him. Now told as a comic book, I hope his story is able to motivate other young people to push forward when the going gets tough.”

Simon Bucks, CEO of SSVC said: “There’s a lot of discussion about the appeal of a military career to young people today and what better way to engage them in the amazing work of the Armed Forces than through the comic book genre.”

You can read Fantastic Forces – The Longest Road  on line here on forces.net/stories/forces.net/stories – direct link here

• Forces News have included a feature on this comic, including the great artwork done by Mike Collins. The item starts at 21:44 from in this broadcast

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John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", working as an editor, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years. His credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel UK and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines. He also edited STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics, including Team M.O.B.I.L.E. and The Beatles Story. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare” for Tian Books. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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