Commando Issue 4843 - "Peterloo!" SNIP

Side by Side: Comics Tellings of Peterloo

Back in 2015, DC Thomson published Commando Issue 4843, titled “Peterloo!“, written by Ferg Handley with cover and internal art by Carlos Pino, one of several marking the 200th anniversary of Waterloo, but which also recounted the horror of the massacre at St. Peter’s Field, Manchester on 16th August 1819. But it’s not the only recent telling of the terrible events in comics.

More than 15 people died and 600 were severely wounded by sabre-wielding troops at the peaceful pro-democracy rally on that day, and the event has been marked all week in Manchester, and elsewhere, with a major rally planned on Sunday.

Commando Issue 4843 - "Peterloo!” Cover, set at Waterloo, by Carlos Pino
Commando Issue 4843 – “Peterloo!” Cover, set at Waterloo, by Carlos Pino

Commando 4843 is available digitally from Amazon and Comixology, weaving a powerful fictional tale exposing corrupt army officers, set against the event’s of 200 years ago that are being marked this week to remind us of how hard fought our democratic rights were, eventually won.

The cover, drawing on events at Waterloo in the tale, belies events during the actual story and definitely doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to portraying events on that fateful day in Manchester, albeit with some fictional additions.

Written by Ferg Handley with a powerful cover and action-packed strip art by Carlos Pino, the story opens as young Thomas Hatfield decides that a farmer’s life wasn’t him and decided to join his local regiment, the Lancashire Light Foot.

Commando Issue 4843 - Peterloo! - art by Carlos Pino

He’s soon plunged into the tumultuous events of the Napoleonic Wars, not only having the French to worry about, but a crooked sergeant, Nathan Wilkes, and his cronies, at the battle of Waterloo. After he tries to put an end to blatant corruption and theft, Hatfield is forced to desert or die and ends up in Manchester, living and working under another name.

Commando Issue 4843 - Peterloo! - art by Carlos Pino

A dramatic scene set during the Battle of Waterloo from Commando Issue 4843 - "Peterloo!”. Art by Carlos Pino
A dramatic scene set during the Battle of Waterloo from Commando Issue 4843 – “Peterloo!”. Art by Carlos Pino

Of course, it’s not long before Hatfield crosses paths with Sergeant Wilkes – but on a day when so many are killed, will he be another victim?

St Peters Field, 16th August 1819. From Commando Issue 4843 - Peterloo!
St Peters Field, 16th August 1819. From Commando Issue 4843 – Peterloo!
Ferg Handley blends the terror of events of St Peters Field on 16th August 1819 with his fictional tale pitting an honest soldier against a corrupt sergeant. From Commando Issue 4843 - "Peterloo!”. Art by Carlos Pino
Ferg Handley blends the terror of events of St Peters Field on 16th August 1819 with his fictional tale pitting an honest soldier against a corrupt sergeant. From Commando Issue 4843 – “Peterloo!”. Art by Carlos Pino

It’s a classic Commando story with some stylish art from longtime artist in the title, Carlos Pino, and available as it is for just under £2, worth a read.

“200 years ago, the battle that — arguably if you’re French — set the political landscape of Europe for many generations was fought in a previously insignificant area of what was then the Netherlands. Waterloo,” noted Commando’s then Deputy Editor Scott Montgomery at the time of the story’s original release.

Waterloo! (Issue no 4823) told a fictional — as we always do — tale of that epic history-defining battle, focussing mainly on the French perspective of the ordinary soldiers embroiled in the heat of the fighting.

“… Ferg Handley wrote that story, wonderfully illustrated by veteran artist Carlos Pino. Now, both creators have produced this follow-up, which turns its attention towards the British. Eagle-eyed readers — that’s all of you, we wouldn’t have it any other way — may even have noticed that this book’s hero, Private Thomas Hatfield, and his nemesis, Sergeant Nathan Wilkes, had brief cameo appearances in Part One.

“Once again, we believe that Ferg and Carlos have done us proud, and hope that you enjoy this adventure.”Peterloo: Witnesses to a MassacreOf course, if you’re after a more factual account of Peterloo as a graphic novel, then you’d do well to check out Peterloo: Witnesses to a Massacre by Polyp, Eva Schlunke and Robert Poole, an explosive tale of Peterloo, told ‘verbatim’ style through the voices of those who were there.

Art from Peterloo: Witnesses to a Massacre by Polyp, Eva Schlunke and Robert Poole
Art from Peterloo: Witnesses to a Massacre by Polyp, Eva Schlunke and Robert Poole

Peterloo is a visual account of the 16th August, 1819 massacre, the entire narrative drawn almost exclusively from the direct testimony of the time, much of it unearthed by leading historian Professor Robert Poole, including letters, memoirs, journalists accounts, spies’ reports and courtroom evidence. These have all been carefully woven together into rich, vivid illustrations by Polyp, the result a compelling if bleak account of the event’s 200 years ago this week.

A powerful scene marking the tragic death of young William Fildes at Peterloo in the Peterloo graphic novel
A powerful scene marking the tragic death of young William Fildes at Peterloo in the Peterloo graphic novel

Cleverly told, with a keen eye for detail and storytelling, it’s well realised, if a little dense in terms of text versus visuals, but that should be expected given the demands of the script.

At a time when democracy is under siege the memory of Peterloo is all the more crucial, and Peterloo challenges the reader to ask what we have done with the legacy passed on by those who died.

The book has recently been reprinted, and in partnership with the Age of Revolution and The University of Kent, publisher New Internationalist is also offering a special 20-page schools’ version of the graphic novel is now available free to download or order, specially adapted for teachers wishing to explore the events of 16th August 1819 in the classroom.

The exact number killed and injured at Peterloo has never been established with certainty, with various sources claiming 11 – 15 killed and 400 – 700 injured. The Manchester Relief Committee, a body set up to provide relief for the victims of Peterloo, gave the number of injured as 420, while Radical sources listed 500. The true number is difficult to estimate, as many of the wounded hid their injuries for fear of retribution by the authorities.

Of the 654 recorded casualties, at least 168 were women, four of whom died either at St Peter’s Field or later as a result of their wounds.

This Sunday, people will be gathering to commemorate the sacrifice of the Peterloo reformers, who were slaughtered by government forces for demanding democratic reforms. The March for Democracy will assemble at ten different points outside central Manchester, before marching on to join together for the rally in Albert Square at 1.00pm.

A page from the Peterloo chapter in Fight The Power, by Ben Dickson and Hunt Emerson
A page from the Peterloo chapter in Fight The Power, by Ben Dickson and Hunt Emerson

Along with these recent stories, we must also note the chapter dedicated to Peterloo in the graphic novel Fight the Power! A Visual History of Protest Among the English Speaking Peoples, published by New Internationalist back in 2013, co-written by Ben Dickson and Seán Michael Wilson, with art duties by Hunt Emerson, John Spelling and Adam Pasion. The Peterloo chapter was written by Ben, and drawn by Hunt Emerson.

Commando 4843 is available digitally here on Amazon (Affiliate Link)

March for Democracy 2019 PosterPeterloo by Polyp, Eva Schlunke and Robert Poole is available in print here on Amazon (Affiliate Link)

Follow the Peterloo Graphic Novel on Twitter

Peterloo: Imagine a World (Schools Edition) is available as a free PDF download here – for use in the classroom along with teachers’ guides and accompanying activities (Teachers can also get a free hard copy of the graphic novel by filling in this form)

Peterloo Heart TattooThe Peterloo tattoo heart logo featured in the graphic novel is on T-Shirts available from excellent Peterloo Campaign Member Martin

Check out The Six Acts proposals and voting site where you’ll be able to input into the idea pool for radical democratic action. The poll will open for submissions and voting at 4.00pm on the 17th August 2019.

Commando copyright DC Thomson

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John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. 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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