Commando 5000 – Zero Hour

5000 Not Out: DC Thomson’s Commando comic celebrates a landmark issue next week

Commando 5000 – Zero Hour

DC Thomson’s Commando comic celebrates its 5000th issue next week with an all-new story from writer Ferg Handley with strip art from long-standing artist on the title, Carlos Pino and – who else? – a cover from Ian Kennedy, whose memorable work is surely one of the best-known aspects of the long-running title.

“It’s only fitting that the man who has painted more Commando covers than anyone else should be the one to execute the artwork for Issue 5000,” former editor Calum Laird commented earlier this week. “Thanks for this and every other one, Ian.”

(It’s good to see that two other series regulars, former editor George Low and artist Keith Page, follow through on this landmark issue with Issue 5001, too).

Britain’s longest-serving war comic (in fact, now Britain’s only war comic where once there were many), Commando has been publishing stories of action and adventure since 1961, offering a mixture of excitement, danger and courage under fire, all told with some dynamic artwork that has won the title a loyal readership over the decades, and is still selling well.

(Although, admittedly, not the impressive 850,000 copies over the eight issues published a month it was selling at its height in 1984).

Our congratulations to the entire Commando team past and present who have helped bring about this remarkable achievement in British comics publishing.

Commando #1, published in June 1961. Art by Ken Barr
Commando #1, published in June 1961. Art by Ken Barr

Talking to Comic Heroes about the title’s longevity recently, current editor Kirsten Murray puts  down much of the title’s longevity down to the flexibility of its content.

“Commando has a huge wealth wealth of history to draw upon for inspiration,” she argues, from the Cold War to the Roman Empire, which means there is plenty of opportunity for fresh and exciting stories to be told.”

Echoing the flexibility of the title’s content, Calum Laird also points to the fact that the title also strove for accuracy in terms of the historic background to its stories, which appeals to its readership, particularly among servicemen.

“All the Commando editors were dead keen on getting technical details right,’ he tells downthetubes. “Ian Forbes in particular liked everything to be just so. Arguably that was sometimes at the expense of narrative creativity but generally it worked well. George Low was less rigid and I think he got the balance just right. He also moved the historical scope to take in more than just World War Two.

“One of my friend’s brothers was in the Forces and I sent him a bundle when he was in Afghanistan,” he reveals. “He put the Commandos on the table in the mess and the older guys fell on them. The younger ones weren’t quite sure what they were but soon started picking them up.

“There’s another thing that I feel may be overlooked somewhat and that’s that the Commando philosophy was always to make the stories about the people and to develop their characters,” he adds. “With a longer format than the comics we didn’t need a flash bang on every page so we could afford to develop relationships and motivations.”

Here’s the full run down of Commando Issues 4999 – 5002, on sale Thursday 9th March 2017, available from all good newsagents and via various digital platforms.

Commando 4999 – Ghost Patrol

Commando 4999 – Ghost Patrol
Originally Commando No. 345 (July 1968)
Story: Allan Chalmers Art: Cortes Cover: Lopez Espi

When Jim Hughes, tough British foot soldier, started to take incredible risks in battle – and survived – his mates didn’t know what to make of it. Enemy bullets continually missed him by inches, while other British soldiers fell. It looked like he was living a charmed life – and he was!

Jim was sure there wasn’t a bullet made that could stop him… and all because of an Indian fakir.

Commando Team Background Intel: From the front lines of Burma, Ghost Patrol explores the power of suggestion. When British soldier, Jim Hughes, stumbled upon a fortune teller in the streets of Bombay, he never imagined a fakir’s prophecy would come true. But, as predicted events turned to reality, Hughes became increasingly reckless and all the more paranoid. His determination to save his friend’s life from his foretold fate was mistaken for arrogance and superiority, causing a rift between the men.

Expertly crafted by Chalmers and Cortes, this tale of superstition explores luck and loyalty when faced with danger. As the prophecies come true, the reader is left to wonder – did coincidence rule the day, or was Hughes really presented with the future in the fortune teller’s chamber?

Commando 5000 – Zero Hour Introduction

Commando 5000 – Zero Hour
Story: Ferg Handley Art: Carlos Pino Cover: Ian Kennedy

Joe Hartley was incredibly proud when his brother, Terry, joined the prestigious British Commandos. But Terry was taken all too soon, captured and killed by a vicious S.S. regiment.

Distraught, and desperate to follow in his brother’s footsteps, Joe enlisted. Young and inexperienced, Joe struggled to impress the veteran soldiers in his brigade. And, as the end of the war drew ever nearer, his opportunity to honour his brother’s memory was running out.

But in the final hours of the war, Joe Hartley would have his revenge!

Commando 5001 – Course for Action!

Commando 5001 – Course for Action!
Story: George Low Art and Cover: Keith Page
Jack Yeoman’s father had been killed in action during the World War One. A well- respected sailor, a monument in his village was all Jack had to keep his father’s memory alive. As the Second World War broke out, Jack felt obliged to enlist in the Navy to honour his family, despite his cautious nature.

Struggling to feel accepted by his crew, determination drove Jack forward. He may be wet behind the ears, but his father was a hero. Convinced that strong sea legs were in the family blood, Jack grit his teeth and decided to set course for action!

Commando 5002 – Zig-Zag - or Die!

Commando 5002 – Zig-Zag – or Die!
Originally Commando No. 2536 (January 1992)
Story: K P MacKenzie Art: Jose Maria Jorge Cover: Ian Kennedy

Never fly straight for more than four seconds. That was a lesson learned in the fierce dog-fights of the Spanish Civil War. It was a lesson Andy Roe was to take back with him to the R.A.F. when the Second World War broke out.
But Andy’s past misdeeds were to make it very difficult for him to put his vast flying experience to good use – until he decided to keep his mouth tight shut regarding a serious matter of mistaken identity…

Commando Team Background Intel: Penned in 1992, this boisterous air story is brought to life by Jose Maria Jorge’s absorbing interiors and K.P. MacKenzie’s skilful writing. But there’s a moral too – through his exuberant gambling, Sergeant Pilot Andrew Roe falls prey to a nasty plot and his transgressions prevent him from becoming a commissioned officer, leaving him tormented by his mistakes.

Ian Kennedy’s cover is impeccable once again. The zig-zag motif on the fuselage of the plane is a subtle but striking call to the title and it is simply magnificent.

An earlier version of this story suggested Commando was selling 850,000 copies over the eight issues published a month. This is incorrect – that figure refers to sales in 1984 and we have amended the article accordingly. Our apologies. DC Thomson does not disclose current sales figures for the title.

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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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