A Cracking Day Out: latest Commando and Weekly Comic Swap Meet features “launch” of new issue of Battling Britons, and more

Commando Swap Meet, Wolstanton Saturday 17th June 2023. Photo: James Bacon

James Bacon enjoyed his day at the latest Commando and Weekly Comic Swap meet, which took place on Saturday in Wolstanton

Standing at the ready as one approach the Wolstanton Methodist Hall was Princess Elizabeth, a replica World War One Scout Ambulance, built using a 1936 Morris Commercial C type chassis, ready to cart away comics, perhaps – or fans who were suffering the overwhelming effects of too many comics…

Another Commando Swap Meet beckoned, the eleventh to date, but this was the first time I had managed to get to this venue, not at all far from Stoke-on-Trent mainline station, and so quite convenient. The hall was packed with dealers, most of whom not only filled their tables, but had ample boxes underneath and there were many bargains to be had. Commando back issues are generally 50p each, but some fans soon realised that bulk buys could be very economical and I saw a purchaser who got one hundred comics for £30. Battle, Victor, Warlord, 2000AD, and many Marvel UK titles were available, as well as related books, ephemera, annuals and an free gifts that came with comics. 

Writers Mike ChinnBaden James Mellonie and Stephen Hume were on hand and happy to sign comics, while Commando cover artist Neil Roberts had brought some amazing drawings, sketches and  prints was in high demand from the younger attendees who were keen to get a sketch of their favourite superhero, which Neil obliged kindly in doing. 

Swap Meet organiser Andy Yates with local scout leaders, and the Princess Elizabeth World War One ambulance, out side the Commando Swap Meet in Wolstanton. Photo via Andy Yates
Swap Meet organiser Andy Yates with local scout leaders, and the Princess Elizabeth World War One ambulance, out side the Commando Swap Meet in Wolstanton. Photo via Andy Yates
Commando Swap Meet, Wolstanton Saturday 17th June 2023
Artist Neil Roberts. Photo: James Bacon

A number of fans had turned up, intent on just moving on some comics to other fans, multi-tasking as they also were busy browsing themselves. Indeed, I noted that the various Commando Swap meet organisers are of course collectors and fans themselves, 

One gets to see the collectors that are close to completing runs, mild desperation and earnestness in eyes and voice, the numbers learned off by heart, mentioned at every table. Comics that are not rare, expensive or valuable, but proving elusive and hard to find, bad luck when they are just not in the stacks of compatriots.

For many fans, completing the run is important and a wonderful moment. I have seen various kindnesses at these events, when it gets down to the last few issues, and it was a delight to see one fan complete their run of Warlord, by finding the three issues they were missing out of 627. 

Commando Swap Meet, Wolstanton Saturday 17th June 2023. Photo: James Bacon
Commando Swap Meet, Wolstanton Saturday 17th June 2023
James Bacon (in Star Wars shirt), with the Commando and Weekly Comic Swap meet team, and others

Knowledge and information is everything. Copies of books such as Derek Marsden and Ray Moore’s This Was The Wizard, the definitive Wizard comic Index, The War Library Index and other such publications, which can be very rare, were being discussed and even passed about and considered, books which help lead fans to other titles, and especially more obscure works by artists and writers that are loved.

Battling Britons Issue Five

There was much conversation, helpful and informative, or where or how to find types of stories, indeed, one could see fans helping each other out, as they discovered that Mike Dorey had drawn “Seawolf” for Battle, for example, or that Cam Kennedy had drawn Commando comics. 

Battling Britons Issue Five has just hit Amazon, and this was cause for discussion and interaction. Editor and Publisher Justin Marriott was on hand, and sought out for a signature in one case.

This issue, subtitled “SPIES! TOUGH GUYS! LONE WOLVES!”  features articles on strips such as “Dredger”, “Fireball”, “Mike Nelson” “The Eagle” and titles such as Top Secret Picture Library and Battle-Action.

Running to 150 pages, like the Commando Swap meet, it actually offers much for any British Comic collector and there are plenty of articles that will appeal to fans of comics.

Fans who had attended Enniskillen Comic Fest passed Commando comics signed Gerry Finlay-Day to other collectors. There are four in total, and I ascertained that these were “gifts”, more acts of kindness, with no cash involved. The spirit here is wonderful and the interconnectivity with other cons terrific.  

Commando Swap Meet, Wolstanton Saturday 17th June 2023. Photo: James Bacon
Comic art Stuart Steele and Edward Walker with some of their art, on display at the event. Photo: James Bacon
Commando Swap Meet, Wolstanton Saturday 17th June 2023. Photo: James Bacon

This positivity is exemplified by Stuart Steele and Edward Walker, who continue to bring art of a stunning calibre to fans to enjoy. A display was set up at one end of the hall, and they had some amazing pieces of art: the Graham Coton pieces were especially beautiful to see up close, and to consider, his ability to portray action and also a sense of moment and place in his art, while ably ensuring that vehicles and weapons are accurate.

Commando Swap Meet, Wolstanton Saturday 17th June 2023. Photo: James Bacon

His art was complemented by the incredible work of Keith Burns and Ian Kennedy, both of whom demonstrate a masterly ability to portray aircraft so brilliantly. Folders were on hand detailing where the art was published, and I was fascinated to see when a piece may have had another outing, and even in other countries and languages.

(Artist David Roach has documented a lot of the sale and resale of this art, and his Facebok page is well worth a follow – Ed)

The gents were busy all day, on hand chatting and discussing with fans the art, where pieces have been restored, and the stories behind them, which are often as fascinating as the art themselves. 

The charity table was over subscribed, so many people happy to donate comics, out of good will and the charity raffle was superb, with lots of tension and some very unique prizes. All demonstrating teh generosity of fans and professionals alike. 

Another excellent Swap Meet, and a delightful day. Many thanks to Andy Yates and the fellow scout volunteers, Bruce Scot, Stephen Hume and Karl Kennedy as well as all involved, and especially for the tasty bacon butties and delicious cakes and pastries, all washed down with nice tea and strong coffee.

A cracking day. 

James Bacon

For details of future events, visit the Commando and British Weekly Comics – Facebook Page

Battling Britons Issue Five is available now from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link, using this link helps support downthetubes, thank you)

• You can find copies of This Was The Wizard by Derek Marsden and Ray Moore (ISBN 978 0955197819) out there – but be warned, it isn’t cheap. A reprint is surely called for! AmazonUK Affiliate Link | AbeBooks

Author and artist David Roach has amassed a huge amount of information on the work of Spanish artist Jordi Penalva (although the artist himself remains something of a mystery). Featured above is an example of Jordi Penalva’s glorious Commando cover art, for Number 195, along with the Bardon file card which actually sold it to DC Thomson. “The cover art was first sold to John Leng (aka DC Thomson) and then a year later sold to Semic’s Spanish arm,” David notes. “Commando printed the cover first, but Jordi Penalva owned the copyright. Confusingly, while working for Commando through the Bardon agency, he was simultaneously working for Fleetway through the rival ALI agency!

“I guess a lot of these artists were constantly looking for work, and looking for the best deal from each agency, in this case Penalva continued to work with Bardon into the 1970s, painting covers for the Swedish Saint comic), but also worked though S.I and Norma. Oh it was a tangled web!”

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