Today would have been our friend and colleague Colin Noble’s 53rd birthday. Colin was a collector, a great source of knowledge, and above all a true fan of British comics who was taken from us by cancer in March of this year. The downthetubes tribute to him, which we published at the time, is here.
Colin’s forte was the titles of DC Thomson and, in particular, the last British digest, Commando. The Heritage Comics team at DC Thomson Media knew Colin well and took the totally unprecedented step of printing an obituary for him, a fan but not a contributor, in the comic.
But there was another more subtle tribute to Colin in, or rather on, Commando when cover artist Graeme Neil Reid, with the full knowledge and approval of the editorial team, included Colin’s initials in one of the 60th anniversary covers for the title. It was not deliberately highlighted at the time, to see if anyone noticed, and commented on social media to find out if it had been deliberate. So far as we know no one did but, with Graeme’s permission, we will highlight it today.
Graeme and Colin lived in the same area and had met many times at various local comics events so Graeme was well aware of Colin’s love of Commando. Since its inception in 1961, the title has always had fully painted covers, even if today some are electronically painted, and that the artwork is normally more or less square so that it wraps around onto the back of the comic. Also, since 1961, the title has had a spine but, unlike some of its competitors such as War Picture Weekly or Battle Picture Weekly, Commando never printed any title or issue details on its spine.
Graeme was aware that collectors like Colin would store Commandos like paperbacks on bookshelves with the spines facing outwards, and so decided that he would not just include his tribute to Colin in the painting but in a position that it would be readable on the spine so that, for the initiated, it would be visible on a shelf.
Graeme’s assigned cover was for issue 5452 Cry Wolf, which was a reprint of issue 40, originally published in 1962, written by Eric Hebden with internal artwork by Medrano. The back of the title described it as such, “This is the story of a “lone wolf” — a man who did things his own way. He was a ruthless enemy and a dangerous friend. His name was Steve Lacroix, and he was French-Canadian. His story began during the terrible nine-hour raid on the port of Dieppe in August, 1942, when five thousand Canadians stormed the beaches — and less than two thousand came back…”
While there is rarely any text within the artwork of a Commando cover, Graeme knew that he could incorporate initials within the squadron codes on the side of combat aircraft and had done so for his sons’ initials, when he illustrated Conn Iggulden’s Dangerous Book of Heroes. The challenge of putting the initials “CN” onto the spine meant that the aircraft had to be within a very narrow slot on the cover; however, Graeme achieved that by careful positioning of the RAF Typhoon fighter within the overall design. Indeed, Commando’s own publicity described the cover artwork as “a cracking montage cover composed by Graeme Neil Reid himself, along with the meticulous detail he’s known for, Reid sets up the issue perfectly for the explosive content inside!”
Graeme was aware that the tolerances of the printing process may have slightly offset the initials, especially given the speed the printing presses run at, but the finished issue released on 8th July 2021 showed that he had achieved his aim.
As a truly dedicated fan of Commando, we are sure that Colin would have been delighted to see his initials on the spine of his favourite comic.
• There are more details of Commando at the title’s website
• There are more details of Graeme Neil Reid’s artwork at his website
In addition to highlighting Graeme’s tribute to Colin today we would also like to point out that, with the approval of his family, Colin’s friend and fellow collector Doug Brain has set up a Facebook group to sell off Colin’s extensive comics and books collection to benefit the Noble family. The Facebook group is called The Great British Comic Collection and is a mixture of eBay sales, Facebook bidding sales and straight sales on Facebook. Doug is doing a great thing for his friend’s family and deserves to be applauded for his efforts, but even if you don’t choose to buy, it is an amazing insight into Colin’s remarkably diverse collection.
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