Collecting Comics: The Strange Case of the War Comic Cover “Twins”

Richard Sheaf and I recently investigated the way British war comics used to re-use cover art, and this article reveals how two British comic companies used the same art on different titles…

For those of you familiar with my Nothing But a Fan blog, you may also have heard of Vic Whittle.  Don’t worry if you haven’t, but if you are a comic fan, then you may have visited his site a time or three as he is the owner of the British Comics web site.

This is a great source of information and by creating his website, Vic became a personal hero and a bit of an inspiration for me to eventually do my own blog. His work continues to be a source of vital reference, for reasons that will become apparent below.

In my article By The Way, delving into the way Fleetway re-used cover art, I used on Vic’s work for my research – and discovered that there was a Commando comic cover that had a ‘twin’, in that the picture was published 12 years before as the cover.

I was surprised to find that this had happened in the UK market but thinking about it, it was no shock that artists and agencies representing the artist would sell multiple licenses for a beautiful work of art that could represent up to a week’s worth of work to maximise their income from their art.

So this was something I thought was a cool glitch in the matrix in regard to comic covers and I would have continued to think that this was a rare thing. But a couple of years ago, a friend of mine managed to break through my resistance to collecting the wide range of UK picture libraries beyond Commando and the occasional Fleetway one. So thanks to Stephen Montgomery, I now have so many collections to complete.

This has ended up with me going down rabbit holes to research former publishers such as Micron, Famepress, Top Sellers et al — but the one positive benefit to all this is that I am now able to take advantage of the cyclic nature of the comic market.  So when one comic moves into silly country prices, I am able to move on to collect a few more issues of Pecos Bill or Air Ace Picture Library, until they get into silly country prices and so I move on again to continue to browse for comics that are still within my economic reach.

This means that in any given week, I can pick up 100 plus picture libraries and end up adding to 12 or more collections without breaking the bank. In the past week, for example, I have bought comics from three different sellers (it would have been four, but the fourth lot went into the silly price range) and when I was looking at the images on eBay, my neurons were firing on at least four cylinders when I started to notice some of the cover art looked very familiar…

I ended up with over 120 picture libraries for less than £50 – but a few of the covers stood out.  These were Sabre War Library 41 – “The Will To Survive”, published in 1971, and Battleground Picture Library 41 – “Moonstrike!”, from 1964.

Sabre War Library 41 - "The Will To Survive"Battleground Picture Library 41 - "Moonstrike!"

The reason they both stood out was that the art on both were very familiar to me. But not as the covers for these two purchases.

The cover for “Moonstrike!” is a Pino Dell’orco illustration that from my experience belongs to Air Ace Picture Library 109 – “Ace Of Cowards”, published in 1962 – and reprinted as Battle Picture Library 958 in 1975 and then again as Battle Picture Library 1579 in 1983.

Air Ace Picture Library 109 - "Ace Of Cowards"

And the cover for “The Will To Survive” prompted me to browse my Commando collection, as I was almost positive it was originally the cover for issue 187 – “D-Day Plus”, published in 1965.

Off I went to hunt it down and I was chuffed to see that I was correct and it is a beautiful example of Jordi Penalva’s work.

I knew that DC Thomson only had a single print license for that cover because when it was reprinted in 1994, editor George Low commissioned a new cover from Mike Dorey.Commando 187 - "D-Day Plus"

By this point, I was very chuffed to have found two more “twins” that none of us knew about!

Now I had 120 comics to sort into their different runs.  As I was putting them into numerical order, when I picked up War Picture Library 1834 – “Cue For Action”, I was like, “Wait a minute here!” Because I was looking at the cover and thinking, is it possible that I have found a fourth “twin”?

So here is the cover for the comic which was published in 1983.War Picture Library 1834 - "Cue For Action"

Now this cover was really ringing a bell and I was thinking that this was an early 1970/1971 Commando cover, which brought me back, once again, to Vic Whittle’s British Comics site.

I have a great ready reckoner for checking Commando covers by year so I checked 1970 and found nothing, but when I checked out 1971, there it was.  Issue 553 – “The Man Who Never Missed”.Commando Issue 553 - "The Man Who Never Missed"

It’s another action-packed cover by Aldoma Puig, who did the first cover that was discovered as a twin.  What makes the cover for 1834 really interesting is that the first time “Cue For Action” had been printed, it had a Jordi Penalva cover – twice.War Picture Library 431 - "Cue for Action"

I am not surprised that these “twins” have not been discovered before, as there are very few collectors that have a large amount of crossover in their collections.  Most are sensible enough to stick to one or two comics and collect everything to do with their preferred titles.  Whereas, thanks to Stephen Montgomery, I have such a breadth of collections, I seem to be following the Pokemon ideal of trying to catch them all!

I hope you have all enjoyed this sojourn into the world of art licensing and I remind you all that the comics and the art remain copyright of their respective companies.  All I am doing is using specific examples to highlight how great it is that these companies have given us such great art to enjoy over the years.

• You can follow my Nothing But a Fan blog, where a version of this article and others in a similar vein first appeared at

Categories: British Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Features

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