Titan Books – publishers of the ten volume Charley’s War series – have announced the October release of Garth Ennis Presents – Battle Classics, a new collection of strips from Battle Picture Weekly.
Titan previously released one collection of some of the lesser-known but equally enjoyable Battle strips, The Best of Battle, back in 2009. Although well received and the strips carefully selected, it was a strange collection, featuring only parts of longer stories, and when no follow up volume emerged some Battle fans thought the format had been abandonned.
Similarly, although the company released Major Eazy Volume 1: Heart of Iron and Rat Pack Volume 1: Guns, Guts and Glory, both series were put on hiatus last December and only three volumes of Johnny Red have been published.
So it’s great news that Titan is bringing out this new collection, introduced by Garth Ennis, writer of The Boys, Preacher and Battlefields, who also introduced all three of their Johnny Red volumes. For this collection, he’s selected his favourite stories from Battle, including the complete HMS Nightshade, and the complete The General Dies At Dawn, one of the strips partly featured in Best of Battle.
Written by John Wagner and drawn by Mike Western (inked in part by, perhaps, Ron Tiner), HMS Nightshade debuted in Battle in its 200th issue in 1979, alongside Charley’s War and the panned Glory Rider. The story of a Royal Navy Corvette K70, it was well received, although naval stories never seemed to generate the same kind of following as land-based tales like Wagner and Western’s best-known Battle strip, Darkie’s Mob.
Each episode was introduced by old George Dunn (who looked uncannily like artist Mike Western), who told the story of the plucky little ship he served in as a young man to his grandson, who was always eager to hear more.
As Moose Harris notes over on his fantastic sevenpennynightmare site, The General Dies at Dawn, drawn by John Cooper, was part of the build up to Battle’s 200th issue, and ran for eleven weeks. Each episode counted down another hour of the General’s life, in a clever plot device from writer Alan Hebden, leading to the dramatic conclusion as the US Army reach Stadtheim. “The General Dies at Dawn is something of an undiscovered classic, and was originally pitched to DC Thomson for an issue of Commando, but was rejected by then editor Ian Forbes as ‘too brutal’,” Moose notes. “Alan Hebden retained the story and successfully pitched it to [Battle editor] Dave Hunt. Fresh off of a long run on Dredger, John Cooper’s art is excellent throughout the series, lending a gritty realism to his final strip before tackling Johnny Red from issue 200 onwards.”
It’s going to be a huge collection – HMS Nightshade alone is almost 300 pages in length – so watch out for it.
• Garth Ennis presents Battle Classics is scheduled for release on 25th October 2013
Categories: British Comics - Books