The latest issues of Britain’s only monthly war comic, Commando, are on sale now – and along with those comes details of the Draw Your Weapons exhibition at the National Army Museum, which includes a number of special events, listed below, which include appearances by artist Keith Page and editor Calum Laird.
Commando No 4419: The Mystery And The Museum
Story: Mac MacDonald Art: Keith Page Cover Art: Keith Page
It was a relic of a past British Army campaign in a far-flung corner of the world. Just another piece of military gear dropped and forgotten in the heat of battle.
Even so, the man who had found it, Sergeant John Rogers, wanted to know more and took it to the National Army Museum. There it was quickly identified as a Foreign Service Cork Helmet and the owner’s name in faded ink was made out on the lining.
So what was the real story of soldier Ben Trimshaw and how did his headgear come to be abandoned in a remote watchtower in Afghanistan?
“It’s well known that the home of the best action and adventure stories is Commando,” says editor Calum Laird of this story. “Likewise, the best place to go for the history of the British Army is Chelsea, and specifically the National Army Museum. Like Commando, it does exactly what it says on the tin.
“And what does that have to do with this story? Well, when the Museum and Commando got together to mount an exhibition of our artwork, imaginations were fired to produce a story that would feature the talents of both, dare I say it, institutions.
“So, with the advice of the NAM experts, the fevered imagination of writer Mac MacDonald and the artistic skills of Keith Page a unique story was created. The story you have in your hands. We have enjoyed putting it together, we hope you enjoy reading it just as much.”
By 1945 the end of World War II was nigh. Frank Bailey, a USAAF squadron leader just wanted to make sure his team would survive to see the end of the conflict.
So Frank trained his boys hard, constantly impressing on them that each time they flew their P51 Mustangs against Nazi fighters it could be their last.
And that was before they encountered Germany’s newest weapon, the sleek, jet-propelled Me262 — the deadly Stormbird…
It was an area of dense jungle with a few faint trails criss-crossing, some leading nowhere. Yet somehow a British platoon had to navigate this wilderness — and protect a young native whose influence could help turn the tide of war against the Japanese.
All this with a ruthless enemy lying in wait, setting up one deadly ambush after another
“This story is more up-to-date than some of this year’s re-issues and there’s a very good reason why,” says foremer Commando editor George Low in his introduction to this story. “Most of you will be familiar with Ferg Handley and his work and this is the second script I commissioned from him, “Lucky Lenny”, No. 3102, being the first.
“Ambush Zone” is a gripping story set in the jungle with a British patrol and their guide pitting their wits against a deadly enemy, the inside artwork executed well by Olivera and the eye-catching cover by Mike White.”
Take a good look at the guy on the cover. He’s putting up quite a fight, but just a few weeks ago he was a shambling deserter on the run.
Yet he has only one man to thank for turning him from a selfish coward into a fighting fury…Mad Mike, the man the Japs could just not face.
“If you were to come up with a design brief for an artist to create a quintessential Commando cover, you wouldn’t go far wrong if you had this one in mind,” notes Calum Laird. “In the background a vividly-coloured sky, full of drama and menace. And in the foreground a powerful figure blasting out of the frame with a Bren Gun. It really doesn’t get more Commando than that.
“And what a title!
“Inside the cover the art and the tale don’t disappoint. Victor Fuente’s figures have action and movement while Mac MacDonald’s story is a classic of action, feuding and…but wait, if I say more I may give the game away. This is one to read. Right now!”
Here’s the run down of events that are part of the Draw Your Weapons exhibition at the National Army Museum in London in September.
When the Comics Went to War
8th September 2011, 7.00pm
Exploring the history of the British war comic book genre, from the ﬁrst publications to the present day, this talk charts the evolving depiction of warfare and the experiences of the children who lived through it.
Draw Your Weapons Art Workshop
5th, 12th and 26th November 2011 2.00pm-3.30pm
Exclusive workshops for budding artists of all ages to learn new techniques, design their own storyboard and hear the tales behind the artwork. These Saturday workshops will be hosted by popular comic illustrators and by acclaimed war artists.
• For the latest information visit: www.nam.ac.uk/exhibitions/special-displays/draw-your-weapons-art-commando-comics
• Official Commando web site: http://www.commandocomics.com/
• Click here for subscription information or write to: D.C. Thomson & Co Ltd, The Subscribers Department, Commando Library, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL or Freephone (UK only) 0800 318846
• Commando is also available for iPad and iPhone. The apps are free to download through the Apple iTunes App Store and a digital subscription is priced at £4.99 per month, compared to a £99 annual print subscription. For those not sure there are four free issues to download prior to making a purchase.
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. 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 “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.