Glasgow Calling: Latest Swap Meet hosts Commando guests, prompts discussion of war comics past – and future

James Bacon reports on last weekend’s Commando and British Comics Swap Meet in Glasgow – an affordable event with a lovely atmosphere, some great guests and interesting discussions…

Organisers and guests  at Glasgow Swap Meet, outside the event
Organisers and guests at Glasgow Swap Meet, outside the event

Warm and friendly, a pleasant welcome at the door of the latest Commando and British Comics Swap Meet in Glasgow was followed by a wander around tables covered in all types of comics. Over a century of war literature was represented, going back through the decades: Penny Dreadfuls, Rover, Wizard, various incarnations and reincarnations of titles, Eagle, Victor, Battle Warlord, 2000AD, War Picture Libraries and Commando comics.

The location – a scout hall home to the 29th Glasgow Scout Group, was set out well, with ample space to navigate those selling comics, while featured and present were four comics professionals: the legendary Commando editors Calum Laird and Gordon Tait were on hand, as well as Commando artist Graham Neil Reid, Commando writer Colin Maxwell and 2000AD artist Colin MacNeil.

Glasgow Swap Meet - March 2022
Glasgow Swap Meet - March 2022
Commando writer Colin Maxwell
Commando writer Colin Maxwell

There were so many comics to browse, some dealers offering every type of comic: DC, Marvel, British editions, pulp SF, books on comics, and, of course, there was some original art work here as well. But it was the good natured chat and consideration that really stood out, for me, at this small comics gathering. This is a lovely low key event, with time and space to enjoy comics, to learn and discuss aspects, to tick off the list of missing titles and, in this instance, to remember artist Ian Kennedy, who was due to have been a guest, and comics archivist and writer Colin Noble, both of who are sorely missed.

The unusual turns up in terms of items for sale, too, including the first 30 issues of War at Sea Picture Library and early Commando comics, while signed items and unexpected promotional material were also available in the raffle. It was especially nice to see original art.

The War in Ukraine, the unabashed Russian invasion, was a subject discussed, the concept and subject so often in comics thought consigned to history. Invasion literature goes back to Victorian times and has been a feature of comics for decades, be it “Will O’the Whistle” in Victor, “Holocaust Squadron” in Warlord or “Savage” in 2000AD. The Cold War threat, the Eastern Menace as a great antagonist in adventure and anti-authoritarian stories, are themes that, until recently, were subjects to be considered and reflected upon; not something we expected to be well happening now, creating its own legends coming out of human desperation, and dreadfulness.

The interest in how art is becoming the voice for so many, to offer support or solidarity or just express the upset at the horror, was evident. How the war in Ukraine will manifest in comics is unclear. How soon will it be before we have a “Ghost of Kyiv” for example, and how much time must lie between the travesty of war and the telling of the tale?

As you can imagine, this was a topic much discussed, on the day especially with the 40th anniversary of the Falklands conflict looming. Back in the 1980s, the events of “Operation Corporate” were promptly turned into a comic story in Battle by John Wagner and Jim Watson, and started ninety six days after the surrender of Port Stanley.

This of course gives an interesting perspective to the war stories that were published during both World Wars, and it was noted that although they were popular at the start of World War One, enthusiasm for such tales waned as the War dragged on. The information war of the now may seem new, but it has a familiarity about it when we think about the thin lines between bombastic simplified militarism, jingoistic populism, propaganda, national crisis defence, and honest preparation, or reflection on war, in comics.

Glasgow Swap Meet - March 2022 - Graeme Neil Reid
Graeme Neil Reid

Away from such debate, Graeme Neil Reid had a wonderful selection of his art on display. His range is astounding and his style able to adjust, as he showed in a recreation of a classic cover. Colin MacNeil was in great form, signing comics, chatting about 2000AD and Starblazer, and discussing the aspects that go onto creating a new story or character. His experience matches his brilliance, and he is a thoughtful artist, and it made one think of the importance of a fully formed creative development process between writer and artist, which seems to occur very well occasionally in 2000AD – and how much useful input artists can give when it is fully collaborative, as opposed to two separate entities.

Glasgow Swap Meet - March 2022 - Colin MacNeil
2000AD artist Colin MacNeil

There were free comics available to younger readers, and there was a lot of kindness and pleasure gained from getting comics into the hands of those who wanted them. One youngster was even ‘trading’ read comics, and was offered whatever he needed, in exchange for his comics, and was exceedingly happy with his deals.

It was very nice to enjoy this event in person. There were COVID precautions in place and there was a well ventilated hall for coffee, tea, bacon rolls and home made delicious cake, where purchases and thoughts could be shared.

With the last Glasgow event taking place on the cusp of COVID pandemic, in March 2020, it was really nice to meet and speak with other fans and have a moment to catch up and of course find desired comics.

Proceeds from the door, raffle and other fund raising activities went to te 29th Glasgow Scout Group.

There are plans for an event in July in Stoke on Trent and Watford in September or October. The Commando and British Comics buy and sell Facebook group is best for information.

Thanks to Stephen Hume, Andy Yates, Bruce Scott, Connie Hume and the 29th Scouts for organising the event so well.

James Bacon

• For news about the next Commando and British Comics Swap Meet, join the Commando and British Weekly Comics – Collectors, Buy, Sell and Swaps Page on Facebook

Operation Corporate in Comics

In the 1980s, Britain was at war over islands in the South Atlantic many Britons had never heard of – and some at the time even thought were part of the Shetlands. Jeremy Briggs examines the comics that featured the 1982 Falklands conflict between Britain and Argentina…

Photos with thanks by Connie Hume, Andy Yates, Karl Kennedy. Used with permission

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