Two years ago I began the review of the last Art of Commando calendar with “You wait years for a Commando calendar to come along, and then two arrive at once!” After nothing last year save for the usual Beano and Broons calendars, this year we get two digest related calendars, another Art Of Commando and, to everyone’s astonishment, Starblazer.
Taking The Art Of Commando first, this is styled along the lines of the classy 2007 Art Of Commando with full colour square illustrations of the original art complete with original publishing details and the artist credited. Dates are simple white boxes at the bottom of each A3 page with no holiday details or the unusual World War II dates of the previous incarnation. The illustrations were chosen by Commando’s editor, Calum Laird and as DC Thomson’s premier cover artist Ian Kennedy gets six of the twelve illustrations covering planes, tanks and submarines, Jeff Bevan provides two including a terrific Motor Torpedo Boat attack on enemy shipping while Chaco, Jose Maria Jorge, Keith Page and Gordon Livingstone provide one each.
Indeed the art is so original that in Ian Kennedy’s Sub Chaser for July you can see where the Commando title logo was stuck on and then removed again. The only niggle with the calendar is that some of the illustrations are already available on the official Commandowebsite as high quality wallpapers and it would have been nice to see others in their place. That said the calendar is a top quality product and does show that Commando covers are as good as, if not better than, the IPC combat Picture Library covers that are celebrated in David Roach’s books Aarrgghh! It’s War and The Art Of War. A similar title for Commando would be an essential purchase if it was ever published.
The Starblazer calendar is of a similar high quality with art chosen by Starblazer editor Bill McLoughlin. Here again Ian Kennedy is celebrated with nine of the twelve illustrations and the other three are all by Colin MacNeil. In fact all but the cover illustration are from very late on in the title’s history, issue 196 onwards – the cover being from issue 33, The Lost Planet. Again the layout is similar to the Commando calendar with the rectangular illustrations taking up more than half of each A3 page and the credits consigned to the bottom of the page. Interestingly while DC Thomson are normally considered to retain all their original artwork one of the Colin MacNeil covers from this calendar is currently available for sale on eBay. The calendar is an excellent reminder of why we used to buy Starblazer all those years ago and does make you wish that DC Thomson and Carlton/Prion would get their act together and give us a big Starblazer reprint book along the lines of Commando: Dirty Dozen.
Both calendars are available from Unique Comic Collectibles and cost £13.50 each including postage. More details are available at their website.