DC Thomson’s Commando digest sized combat picture library has been running continuously since 1961 and in that time it has become the British comic with by far the greatest number of issues ever published with over 5180 under its ammo-belt. Whilst other long surviving comics have changed through the years the Commando reader of 1961 would easily recognise the format of today’s issues as the 63 pages of black and white line art behind a painted colour cover has changed little over the years. Despite other long-lived titles such as 2000AD or The Beano embracing full colour, Commando has stuck to its black and white guns with only its two little known, and remarkably rare, softcover annuals featuring stories in colour, albeit non-standard short ones. So the announcement from DC Thomson Media that they were going to release a Commando reprint graphic novel but modified with colour came as rather a surprise.
What wasn’t a surprise, at least to long time Commando readers, was the subject of the reprint – Ramsey’s Raiders. Commando has had remarkably few returning characters over the years, indeed the fact that most issues are one-off stories in which you don’t know if the lead character will survive is one of the strengths of the title, yet Captain Jimmy Ramsey and his team from the Special Raiding Force were designed from the start to return and would prove so popular with readers that they did return time and time again.
Commando Presents: Ramsey’s Raiders reprints modified versions of the first two Raider issues, 3854 “Ramsey’s Raiders” and 3861 “The Raiders Return!“, both written by Ferg Handley with internal art by Keith Page and cover art by Ian Kennedy, who would all become the Raiders’ regular creative team. The intro story has Lt Gareth Evans joining Captain Jimmy Ramsey’s somewhat unorthodox raiding team and having to unlearn much of his formal training as he attempts to fit in with the other five men in their two heavily armed but unarmoured Willey’s Jeeps striking at German targets deep behind enemy lines in the North African desert. The second story moves the raids to Sicily were the animosity between the team’s two drivers begins to boil over when the two jeeps are strafed and destroyed by a Stuka leaving the six man team to get back to their own lines on foot.
These were originally published in October and November 2005 and proved so popular that they were soon followed by another 11 issues, culminating in issue 3970, “The Final Raid“. The initial concept of the Raiders was for a mini-series and this allowed Ferg Handley to build a depth to the character’s background stories that would not have been possible in the usual one-off issues. This meant that each character in the eventually seven man team got not just a detailed back story but time to shine in different issues and it is interesting to see these two earliest stories showing the team ill at ease with both their new recruits and themselves. Indeed issue 3970 wasn’t their final raid and the characters were brought back for more stories set during the Korean War plus, as the back of this reprint book promises, they will return to Commando once again in 2019.
Unlike so many other reprints of British comics, this book is able to go back to the original artwork boards, increasing the publication size of them by around a third from the time honoured digest size. As well as being coloured by Phillip Vaughan, they has been re-lettered by Rob Jones with both text boxes and speech balloons often repositioned in the enlarged frames.
There is a gentle irony that the two Commando issues chosen to be coloured were ones that are mainly set at night so while the colouring appears very dark on an initial glance there is a good reason for it. Away from the darkness of the night raids, the colouring is subtle and although Keith Page’s original artwork, which deftly covers not just the aforementioned jeeps and Stukas but Panzer IVs, Hanomag half-tracks, Spitfires and any amount of Allied and Axis machine guns, was not drawn with the intention of it being coloured, the colouring works remarkably well on the larger page size.
I have read many Raiders stories in Commando over the years but never the two in Commando Presents: Ramsey’s Raiders and so this is a very welcome reprint of these early raids in the first of what will hopefully become a family of titles under DC Thomson Media’s Heritage Comics banner.
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• Commando Presents: Ramsey’s Raiders, the Commando Calendar 2019 and other merchandise is available at the DC Thomson webstore
THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED – THE WINNERS WERE ANNOUNCED HERE
COMPETITION – WIN A COPY OF Commando Presents: Ramsey’s Raiders!
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All you need to do is answer the question below by Wednesday 19th December 2019 at 12 noon UK time.
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In what year was Commando Comics first published?
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