It was inevitable the review of this Illustrators special edition would fall to me considering how well known my fondness for Commando is.
For those unaware, Commando is a pocket-sized 68 paged picture library that was first published in 1961 and as I write this review, it stands at 5,290 issues and counting. While the contributors may have changed, the emphasis on well written stories that can appeal to readers from 8 to 88 has not.
The book starts off with a strong cover by using the classic cover to issue 529, “The Deadly One“, beautifully drawn and painted by Jordi Penalva. You just look at it and you see a one eyed British Army officer firing a revolver over the reader’s left shoulder. There is no compromise in the look of the face. When you see that cover, you just want to dive in and wallow in the glorious madness behind it.
As it was with the Commando comic, so it is with this edition of Illustrators.
When you open the book, you find that you are going to get a series of articles offering different points of view about Commando. While the magazine weighs in at a respectable 144 pages, it was always only going to offer an overview. For those that wonder why it can only be an overview, let me give you an example that may clarify: the coffee table sized Commando: 50 Years A Home For Heroes takes six pages just to list the titles of the first 4404 issues!
However, when your overview consists of contributions such as Alexandria Turner, DC Thomson’s Editor-In-Chief, offering a unique insight into the backrooms of Heritage Brands, Peter Richardson‘s unpublished interview with artist Gordon Livingstone, Calum Laird‘s potted history of his time as editor on Commando and as a friend of artist Ian Kennedy and many others, then an overview will do just fine.
For those of you who have yet to purchase this magazine, you are probably wondering why you should put your hand into your pocket to purchase this edition when you have so many other books to buy. So let me give you some reasons to consider why this book should be under your Christmas tree come Christmas Eve.
First up is the contents list that I have teased you with. Did I mention we also have artist Ken Barr‘s autobiographical feature from the 1970s? For any fan of Silver Age US comics, this alone is worth you picking up this edition.
Alexandria Turner’s article also gives us unprecedented access to what goes on behind the scenes at DC Thomson. I must admit I was quite tickled to see several friends of mine feature in this article. This access and metaphorical ‘opening of the doors’ represents a major change in the policy of DC Thomson and leaves me quite excited for the potential of what awaits us in the future.
An interview with Gordon Livingstone that had yet to see the light of day is an echo of days gone by. Unfortunately we lost Gordon over two years ago, so I am glad that this transcript has managed to make it into print. (This interview features the only mistake of the book. The artist mentioned is James ‘Peem’ Walker, not Dean Walker. Peem is a uniquely Scottish nickname for anyone called James. As Peter was listening with a Home Counties ear, I cannot blame him for not picking up on Gordon’s soft brogue).
The fact that we get to see so many original covers in the raw is just such a treat. The reproduction of the cover to “Bulldog Breed” is almost worth the cover price all by itself. And to have the recent Braddock cover at A3 is just like, wow!
If you have bought either The Art of Ian Kennedy or the excellent Achtung! Commando! fanzines, this is an excellent companion to both. While there is some crossover to each, there is additional information that complements both publications and adds to your enjoyment of both.
Finally, there is a great nod to the future of Commando with contributions from the three of the four newest cover artists to show that while the title may be 58 years young, there is still ample room for it to continue to appeal to readers of all ages.
For those who want to order a copy or remind their partner there is a perfect Christmas gift out there, just click on Book Palace.
For those that want a copy of Home For Heroes, click on the link. I would offer my copy but some people seem to have scribbled on it…
If this article has rekindled a fondness for Commando, this will take you to the DC Thomson shop
The Art of Commando (illustrators Special Edition)
Authors: Peter Richardson, Calum Laird, Alex Turner, Sean Blair; Consultant Editors Calum Laird, David Ashford, Norman Boyd, Alan Richardson
Artists: Ian Kennedy, Ken Barr, Gordon Livingstone, Graeme Neil Reid, Neil Roberts, Keith Burns, Jordi Penalva, Matias Alonso, John Ridgway, et al
Publisher: Book Palace Books, November 2019
Number of pages: 144
Format: Soft Cover; Full Colour illustrations
Size: 9″ x 11″ (216mm x 280mm)
A life-long comic fan, specialising mainly in UK adventure comics, Colin did his very best to support his passion for the comics of his youth, Commandos (still going!) and any small press that interested him. Sadly, Colin passed in March 2021, an invaluable downthetubes team member, much missed by us all