On sale next week are four new collections of Commando naval stories from Prion, an imprint of Carlton Books. These mid-format compilations – featuring work by Commando veterans such as writers Alan Hebden and R.A. Montague and artists Gordon Livingstone, John Ridgway, Ian Kennedy, Jose Maria Jorge – each contain six classic Commando war stories printed the same size as the original comics and are all introduced by current Commando editor, Calum Laird.
As we previously reported, unlike the previous three batches of Commando books from Prion which were 208 page paperbacks with three stories each, these titles echo the IPC War, Battle and Air Ace Picture Library titles that were published in 2010 as they are 400 page softcovers each reprinting six stories. This is the first time that Prion has released Commando titles in this six story format.
“When the previous Commando editor, George Low, selected the six titles that lie between these covers for inclusion in True Brit and The Dirty Dozen, he chose some of Commando’s greatest stories,” notes Calum. “The only downside was that the twelve-book collections could easily have been used to build blockhouses such was their size. The six-book selection doesn’t need a Bullworker session or a Charles Atlas (remember him?) course to be completed before you pick it up!
“This change, though, hasn’t altered the stories in any way — they’re still some of Commando’s best.”
Special thanks to Calum Laird and Scott Montgomery for providing extra information on the collection contents. Where there’s not a full name listed below, it’s because DC Thomson don’t have it on file. Where it says Staff, it means an unrecorded member of the Commando Team was responsible for the words.
The Deadly Seas
Offering hair-raising tales of naval missions on the lethal wartime seas make this action-packed but handily formatted collection of stories a thrill for Commando fans of all ages. ISBN: 978-1853758973
The volume features Inland Navy (originally featured in Commando 882) by McLean, art by Fleming, cover by Ian Kennedy; The Ship-Busters (Commando 657) by R.A. Montague, art by J.M. Jorge, cover by Ian Kennedy; March Of The Monsters (Commando 885) by R.A. Montague, art by Gordon Livingstone, cover by Staff; Bright Blade Of Courage (Commando 535) by Gentry, art and cover by Gordon Livingstone; Mighty Midget (Commando 1754) by Crowther, art by Nebot, cover by Jeff Bevan; and Another Tight Spot (Commando 2469)b Alan Hemus, art by Ricardo Garijo, cover by Ian Kennedy
“In days gone by when my schoolboy pocket money wouldn’t stretch to buying every Commando issue (well, there were Airfix kits to be bought too!) I used to give stories with anything to do with the sea a wide berth (sorry!),” aplogizes Calum. “With the benefit of hindsight, and having worked on a fair few since, I may have been a bit hasty back then for there are some cracking Commando stories riding the waves between Blighty and Bombay… Perhaps if I’d read them back in the day, I’d have bought fewer tanks and a few more boats from Mr Airfix and his mates.
“The main thing about the sea (apart from it being wet) is that it’s so vast — and Commando pages are so small. Over the years, though, our writers have managed to successfully shrink that canvas by using smaller boats and by dragging the sailors ashore where necessary. They have also managed to write parallels between land and sea so that actions are much more up close and personal.”
Features Aces Wild (Commando 489) by Mary Feldwick, art by J.M. Jorge, cover by Ian Kennedy; Mustang Patrol (Commando 700) by Brunt, art by John Ridgway, cover by Ian Kennedy; Glider Ace (Commando 132) by Clegg, art by Gordon Livingstone, cover by Ken Barr; The Fighting Few (Commando 386) by Maitland, art by Gordon Livingstone, cover by Gordon Livingstone; Tiger In The Tail (Commando 621) by McOwan, art by Amador, cover by Ian Kennedy; Flak Fever (Commando 1102) by R.A. Montague, art by Gordon Livingstone, cover by Ian Kennedy
“For air stories, the art is always important — almost, but not quite, out-doing the tale being told,” feels Calum. “Convincing illustrations of aerial battles require an extra degree of accuracy and each of the proponents here certainly have that. However, for the purposes of comic-book story-telling they need something else — they must have movement, speed and drama. Once again, each illustrator does his job par excellence.
“As if that wasn’t enough, they also have to be able to draw figures showing human emotions and reactions through their poses and expressions. It’s a hard job but the men here pull it off beautifully.”
Features Riley’s Rifle (Commando 994) by C.G. Walker, art by Galindo, cover by Ian Kennedy; Death Patrol (Commando 404) by Allan, art by Cortes, cover by Lopez Espi; Battle Wagon (Commando 422) by Smith, art by Alonso, cover by Lopez Espi; Man Of Iron (Commando 358) by Fitzsimmons, art by Segrelles, cover by Ken Barr; Guns On The Peaks (Commando 2925) by Roy Rivett, art by Benet, cover by Benet; The Haunted Jungle (Commando 626) by Richardson, art by Collando, cover by Penalva
“The great thing about Commando stories being set against the background of wars is that it allows the writers to put their characters in settings they could never otherwise do,” notes Calum of the stories in this volume, “in situations which would never be believable in peacetime and have them interacting with other characters they would be unlikely ever to come across in ‘normal’ life. The authors of all the stories here have taken advantage of that freedom to the full.
“Another aspect of Commando’s ‘formula’ — although, in truth there isn’t a magic recipe for one of our stories — is the everyday hero. In other comics you might want to be the main character; in Commando you can, just about, imagine you are the main character. There is nothing about them that marks them out, no spider bites or interplanetary origins. These are grounded stories where the underdog is as likely to come out as top dog as not.
“When you throw in a spot of the unexplained and inexplicable supernatural there really is some magic going on.”
Features Trouble Spot (Commando 327) by C.G. Walker, art by Segrelles, cover by Segrelles; Three…Two…One…Zero! (Commando 974) by Daniel, art by Gordon Livingstone, cover by Ian Kennedy; The Specialists (Commando 1962) by Staff, art by Ibanez, cover by Ron Brown; V.L.R. – Very Long Range (Commando 2149) by Alan Hebden, art by Denis McLoughlin, cover by Jeff Bevan; ; Fight Or Die! (Commando 1469) by Staff, art by Fleming, cover by Cox; Fearless Freddy (Commando 2528) by Aland Hebden, art by Gordon Livingstone, cover by Gordon Livingstone
“If there was one type of story that set Commando on the road to success back in 1961, it was the ‘special mission’ yarn,” says Calum. “Over the years we have run hundreds of these tales and they never lose their appeal — to readers or editors. As with the selection you have here the stories might feature characters specially trained for a mission or you might have characters who stumble unprepared into the action…and come out on top.
“Specialists who can do things that the ordinary person cannot, always add an extra dimension to a story. In Commando, those people have acquired their skills through training and practice — there are no magic bullets or special serums — and remain the character all our readers like, the everyday hero.
The other element in the success of these stories is that the special mission takes second place to the private battles the participants have with one another — whether they be on the same or opposing sides.
“Blowing a dam or sinking a battleship at its berth cannot compare to a punch-up with a comrade or two.”
• These Commando colections are available through all good bookshops, physical and online, including amazon.co.uk (links below) and Waterstones
Commando Web Site: www.commandocomics.com
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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.