Rebellion announces new Battle Action mini series – our guide to the returning strips

Battle Action, 2000AD publisher’s relaunch of the title inspired by two classic British weekly comics, Battle Picture Weekly (aka Battle) and Action, is back as a five-issue miniseries, with writer Garth Ennis playing a principal role in its latest incarnation. downthetubes caught up with him, and others working on the series, for a little more intel on the project. We also look back at the original strips that inspired the new adventures, coming soon…

Battle Action Issue One (2023) - cover by Keith Burns
Battle Action Issue One (2023) – cover by Keith Burns

Battle Picture Weekly, created by writers/editors Pat Mills and John Wagner, was at various times also known as Battle ActionBattle Action ForceBattle and Battle with Storm Force, published by IPC Magazines between March 1975 and to January 1988, when it merged with the new incarnation of Eagle.

Battle Picture Weekly kicked off a new movement in British comics full of grit, anti-heroes, and oddballs, although John Wagner was beginning to stretch the form with changes he made to another weekly, Valiant toward the end of its run. That energy would carry over when Mills created Action in 1976, and 2000AD in 1977.

The new Battle Action mini-series is named after the title given to the magazine when Battle Picture Weekly merged with Action in 1977.

Following up on last year’s Battle Action special, still available as a back issue from the Treasury of British Comics web shop, Rebellion has announced plans for a five-issue Battle Action miniseries in 2023 – as we suggested earlier this week.

The new Battle Action title will be 2000AD “magazine” size, with a 36-page extent, including covers.

The first issue is available to pre-order now here from the Treasury of British Comics web shop – or you can order a bundle including all five issues here. Please note this Treasury of British Comics title will not be available in newsagents.

Rebellion have released a special free Battle Action #0 which you can download as a digital edition here, offering two strips from last year’s Battle Action Special, alongside samplers of strips from the new project (PDF)

Battle Action #0 Promotion

Award-winning writer Garth Ennis, perhaps best known for his work on Preacher and The Boys, but whose many credits also include War Stories for Vertigo and Avatar Press, and Battlefields for Dynamite Entertainment, will write a story in each issue, backed by additional stories from talents including John Wagner (who write for the original Battle Picture Weekly, best known for his work on “Judge Dredd”, “Strontium Dog”), Dan Abnett (Guardians of the Galaxy, Warhammer 40k), Torunn Grønbekk (Thor, Star Wars), Rob Williams (Suicide Squad, “Judge Dredd”), John Higgins (Watchmen, “Judge Dredd”) and Chris Burnham (Batman Incorporated, Unstoppable Doom Patrol), each putting new spins on characters introduced in stories from Battle Picture Weekly and Action.

The first issue of the new Battle Action series will make its debut on Wednesday 31st May 2023, available in comic shops, and online through the 2000AD and Treasury of British Comics webshops.

The World War Two ace Johnny Red will return to action in the first issue, courtesy of Garth Ennis and artist Keith Burns, who also brought us the “Johnny Red /  Skreamer of the Stukas” crossover in last year’s Special, and revived the character for a Titan Comics mini-series.

John Wagner, who co-created Battle Picture Weekly, will pen a new “HMS Nightshade” story, which he co-created with artist Mike Western in 1979. The series follows a Royal Navy warship protecting Allied shipping vessels from U-Boats.

Keith also provides covers for the series, and alternate cover editions will be available in the 2000AD and Treasury of British Comics webshops.

Future issues will feature new instalments of “Crazy Keller“, “D-Day Dawson“, “Dredger“, “Major Eazy“, “Hellman of Hammer Force” and “Nina Petrova and The Angels of Death“.

Garth Ennis
Garth Ennis

“So it looks like my cunning plan worked, and there will indeed be more Battle Action,” says Garth Ennis, a longtime fan of the original comic, who, in addition to his war comics writing, has provided several introductions to past strip collections.

“I’m delighted to welcome writers Rob Williams, Torunn Grønbekk, Dan Abnett and in particular original Battle creator John Wagner on board for the new series, alongside ten (count them) fantastic artists – some returning from last year’s special, some newcomers to our noble endeavour.

“Having John produce the first ‘HMS Nightshade’ script in 40 years is the icing on the cake.”

But what, we wondered, is the enduring appeal of war comics? Have recent events in Europe and beyond given them more relevancy, for example? Or does Garth see Battle Action as an adventure comic first, war comic second?

“I think it would be a stretch to make much of a link between Battle Action and events in Ukraine, which in this context proves only that the basic subject matter won’t be going anywhere any time soon,” Garth tells downthetubes. “Battle Action is a revival of a 1970s/80s war comic and is therefore going to feature material that bit more removed from the reality of armed conflict than most of the war stories I write, which I see as slightly different territory. But most of the stories we’re doing here do take actual situations from the history of warfare as their starting point, and then either wander further afield (‘Major Eazy’) or stick quite closely to their real-life origins (‘HMS Nightshade’).”

And of Battle‘s line-up down the years, what strip or character was his perosnal favourite?

“That would be Johnny Red,” he shoots back, instantly. “I think in qualitative terms you have to acknowledge ‘Charley’s War‘ as the best strip in the comic’s history, and my own personal favourite story is probably HMS Nightshade (the objective best and your own favourite are not always the same thing). But if you bring it down to characters I’d have to pick Johnny- he’s keen on his job, he’s got an occasionally nasty sense of humour and a good bunch of mates (not to mention a very cool girlfriend), and he’s a fighter pilot. World War Two aerial combat has had a lifelong lock on my imagination, something that isn’t changing any time soon.”

“It’s a war comic,” insists John Wagner. “Their appeal waxes and wanes but never goes away, I think in large part because of the belligerent nature of human beings.”

Asked about the revival of “HMS Nightshade”, John tells downthetubes he was asked to do write the new story, “although I’ve felt for a long time that I closed the story too soon, when there was a lot more still to tell.”

Editor Oliver Pickles adds, “The Battle Action special last year was a huge success for us, so it’s a delight to be able to return to these classic titles. We have a really first class line-up of creators who don’t just understand the legacy of these characters but how to bring them forward in new and exciting ways.”

• Battle Action #1 goes on sale on 31st May 2023. The first issue is available to pre-order now here from the Treasury of British Comics web shop – or you can order a bundle including all five issues here | This title will not be available in newsagents

Rebellion have released a special free Battle Action #0 which you can download as a digital edition here, offering two strips from last year’s Battle Action Special, alongside samplers of strips from the new project (PDF)

Battle Action Mini-Series 2023 – Issue by Issue

Where indicated, original Battle story synopses are by Moose Harris, publisher of the original (now sadly hijacked) Sevenpenny Nightmare web site, the Action section republished here on downthtubes with his permission, and copyright holder, Rebellion

Issue 1 – featuring “Johny Red” and “HMS Nightshade”
On sale: 31st May 2023

• JOHNNY RED by Garth Ennis and Keith Burns

Battle Action Issue One (2023) - cover by Keith Burns SNIP

Garth Ennis and Keith Burns returned to “Johnny Red” for last year’s Battle Action Special for “Johnny Red /  Skreamer of the Stukas”, possibly the most “traditional” of the strips presented.

Previous “Johnny Red” Battle Collections…

Johnny Red” told the story of 19-year-old RAF pilot John Redburn for 10 years in the orginal Battle, a working class lad from the streets of Liverpool. Following an unjust court martial for accidentally striking a superior officer, Redburn is dishonourably discharged from the service. The striking offence was later changed to an accidental killing, with the supposedly dead squadron leader’s brother arriving to plague Redburn in the skies over Leningrad – Moose Harris

Johnny Red – Volume One: Falcon’s First Flight (Titan Books, 2011)
By Tom Tully and Joe Colquhoun |  ISBN 978-1848560338

Johnny Red Volume One

When pilot Johnny Redburn is discharged from the RAF for striking an officer, he is forced to join the Merchant Navy. But a German sneak attack forces Redburn back into the air – in a stolen Hurricane! Redburn aims for Russia, planning to save his plane and career, but on landing, meets the ‘Falcon Squadron’ of the 5th Soviet Air Brigade, who are under German attack! Redburn takes to the skies once more – to fight for Russia.

Johnny Red – Volume Two – Red Devil Rising (Titan Books, 2012)
By Tom Tully and Joe Colquhoun |  ISBN 978-1848560345

Continuing the adventures of Johnny Redburn, discharged from the RAF for striking an officer. Taking to the skies in a stolen Hurricane, he meets the Falcon Squadron of the 5th Soviet Air Brigade, and begins his fight against Germany from the other side of the Iron Curtain. Includes a feature by Garth Ennis.

Johnny Red – Volume Three – Angels over Stalingrad (Titan Books, 2013)
By Tom Tully and Joe Colquhoun |  ISBN 978-1848564381

 Includes a feature on Stalingrad by comics legend Garth Ennis (The Boys, Preacher, War Stories).

Johnny Red – Volume Four – The Flying Gun (Titan Books, 2016)
By Tom Tully and John Cooper

Johnny Redburn has just led Falcon Squadron on a successful mission over Stalingrad. But Major Rastovitch has a new mission for Johnny: to fly an important Russian official to a top-secret conference in England in the incredible Flying Gun. The stakes are high and danger never far away …

Johnny Red – The Hurricane by Garth Ennis and Keith Burns (Titan Comics, 2026)

Legendary British fighter ace, Johnny ‘Red’ Redburn, returns once more as the commander of the Falcons – a Russian fighter squadron battling the Nazis in the skies over Stalingrad. But dogfighting Messerschmitts is about to become the least of his troubles when the NVKD – the notorious Soviet secret police – come calling!

• HMS NIGHTSHADE by John Wagner and Dan Cornwell

Written by John Wagner and drawn by Mike Western (inked in part by, perhaps, Ron Tiner), the original “HMS Nightshade” debuted in Battle in its 200th issue in 1979, alongside “Charley’s War” and the panned “Glory Rider”. The story of a Royal Navy Corvette K70, it was well received, although naval stories never seemed to generate the same kind of following as land-based tales like Wagner and Western’s best-known Battle strip, “Darkie’s Mob”.

Each episode was introduced by old George Dunn (who looked uncannily like artist Mike Western), who told the story of the plucky little ship he served in as a young man to his grandson, who was always eager to hear more.

Battle Classics Volume One - Cover (Titan Books, 2014)

The framing device of a war remembered perhaps didn’t work well for some readers as the crew of the Nightshade battle their way from rescuing soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk and deadly U-Boats to an ignoble end. As the tale progresses, the role of the ‘Grandad’ figure occasionally takes a back seat, although it’s to Wagner’s credit that it’s never dropped completely and the story both begins and ends with the elderly pensioner. As with “Darkie’s Mob” and Mills’ “Charley’s War,” “HMS Nightshade” never pulls punches, exposing the terror of sea war with the attention to detail and grim storytelling and point-sharp characterisation (punctuated with some black humour) that is Wagner’s trademark.

Mike Western’s distinctive art excels, as ever, the veteran artist turning his hand to the war at sea with the same consummate skill with which he applied himself to strips such as Battle‘s “The Sarge” and the fondly-remembered “Leopard of Lime Street” in Buster and Valiant‘s “The Wild Wonders”.

Episodes of “HMS Nightshade” were included as part of Garth Ennis Presents – Battle Classics, published by Titan Books in 2014

Read our review of Battle Classics Volume One here

Issue 2 – featuring “Crazy Keller” and “D-Day Dawson”
On sale: 28th June 2023

Battle Action Issue Two (2023) - cover by Keith Burns

• CRAZY KELLER by Garth Ennis and Chris Burnham

Created by Alan Hebden and Eric Bradbury, “Crazy Keller” has a finger in every black market pie in the European Theatre of Operations. His urge to make a dishonest buck takes him to the very heart of the action, running rings around Germans and Americans alike – with the aid of his long-suffering assistant Corporal “Aerial” Arkin, and their extremely distinctive and heavily armed jeep, Scoot 4 (a replacement for the late, lamented Scoot 3). Yet never let it be said that Keller doesn’t do his bit for the war effort, as the German army often finds out to its cost.

Read the Treasury of British Comics guide to “Crazy Keller” here

• D-DAY DAWSON by Dan Abnett and Phil Winslade

"D-Day Dawson" on the cover of Battle, cover dated 12th April 1975. Cover via Great News for All Readers © Rebellion Publishing
“D-Day Dawson” on the cover of Battle, cover dated 12th April 1975. Cover via Great News for All Readers © Rebellion Publishing

D-Day Dawson” told the tale of Sergeant Steve Dawson, shot on the beaches of Normandy on 6th June 1944. With a bullet pressing on his heart, Dawson is evacuated back to Blighty. A doctor on the boat home tells Dawson the round cannot be removed, and will kill him within a year. Unwilling to accept that he will not be able to fight alongside his men, when the boat is hit by a shell, sole survivor Dawson rejoins his men, opting to keep his condition a secret. With nothing to lose, Dawson regularly puts himself in the line of fire to save his men as they march towards Berlin, and his inevitable destiny.

“D-Day Dawson” was one of the most popular strips in the early days of Battle, vying with Rat Pack for the top spot in the readers’ polls. The episodic style allowed a variety of writers and artists to tackle the story without any noticeable impact on the overall quality. Gerry Finley-Day and Ron Carpenter provided the bulk of the writing during the first series, with Colin Page taking on the lion’s share of the artwork. At the end of this run, Dawson was once again wounded in action, receiving the Victoria Cross for his efforts. When the series returned from hiatus, Eric Hebden became the lead writer, again relying on Page for most of the visuals. Unfortunately for Dawson, his days in the limelight were over, the top spot having been claimed first by “Major Eazy”, and then by “Darkie’s Mob”. Against such competition, Dawson’s second stint was far shorter, wrapping up after 24 episodes. With the end of the war mere days away, the bullet in his heart finally left Dawson with no more time to borrow. In a heroic act of self-sacrifice, Dawson laid down his life to save his men, walking back into the waters of the north German coast having fought his final battle – Moose Harris

Dan Abnett
For Dan Abnett, war comics were part of growing up. “For generations of us, they were a standard form of action/ adventure entertainment…”

“‘War Comics’ were very much a staple genre right up to the era of Battle Picture Weekly, and beyond probably, so for generations of us, they were a standard form of action/adventure entertainment,” author and comics writer Dan Abnett notes, pondering the enduring appeal of the genre. “So, yes, it’s the adventure aspect, but there’s also huge nostalgia for a golden age of British comics. However, sadly, war doesn’t go away, and Battle was probably one of the first war comics to reflect the serious and traumatic aspects, even while it revelled in the heroics and the derring-do.

“Under Garth’s stewardship, the return of Battle Action is very much a celebration of those comics and that era, and true to the spirit of them too, but there is nevertheless awareness of the cost and tragedy of war, which lends it relevance beyond simple entertainment.  

What made Dan chose “D-Day Dawson” to revisit for the series? Were there others he considered?

“I considered many, and discussed them with Garth,” says Dan. “I was an early and avid reader of Battle. I chose ‘D-Day Dawson’ – to Garth’s slight surprise, I think – because to me, the character epitomised the comic, like a figurehead.

“The strip was usually at the front of the issue, the first thing you read,” he continues. “It was quite ‘old school’ compared to other Battle strips, it was very simple in concept, it has no great character depth or moral ambiguity like other series, and it was episodic, without any significant ongoing story thread beyond Dawson’s continued fight on borrowed time.

“It’s fair to say, I think, that there were other, much better, much more sophisticated strips in the comic. But, to the young me, Dawson was the ‘figurehead’, the clean-cut baseline from which the other strips varied and diverged. And I loved the deceptively simple intricacy with which each three page episode was delivered: here’s a threat, how will Dawson resolve it? What aspects of the situation and location will he use, often in improvised ways, to win through?  That’s what I’ve tried to capture – the mechanics of ingenuity, fuelled by Dawson’s ‘nothing left to lose’ courage.” 

Issue 3 – featuring “Dredger” and “Major Eazy”
On sale: 26th July 2023

• DREDGER by Garth Ennis and John Higgins

Action Special 2020 - Dredger

Very much a man of his time – a time lucky to have survived the man – Dredger, who made his debut in the original Action, and more recently appeared in last year’s Battle Action Special, and the 2020 Action Special, works for the government, tackling threats foreign, domestic, military, criminal or just plain deranged (which anyone having a pop at this guy has to be to begin with). Few if any of his assailants survive the experience.

Read the Treasury of British Comics profile of Dredger here

• MAJOR EAZY by Rob Williams and Henry Flint

Major Eazy: The Italian Campaign

Major Eazy” stormed into Battle in January of 1976, although ‘storming’ wasn’t Eazy’s style. Eazy was the most laconic, and indeed iconic British officer to ever grace the pages of a comic. The character was more movie star than military, having his roots established firmly in the Hollywood vein. Alan Hebden, the son of “Rat Pack” writer Eric was, by all accounts, something of a laid back individual, and Eazy reflected that aspect of his own character. An afternoon nap during armed conflict, a Bentley instead of a jeep, cigars, long hair, no recognisable uniform and no acknowledgement of authority figures made Eazy cool, and doffed the hat to Clint Eastwood. What really made Eazy work as a strip though, was Carlos Ezquerra.

Editor David Hunt and his assistant (and soon to be Action Man) Steve MacManus had chased Ezquerra for the better part of a year, trying to get the artist to commit to Battle. At the time, Ezquerra was working in the UK through the Barden Agency and Barry Coker. Coker felt Battle was too new, and may not last, so he was reluctant to let Ezquerra work there for fear that the whole thing may fold at any moment. Although Ezquerra created the “Rat Pack” characters, he seldom drew the strip, and contributed mainly covers and single issue stories of three pages or less. Barden had him in a long-term relationship with IPC’s arch rival DC Thomson, the home of Warlord. Carlos was wasting away on Wizard, flitting from strip to strip. Eventually a deal was done, and Ezquerra was given Major Eazy as his first full time character. He based the look of Eazy on Britt, James Coburn’s character in The Magnificent Seven. It was a technique Ezquerra had used in the past, but Eazy really hit home. This wasn’t at all hindered by the cinema release of Cross of Iron, where Coburn starred as a German soldier, Sergeant Steiner. The publicity photographs were Major Eazy incarnate, a fact picked up on by many readers in the letters page.

Major Eazy 2021 Collection Preview Page
Major Eazy Hardback collection – cover by John McCrea

As his first dedicated character, Carlos gave his all to the strip, and his art evolved from the somewhat hit-and-miss efforts of his early career into his uniquely identifiable style. Eazy was instantly Battle’s top story, demoting “D-Day Dawson” back to the ranks. The first series ran for twelve weeks, introducing Eazy as a loner commanding a platoon in Italy throughout 1944 with spectacular results and a huge rifle. The story wrapped up in March, so to keep busy, Ezquerra provided virtually every cover during the break, until Eazy returned for a prolonged second run two months later in May of 1976. The action remained in Italy, Eazy remained laid back, was on the cover almost as much as Carlos, and remained at the top of Battle’s tree.

In October, Battle absorbed Valiant. To make the strip accessible to a new audience, it was time for Eazy to step back in time to 1941, and the African campaign. Readers were introduced to his deadly Bedouin guide Tewfik and a whole new set of adventures. To a certain extent, the danger was gone. Eazy had to have survived everything in Africa to be relating the tale from Italy, three years later, but this didn’t dent his popularity.

By Battle’s 100th issue, it was time for another change of pace and a recollection of some of Eazy’s early Italian adventures, but being the 100th issue, there had to be a twist. Having left Major Taggart in the hands of the Gestapo, the Rat Pack run into Eazy, who becomes their new commander, forcing them to rescue Taggart. Eazy stays on to allow Taggart time to recover from his injuries. This crossover saw Ezquerra return to the Rat Pack characters after an absence of more than a year, barring cover illustrations. As it concluded, Carlos was already working on 2000AD, co-creating Judge Dredd for the new weekly. His first Dredd strip was scrapped, and a replacement drawn by Mike McMahon was run instead. feeing much-maligned, the Spaniard decided to leave the title, swearing never to return. Slotting back in at Battle with Alan Hebden, Ezquerra illustrated the short lived El Mestizo, before returning for a final run on Major Eazy beginning in November 1977. The location changed once again, seeing Eazy move between North Africa and Greece. Tewfik remained with Eazy throughout this final series, which returned to the colour pages that were normally reserved for the top story. Major Eazy concluded in June 1978, as the strip reached El Alamein in late 1942. There was still plenty of life left in the story, but Eazy’s El Alamein was left untold and, as a regular character, his time was done.

Past Collections

Major Eazy Volume One – The Italian Campaign (Rebellion, 2021)
By Alan Hebden and Carlos Ezquerra | ISBN: 978-1781089811

Before Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog for 2000 AD, comic maestro Carlos Ezquerra created an iconic star character of bestselling British war comic, Battle. Now, collected in order for the first time, Rebellion is proud to present all of Major Eazy’s adventures remastered and from the beginning.

From pulse-pounding invasion of Sicily to the German surrender at Brenner Pass, Major Eazy Volume 1collects all of the character’s adventures across the Italian arena of war.

Issue 4 – featuring “Cooley’s Gun” and “Death Squad”
On sale: 30th August 2023

• COOLEY’S GUN by Garth Ennis and Staz Johnson

Action aplenty in an early episode of "Cooley's Gun", written by by Gerry Finley-Day with art by Geoff Campion
Action aplenty in an early episode of “Cooley’s Gun”, written by by Gerry Finley-Day with art by Geoff Campion

“Cooley’s Gun” was created by Gerry Finley-Day and Geoff Campion, and began
in Battle 258, cover dated 15th March 1980. It centred on a young recruit, Private Jimmy Miller, under the supervision of machine gunner Lance Corporal Cooley – who bore him a grudge for the loss of his friend, Dodger, who died saving Miller’s life.

Last year, talking to downthetubes, Garth Ennis included “Cooley’s Gun” among the strips that made Battle-Action so memorable, his list of strips also including many of the strips now getting new life in this mini series.

• DEATH SQUAD by Rob Williams and PJ Holden

Death Squad

Meet the deadliest band of fighters on the Eastern Front!

During World War Two the Eastern Front was hell on Earth. German Punishment Battalions were thrown into the thick of the conflict where they were  expected to fight well and die hard. In these harshest of conditions only the strongest warriors survived. Enter the Death Squad Grandad, Swede, Licker, Gus and Frankie. Alone they were failures and outcasts, but together they were one of the most formidable combat units the Russians ever faced!

“I don’t know about the enduring appeal of war comics,” Rob Williams muses, asked, like Garth, about the longevity genre. ” I think war comics are still something of a tough sell to the market. But people love stories with heroism and tragedy and sacrifice and comradeship and fighting for a cause against oppression, and all those things are in war stories in spades. Which is why we keep coming back to them, I suspect.”

“”I’m of an age to remember Battle Action’s first go around and I’ve always loved war comics, and as a kid I played World War Two in the playground,” says artist PJ Holden. “Comics have weirdly become dominated by certain genres over their lifetime, but I think that’s more about circumstances than any other reason.

“In the last several years we’ve seen a resurgence of scifi comics and now horror comics in the US market, which was predominantly super hero comics, no reason we can’t hope for similar with war comics. Heroic tales, interesting locations, cool looking vehicles. For me, Battle Action is an adventure comic first, war just happens to be its setting. But I do enjoy getting to flex muscles that I first started developing age 10 drawing tanks to take down the Nazi menace!”

“PJ Holden and I chose to do ‘Death Squad’ because we were in a convention bar with Garth Ennis, Keith Burns and a few others talking about the Battle revival,” Rob says of the roots of the assignment, “and Garth said “do you want to do Death Squad?” to which I replied “yes.” I mean, it’s The Dirty Dozen but with the worst soldiers in the German army. And I read Battle as a kid and I have a large interest in World War Two. And working with PJ is always fun. It’s a treat of a job.”

“For me, I was asked,” says PJ. “Rob and I had, of course, worked on ‘Destroyer’ together for the first special, and I think, it was at the last Enniskillen comic con Garth was talking about a new special and the teams of people he could get to do it, and I think he said Rob was writing ‘Death Squad’ and he seemed to be mulling over who could draw it and he looked at me dead in eye, and pointed and said “and you – you can draw it”.

“I just go where I’m sent!

“I do try and fold in direct influence from the original artists of the work, and Bradbury’s art on ‘Death Squad’ was just so squalid and filthy – it was huge fun trying to capture that voice while retaining my own.”

Past Collections

Death Squad (Rebellion, 2021)
By Alan Hebden, Carlos Ezquerra and Eric Bradbury

Issue 5 – featuring “Hellman of Hammer Force,” and “Nina Petrova and The Angels of Death”
On sale: 27th September 2023

• HELLMAN OF HAMMER FORCE by Garth Ennis and Mike Dorey

Artist Mike Dorey teased his work on the new "Hellman of Hammer Force" story last year, which sees Hellman of the Condor Legion involved the Spanish Civil War. The tease featured a first encounter between T-26 versus Mk 1 Panzer tanks
Artist Mike Dorey teased his work on the new “Hellman of Hammer Force” story last year, which sees Hellman of the Condor Legion involved the Spanish Civil War. The tease featured a first encounter between T-26 versus Mk 1 Panzer tanks

After making his debut in Action, Hellman was the most suitable candidate for inclusion in the new Battle Action when the titles merged, being the controversial adventure comic’s only war story. Unfortunately, the Action strip had already reached 1945, and Hellman’s war was nearly over.

Hellman of Hammer Force

In order to lengthen the strip’s potential lifespan, the first few months of Battle Action returned Hellman to the start of the war, an era not covered by the first Action strips. These “Early Adventures” crossed over into continuity grinding strips on the Russian Front and in Greece, stamping all over the Action version of these tales. Original writer Finley-Day continued with Hellman’s exploits, joined by co-creator and ultimate Hellman artist Mike Dorey, but unfortunately only for a small number of episodes. The bulk of the work was done by previous Hellman artist Jim Watson, whose murky style lent a grittiness to the strip which was not to all tastes. Pat Wright contributed several episodes, his clean style suiting the character well.

Past Collections

Buy Hellman of Hammer Force (Rebellion, 2021 – Amazon Affiliate Link)

This isn’t your grandad’s war comic – never had there been an anti-hero like Hellman of Hammer Force! One of the major highlights of the controversial 1970s comic, Action, Major Kurt Hellman is a Panzer commander in the 1940 German invasion of Belgium. But this man is no Nazi – he avoids taking life wherever possible, all while facing foes without and treachery within!

Collected for the first time, and from the very beginning, this groundbreaking series of thrilling combat is written by Gerry Finley-Day (Rogue Trooper) and drawn by Mike Dorey (Ro-Busters).

• NINA PETROVA AND THE ANGELS OF DEATH by Torunn Grønbekk and Patrick Goddard

Battle Action Special 2022 - Nina Petrova - art by Patrick Goddard

Last year, for the 2022 Battle Action Special, in “Nina Petrova and the Angels of Death”, Garth Ennis and the underrated and underused Patrick Goddard took a Johnny Red supporting character and spun her into her own strip.

Night after night Captain Nina Petrova and her fellow pilots and gunners take to the air, raining death and destruction on the German invaders. In the freezing Russian skies they fight for their Motherland, risking fiery doom in their flimsy PO-2 biplanes. Their enemy has a nickname for them: The Angels of Death…

The deployment of female combatants by the Soviets is a subject Ennis has covered previously in his and Russ Braun’s Night Witches series, and in Ennis’ and Steve Epting’s“ Sara” .

• Battle Action #1 goes on sale on 31st May 2023. The first issue is available to pre-order now here from the Treasury of British Comics web shop – or you can order a bundle including all five issues here | This title will not be available in newsagents

Rebellion have released a special free Battle Action #0 which you can download as a digital edition here, offering two strips from last year’s Battle Action Special, alongside samplers of strips from the new project (PDF)

• Copies of the 2022 Battle Action are still available from the Treasury of British Comics web shop

Read Luke Williams review of last year’s Battle Action Special

Categories: British Comics, Comics, Creating Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Featured News, Features

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