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Saturday, 2 April 2011


The Commando series of comic books have been going strong for fifty years now - something quite unique in British comics. Sure there are some titles that have been going longer - The Beano and Dandy spring to mind, but the Commando comics are the only adventure series to enjoy such a long run. Noted for their distinctive 7 × 5½ inch, 68 page format the Commando comics  have remained more popular than many other British war comics, and some would say British comics in general, despite their simplistic stories and black and white artwork, with only the covers in colour.

The series continues to prosper and recently digital editions were released alongside the regular books, taking the series into a future unimagined when the first title rolled off the presses all those years ago when the world was black and white.

Why then has the series continued to prosper while others have fallen in action? What makes the Commando series so unique?

"That’s the 64,000 dollar question, isn’t it? I don’t know the definite answer...I doubt if anyone does. The efforts of the three previous editors and their policies must be a large part of the success, particularly when we were battling rival titles. However, I don’t think any single factor could tell the whole story." Calum G. Laird, editor Commando Comics.

Published by D C Thomson of Scotland, the series was originally titled Commando War Stories in Pictures, but in 1993 the title was changed to Commando For Action and Adventure in order to reflect the wider aspects of the stories. And although the majority of the comics are still world war II set, other conflicts are often featured and on times the comics have even taken us into far future conflicts and beyond.

For many years now the Commando books have offered two reprints and two new comics every fortnight, and in order to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary it was decided to reprint noted titles from the history of the comic, alongside all new adventures.  What was the brief in selecting the titles for reprint, I wondered? Why not just reprint the first fifty in order which seemed the most logical thing to do?

"We decided to reissue the first 12 books starting at No12 in January and working down to No1 in December. The other titles have been chosen by individuals as ones they remembered as being significant either in the history of Commando, its artists, its writers or to the staff members when they were readers. After weighing all the factors, and there are many more than may be apparent, my editorial judgement was to do things the way we have." Calum Laird, editor Commando Books

Are the Commando series a success story we should be celebrating, or are they, with their square jawed heroes, a sign of the British inability to let go of past glories? A few years back during the Iranian hostages affair much of the media outrage came from the fact that the captives cry and tell behaviour was far removed from our idea of how UK servicemen acted under duress. Will Hutton wrote in The Observer, " For those who lived in the spirit of Commando Comics, in which the dashing squaddy or Spitfire pilot always heroically triumphed in the trial of honest Brit against foreign evil the contrast is bitter."

Anyone wanting to check out the Commando series can of course pick up the titles at the local newsagents, but there are also a great series of collected graphic novels from Carlton Books. These are themed collections and contain twelve classic Commando titles within the limp covers. The Dirty Dozen, pictured left, was one of the first collected titles and is a great read from cover to cover. My own copy is more dog eared than my dodgy uncle Jim's, " Big 'an' Bouncy Magazine" collection.

I asked the current editor  how the collected editions were selling and he replied thus:

"The Carlton Collections have sold very well and continue to do so. A new one will be out this year entitled Rogue Raiders — a selection of the best Commando Raids stories. In July Carlton will release a series of four books in a different format of three stories in one set of covers. These will be priced at a lower level than the existing Collections."

Check our Charlton Books HERE.

And visit the Commando website HERE


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