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Saturday, 6 August 2011

Archive's Sunday Comics - Now it's war



Stories with World War II settings were major drawcards in the British comics from the 1950s onward. When the Amalgamated Press, of the Fleetway House, London, issued its first strip-dominated boys' paper, Lion, as "The King of Picture Story Papers" in 1952, its cover strip was Captain Condor, a space pilot to rival Eagle's Dan Dare. But Lion also had a  war strip, about a pair of lone commandos, which was scripted by veteran boys' paper writer Edward R. Home-Gall. And just a few years later Captain Condor's prime cover spot had been taken over by Paddy Payne, a wartime fighter pilot.

Wartime airmen became popular fixtures in several British comics. D. C. Thomson, of Dundee, had Sergeant Matt Braddock, whose stories had begun in the text story paper The Rover in 1952, several years before the company finally launched into boys' adventure comics with The New Hotspur, The Victor (which took over Braddock), Warlord, and others.

Back at Fleetway House, Battler Britton made his entrance in The Sun in 1956 and went on a couple of years later to become a regular attraction in the monthly 64-page Thriller Picture Library pocket books alongside Robin Hood, Dick Daring of the Mounties, and Spy 13. The Thriller comic-books were identical in format to War Picture Library, which was originated by the Amalgamated  Press in September 1958 and gave rise to many companion series like Battle Picture Library and Air Ace Picture Library.

A David-size rival to the Goliath Fleetway libraries was quick to emerge in March 1959 in the form of G. M. Smith/Micron's  Combat Picture Library. And in 1961 D. C. Thomson commenced its almost identical Commando comics, which is the only line of the war-action breed still being published today.

Over at Long Acre, Odhams pitched in with another airman with an alliterative name, Raff Regan, which sounded very similar to Rockfist Rogan a boxer/RAF pilot whose career had been started before the war, in 1938, by writer Frank S. Pepper in The Champion, an AP text story paper. Pepper used the pen-name Hal Wilton when creating his daddy of the alliteratively named pilots, but his comics work continued to appear under his own name, other names, or anonymously (as was the fashion) for years after the war. He wrote the Captain Condor scripts for Lion and was the first writer of Roy of the Rovers for Tiger in 1954. The footballer was closely based on Pepper's earlier text story series Danny of the Dazzlers for The Champion.  

Raff Regan starred, serial style, in the Odhams  Boys' World comic of 1963-64. Keith Chapman (today known as western novelist Chap O'Keefe) remembers writing two scripts, each complete in four pages, for the later Boys' World annuals: Raff Regan and the Glory Hunter and Raff Regan and the Spit that Flew Itself.

Keith says, "Scripting war stories never appealed to me quite as much as boys' stories in other genres. But war dominated the market at the time and like most of the writers I needed the cheques. I wrote several scripts for Combat Picture Library in 1962 and became its editor, though I was also simultaneously! editor until July 1964 of Micron's Western Adventure Library, Cowboy Adventure Library, Paul Temple Library and the Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine ... all within a few years of leaving school in 1961. They were busy days but ones I enjoyed."

Here is the Raff Regan and the Glory Hunter strip from Boys' World Annual 1967.
























 






































































































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