Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Commando: The Survivor!

The Wrong Enemy

One of the most famous and long running British comics is the pocket book size Commando published by DC Thomson, who also issue The Beano which is now the worlds longest running comic book. Both of these titles survive on our newsagents shelves to this day.

Commando has four issues published every fortnight which includes two new stories along with one "silver" reprint from 25 years ago and one "gold" featuring a story from the earlier days of this great comic.

Back in the sixties and seventies this was just one of a whole range of "pocket book" libraries that we used to buy and swap with our mates. These little comics always had a complete self contained story and were always more gritty than their American (or weekly British) counterparts because the heroes didn't always survive. 

Out Of Time Dive And Kill!

While most of these titles (including Commando) focused on the Second World War, there were stories from other conflicts over the years mainly the First World War, but also Korea and in more modern times tales from further back in history such as the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. amongst others.

The Eagles Ride 

There were also science fiction stories and one series about a lost Roman Legion which I'll leave for another day.

The Wrong Enemy (Commando #4886) is a tale about an Italian soldier and his change of sides from fighting the British in North Africa to the Nazi's in his home country. This story was originally published in 1991 and like all the reprints carries a disclaimer about politically incorrect language.

Deadly Pursuit  Night Prowl

There's certainly plenty of these to collect given the numbering will reach 5000 issues later this year and with the variety of conflicts covered there should be something for everyone to enjoy.


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Growing up with comics in the sixties

The first memory of actually being given a comic of any sort was when my father brought home a copy of Wham! #1 which was back in 1964 when I was around six or seven. This wasn't the first comic I had or read but the beginning of an interest that I have pursued for most of my life (with a couple of inevitable gaps) until my late childhood as I approach 60.

As a child growing up in the sixties entertainment was somewhat limited. Only two TV channels until BBC 2 came on the scene and other than Saturday mornings/lunchtimes not much to watch there either and there was no Internet. Even the science fiction novels I began to read later on didn't even reference such a thing and the use of "video phones" was clearly in the world of fiction.

How little we knew then..

However there was one form of entertainment readily available in every newsagents in town.



There were lots of them too. I became a major fan of what eventually turned into the "Power Comics" line of which Wham! was just the first. Smash! and Pow! were soon to appear. But these were not the only comics either available or that I read.


One of my earliest interests were American comics which unlike British ones were in full colour and featured the adventures of Superman, Batman, Hawkman and many others that have over the years remained staple favourites.


There were also the early Marvel comics and I was introduced to them in the main through their great value reprint titles such as Marvel Collectors Item Classics and Marvel Tales. These contained the early adventures of the Fantastic Four, Doctor Strange and the Ditko drawn Spider-Man who in my opinion was the best artist old Spidey ever had.


DC published their 80 Page Giants and other publishers appeared in the spinning racks our newsagents use to have that attracted this young reader to the joys of The Fly and The Mighty Crusaders (Archie), Blue Beetle and Captain Atom (Charlton) and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents amongst others.


British comics were aplenty. I often purchased stalwarts such as Lion, Valiant and TV 21 but in those days there were far to many to choose from (we should be so lucky today!).


For a giggle The Beezer, Topper and Buster also joined the growing pile in my room. Sadly like so many others these did not stay with me after childhood. A common complaint of my generation.


As a kid I didn't realise how lucky we were in the UK. Not only did we get American comics we had our own. The variety on the market was fantastic. Every genre was covered from war (in those little pocket size editions that used to get passed around) to sports, not my cup of tea but highly popular with my mates.


Then there were the Summer Specials and Annuals which appeared during the summer holidays and Christmas respectively.


As you might expect Wham! and Smash! annuals were on my list to Santa every year.


My interest in comics waned in the early seventies but both Cor!! and Whizzer and Chips made their way into my hands.


For me and many others, the sixties this was a true golden age of comics.


Saturday, 6 February 2016

Space Family Robinson Annual (1967)

One of the odder Annuals issued by World Distributors  were the three Space Family Robinson editions between 1965 and 1967. This series was based on a Gold Key series launched in 1962 and despite it's name was not a tie in to the Lost In Space TV programme that also featured a certain "Robinson Family" plus the indomitable Dr Smith without whom many an adventure may not have taken place.


Rumoured to have been an "inspiration" for the TV show it even adopted the tag "Lost In Space" later in it's run. This "tie in" was abit misleading because the comic was never based on the TV show. Later picked up by Whitman Space Family Robinson ended as a reprint title until it's demise in 1982.


Sadly this Annual is mainly text stories with just one comic strip reprinted from Space Family Robinson #13 (1965). The story The Pit of Doom is passable with simplistic art even for the time published.

The 1965 edition seems to be the one to try and collect but the 1967 Annual (published in 1966) is an interesting addition to anyone's collection.


Friday, 5 February 2016

The Phantom #47 (Charlton/1971)

The Phantom #47 (Charlton)

No credits (w) & (a)

Charlton published comics in virtually genre possible over the years. One of it's longer running properties was The Phantom, stories of "the ghost who walks" and lived in the jungles of a fictional land called Bengali presumed to be somewhere in Africa.

Originally created in 1936 The Phantom was one of the longer lasting "pulp" and comic characters created appearing in adventures across the media including of course comic books!  The run of which this issue is a part originally started as a publication by Gold Key in 1962.

Gold Key's tenure lasted 17 issues until 1966 when the licence passed to King Features (owners of Popeye) where it lasted for a further 11 issues.


Charlton took over the helm after a break in publishing in 1969, where The Phantom lasted a respectable 45 issues until 1977.

The stories are exactly what you might expect. Pirates, giant gorillas, savage tribes, adventurers  and in the case of the issue I picked up, a long hidden underground civilisation under the earth.


As a lad I never purchased any of these but did read the reprints in the Alan Class black & white books published over here in the sixties and seventies. I understand there was a little problem of not having permission from King Features over this and other properties such as Mandrake.

Oh and there was a cracking movie made in 1996 that's worth watching, especially for the scene where the phantom jumps from a plane onto the back of a horse. Don't try that at home. Besides being bloody dangerous you'd probably break the horses back.

Stick to comics. No one really gets hurt there, it's all just fiction right.....

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Tarzan Family #60 (DC/1975)

Tarzan Family #60 (DC Comics)

Various (w) & (a)

One of the heroes that most of us grew up with in the sixties and seventies was Tarzan, the ape-man who lived "somewhere" in the African jungle and had been brought up by apes who found him as a baby. Films and TV series galore were made to entertain us with sights of exotic animals, savage tribes, hidden civilisations and even journeys to the centre of the Earth.

The fact he made a splash in the world of comics (and newspaper strips) is hardly surprising. Several publishers, Gold Key, DC and even Marvel obtained the licence though the last adventures printed that I am aware of were from Dark Horse a decade or so ago.


One of the more interesting (if short lived titles) was Tarzan Family published by DC in the mid-seventies. Not only was it led by Korak, Son of Tarzan it also contained other Edgar Rice Burroughs creations Carson of Venus, John Carter of Mars and Amazon of Barsoom.

The transformation of the regular Korak comic into a "Giant" enabled DC to expand the roster. This first issue also tells the origin of Carson of Venus who in a botched attempt to go to Mars ends up on Venus. Now you know.

You also get to see how Martians are born (from eggs) in Amazon of Barsoom and meet the first female warrior.

The issue also contains reprints of some Tarzan newspaper strips from 1932!

Great fun, if somewhat dated.

Sadly this comic lasted just 9 issues before DC had it's infamous "implosion! due to falling sales and financial problems.