Robert Fleming, Curator of Fine and Decorative Art, National Army Museum
[Picture: Harland Quarrington, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]

Meant to post this last week. This piece in UK MOD daily feed took me back to my own days of reading war comics.

The UK’s National Army Museum is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Commando Comics, which has used graphic storytelling to celebrate Britain’s military heritage. While war comics may strike some as crude, jingoistic, hackneyed and unworthy examples of art, the exhibit makes the case that these comics are important repositories of an ethos and morality that any soldier or would-be soldier would identify with:

“OK, the themes may be simple, but they do present you with the tough questions of morality and the hard choices troops have to make in times of conflict.

As you turn the pages you ask yourself if you would discover the strength of character to do the right thing and help get your mates through it all, like the everyman heroes in the stories – just as many of us wonder if we would be able to crack on like our troops who are on operations when the going gets tough.

War is not glorified, nor is it trivialised. What is celebrated is that, in the face of adversity, given the right circumstances, normal human beings can be heroic. As Commando’s editor Calum Laird says:

“It’s about the ordinary bloke in extraordinary circumstances.”

Readers of Mad Padre wishing to waste a little time are encouraged to visit the Commando comics website here.

0 Responses

  1. I remember all those years ago as a boy (about 3 years ago) picking up these amazing comics for 50p in WHSmith's in my home town. Admittedly, back then it was mainly for the frames that had Germans engulfed in clouds of smoke crying 'Gott im Himmell' or some such tomfoolery, but this has made me think.

    Yes it may be 'cheesy', but that's only because it's a comic. If you found yourself in some of those situations for real you find the test of moral/physical courage assumes a deadly seriousness. Although the role of the 'boy's comic' might have changed over the last 60 years, the 'could I do that?' question is just as valid today as it was back in the Second World War.

  2. In the back of DC's Sgt Rock of Easy Co., I believe, was a short featuring life on a Fletcher class destroyer, USS Stevens. Naval themes being rare in war comics (or whatever the genre goes by) I thought it was a great addition. Marvel eventually published two volumes of the series, which I see were written and drawn by a WWII Stevens' vet.

    When I had the chance to work for the National Park Service on the Fletcher class USS Cassin Young, I recommended these books to the park bookstore. They, too,must have found them worthy, as I noticed them there on a visit some years back and found them referenced in park literature.

    I agree with Col. Scipio that the themes and self-assessment that youth can get through them is the great value. The better ones aren't bad history, either.

  3. I find it very comforting – at my age (blimey! I'm 50 now, how did that happen?) that Commando comics are still around. I saw some on a display outside a local news agent and it made me smile. I was a fan of the Victor and Battle comics (before I caught the AD2000 bug) and my favourite characters were Captain Hurricane and The Bootneck Boy.