When I was young – a looong while ago now – well it was more than a little while actually – Jesus was playing on the wing for Jerusalem and a new thing called the “abacus” was invented. --- Well back in those days before I was a modeller using paints from my dad’s shed on models to make them half an inch thick at the wings I read a lot. Being a quiet child, I know I don’t believe it either – I used to read a lot of comics, Just like a lot of young boys I guess. “The Phantom” I liked as he didn't kill anybody, used two pistols and indelible ink on his ring and somehow he didn’t die, some “Choose Your Own Adventure” books where you picked the story line amongst some others. The most enjoyment I got from reading though was from a series of comics called “Commando”…..
….I loved these little stories - of which (apparently) eight would come out every month. Being a boy in rural Queensland I didn’t get any of these new Commando’s every month – I would get second hand versions from the thrift shops that my mum had been pleaded with to “keep an eye out for” – these were my favourite and she knew it. Every now and then there was a success and mum would bring home one (of a few if I was really lucky) second hand Commando’s from the “Op shop” – I would retreat to my room and pour all over them.
From "Buccaneer Bob RN" - I loved the Artwork of Gordon Livingstone
Each comic had evocative wrap-around dynamic artwork which took you to the heart of the action. Inside was amazing black and white artwork that kept the subject firmly on action. There were stories based in the sea, land and my favourite - the air. I can say unequivocally these comics are what turned me on to modelling. Commando’s dealt with mainly World War II stories – though sometimes had throw-backs and even leap-forwards stories in space and in the future. The enemies we all knew as children (the “Jerries” and the “Japs”) made way in later titles to an ever less black and white world where some stories even told the tale from the “other” side – this taught us as children the equality of man and how everyone can better themselves. Usually the evil were punished and the meek or weak were made strong from victories – often personal. Struggles amongst an antagonist’s own comrades were told as the arrogant and bullies were exposed and the heroes’ stoic heroism was celebrated.
The artwork and light and dark really caught my eye and imagination - it inspired me to make models of the subjects brought to life in these comics
I had a favourite artist (as everyone did I was to find out later) and mine was a guy called Gordon Livingstone. Now everyone had their favourite artist but Livingstone was mine.
I loved the square shapes and detail in every frame of Livingstone's work
I liked Gordon’s style because he drew the military equipment really very well and to a young modeller’s eye made all of the straight lines look amazing and very much more detailed than I could ever draw. The stories in these comics were often just as capturing as the artwork and even though you knew everything would turn out all right you did pour over them to see what happened to your hero at the end.
From one of my own commandos - I loved the Aussies getting a "go" in Afrika - sometimes the art wasn't as amazing but the stories were always top notch.
Recently I found out who drew each of the comics – with the event of the website this information would never have become known to me. And so I went to the Commando website to read up on all of the things I didn't know as a child about the history of these stories. It seems from all of the friends I have in the modelling arena that Command comics are having a resurgence. Just like most modellers leave the hobby to get out more in their twenties a lot do come back into the hobby in later times in their lives. There is even a museum exhibition in London running until April this year "The art of War" at the National Army Museum to show off some of the old comics to those whom Commando was a part of their rites of passage on the way to adulthood.
I have found that like everything you loved in the past there is some hint of rose coloured glasses going on when it comes to seeing these again. The stories are easier to work out now as I am a little older (maybe more jaded?) I have however resumed collecting these and I am somewhere into the 300’s in my new collection – I have them somewhere where I can have a quick read and just relax. As life gets more stressful as you get older they are such a brilliant return to me to childhood joys – just like modelling they take me to another place – a place where the everyday stresses of work and “life” are placed aside. Isn’t this what hobbies are all about?
Ancient & modern stories are now embraced by Commando - with even space as a potential subject - this has attracted a whole slew of new readers to these comics
I would also urge you to visit the Commando website for an excellent editorial blog which takes you through a lot of the history and conception of these comics as well as downloadable desktops and great illustrations. For these reasons I have decided to bring you the releases of Commando’s every month – I think that a lot of modellers love them and I’Il continue to give you a Sunday fix every few weeks as they are released. I hope you enjoy looking at them
These are the releases for this month…
A minor military base in a remote corner of the British Isles would not be the place you’d expect to find a battle royal raging. And if you did, how could a group of the Home Guard’s old warriors stand up to an enemy attack.
They may have been put to the test in battles past, but that was a long time ago. And what of the Home Guard’s youngster, would he be up to the task? You can bet he would try.
Story: Mac MacDonald
Art: Carlos Pino
Cover: Carlos Pino
The history books of the First World War concentrate on events on the Western Front in France, the scene of the fiercest battles the world had ever seen. The fighting, though, was not confined to France, for all over Europe armies faced each other.
In Greece, Italians, Greeks, Austrians and Germans battled it out on the plains and in the mountains.
Into this cauldron rode British Army Lieutenant John Fielding, little guessing that some of his enemies were prepared to go beyond the normal rules of war…
Story: Alan Hebden
Cover: Janek Matysiak
“Let The Other Bloke Be The Mug”
While his 8th Army mates fought and died under the glaring desert sun of North Africa, Private Sam Deacon was content to drive a truck. Not for him the blood and guts of battle, the risk of stopping a German bullet: “Let the other bloke be the mug,” was his motto.
Then he met one of the ‘other blokes’ who wasn’t a mug — a hero who rammed those words down Deacon’s throat till he squealed for mercy — and found himself a hero too.
Introduction by Calum Laird, Commando Editor
Where would Commando have been without the combined talents of Ken Barr and Gordon Livingstone? If this story from our Gold Collection (from 50 years ago) is anything to go by, the title would have struggled. The cover, with its generous helping of yellows and oranges, leaves you in no doubt that you’re in the searing heat of the North Africa desert. Inside, the line of the art charges from the first page to the last, packed with movement and character.
We’d better not forget Eric Castle’s tale either, it’s another gold-plated cracker…which I think you should read for yourself!
Lone Hero, originally Commando No 18 (Feb 1962)
Story Eric Castle
Art Gordon Livingstone
Cover Ken Barr
Stuck in a shore job, Sub-Lieutenant Mike Wilson was desperate to see action — so desperate he even volunteered to check out an unexploded Jap bomb lodged in the hold of a merchant ship.
After surviving that ordeal, he thought serving in a sub would be a piece of cake. But with bombs, depth-charges and enemy suicide planes to contend with, he couldn’t have been more wrong!
Commando Campaign Diary No 4478
Introduction by Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor -
In this Pacific War tale we meet Sub-Lieutenant Mike Wilson. He’s a gutsy bloke for sure, but not the brightest. And he’s pretty impatient too — preferring to act before he thinks. Admirable, but very likely to get himself and his mates killed. Perhaps it’s ironic that a budding Navy officer could (literally) get out of his depth! Especially with the threat of Japanese Okha planes, with Kamikaze pilots at the controls, on the horizon. So Mike is a brave, flawed but intriguing character — but can he become a true Commando hero? Read on and find out!
Death From The Sky, originally Commando No 2129 (October 1987)
Story Allen Chalmers
Cover Ian McIntosh
"Commando: War Stories in Pictures" was launched on 6 June 1961 and is still going strong today. Now - until the end of April you can see the first issues and a lot of the history of the comic at the National Army Museum of all places!
You can still get your Commando comics from your local newsagent and also on line at their Webstore - either delivered to your door or electronically! (wow it is the future) Click the banner below to see for yourself.