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Battle picture weekly - Terror Behind the Bamboo curtain 
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Joined: Thu Aug 23, 2012 10:41 am
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philcom55 wrote:
Tammyfan wrote:
I suspect boys were more comfortable with reading Misty and maybe even admitting it because it was a spooky/horror comic and therefore not considered 'soppy girls' stuff'.

To be honest I generally liked 'soppy girls' stuff' when I was a boy in the 1960s, but I'd have been scared stiff to buy a copy of Bunty for fear of what the newsagent would think - imagining him banning me from the premises and writing letters to my parents and headmaster! It really was a different world when any evidence of gender noncomformity could result in people being subjected to brutal regimes of aversion 'therapy'! Things had certainly improved when Misty appeared in the 1970s, but not by that much...! :shock:

Pat Mills reckons if he ran Misty the way he wanted she would still be around, just as 2000AD is. If she were still in the shops I wonder what her fandom would look like and whether her male readers would be proud to call themselves as such. It would be nice to think so.

Could a Misty revival happen in some form or other? We've had the brief stint of the fanzine Halloween specials, the official Halloween special, and now it's the reprint volumes and Scream & Misty special. I suspect a Misty Volume III is in the works too.


Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:42 am
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Hi, Tammyfan: oh boy, you're not going like this but: whatever Pat Mils (my Godstar, by the way) could have woven with Misty, it still would not have endured today as 2000 AD. Why? The girls had moved on in the nineties. They really couldn't be bothered with comics as the "aged" boys could. That's why Bunty folded. It's no secret that girls mature far more quickly than boys. They go on to like more cosmopolitan magazines that yield more "it's your life and enjoy it while you can!" The one reason why 2000 AD has enjoyed such longevity is down to the 50+ readers who continually buy it to assuage their infancy. Judge Dredd is another. The Girl's comics never had an enduring character as Judge Dredd to embrace. That's why Victor, Battle and many other publications went south. Dandy was forced to give up the ghost with so little interest. Beano endures due to its forefather's legacy, of which I experienced from my own father. The 50+ male readers never moved on from buying 2000 AD... I know, it's kind of sad but... they keep it alive... for now. As for Misty, even with Pat Mills in charge, it would not have survived the nineties. Remember, in the early nineties, Pat Mills tried to challenge 2000 AD with Toxic and we know how that panned out... it did kick 2000 AD into going all colour, by the way.


Sun Oct 08, 2017 1:26 am
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geoff42 wrote:
Hi, Tammyfan: oh boy, you're not going like this but: whatever Pat Mils (my Godstar, by the way) could have woven with Misty, it still would not have endured today as 2000 AD. Why? The girls had moved on in the nineties. They really couldn't be bothered with comics as the "aged" boys could. That's why Bunty folded. It's no secret that girls mature far more quickly than boys. They go on to like more cosmopolitan magazines that yield more "it's your life and enjoy it while you can!" The one reason why 2000 AD has enjoyed such longevity is down to the 50+ readers who continually buy it to assuage their infancy. Judge Dredd is another. The Girl's comics never had an enduring character as Judge Dredd to embrace. That's why Victor, Battle and many other publications went south. Dandy was forced to give up the ghost with so little interest. Beano endures due to its forefather's legacy, of which I experienced from my own father. The 50+ male readers never moved on from buying 2000 AD... I know, it's kind of sad but... they keep it alive... for now. As for Misty, even with Pat Mills in charge, it would not have survived the nineties. Remember, in the early nineties, Pat Mills tried to challenge 2000 AD with Toxic and we know how that panned out... it did kick 2000 AD into going all colour, by the way.


Yes, I am not so sure that Pat was right when he reckoned Misty would still be around if he had run it the way he wanted. It is more likely she would have lasted longer than she did.


Sun Oct 08, 2017 2:56 am
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I don't know. When you look at current American comics there really does seem to be a startling growth in the number of female readers and the range of comics aimed at them; what's more many of these appear to be quite successful in the UK as well when they are reprinted.


Sun Oct 08, 2017 4:01 am
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philcom55 wrote:
I don't know. When you look at current American comics there really does seem to be a startling growth in the number of female readers and the range of comics aimed at them; what's more many of these appear to be quite successful in the UK as well when they are reprinted.

That's good to hear. But why are there no girls' title like there used to be?


Sun Oct 08, 2017 5:00 am
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Tammyfan wrote:
But why are there no girls' title like there used to be?

Sadly, apart from Romance comics, there never were any comics aimed specifically at young girls in America, certainly not in the style of Bunty or Tammy - and for better or worse the American model seems to have become the dominant one everywhere today. I guess you could argue that female super heroes are a logical development of the Feminist search for suitably empowered role models, but I can't help feeling that something equally important was lost when the British girls' comics died out. Fortunately there do seem to be a handful of American titles like Ms Marvel, Courtney Crumrin, Princess Ugg and Paper Girls which have finally attempted to combine elements of the British and American traditions.


Sun Oct 08, 2017 10:11 am
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I'm now currently 28 episodes into H.M.S. Nightshade and amazed at John Wagner (the writer) with regard to his discipline on this series. The gradual building of an ensemble cast has been delightful to read - a cast that is, more intriguing, still breathing. Many a time after the new arrival of a new character, I've thought: here we go - summon the undertaker. The undertaker is still drumming his fingers upon Nightshade's deck (figuratively speaking) and casting his mind back to the hey-days when Wagner was busily killing off his cast from Darkie's Mob with unnerving alacrity. Sometimes, two main members of the mob would meet with a sudden ending in one episode. With every ensuing episode, the reader was undoubtedly thinking: who's next for the chop?

Nightshade launched with the arrival of three characters, raw recruits that included the main protagonist - Geordie Dunn, who would later in life recount his exploits to his grandson. Since then, it would feature an eclectic mix - a lone dog was plucked from the open sea and quickly accommodated and christened "Dogfish", and whose barking soon provided the crew with an early warning system for oncoming enemy aircraft. A vicar with a more-than-jolly-predisposition, despite barely surviving a torpedoed ship upon which he was travelling, settled himself incongruously within the ranks. The most amusing peripheral character has to be "Never-gonna-make-it-Brown" who relentlessly bemoans that: "Nightshade will not survive its next attack!" With every mission, he insists on writing his letter to his relatives. Unsurprisingly, Brown is not a favourite among the crew.

For several episodes, a bully emerged from the ranks - a bald-headed, looking brute called Parsons who clashed with Geordie Dunn. As this storyline progressed, I was convinced that the aforementioned undertaker would finally reach for his measuring tape. While this sub-plot was by no means original, the denouement diverged from the predictable path that many other stories would have taken in the past and future. Though eventually taken down a peg or two from Geordie's fists, Parsons (the bully) wasn't summarily pushed off-panel, never to be seen again, or killed off. He's still there in the cast and far from cow-tailed but, at the same time, he's no longer thrust into Geordie's face as a continual nemesis who goes onto dominate the series. He's just there... simmering and cursing, keeping the readers on their toes.

And Wagner keeps the readers on their toes with his layering of sub-plots of which he is in no hurry to resolve. This was no formulaic writing to which the readers of the seventies were accustomed. Though a constant sense of foreboding was cast over Nightshade, Wagner managed to weave a subliminal pen that could detract from an expectancy that should have been required on the reader's behalf and still, rather than frustrate, entrance the same readers to persist with a "classic-in-the-making". Wagner shifted the art of comic writing (along with Pat Mills - Charley's War) to an unbelievable level in Battle and that would inevitably crunch the gears in later 2000 AD stories, notably Judge Dredd. I've yet to read the full series of Nightshade but I sincerely hope that most of his intriguing ensemble cast make it... even Parsons!


Tue Oct 17, 2017 12:46 am
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A solid stability endured within Battle-Action for most of 1979, tethering no less than seven strips for long runs within its pages. Occasionally, one of the series would take a week's leave and grant a complete story to break the consistent stranglehold. While this period of dominance from Charley's War, H.M.S. Nightshade, Johnny Red, The Sarge, Crazy Keller, Glory Rider, and The Spinball Wars (a list of my favourites in descending order, actually) could have easily attached a pipe and a pair of slippers to Battle's covers as mounted free gifts (perhaps a liquorice pipe to obviate the under age issue), the danger of complacency with familiarity was held at bay from headquarters. Battle was on a roll, marshalling a fine line between those readers who had remained from its first issue (complementing an ongoing maturity with Charley's War and H.M.S. Nightshade) and its newer, younger audience (exciting their thirst for direct action with Glory Rider, Crazy Keller and The Spinball Wars). Any reader who was struggling to throw in his lot with this subtle-tiered (not to mention age-related) narrative had Johnny Red and The Sarge with which to embrace. As posted earlier in the thread, even girls were unashamedly writing in to declare their growing affinity with Battle.

The downside to the longevity of a full cast: it prohibits me from writing something new :P :soapbox: I mean, I can only write so much about Charley, Nightshade, and Johnny before I start to sound like a parrot. Still, at least I know that I'm in for a good read as 1979 unfolds.


Sat Oct 21, 2017 1:40 am
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Glory Rider has just celebrated Christmas 1944 in Battle's 14/07/79 cover-date issue. If that was strange, the strip had but embraced the previous festivities around four months ago in 1979. Obviously, the strip was fast approaching its denouement. Gerry Finley-Day (the writer) had a tendency to lead his protagonists in a direct line from the beginning of World War II through to its end in April 1945 without recourse for any reflection - as in Fighter From the Sky, Panzer G-Man and Skreamer of the Stukas (all German characters) and Bootneck Boy from Battle's launch. As with the aforementioned, Glory Rider's path was somewhat predictable even though the strip's genuine hero, Sergeant Hilts, was always at hand to counter a sense of morality alongside Rider's egotistical journey. While Carlos Cruz provided well-defined, solid pencils to the series, Glory Rider unfolded in a traditional mode - feeding the readers with an ongoing desire to see the villain of the piece get his just-desserts in the end that intensified with every episode. Gerry was undoubtedly aware that this type of "pantomime" narrative still had a place in comics and he wrung every trick in the book to supplement his objective. For the reader, it was a case of "I've seen this film so many times but... I still want to see the ending."

Curiously, the one strip in Battle where Gerry deviated from a pre-destined end was The Sarge.. Again, this strip began from the outbreak of war and aimed its sights firmly on a long, inevitable road to April 1945. However, along the way, Gerry suddenly braked and began to play with the assembled cast that he had created. Travelling from A to B to Z was no longer a prerequisite for he had met with unexpected depth on which he hadn't originally calculated. Gerry eventually abandoned the series, handing the script duties to Scott Goodall. I'm unsure whether or not this was down to Dave Hunt's (the editor) decision. Perhaps Gerry had grown bored or was aggrieved that Mike Western (the artist) was taken off the series to focus on John Wagner's H.M.S. Nightshade. Thereafter, Gerry went on to write Glory Rider and reverted to his formulaic ways.

It's interesting to note that Pat Mills, who has continually praised Gerry for his contribution to British comics, implied that Gerry couldn't adapt to "modern" writing and, after the mid-late eighties, his work more or less ground to a halt. By then, the traditional comic was nearing its end and there was no clamour anymore for a traditional writer. I've yet to see the end of Glory Rider but, courtesy of Gerry, I have an idea of how it will close in April 1945.


Sun Oct 29, 2017 10:52 pm
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Inside Battle's 21st July 1979 cover date issue, three pages dominated this particular week. Charley celebrated his 17th birthday, wearing a gas mask. At the same time, a member of the ensemble cast "Pops" who had lost two sons earlier in the war, had become disorientated and was addressing Charley and Ginger as his sons. Typically, Ginger was all too eager to disillusion the old soldier whereas Charley was more than accommodating. Suddenly, their trench was under bombardment from friendly fire. The commanding officer desperately sent "runners" to call off the fire. Meanwhile, Pops was blown up and lost his legs. In his dying breath, he instructed Charley (still under the illusion that he was addressing his elder son) to uphold a good character in life. Charley had no time to grieve for he suddenly volunteered to be the thirteenth "runner" to get a message through and stop the friendly bombardment. Of course, Ginger had no intentions of volunteering and deemed Charley a mad man for doing so.

Wow, back in those days, the action was thick and fast. Yet, in those days, that was always the case - dilute as much story within three pages. The difference was that with Charley's War, Pat Mills invariably packed a subtle, pathos punch in those several pages. Had Pat the luxury of writing Charley's War in a greater format, would he have achieved the same result? It's debatable. Back in the Seventies and early Eighties, Pat was working with a very tight framework that dictated his writing at the time. It was concise, straight to the point and given no time to... actually, Pat gave himself space on which to reflect and weave a sense of remorse while cracking on with the expected action that was demanded. He did it well, given the restrictions, and obviated a sense of a contrived storyline in doing so. Brevity was the key with both plot and action in a traditional comic of that decade, but Mills transcended the formulae to deliver something far more deep and poignant while appeasing the premise of a three-page contribution that tradition had outlined... ordinarily. But by then, Pat had already outfoxed tradition and knew how to engage a reader without its confines... even in three pages.


Thu Nov 02, 2017 1:54 am
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No matter how many Battle readers wrote in to air their contempt over The Spinball Wars, the series always had a resolute fan base who were prepared to back it (as shown below from Battle Stations of the August 4th cover date issue).

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The fan base must have been strong considering that the SF strip boasted an unnatural longevity in a war comic - 86 episodes and counting at present! The only other two non-war series that had graced Battle's pages by mid-late 1979 (One-Eyed Jack and Dredger) accounted for less episodes combined. I've often wondered whether or not this fan base was made up of mostly former "Action" readers. They were certainly prevalent as requests for the return of Dredger and even Hook-Jaw invariably appeared in Battle Stations. As yet, I've yet to encounter request for "Look Out for Lefty" but then... Battle did earlier intertwine a football/war-related narrative in "The Team that went to War". Perhaps, Lefty's grandpa could have discovered a time machine in his junk yard, slipped into a "Dad's Army" uniform and... no, even Battle knew its limitations... or did it? The Spinball Wars was really out there, dangling on an incongruous limb. This was no problem for writer, Tom Tully, who was scripting Johnny Red at the same time along with Roy of the Rovers. As for the artist, Ron Turner; he was accomplished in drawing SF strips. In the main, it were the established Battle readers who bristled with this audacious intrusion. Initially, they must have expected a quick exit for this strip following the merger of Battle-Action. Instead, it not only hung around to bait the natives but also gathered enough support to bolster an erstwhile resistance against Battle's original ethos. The series pro-offered plenty of action, conflict and explosions... still, the bikes and the helmets may have raised the hackles not to mention the actual game of spinball.


Thu Nov 23, 2017 3:08 pm
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Rat Pack burst back into the pages of Battle's September 18th 1979 cover-date issue after a lengthy absence. Hardened criminals due for a long sentence turned commandos for suicidal missions behind enemy lines with a view of securing eventual liberty (if they were to survive their countless, suicidal missions), the Rats were an instant hit from the moment when Battle was launched and, for the next two years and three months, chalked up no less than 80 episodes including a team-up series with Major Eazy. Battle was their oyster or so it seemed. Virtually a year passed by before the Rats returned in June 1978 for a meagre 4 episodes before scurrying back into the sewers, which would have made no sense whatsoever for the contemporary fans - a former, major serial that was reduced to "gap-filler" support strip.

Yet, by 1978, Battle's landscape had shifted. D-Day Dawson (Rat Pack's main rival from Battle's first year), The Bootneck Boy and The Eagle (both long-running series between 1975 and 1977) were no longer around to evoke any sentiment. In addition, new stars had cast a withering shadow over the "blood, guts and at 'em lads" reputation from which the Rats had earned their early success. From the sublime "Major Eazy" to the chilling, disturbing "Darkie's Mob" through to the passionate, riveting fervour of "Johnny Red", the Rat's antics were beginning to verge on the "slapstick". And then, during their latter hiatus, Battle had subtly nudged the gears further with the harrowing tragic-horror of "Charley's War" and the intensely woven drama of "HMS Nightshade".

But Battle was prepared to unleash the Rats for what would be their swansong series. This time, they only had four pages (no centre colour pages) on which to fill their commando boots and ire rather than the nominal six to which they were accustomed. Yet, on first impressions, this new format engendered a tighter script and played to their unified strength. And, at last, they had a consistent artist in Eric Bradbury to not only pro-offer a much-needed grittiness but also a degree of continuity that they had always lacked. Although Massimo Belardinelli made a supreme effort in the Rat's last major outing, supplying 13 six-page episodes from a total of 19, his art was more suited for science fiction and fantasy and invariably burdened the Rats with an outlandish, cartoony "feel". Unfortunately, Carlos Ezquerra who had afforded the Rats with an unmistakable edge, wouldn't touch them after the Major Eazy team-up back in early 1977, and actually stated that he felt no affinity towards them unlike his enduring affection for the Major. Besides, by 1979, Carlos had moved on to Starlord and 2000 AD.

Still, now they were meaner, leaner and hungrier, the Rats provided Battle with more bite and, undoubtedly, afforded the readers of the time with a little more after the closure of Crazy Keller who had divided them. Interestingly, after both Keller and Glory Rider had ended, Spinball Wars continued to baffle those war-hardened readers. You know the saying... can't please everyone at the same time.


Wed Dec 06, 2017 1:41 am
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