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Battle picture weekly - Terror Behind the Bamboo curtain 
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Throughout 1977, there was no change whatsoever in Tiger & Scorcher's line-up of eight stories. Was that a recipe for consistency or complacency? Even the Beano refreshed with three new strips during 1977. For the new wave of comics at that time (Action, Battle, 2000 Ad, etc...) such a stagnant policy would have been unthinkable. Still, after incorporating Action, Battle had enjoyed its most consistent run with seven strips - twenty weeks in total before Joe Two Bean's swansong in the 1/4/78 cover dated issue. Yet, the remaining six strips ran side by side for another ten weeks before Major Eazy would drive his Bentley into the sunset for the final time.

With the exception of Hellman, on which Mike Dorey and Pat Wright alternated, the artists on each strip remained constant. In addition, the writing was equally uniform with a tight core of scribes: Gerry Finley-Day - Hellman & The Sarge; Alan Hebden - Major Eazy & Dredger; Tom Tully - Johnny Red & Spinball wars. While John Wagner had long given up the reins on Joe Two Beans, his successor (Scott Goodall) handled the series competently.

Such prolonged consistency in both art and writing no doubt contributed to a period of high standards through which Battle-Action hugely benefitted, and laid low any recipes for complacency.


Mon Jan 23, 2017 7:28 pm
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By April 1978, the bar as regards the standard of stories within Battle-Action (and earlier within Battle & Valiant) had been raised so high that the inevitable would happen. Achilles the Avenger happened. Succeeding a long established series, Joe Two Beans, Achilles was up against it from the start. Achilles was a story of a Greek peasant giant who was disfigured under Nazis torture. Afterwards, Achilles swore to avenge the Nazis and achieved this by avoiding a massacre of British troops. Whereas this strip might have "winged it" in Battle's first year or so, blending in with other below average strips at the time, its shortcomings were mercilessly exploited alongside the greats of Major Eazy, Johnny Red, The Sarge, and Hellman. Even Spinball Wars, which had created a greater division within the letter pages than El Mestizo, had stamped its identity by now.

Unsurprisingly, Achilles lasted all but nine episodes. Only three other series in Battle's history had failed to eclipse this number. As regards the art, not one of Battle's "Magnificent Seven" was involved; neither was any of Battle's regular writers. This series was obviously a filler and a horrible one at that. Dave Hunt, the editor at this time, had a problem: given the high standards that he had overseen, anything less would now be hung out to dry in abject failure.


Tue Jan 24, 2017 11:31 pm
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Captain Hurricane advocating animal abuse :shock: I take it with a pinch of salt; others may think differently.

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Wed Jan 25, 2017 10:10 pm
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Are there any art or writer credits for "King of the Yanks" mentioned anywhere?


Sun Jan 29, 2017 12:36 am
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Hi, Ramirez, as to your questions - Ron Carpenter was the script writer for King of the Yanks. As well writing many D-Day Dawson stories, he also wrote several short-lived serials for Battle along with Jim Watson's art: Destroyer!, Ryan's Revenge, and Cold Steele. Unfortunately, the art for King of the Yanks isn't so identifiable. Of the 17 episodes, only Stanley Houghton's work on the 25/10/75 issue is verified. The others were apparently farmed out to Alberto Giolitti who had a studio in Rome for which the likes of Massimo Bellardini (Rat Pack and multiple 2000 ad strips), Angelo Todaro (Martin's Marvellous Mini for Tiger & Scorcher), and Giancarlo Alessandrini (Terror Behind the Bamboo Curtain, no less) worked. Sadly, the main artist for King of the Yanks had no such high profile and, considering that Alberto had as many as 50 or more artists working for him, has disappeared into that drawer where the works of "Anonymous" is filed unless someone, somewhere knows different...


Tue Jan 31, 2017 1:34 am
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Battle-Action's front cover, dated 17/06/78, heralded the return of Rat Pack, the series that dominated the early issues as regards popularity. The Rat Pack had always enjoyed long runs, including a dysfunctional team-up with Major Eazy. How would this new series pan out, then? Well... um, it lasted all but 4 episodes. What? Yep, four weeks of action and... well, that was it. They wouldn't return for another 14 months. So... what was that all about? A glorious filler or what? How the mighty fell. I really can't comment further... it just didn't make sense.


Wed Feb 01, 2017 1:16 am
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After 33 weeks into Battle's merger with Valiant, One-Eyed Jack bowed out and left Valiant with only Captain Hurricane, overseeing the letter's page, to retain its ravaged identity. Conversely, 33 weeks after the merger with Action, the latter title was still bristling. A new makeover on the front cover magnified Action's logo, bucking the trend of gradually decreasing the incorporated title's moniker. And, two of the three stories that made the original transition were still running strong: Dredger and Spinball Wars.

Action's casualty was Hellman, a long running series that was always beset with problems with regard to continuity. The first of two separate storylines in Battle-Action saw Hellman in his early adventures, leading the Blitzkrieg through Western Europe to Dunkirk and later in Greece. These episodes were of standard fare. The stories that took Hellman back to the Russian Front and later followed his retreat to Berlin, reuniting Hellman with his villainous crew, unequivocally strengthened the series and provided a gutsy impetus and character that it previously lacked. Yet, the carousel of artists on this series must have frustrated the readers even though the personnel involved were of top-notch quality: Mike Dorey (Hellman's original artist), Pat Wright, and Jim Watson (members of Battle's Magnificent 7, no less).

Personally, I struggled to cast my preference between Dorey's dirty, earthy grittiness and Wright's bleak, grim realism. However, ideally, you would still wish for one or the other to remain as the constant artist. From 32 episodes, Hellman's artist tally was as follows: Wright - 15, Dorey - 11, Watson - 6. These statistics weren't healthy for any series. Still, for Dorey to finish off the series that he started was a nice touch.


Thu Feb 02, 2017 9:12 pm
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geoff42 wrote:
Hi, Ramirez, as to your questions - Ron Carpenter was the script writer for King of the Yanks. As well writing many D-Day Dawson stories, he also wrote several short-lived serials for Battle along with Jim Watson's art: Destroyer!, Ryan's Revenge, and Cold Steele. Unfortunately, the art for King of the Yanks isn't so identifiable. Of the 17 episodes, only Stanley Houghton's work on the 25/10/75 issue is verified. The others were apparently farmed out to Alberto Giolitti who had a studio in Rome for which the likes of Massimo Bellardini (Rat Pack and multiple 2000 ad strips), Angelo Todaro (Martin's Marvellous Mini for Tiger & Scorcher), and Giancarlo Alessandrini (Terror Behind the Bamboo Curtain, no less) worked. Sadly, the main artist for King of the Yanks had no such high profile and, considering that Alberto had as many as 50 or more artists working for him, has disappeared into that drawer where the works of "Anonymous" is filed unless someone, somewhere knows different...


Thanks for the info Geoff... :cheers:


Fri Feb 03, 2017 7:19 am
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As the co-creator of Battle and developer of its debut series, penning many one-off scripts, Pat Mills only served up his first true series in earnest after the passing of 175 issues. The July 15th 1978 cover dated issue brought back "Operation Shark" that was placed on hiatus when Valiant merged, and two new stories: "Crazy Keller" and Pat Mill's "Samurai" - a series with a Japanese protagonist.

While its self-contained stories gave the series an episodic feel, Carlos Cruz's solid art augmented an interesting concept. Ultimately, Pat grew disenchanted with the series and felt that, inherently he was unable to grasp the cultural mind-set of a Japanese soldier. Undoubtedly noble and valiant, the hero (Tanaka) depicted a coldness with which readers in the main struggled to embrace. When matched up with the rousing passion of Johnny Red and the colourful ensemble cast within the ranks of The Sarge (two strips wherein death was devastation and a horror to behold), Samurai, conversely, pitched a skewed idea of warriors who eagerly volunteered for kamikaze raids and, in face of dishonour, were more than prepared to thrust a sword inwards. Johnny Red and The Sarge were blessed with an enriched character for which the readers clamoured, ensuring longevity. In the end, it was difficult to root for a hero who is mentally geared up for hari kari.

As for the second new story, Crazy Keller, Alan Hebden grasped what Pat couldn't and delivered with regard to character and what the readers wanted. Of course, Pat would have the last laugh with Charley's War.


Fri Feb 10, 2017 8:22 pm
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When Action introduced Hellman, a war story that heralded a German protagonist, there was unease within IPC's management. By 1976, there were still many surviving veterans from the Second World War and, understandably, a sensitive issue to afford over a British comic that was prepared to promote a fictional German hero. Hot on the heels of Hellman, Fighter From The Sky appeared in Battle - a series that featured a disgraced German Paratrooper. Shortly after that series ended, Gerry Finley-Day was writing his third German-featured hero: Panzer G-Man. Later, Pat Mills would write a short-lived series from the Japanese viewpoint - Samurai.

Of all the aforementioned, a common trait was apparent: a noble honour that bestowed the enemy, particularly the British soldiers, with utmost respect. Any members of a supporting cast that expressed otherwise were always heading to Hell with a one-way ticket. The stage was set for something different and, once again, Gerry Finley-Day thrust another German into our midst - Skreamer Of The Stukas, debuting in Battle's cover dated issue of 16/09/78. In contrast to previous series, Otto Skreamer was no hero. In fact, he was a downright psychotic. If the opportunity to bomb allied forces was denied, Otto was more than eager to seek out civilian victims. In addition, he was sharp to admonish his kinsmen who dared to shy from his murderous dives. Having no redeeming qualities whatsoever, Otto was a complete abhorrence and an affront to the veterans of that era. Yet, Gerry had an ace with which to counter this dangerous, subversive offering: Jimmy Fletcher, a young boy whose father was slain by Otto during the Dunkirk evacuation and, if that wasn't enough reason for revenge, whose mum and sister were killed when Otto knowingly targeted a civilian train.

Splitting the narrative between Otto and Jimmy would have assuaged any vociferous cries to string up Gerry. And, without giving away the ending, a clairvoyant would not be required to foresee how this story would play out. Still, Gerry pushed the boundaries a little further with this series, and Battle's edge was far from blunt in the latter months of 1978.

As a side note, Rossendo Franch drew this series whose brother, Jordi, contributed art to the girl's comic "Spellbound".


Sun Feb 26, 2017 8:19 pm
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Unquestionably, there are similarities between the two unruly officers, and it's no surprise that Alan Hebden scripted both series. A meeting between the two (as suggested in the reply to the above letter) would have been interesting and could even have materialized, considering that the Major had teamed up with the Rat Pack in the past. Alas, the Major's co-creator and artist, Carlos Equerra, had bid Battle farewell with the last Major Eazy story in the cover-dated issue of 10/06/78 to work on Starlord and, later, 2000 AD. A Major Eazy story illustrated by another was inconceivable. Ezquerra even drew an original Eazy story in Battle Annual 1978, an unusual practice for an era when additional strips outside the weeklies were handled by alternative artists.

Still, while facing an impossible task of dethroning Eazy as the "King of the Mavericks", Captain Crazy Keller was an erstwhile character that gained popularity - a US radio signals man who, along with sidekick "Aerial", drove around recklessly in a jeep to confound the Germans while, also, affording equal effort in securing black market goods to facilitate financial reward. Many an allied supply depot unwillingly yielded its stock to Keller's dubious ambitions. Not unlike Eazy, Keller wasn't averse to making deals with the Germans in order to profit from illicit bounty.

The running joke throughout the series was the name with which Keller named his jeep - Scoot 3. An abrupt backlash would slap anyone who dared to enquire about Scoot 1 & 2. An obvious comparison with Eazy's priceless Bentley weaved many a humorous tale. And, as a final homage to Eazy, Keller was granted the coloured centre pages to kick off his unorthodox adventures.

While Ezquerra had literally departed for the future, Eric Bradbury had grasped the reins of Captain Keller's art with a solid grip. Following a long run on Joe Two Beans, Eric would direct Keller's fortunes for a good 12 months and complement the two long running series of Johnny Red and The Sarge who had, by then, cemented an enduring legacy.


Sat Mar 04, 2017 7:18 pm
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Both writers and artists for Battle-Action had to be most thorough in their research of World War Two weaponry and armaments. Eagle-eyed readers were all too eager to point out inaccuracies. Even seizing upon incorrect dates and spelling mistakes, as shown in the above letters (all printed in the same issue), exhibited a strange zealousness that contradicted Battle's generic readership of its time.

This only serves to demonstrate that Battle was far more than just a vehicle for bloodthirsty boys who enjoyed bombs and bullets. In concession, bombs and bullets were rife throughout the ravaged streets of Stalingrad in this particular issue of Johnny Red (29/10/78). However, the scenes of the seriously wounded Russians, propped against barricades to form a hopeless line of defence against advancing tanks, projected a powerful image of humane tragedy that far outweighed the action panels where bullet-riddled bodies collapsed among flying debris. Joe Colquoun's art excelled here in illustrating the horrors of war.

In the same issue, another popular member from The Sarge's section fell victim to a thrusting bayonet, serving to remind the reader that there was little if any glory in Battle.


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Sun Mar 19, 2017 2:37 am
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Geoff, I don't post on this thread very often but please be assured that I constantly refer to it as I read through my Battle collection. Don't stop!


Sun Mar 19, 2017 10:16 am
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Hi, Adam, how's the reading of your Battle collection going? Have you reached 1977 yet which, I believe, is the year that Battle starts cranking up the gears.


Wed Mar 22, 2017 3:01 pm
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geoff42 wrote:
Hi, Adam, how's the reading of your Battle collection going? Have you reached 1977 yet which, I believe, is the year that Battle starts cranking up the gears.


I've taken a break recently as loads of new stuff came in that I couldn't resist. I left early in '76 but I'm intending to start again soon as it's almost like a favourite TV series ending after a season and the anticipation felt when the new series is about to start!


Fri Mar 24, 2017 12:13 pm
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