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Battle picture weekly - Terror Behind the Bamboo curtain 
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At the moment, I feel somewhat in an enviable position. While I read "Charley's War" from the beginning until around 1981, I have little or no memory of how the series played out. Therefore, essentially, I'm now reading the whole series for the first time in a weekly format. Of course, I'm not reading it without any preconceptions. This series is critically acclaimed and laden with accolades. Still, after the first two episodes, I was less than impressed. My thinking was: well, it ain't pulling up any trees, yet. For the third episode, in Battle's 20/01/79 cover dated issue, here's the entry that I wrote in my Battle notebook.

Charley's War (Epsd. 3 - 3 pgs) (Script: Pat Mills/Art: Joe Colquhoun)

"Pinned down by a sniper in no-man's land, Charley shares a shell-hole and a sing-along with a mortally wounded Alf Partridge."

The sniper provided the episode with danger and tension and, yet, was largely side-lined. The focus was on Charley and his brief, poignant interaction with dying Alf. There was no blazing action that had seized the contemporary and popular strips of that week: Johnny Red, The Sarge and Crazy Keller. But this particular episode struck something deep that I can't quite define. It most definitely elevated the series above the others, even Johnny Red. Still, I know that I must have read this very same episode as a 12 year old boy, but I have no memory of it. As a 12 year old, would I have "got it"? Probably not. I certainly have now. It took three episodes, mind. :roll:


Fri Apr 21, 2017 12:58 am
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H.M.S. Nightshade reunited John Wagner and Mike Western, a story of Geordie Dunn who narrated to his grandson about his young naval exploits aboard Nightshade. While lacking the edge of their previous collaboration "Darkie's Mob", Nightshade conveyed a tone that was not too dissimilar to its contemporary debut strip "Charley's War". The weaving strips of innocent comradeship, meshing the unspoken fears and quiet desperation of young soldiers, underline an uneasy foreboding in the way that only true characterisation is able to manage. In short, the story primes the heart strings for an inevitable plucking.

Unfortunately, Western struggled with his weekly count of 4 pages to the extent that Ron Timer was assigned to ink the last 2 pages of each episode. Notwithstanding this forced addition, the deterioration of quality with regards to the art on these latter pages was more than apparent. Particular panels required intense scrutiny only to verify whether or not Western was responsible for this less than favourable art. Surely this alarming drop in quality must have flagged up concern with not only the creators but also the editor, Dave Hunt. For the strip's integrity, why wasn't a decision made to reduce the series to 3 pages per week.

With the return of its "fathers" (Pat Mills & John Wagner), Battle's 200th issue carried a weight of maturity that was actually in danger of cutting adrift its core readership who still bayed for action and thunder in strips such as "Rat Pack" and "D-Day Dawson". Fortunately for those readers, "Glory Rider" also debuted in issue 200 to maintain a good bullet count along with the likes of "Spinball Wars" and "Crazy Keller". The protagonist, Colonel Jeb Rider (Who bore more than a resemblance to General Patton ) was an egotistical officer who always leapt before he looked and emerged with a smell of roses and honour regardless of how many lives his rash actions claimed. Only Sergeant Hilt saw through his colonel's bluster and spent most of his time trying to alleviate the consequences of his officer's thirst for glory.

For a short duration until Carlos Cruz assumed art duties, this strip brought back long absentee Geoff Campion to the fold. Gerry Finley-Day, having relaxed the reins of "The Sarge", provided the script which, while efficient and retaining a formulae "trick" that kept the reader going if only to see out the colonel's eventual downfall, ironically was left trailing in the wake of a renewed vitality that Scott Goodall had injected into the ongoing adventures of "The Sarge". As "Charley's War" and "H.M.S. Nightshade" cast an irresistible, soulful shadow, had Gerry's story-telling grown somewhat outdated?

As regards "Johnny Red", an all action strip with rousing passion in a hail of bombs and strafing bullets, this strip was an absolute enigma. Given its make up and one-dimensional character, it should have bobbed along pedestrian-like, especially after 2 years, with the likes of "Spinball Wars" for example. This story defied the boundaries and mechanics of its origin to roar on and on with amazing success. This is a testament to the writer, Tom Tully.


Sun Apr 23, 2017 10:40 pm
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For Battle-Action's 200th edition, an additional series complemented not only the usual quota of seven strips but also occupied the colour centre pages, demoting "Crazy Keller" for a few months. "True-Life Heroes" depicted personal accounts of honour and valour during both world wars. Several series of a similar nature had featured previously in Battle: "Battle Honours", "Battle Badge of Bravery", "I was there..." and, Battle being Battle, a German perspective - "Iron Cross of Courage". Not unlike the aforementioned, True-Life Heroes was short-lived with 12 episodes to its name. Battle Badge of Bravery endured the longest with 15 episodes.

This strand of factual storytelling always seemed at odds with Battle's irreverent nature as if the editor, discreetly reminded of an unspoken duty, were forced to juxtapose a feature that blended a degree of sombreness with historical acknowledgement. In contrast, the long established "Victor" relished this form of illustration; its popular "True Stories of Men at War" occupied the front and rear cover from around October 1975 to late 1987. Before this series, the same type of story had run from its inception. While upholding an air of traditional discipline, these stories conveyed a professionalism that were still able to entertain - a balanced mixture that Battle could not successfully weigh out; it was left wanting in this avenue and would concede ground to Victor on this point.


Sat Apr 29, 2017 8:15 pm
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geoff42 wrote:
For Battle-Action's 200th edition, an additional series complemented not only the usual quota of seven strips but also occupied the colour centre pages, demoting "Crazy Keller" for a few months. "True-Life Heroes" depicted personal accounts of honour and valour during both world wars. Several series of a similar nature had featured previously in Battle: "Battle Honours", "Battle Badge of Bravery", "I was there..." and, Battle being Battle, a German perspective - "Iron Cross of Courage". Not unlike the aforementioned, True-Life Heroes was short-lived with 12 episodes to its name. Battle Badge of Bravery endured the longest with 15 episodes.

This strand of factual storytelling always seemed at odds with Battle's irreverent nature as if the editor, discreetly reminded of an unspoken duty, were forced to juxtapose a feature that blended a degree of sombreness with historical acknowledgement. In contrast, the long established "Victor" relished this form of illustration; its popular "True Stories of Men at War" occupied the front and rear cover from around October 1975 to late 1987. Before this series, the same type of story had run from its inception. While upholding an air of traditional discipline, these stories conveyed a professionalism that were still able to entertain - a balanced mixture that Battle could not successfully weigh out; it was left wanting in this avenue and would concede ground to Victor on this point.

Factual storytelling seemed to be something that wasn't a constant in every comic - I have noted before that Jinty had pretty much no element of retelling of historical true stories in the weekly comic, though it did occur sometimes in the annuals. In this case it was mostly a case of reprinting earlier stories (for instance a lovely short item on sharp-shooter Annie Oakley, drawn I think by Shirley Bellwood). Other girls comics likewise didn't seem to go a bundle on historical true stories, though I am sure others will come up with exceptions. Bit of a surprising gap in some ways!

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jintycomic.wordpress.com/ Excellent and weird stories from the past - with amazing art to boot.


Tue May 02, 2017 11:29 am
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Hi, Comicmix, my feelings on this kind of illustration as regards true stories was mixed. As previously posted, I felt that Victor was a master of this type. Battle, I felt, was seemingly levered into a show of this demonstration: surely they weren't threatened with Victor's ongoing form of historical content. I am not in a position to comment on Warlord's stance on this point; while I have the first two year's worth of material, I haven't read the issues yet. Maybe Col can comment on this.


Sun May 07, 2017 1:12 am
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Heads up for those who have more than a passing interest in Battle's legacy. Recently, David Bishop has compiled his article series "Blazing Battle Action", which was published in Judge Dredd Megazine issues 210-213 during 2003, into an e-book. Sadly, the book doesn't include the original art that embellished the series with colour and character. Still, for a mere £1.99, it is a worthwhile read. For those daunted by text-only books, it runs to around 19000 words. A valuable reference source for any Battle enthusiast in my humble opinion. More information is available at downthetubes website.


Sun May 14, 2017 12:05 pm
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On reading a Battle-Action issue whose cover dated issue was 17/02/79, I was quite prepared for the usual fare of an ongoing golden period: Charley's War, Johnny Red, H.M.S. Nightshade, The Sarge, Crazy Keller and... well, The Spinball Wars (more on this series later). For this particular issue, Glory Rider had taken a rest to provide for the ubiquitous filler - a complete story. As complete stories go, there's always a sense of an obligatory duty to accommodate these and a "oh-hum" attitude to address this minor inconvenience that has intruded the usual unfolding of expected serials. With this issue, "Private Loser" was the latest encumbrance... so I thought. After the first page, I was suddenly focused and held my breath. Damn, I was gripped. But... this was supposed to be a "filler", right? Not so. The four page story engages with a young soldier who is injured and stretchered by the remnants of his section who are hotly pursued from Japanese soldiers. The soldier is Private 2474008 Hollis. T who constantly addresses himself as "Private Loser". His colleagues regretfully make the decision to leave Hollis behind in order to quicken their escape. Embittered, Hollis reflects on several episodes in his life from childhood to enlisting that reinforces his belief that he is the archetype "Life's loser". But, rather than allow these memories to render him inactive and exposed to the inevitable Japanese offense, he resolves to be proactive and, whatever the outcome, ensure that he will not lose his integrity as he had done before.

This is a brilliant short story that has everything but heroism. This is a tale of a young man who realizes his shortcomings in life but rallies in the end to confront his own inner demons... it's a tragic tale. It's the type of story that one would associate with the giants of Pat Mills and John Wagner. Before I consulted my trusty bible, Steve Holland's "The Fleetway Companion", I would have wagered a lot of money on Alan Hebden as the writer. I was utterly confounded to find that Dave Hunt was the writer. While Battle's editor had contributed the odd script for various complete stories, he had never drummed up this sublime brilliance. Hats off to Dave; were I to poll my favourite stories from this issue of Battle-Action, Private Loser would have topped the list and quite easily beaten off the likes of Charley, Johnny, Sarge, and the crew of HMS Nightshade.

An interesting side note to this story; this was Cam Kennedy's first offering to Battle. Pure gold in every aspect.


Tue May 16, 2017 12:36 am
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With a little time on my hands, I googled "Private Loser - Cam Kennedy", expecting little if anything in return. I discovered that Private Loser was one of three short stories, drawn by Kennedy, that Garth Ennis included in his first Battle Classics volume. In addition, via an interview on the nerdist website, Garth stated that Private Loser was the best short war story he had ever read. I couldn't disagree with that.


Tue May 16, 2017 2:47 pm
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Naval war stories in comics tended to literally sink. Even in the 1960's when the war pocket books were flourishing, the naval series: War at Sea Picture Library proved to be the least successful and lasted only 17 months compared to Air Ace Picture Library - shy of 11 years; War Picture Library - over 26 years; Battle Picture Library - shy of 25 years; and, after nearly 56 years, Commando - still ongoing. But still, Victor, Warlord and Battle in the main persisted with the sea action. One of Battle's debut strips was an odd story that featured a mock Elizabethan warship, caught up in the outbreak of WW2 - Flight of the Golden Hinde. Despite solid, detailed art from Vano, the series proved to be a mediocre affair and, along with Terror Behind the Bamboo Curtain, was one of the first stories to face the chop after 12 episodes.

Thereafter, Destroyer quickly followed up within six months and was a strip that could have quite easily filled in a slot on Victor. Sea Wolf, taken from the perspective of a German U-boat was actually a tense and above average read with art from Pat Wright. Yet, it lacked warmth and struggled to attract much empathy for its characters.

Upon Battle's 200th issue, John Wagner threw his hat into the ocean and endeavoured to craft (H.M.S. Nightshade) a naval story that could not only sail upon a wave of popularity but also actively root out sentiment from a reader who least suspected that he/she was about to be snared. The sleight of hand trickery lurked within characterization and how an assuming theme could suddenly usurp the primary focus of the plot. This was none more so typified than in Nightshade's story of Battle's 3/3/79 cover dated issue. A French merchant ship and its lazy crew continually fell behind the convoy of which Nightshade was escorting. The anticipation of a sitting duck and a prowling U-boat played out as expected but the French ship, though damaged, remained afloat and the U-boat hastily retreated from depth charges - no great battle scenes were followed up. Instead, Nightshade suffered its first casualty from a freak accident when the crew attempted to rig a tow line to the stranded merchant ship. That was pure subliminal script from Wagner.

In the same issue, Charley's War demonstrated the art of pushing the thrust of an immediate attack from the enemy to the periphery while a personal drama unfolded on the centre stage. Charley's colleague "Lucky" had lost his nerve and was about to shoot his own foot off to hasten his exit from the nightmare of trench warfare until Charley intervened. Later, Lucky is caught from a direct bomb and loses a leg. Charley is distraught that Lucky would have only lost a foot had he not interfered. But Lucky hugs Charley with glee; he can now go home with a sense of honour in that the enemy forced him home as an invalid instead of a cowardly self-inflicted act. Again, this kind of storytelling underpins a growing maturity within Battle. Pitted alongside Johnny Red's inexplicable ability to mesmerize the reader with non-stop action without much dependence on strong characterization, and The Sarge's much-improved section upon which the heroics were much more underplayed and realistic, it really is difficult to understand how Battle failed to sustain a longer lifespan in its history.


Wed May 24, 2017 12:57 am
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I wonder why naval stories weren't popular. Less scope for hand-to-hand fighting and action, maybe?


Wed May 24, 2017 8:28 am
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Something similar happened with DC's naval hero Captain Storm who only lasted 18 issues in his own title (though he was later resurrected as a member of the Losers in Our Fighting Forces, with a debut tale drawn by Britain's legendary Commando cover artist Ken Barr!).


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Wed May 24, 2017 11:07 am
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philcom55 wrote:
Captain Storm who only lasted 18 issues in his own title (though he was later resurrected as a member of the Losers in Our Fighting Forces)
Hopefully our own member Captain Storm doesn't need resurrecting. He may of course be looking in every day but he hasn't actually logged in since Sunday September 30th 2012. Perhaps this is an apposite moment for me to state that I will not be posting again until I have moved to Hayle, which may well be in the Autumn, although if I do want, or need, to communicate with any members other than Kashgar I will use the PM facility. Equally, any member who wishes to communicate with me should do likewise please. I am already tired of preparing for what will almost certainly be a downsizing, and I'm nowhere near ready yet to put my house on the market. On a positive, if nostalgic, note, I am driving over to places I am unlikely to visit again after I move. So far I've been to Chorley and Bolton, so just Preston, Lancaster, Morecambe, Wallasey, (my first teaching job after leaving university was at Wallasey Technical Grammar School), Chester and the Wirral to go. Preston will need to be on a Saturday because that's the only day the parched peas sellers are there, and I will certainly rummage in the town's two excellent secondhand bookshops before coming home. Not that I'm in any need of more books. I've already filled three spacious containers just with novels for girls, and that's not all of them by any manner of means. In fact the postman brought two more just this morning. I do realise that this post should be in the Phoenix's Future Plans thread but my comments about the Cap would have looked curiously out of place there.


Wed May 24, 2017 6:32 pm
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Phoenix wrote:
philcom55 wrote:
Captain Storm who only lasted 18 issues in his own title (though he was later resurrected as a member of the Losers in Our Fighting Forces)
Hopefully our own member Captain Storm doesn't need resurrecting. He may of course be looking in every day but he hasn't actually logged in since Sunday September 30th 2012. Perhaps this is an apposite moment for me to state that I will not be posting again until I have moved to Hayle, which may well be in the Autumn, although if I do want, or need, to communicate with any members other than Kashgar I will use the PM facility. Equally, any member who wishes to communicate with me should do likewise please. I am already tired of preparing for what will almost certainly be a downsizing, and I'm nowhere near ready yet to put my house on the market. On a positive, if nostalgic, note, I am driving over to places I am unlikely to visit again after I move. So far I've been to Chorley and Bolton, so just Preston, Lancaster, Morecambe, Wallasey, (my first teaching job after leaving university was at Wallasey Technical Grammar School), Chester and the Wirral to go. Preston will need to be on a Saturday because that's the only day the parched peas sellers are there, and I will certainly rummage in the town's two excellent secondhand bookshops before coming home. Not that I'm in any need of more books. I've already filled three spacious containers just with novels for girls, and that's not all of them by any manner of means. In fact the postman brought two more just this morning. I do realise that this post should be in the Phoenix's Future Plans thread but my comments about the Cap would have looked curiously out of place there.


Good luck with the move.hope it goes well.


Wed May 24, 2017 7:42 pm
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Hi Geoff

Short notice I'm sorry, but I saw these and wondered whether you have them or not. The high bidder has probably bid £22 so £22.01 would beat him and all 11 annuals could be less than £3 each!


Fri May 26, 2017 9:01 am
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I missed them, Adam. Like Phoenix, I'm also preparing to move house and finding less and less time to do things that I like doing.


Sat May 27, 2017 7:57 am
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