Those weary of the on-going acclaim for sophisticated graphic novels -- essentially comic books for adults with layered novelistic narratives and innovative graphic design -- will welcome this fat, old school collection of a dozen 60s comic books from the Commando series chosen by the magazine’s longtime editor George Low.
Here are simple yarns of derring-do from the Second World War where the Germans are referred to as the Hun, Boche, Jerries, squareheads and so on (often with adjectives like cruel, hate-filled, nasty) and Italians are “Eyeties”. British troops on the other hand are the Royal Westshires and the Cornshires, take their orders from Whitehall, and have nicknames like Titch and Cobber.
Germans say things like, “Pah, they fight like women” about the French and utter “Mein Gott” as they are blown up, while a British sergeant puts on an officer’s coat and cap and heads out towards the German sniper with, “I’m going forward as bait. He’ll shoot at me in this uniform -- keep your eyes peeled for the flash from his rifle.”
Yugoslav patriots charge the enemy with ringing phrases such as, “Death to the nazis, defilers of our country”.
You get the picture: this world is less complex place, the lines between friend and foe are as defined as a uniform (although in one story two brave Tommies don German gear to sneak into an enemy camp), and good men either die young and heroically, or win the day.
No women clutter up the action or complicate matters.
Told in simple frames (no jagged edges or unframed art as in graphic novels) these are simple, although not simplistic stories, which are pure escapism, but come with what we might today see overt racism in the stereotypes.
Yet the work by the anonymous artists is dramatic and -- when it comes to guns, tanks, artillery and aircraft -- rendered with an eye for detail. The stories also have plot twists worthy of any classic war film and Commando, launched in 1961, is so successful it is still published today.
Leave this one on the coffee table and you’ll get reactions from “Wow, I used to read Commando!” to PC-friends and sensitive guests strongly objecting to it.
If nothing else, The Dirty Dozen will be a conversation starter.