A COMBAT dagger continues to pierce the masthead, the drawings are just as powerful, the writing just as relentless and the occasional shout of “Achtung” can still be heard from Nazi troops, unaware their day is about to take a turn for the worse.
For 57 years, Commando comics have been thrilling fans, young and old, with an unmistakable blend of wartime adventure and derring-do.
Now for the first time, after more than 5,000 issues, Commando fans can enjoy a full-colour graphic novel.
But the team behind the best-selling comics say there are other changes on the frontline, although the timeless fight of good against evil will continue.
Ramsey’s Raiders is a 136-page special, and it has proven so popular pre-orders sold out before launch.
It tells, for the first time in colour, the story of the eponymous Raiders led by Captain James Ramsey, a group of maverick, multinational Second World War troops fighting the Nazis behind enemy lines.
Although Commando stories can be set in conflicts ranging from the 1800s to the present day, it’s the war against Hitler and the Axis where Commando comics most often returns.
For Commando editor, Gordon Tait, it’s the same thing that draws TV writers and movie directors such as Steven Spielberg and Christopher Nolan to the setting time and again.
“We do Napoleonic wars or modern warfare, but the Second World War is the main thing,” he said.
“It’s become synonymous with the brand.
“If you distil it into very simple terms, it is a good versus evil conflict. If you really dig into the Second World War there’s more to it than that, but it seems to be a timeless thing.
“It’s not just Commando, the war has lent itself to other genres, like movies and television.
“People are really interested in that period, there’s just something about it.
“But it’s not glamorous – we’re doing entertainment, but there is a reality of how difficult the war actually was.”
The Ramsey’s Raiders graphic novel was written by Ferg Handley, who has penned more than 300 Commando stories as well as Spectacular Spider-Man comics for Marvel.
For him the battle of good against evil is interesting, but it’s the more difficult areas of the war he thinks Commando captures so well.
“There was a struggle against Nazism, and for me that’s the struggle against pure evil,” he explained.
“There were fewer grey areas but funnily enough it’s finding the grey areas in the Second World War which is for me where the interesting things can happen.
“Your character may beat the Nazis but, you know what, he has to live with his choices afterwards…”
Despite maintaining much the same image over the years, Commando has moved with the times, according to Gordon.
“Over the years the style has changed, and a few new writers have joined,” he explained.
“We’ve widened it out to other conflicts, to the Falklands War, and the Napoleonic Wars. There’s a whole world of history out there.
“More recently, we have featured strong female lead. It’s a reasonably new thing – but the team is two men and three women.
“We did a story recently called The Red Devil, which was one of our highest-selling issues.
“We brought in a new artist to do the cover and there was no doubt it starred a strong female character.
“We’ve had a lot of positive reactions to that on social media.”
Classic Commando comics were known for their authenticity – although the team sometimes has to be careful not to be too authentic.
“You wouldn’t get away with some of the language these days,” explained Ferg. “We’re very careful now.
“You’ve got captions and word balloons, and we don’t want the captions to say things that might not have raised an eyebrow decades ago but would be questionable now.
“But in the word balloons we try to portray how the soldiers might speak.
“We do tone it down a bit though. We err on the side of caution these days.”
Ramsey’s Raiders is the first graphic novel from Commando studios. Here are three of the most influential long-form comics:
MAUS: A SURVIVOR’S TALE
An autobiographical tale of the son of a Polish Jew, living and surviving in Hitler’s Europe. In this 1980 comic, the Nazis are portrayed as cats and Jewish victims as mice. It won a Pulitzer Prize.
Released earlier this year, Sabrina explores the chilling effect of 24-hour news after a girl disappears. Written by Nick Drnaso, it’s the first graphic novel to be nominated for the Man Booker Prize.
Written in 1989 by a Scot, Grant Morrison, this is the Caped Crusader as you’ve never seen him before. It’s more like the horror of HP Lovecraft than Adam West’s camp adventures.
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