Jeopardy or jingoism?
There was a time when the British newsstands were stuffed full of war comics: Warlord, Battle Picture Weekly and, briefly, Fury from Marvel UK. Now only Commando Picture Library remains. At the time of writing, it had just published issue #4714 (admittedly, some have been reprints) and a sizeable number of its stories have been set during the First World War, which seems to be popular with both creators and readers.
“The First World War is a good setting for stories because, particularly from a British point of view, the range is huge,” says Calum Laird of Commando. “Characters can be picked up and popped down almost anywhere, taking them out of Bolton, say, and putting them in Brussels or even Baghdad. You don’t even have to explain – you can just say the unit was sent there. That allows an author a huge amount of latitude, particularly if they’re developing a long storyline.”
Old British war comics could sometimes be accused of jingoism, though. Captain Hurricane, whose eponymous strip was set during the Second World War, was casually, one might say flippantly, racist and had an alarming tendency to refer to ‘the Huns’ and ‘the Nips’. According to Laird, Commando has, for the most part, managed to avoid going down that road.
“We’ve been reprinting 50-year-old strips and in a lot of the older stories, the adversaries are actually given a fair crack of the whip,” he says.