Monday, 17 May 2010
WHEN THE COMICS WENT TO WAR
In an age where war is real some would say that that there is no place for war stories in comics. So, it was good to find a book that put the history of the war story in comics into context.
The story goes back to 1855 with 'The Boy's Own Paper' and 'The Boys Of England' launched eleven years later. However, in 1879, Lord Shaftesbury was moved to comment that many of the stories in these and the penny dreadfuls of the time encouraged the growing street crime. The stories that emerged following those comments encouraged a turn towards the acts of heroism in war - most of the stories taking place on land and sea during the Napoleonic and Crimean Wars. Acts of derring do that encouraged young readers to join the Army and Navy of the time.
Many of the big names were to write these tales and included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, R.M.Ballantyne and G.A.Henty who was to edit 'The Union Jack' (1880).
With the advent of the Boer War more and more comics began to appear all with stirring tales.
For many years the comic stories came in prose form and the die had been set.
An interesting reproduction of a story from 'Chum' in 1913 carried a curious warning:
'NOTICE. - This story is not intended to stir up race hatred, but is written as a true picture of what would happen if a great Continental nation attacked our country." The story by Captain Frank Shaw titled 'The Swoop Of The Eagle' saw England at war with Germany almost a year before it became reality.
This book covers the history through to the demise of the comics in the 1990s with the death of 'Victor' and 'Eagle'.
But it brings back the heroes of our time. Biggles, Battler Britton, Rockfist Rogan, Braddock V.C., Paddy Payne, Sergeant Rayker, 'Sniper' Dennison and many, many more.
And the Deathless men of 'V For Vengeance'.
The adventures of 'Sniper' Dennison was one of my favourites. The writing was somewhat darker and the descriptions of combat very vivid. Through this book I discovered that the writer, Alan Hemus, actually trained as a sniper during the second world war.
The evolution from prose to picture stories are covered to the evolution to the 70s comics Warlord, Battle and Action comics.
Adam Riches with Tim Parker and Robert Frankland have put together a very informative book well illustrated with comic covers, with sections from both strips and prose.
The final chapter is a comic in itself with the complete reconstruction of a comic that covers the history of war comics - including a piece with the controversial Hellman.
For comic fans this is a must have.