Around Commando in 50 Years

Published:
Tue 06 Sep 2011
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Former Commando Editor, George Low, on "A Home for Heroes"...

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I was quite surprised but very delighted to be given the chance to write the Commando 50 Year Book which Carlton Publishing had the foresight to commission. One major problem soon popped its head over the parapet, however... what to include and what to leave out when there was such a mass of interesting material to choose from.

Dozens of script writers, dozens of artists, thousands of stories... and all worth a mention in their own way. That part wasn't easy, but I had been editing material for many years, so there was no hiding place. I couldn't escape from the task by calling on the same skill with which many of our Commando heroes slip out of tight spots.

It involved a lot of research which included digging through crumbling records and an Everest pile of back issues. Being forced to read so many Commando stories one after the other to look for inspiration was sheer... bliss.

But all this was time consuming and it did also have the odd affect of diverting me from many of my original ideas onto different tracks altogether. It was also quite a revelation that some facts I held to be true weren't after all. For example, did Artist "A" draw that cover? I always thought it was Artist "B"...

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It was great fun generally, but also very sad at times when I came across the work of artists and writers who are no longer alive. I can only name a few here... Cyril Walker wrote many quirky stories for Commando and each one was a masterpiece once all his erratic spelling mitsakes (sorry, mistakes) had been ironed out. Bolton's Denis Mcloughlin, artist extraordinaire, brought us gritty realism, and Jose Maria Jorge from Argentina graced our pages with scintillating dogfights. They and many others all played their brilliant part in Commando reaching its 50th birthday.

Finally words began to stutter their way across the empty pages laid out on my PC and a tale of sorts began to unfold. I won't tell you how many drafts I wrote for several of the chapters before I was satisfied. There was nobody else in my den, but I felt that I was being watched by every contributor who had ever approached Commando. That kept me on my toes, believe you me, until I realised it was very difficult to type while standing on my toes. (Sorry, but we always featured humour in Commando as a balance to the horrors of warfare.)

At least I had the eagle eyes of Calum Laird and Scott Montgomery to proof read my material, and Bill McLoughlin worked like a badger in the archives to locate the various black and white and coloured illustrations needed to bring the pages of the 50 Year Book alive. The editorial and art staff at Carlton pulled it all together with great skill and deft touches and finally the mission was complete.

It was time to relax, I thought, but I had developed a strange trait when I was doing all this. I found myself whistling Second World War songs and exclaiming "Mein Gott" when the ball whistled into the net during some football match on TV. All this will pass with time, I am sure, but I will always have some regrets.

There was still so much to tell, you see, so many other facts and fictions to be explored. These, I am afraid, will have to wait for the Commando 75 Year Book!

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(This article originally appeared as a tie-in to the National Army Museum exhibition Draw Your Weapons: The Art of Commando Comics - September 2011-April 2012.)

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