The Many Faces of Commando

Thu 01 Sep 2011

Beyond the Pocket Book!

The look and feel of "Commando" has become familiar to many over 5 decades - 66 pages of black and white adventure between full colour covers in a handy pocket sized book. Over the years, however, the "Commando" brand of war stories in pictures has made forays into less familiar shapes and sizes across the world...


The first of these expeditions into unfamiliar territories began in the early 1970s, a decade after "Commando" debuted. Finland's "Korkeajännitys" - literally "High Voltage" - has featured many translated "Commando" stories alongside other war-themed strips from various UK and US publishers. These Finnish collections have appeared as thick paperback books as well as larger, glossier editions.

The Annuals

It was the late 1980s before another different style of "Commando" appeared, this time closer to home. British comics have traditionally produced bumper hardback editions starring their favourite characters ("annuals") around Christmas time. "Commando Annual" kept the square shape of the regular issues, but these were larger, softback volumes featuring several full and single colour adventures - one of which, "The Three Musketeers", can be read here - as well as features on weaponry and military vehicles. Perhaps "Commando" readers preferred the longer stories familiar from the comic, as there were only two annuals published.


In 2005, Carlton Books produced "Commando: The Dirty Dozen", collecting "The 12 Best Commando Books of All Time", as selected by then-editor, George Low. This hefty soft-back, nearly 800 pages thick, was to be just the first of an ongoing series of anthologies of classic stories. It was followed by "True Brit", "ANZACs at War", "All Guns Blazing", "Rumble in the Jungle", "Bandits at 12 O'Clock", "D-Day - Fight or Die!", "Battle of Britain - Scramble!" and 2011's "Rogue Raiders".

The first six editions have been issued together in two collectable box-sets, "Commando: Ammo Box" and "Commando: High Explosive", alongside facsimile editions of the first two "Commando" comics. A "Korkeajännitys" edition of "The Dirty Dozen", was also released in Finnish.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the comic, Carlton have brought out a selection of themed compilations -"Tally-Ho!", "Banzai!", "Action Stations!" and "Achtung!" - each featuring 3 adventures, and will be launching a large-format coffee table edition "Commando - 50 Years: A Home For Heroes".


Throughout the years, the original "Commando" issues have proved popular with readers all around the globe - whether sent out by relatives or friends in the UK, or bought by subscription - prompting EuroKids in India to release 24 issues in 2007. These larger format magazines retained the original English language captions and balloons, and were collected into 8 "Commando - 3 in 1" compilations.

A year later, another English language selection was repackaged by Geddes & Grossett under the original "Commando" title and also as "Espionage" for the Canadian, American and Australian markets, while 2009 saw "Korkeajännitys" publishers, Egmont, release "Kamp Og Kommando", paperback book sized editions for Norwegian readers.

While all of these publications have strayed from the traditional "Commando" look, they retain the same basic format - comic strips on paper. The biggest change has occurred in the last few years, as "Commando" has brought action and adventure onto the internet, onto iPhones and iPads, and well and truly into the digital age!

(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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