It's been around since 1961, so is a relative youngster compared to The Beano, but because of the frequency of its publication, (4 issues every fortnight) Commando has published more issues than any other British comic. Next week it releases its 5000th issue, an incredible achievement that publishers D.C. Thomson are naturally proud of. The landmark issue features a red foil logo and a cover painting by the great Ian Kennedy. The story within, Zero Hour is written by Ferg Handley and drawn by veteran artist Carlos Pino.
What's the secret of Commando's longevity? At one stage decades ago there were numerous comics in that small, pocket-size format (War Picture Library, Combat, etc) but Commando is the only survivor. As I understand it, Commando has a loyal readership amongst the armed forces, ex-squaddies, and military enthusiasts, plus a healthy number of comic fans too.
The format helps as well of course, with self-contained 63 page adventures for a reasonable price of £2 an issue. The look of the comic has barely changed since the first issue, which appeals to some readers' desire for consistency. Commando is a prime example of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". The comic got it right from day one and has never needed fixing.
Admittedly, distribution isn't as widespread as it used to be, and some branches of WH Smith now put it behind the counter because they claim it's a target for shoplifters, but Commando keeps going, 8 issues a month like clockwork.
Here's the information from D.C. Thomson for issues 4999 to 5002, all on sale Thursday 9th March...
Commando – 4999 – Ghost Patrol
When Jim Hughes, tough British foot soldier, started to take incredible risks in battle – and survived – his mates didn’t know what to make of it. Enemy bullets continually missed him by inches, while other British soldiers fell. It looked like he was living a charmed life – and he was!
Jim was sure there wasn’t a bullet made that could stop him… and all because of an Indian fakir.
Story: Allan Chalmers
Cover: Lopez Espi
From the front lines of Burma, Ghost Patrol explores the power of suggestion. When British soldier, Jim Hughes, stumbled upon a fortune teller in the streets of Bombay, he never imagined a fakir’s prophecy would come true. But, as predicted events turned to reality, Hughes became increasingly reckless and all the more paranoid. His determination to save his friend’s life from his foretold fate was mistaken for arrogance and superiority, causing a rift between the men.
Expertly crafted by Chalmers and Cortes, this tale of superstition explores luck and loyalty when faced with danger. As the prophecies come true, the reader is left to wonder – did coincidence rule the day, or was Hughes really presented with the future in the fortune teller’s chamber?
The Commando Team.
Ghost Patrol, originally Commando No. 345 (July 1968)
Commando – 5000 – Zero Hour
Joe Hartley was incredibly proud when his brother, Terry, joined the prestigious British Commandos. But Terry was taken all too soon, captured and killed by a vicious S.S. regiment.
Distraught, and desperate to follow in his brother’s footsteps, Joe enlisted. Young and inexperienced, Joe struggled to impress the veteran soldiers in his brigade. And, as the end of the war drew ever nearer, his opportunity to honour his brother’s memory was running out.
But in the final hours of the war, Joe Hartley would have his revenge!
Story: Ferg Handley
Art: Carlos Pino
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Commando - 5001 – Course for Action!
Jack Yeoman’s father had been killed in action during the First World War. A well respected sailor, a monument in his village was all Jack had to keep his father’s memory alive. As the Second World War broke out, Jack felt obliged to enlist in the Navy to honour his family, despite his cautious nature.
Struggling to feel accepted by his crew, determination drove Jack forward. He may be wet behind the ears, but his father was a hero. Convinced that strong sea legs were in the family blood, Jack grit his teeth and decided to set course for action!
Story: George Low
Art: Keith Page
Cover: Keith Page
Commando - 5002 – Zig-Zag – or Die!
Never fly straight for more than four seconds. That was a lesson learned in the fierce dog-fights of the Spanish Civil War. It was a lesson Andy Roe was to take back with him to the R.A.F. when the Second World War broke out.
But Andy’s past misdeeds were to make it very difficult for him to put his vast flying experience to good use – until he decided to keep his mouth tight shut regarding a serious matter of mistaken identity…
Story: K P MacKenzie
Art: Jose Maria Jorge
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Penned in 1992, this boisterous air story is brought to life by Jose Maria Jorge’s absorbing interiors and K.P. MacKenzie’s skilful writing. But there’s a moral too – through his exuberant gambling, Sergeant Pilot Andrew Roe falls prey to a nasty plot and his transgressions prevent him from becoming a commissioned officer, leaving him tormented by his mistakes.
Ian Kennedy’s cover is impeccable once again. The zig-zag motif on the fuselage of the plane is a subtle but striking call to the title and it is simply magnificent.
The Commando Team.
Zig-Zag – or Die!, originally Commando No. 2536 (January 1992)