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Wednesday, 28 October 2009


The Best of Battle
Titan Books

I didn't think I'd get this book in my grubby hands - it originally appeared on publisher's listings back last year and then had it's publication pushed back several times. Well it's here now and was it worth the wait?

Well yes I believe it was.

It's bound in a limp card cover - in the same style as last year's Roy of the Rovers. There are eighteen favourite strips from the war comic collected here .

D Day Dawson, Day of the Eagle, The Bootneck Boy, Rat Pack, Major Easy, Fighter from the sky, Hold Hill 109, Darkie's Mob, Panzer G Man, Joe Two Beans, Johnny Red, The Sarge, Hellman of Hammer Force, Crazy Keller, The General Dies at Dawn, Charley's War, Fighting Man and Death Squad.

This collection features several strips from each story so that, unlike other best of collections, you are getting mostly a full story for each strip. Even if Day of the Eagle leaves us with the impression that Hitler was assassinated by Mike Nelson.

The strips are wonderfully reproduced, often clearer than the original comics and it's a nice touch to leave the original advertisements on the strips. Each strip features a brief introductory essay which gives you the facts of the story in question These essays are, where possible written by the original creators and add a nice dimension to their relevant strips.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I think anyone who is interested in vintage British comics will do so too - there's also great news in the back of the book with the announcement that further collections, this time story specific are to come. The collections listed are Johnny Red, Darkie's Mob, Rat Pack and Major Easy. No date is given for these titles only the enticing - COMING SOON.

I've written previously about my admiration for the Battle Picture Weekly comic and obviously there is a nostalgic kick for me to be reading this graphic novel collection. But that aside this is a great example of boy's adventure comics. And the thing is they still stand up well today. The strip pictured above, Hellman of Hammer Force told of the war from a German perspective which was unusual for comics in those days since most of them treated the Germans as stereotypical Nazies.But not Battle and Hellman wasn't the only strip Battle produced with the protagonist being from the other side, so to speak. Panzer G-man, also featured in this collection, was another. As was Fighter from the Sky which is also featured. It all helped to give the comic more depth than was usual for the time. Charley's War for instance was an anti-war story set during the First World War that sought to realistically portray trench warfare and the senseless waste of the conflict.

There was still plenty of gung ho action - Rat Pack, were a more sleazy version of The Dirty Dozen and Major Easy was a James Coburn lookalike who was the most undisciplined soldier in the entire army. And that's not to mention the tough as nails, Sarge and the mysterious Joe Darkie.

In short a superb collection - well done Titan Books and hurry up and bring out those other collections.


Steve M said...

Might just have to buy this myself, looking forward to the specials mentioned too: particularly Johhny Red.


Steve - It's well worth getting. And I can't wait for the collections either. I'd love to see them do this for all the main stories - The Sarge, D-Day Dawson etc - excellent stuff