50 Years of Going Commando: From Dundee to Helmand

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Britain’s favourite war comic, Commando, reaches a major milestone this week, celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first publication on 27th June 1961. Part of the Dundee-based DC Thomson & Co. Ltd stable of comics and magazines, Commando publishes 4 stories every fortnight  — 2 new and 2 re-issued classic stories — and maintains its place as the home of comic action and adventure.Although it retains the classic illustrated cover and the iconic black and white comic artwork which has made it so beloved of the UK public, Commando has moved with the times over its 50 years and the stories contained within its pages now span a range of conflicts, right up to the first Gulf War in the early 1990s. Commando’s current editor, Calum Laird, who took over in 2007 said, “As someone who read Commando in the 60s and 70s, worked on the title as a junior member of staff in the 80s and 90s, and became editor in the 2000s, sitting in the hot seat for the 50th birthday is a great honour. Not everyone can have my career path but if Commando can entertain others as well as it did me, I’ll be very happy indeed!”

Commando’s unique format also continues to be a firm favourite with readers. In fact, infantrymen of ‘I’ company, 2 Rifles, got in touch with the Editor to demonstrate that Commando is still carried with pride by members of our armed forces, including those risking their lives for us in Helmand Province, Afghanistan! Corporal Nick Shuttleworth emailed some photos of Commando being enjoyed by him and his ‘I’ company comrades in the field. In fact, recent research commissioned by D.C. Thomson on Commando has shown that around 55% of Commando readers are either Armed Forces veterans or have a veteran in their family, proving the enduring link between the comic.

Calum commented: “Over the years, Commando Editors have had messages of support from service personnel throughout the world. It’s a tribute to everybody who puts Commando together that the tradition has carried on to the present day. If we can keep them happy with military tales, we’ve got to be doing it right!”It is apt that Commando should share an anniversary with the weekend of National Armed Forces Day. It has consistently presented a positive view of our armed forces, highlighting the heroism, camaraderie and self-sacrifice with which our forces are rightly associated. Commando is also a byword for accuracy — both the historical and technical kinds. This stems from many of the writers and artists who worked on Commando initially being, themselves, veterans of wars and National Service.One could certainly say that Commando was promoting our Armed Forces positively long before it was ever fashionable to do so.

However, Commando isn’t just about the classic comic — it has expanded into a variety of digital formats and digital subscription plus an app for the iPhone and iPad, launched earlier in 2011. This summer sees the launch of a special CD with EMI Music, entitled Commando War Themes featuring a range of classic themes chosen by EMI to celebrate Commando’s 50th anniversary. Commando also has a series of best-selling books and story compilations. Commando’s 50th anniversary book will be published in hardback by Carlton Books in October 2011. Entitled “Commando 50 Years: A Home For Heroes”, it includes a foreword by BBC Top Gear presenter and massive Commando fan, James May.James describes Commando as, “the greatest and most influential cannon in the history of the English language” and you can be in no doubt he means it!

Visitors to the website (www.commandocomics.com) can also get their hands on some famous Commando cover posters (in A1 size format), exclusively, for the introductory price of £19.99. This September will also see a brand new collaboration for Commando, with the launch of the “Draw Your Weapons” exhibition – celebrating the iconic artwork from 50 years of the comic -  at the National Army Museum in London. The exhibition will open on 1st September and Calum commented, “Everyone is delighted that this major exhibition of Commando artwork is to be hosted by the National Army Museum, as one of the key activities of our 50th anniversary celebrations. We’re sure that fans of Commando old and new, will revel in this display of comic art at its best, exhibited so dynamically by the National Army Museum.

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