Deed of Valour is an iconic issue and an iconic story. This is a story of redemption.
The main character Joe Burns is a coward. He manages to save his own skin many times at the expense of the lives of his comrades. He becomes adept at survivng and uses his status as the last man standing to gain promotion and notoriety as tough veteran. Only the young officer, Bob Leefe, who shared his first action and the same overwhelming fear and disgrace in front of the enemy knows the truth about Burns. However while Leefe carries the shame of that event, Burns congratulates himself for not getting caught out. The two men are soon seperated but inevitably their paths cross again.
I love this story as it screams redemption from the very begining. You know how it's going to end - but that's not the point. It's Burns' lack of moral fibre and arrogance that see the story through.
In later editions this cover image was also used to advertise upcoming issues and encourage subscriptions. I consider it a bonus that it also contains a great story.
Burns is craven coward! Why don't you fight man!
I like the AAGH!
Don't worry it's not Burns - he's hiding somewhere.
This is the kind of story that I remember. Boys own adventure, impossible odds, team tension giving way to mutual understanding and respect and of course a treacherous enemy. Political correctness is out the door from the very start with the Japanese introduced from the opening narrative as the "yellow hoards". The portrayl of the brave native is even a little uncomfortable by modern standards. It goes almost without saying that the Australians are brave and tenacious. Whenever the Australians are attacking they are doing their duty whereas if they were Japanese they would be mindless fanatics. The Phantom Flotilla refers to a squadron of Australian torpedo boats that hide in a swamp and ambush passing Japanese convoys. It is a dangerous assignment with regular casualites. Additional tension is given to the story by the tension between the flotilla's leading officer, an Englishman, and his Australian 2IC.
Besides all the square jawed small headed posturing you couldn't get away with this sort of language now...
The lads even look foward to that kind of thing every once and a while.
Koto's mate should have known better...
Hey! If the other side were doing this wouldn't they be fanatics?
D-Day Deadline follows a particularly amoral reporter and his journey from finding a good story to understanding the true meaning of sacrifice. There are some great moments from film noir inspired shadow to a general removing his rank pips. The journalist is looking for the human factor in the big event of the D-Day landings. He encounters a variety of participants in D-Day who all have a part in making it a success. He meets a young bomber crew who have just come back from bombing the beaches and then celebrate a birthday. Next he meets the gallant engineers who sacrifice themselves to open the beach for the invasion. His next encounter brings him contact with a group of weary veteran infantry and their over eager young officer. His final encounter is with a tank crew who struggle with their sense of duty and their urge to seek revenge.
I have mixed feelings on D-Day Deadline. The sacrifice theme works for the most but I find it difficult to warm to the main character. However you could do worse. Of note is the fantastic full page advertisement on the inside cover proclaiming that "Girls prefer a He-Man".
Of all the things you could say in this situation ...
This is what I've come to expect in a pocket war comic story - in all honesty it hasn't got a lot going for it. Young Cooper craves to be a spitfire pilot but spends his days around the squadron pushing a broom. To cover his embarrassment of not being a fighter pilot (let alone not being allowed to fly) he writes to his mother that he is a hero of some repute. However when the skipper needs to be rescued from a burning wreck Cooper displays the necessary courage. This act encourages the skipper to give Cooper the opportunity to fly and after the inevitable mishap or two he finds himself on combat patrol. As Cooper is incapable of hitting a flying target - he almost gets the skipper shot down. Copper is then sent to to gunnery school where there is another round of inevetible mishaps but this is where he discovers his true calling. His return to the squadron coincides with the Spitfires being replaced with Typhoons - and hence the title "Rockets Away!". Of course Cooper is frustrated in his opportunities to blast away with his rockets but finally he is allowed his moment of glory and ultimate acceptence. I like this story because it stinks. However in it's defence it must have been difficult to churn these things out week after week, month after month . The only thing that could be worse than this story is the bonus story in this issue "Ditched" - which has only three redeeming features, it is mercifully short, it features a Walrus seaplane and one of the two lead characters sports a ridiculous moustache.
The trouble starts for number 7 platoon when their troop ship gets damaged off the coast from Salerno as they prepare for invasion. They appear trapped below decks and are ready for the worst before they are rescued and sent into battle. If this experience is not morale shaking enough, first their trusted lieutenant and then their leading Sergeant are killed. Colonel Gordon unaware of their ordeal is outraged by their lack of morale fibre and grudgingly consents to the Medical Officer's advice to send them to a quiet sector of the front. Of course it only gets worse from there...for everybody.
I must admit I picked this one for the cover and the fact that there were an 8 extra pages highlighted by the white flash in the bottom right hand corner.
However this story has a lot more depth to it than the usual picture library serving.
A mysterious Canadian officer comes to the trapped platoons rescue making Colonel Gordon exclaim that the Canadian was the "bravest man he had ever seen". Then in a twist for a Battle Picture Comic the heroic Canadian manages to get himself killed.
The colonel's statement of course puts him at odds with the survivors of 7 platoon. The colonel is even more dumbfounded when he learns the Canadian was really an American deserter.
I was expecting the same old same old stereotypes when I started reading this story - and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. Potential lead characters are killed off, the hero doesn't make it to the end of the story to be bathed in the approaching sunrise, there are depictions of dead allied soldiers and the main character turns out to be the initially unforgiving colonel.
Killed in Action is certainly a step up from "we'll beat the Hun, chaps".
Take any War Picture Library, Battle Picture Library or Commando comic and you will always find those famous last words “arrgghhhhh” or even “donner und blitzen”.
Cowards try to prove themselves or officers interfere by trying to run battles “by the book”. The enemy is treacherous. Mysterious locations hold significant secrets. Sometimes a simple gun is the focal point of a unique karmic destiny.
There are those who are lost or left behind enemy lines where they invariably make a discovery – a hidden base, a wonder weapon or a traitor. The host of intangible struggles are often more significant such as the dark secret, the family shame, the family curse or the stigma of not being like the other chaps.
Strangely enough for stories about war and battle the killed the dead and the dying are usually absent.
There's a lot to like (and make fun of) among the dramatic titles, fantastic artwork, impossible stories, daring heroes, nasty bad guys, body building and not quite diamond rings advertisements.