There's a breath of honesty in The Atlantic Wall that is missing in most other pocket war comics. Victory is paid in blood. The toll of British dead is extraordinarily high. At the risk of sounding morbid it is this aspect of the story that makes it a good read. Not all the characters who are introduced survive.
The pivot of the story is Brigadier "Blood and Thunder" "Big Jumbo" JMB Oliphant - an inspiration to his men as well as a perfectly eccentric English officer. He prefers to go into battle wearing his monocle and a black jumper with his two hunting dogs by his side and a sten gun in his hands. He's quick to praise and promote initiative. He is interested in results! Also (and perhaps alarming to our modern sensibilities) he has little time for sentimentality, for example the Brigadier sees a dead British soldier clutching a piat as a wasted firing opportunity. The tears can come later.
This is where the honesty can be found. Of course there are the typical extreme comic book moments. There can be no other way. However minor characters are given a chance to evolve. After that they are unlucky and buy it or lucky and survive. Which is interesting to find a War Picture Library story that openly says that luck sometimes has a part to play in success. But as we learn in The Atlantic Wall luck is only created by making things happen and things only happen as a result of strong leadership.
Now that's how you wage war!
You might be smug now...
Sergeant Goldfinger (bottom right hand corner) survives the battle only to meet his fate several years later at the hands of another Englishman.
You do the right things and this is what happens...
Psycho old dude with dogs wastes two bad guys.
Karl and Ernst have their final lesson.
If there wasn't a war on I'd let them eat you.
Thems big Nazis.
Our weird little guys are better than your little weird guys.
Outstanding lack of sentimentality. I love it.
What? Daring do not enough? Luck had no part to play in it.
Air Ace Picture Library 456 The Devil His Due 15/09/1969 Air Ace Picture Library 457 One By One 15/09/1969 Battle Picture Library 417 Devil's Island 15/09/1969 Battle Picture Library 418 The Burning Sky 15/09/1969
I feel a gruesome interpretation of the title would have been more apt. However given the times it may not have been appropriate or warranted. Still the cover of War Picture Library 270 At Bayonet Point proves that it is always more sensible and favourable to give rather than to receive.
I love the tight palette of colours used for this cover and the use of highlights behind the lead figure. Even though he doesn't look overly driven by blood lust he remains equally menacing - but strangely not overly threatening. However he should be terrifying given his actions and the situation in which he is plying his trade - but he lacks character. In fact the more I look at him the more I find him to be a little bit bland.
War Picture Library 352 Beam Attack 5/09/1966 War Picture Library 353 War Without End 5/09/1966 War Picture Library 354 The Executioners 5/09/1966 War Picture Library 355 The Lost Platoon 5/09/1966 Lion Picture Library 71 The Slow Death 5/09/1966 Lion Picture Library 72 The Scent of Danger 5/09/1966 Lion Picture Library 73 Red Beach 5/09/1966 Lion Picture Library 74 Last of the Gladiators 5/09/1966 War Picture Library 64 Breaking Point 5/09/1960 War Picture Library 65 Danger Dives Deep 5/09/1960 War Picture Library 66 Task Force 5/09/1960 War Picture Library 67 Battle Drop 5/09/1960
The Japanese are so reasonable in this story they could be confused for Germans. When Air Ace Picture Library 248 The Missing Bombers turns to the Japanese they're not getting ready to die for the Emperor, nor are they calling anybody a dog, nor do they get a lot of chances to let out a final AIEEEE! The lack of stereotyping is a little bit disturbing. In fact the Japanese are portrayed as an organised enemy who just happen to make the mistake of fighting against the Allies. The artwork also doesn't have that agro guy looking though his extra thick spectacles as you would expect in one of these comic books. All the racism is a part of the story and not in the story - if you know what I mean. At the centre of The Missing Bombers is Kenaka Cooper, a flying chappy, who has a Japanese mother and an English father. His posting to a Wellington squadron raises a few eyebrows as well as a few hackles. Not only are the allies hard up against it now they have to contend with having a traitor in their midst. Kenaka is of course no traitor. I like seeing Wellington bombers in pocket war comics and I was a little disappointed not to see more of them. However for some reason there a lots and lots of panels with blokes just standing around - this issue should win a prize for the most small crowd scenes seen in a war comic book. Needless to say the narrative device of getting the Wellingtons to fly through the secret canyon is just silly. In its own way The Missing Bombers is a sensitive story as the men around Cooper have to come grips with his ethnicity.
Well if you look really closely only 3 of them are really flying. Two of them are sort of crashing and the last one is missing.
Three disjointed panels of action on the same page. I think the artist was standing a bit close to the ink fumes.
That almost sounds reasonable. Are you sure you're the bad guys?
It's a message from your wife. She says don't forget to go past the supermarket on the way home and pick up some bread and milk.
Who else knows about this?
So that's way he's shorter than everyone else!
Well say it out loud man! You're about to get in an aircraft with him.
Hey! Why go over it when you can go through it.
Why would you have to do that? Also that guy on the radio looks like he's just lost a bet.
Can I move if I surrender?
Check out the cool gun the Japanese marine is holding. I don't know if holding hands with another man would be considered manly back in 1963.
War Picture Library 401 Brush with Death 4/09/1967 War Picture Library 112 Ceiling Zero 4/09/1961 War Picture Library113 Attack 4/09/1961 War Picture Library114 Cry Defiance 4/09/1961 War Picture Library 115 The Ranks of the Damned 4/09/1961
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.