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Battle picture weekly - Terror Behind the Bamboo curtain 
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geoff42 wrote:
I missed them, Adam. Like Phoenix, I'm also preparing to move house and finding less and less time to do things that I like doing.


I waited until the last minute, saw that they weren't being bid on and had a cheeky bid myself. They'll be with me next week!


Sat May 27, 2017 10:29 am
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I haven't had chance to read any further Battles as moving house hasn't gone as smoothly as planned. I'm currently seeking refuge at my parents while the legal work is ongoing over my new home. But, during the upheaval, I did come across these notes I had jotted down a few weeks ago:

When Action merged with Battle, The Spinball Wars added a futuristic edge that divided opinion unlike any other strip. After Dredger had signed off his last story in October 1978, Spinball was further marginalised in a "war" comic. Surely the writing would have been on the wall towards the end of 1978 with a milestone issue around the corner to ring in a host of changes? This was the opportunity to shed the "Action" logo, pension off the Gladiators (the Spinball protagonists), and consolidate a war-themed comic as originally intended.

Upon the 200th issue, the "Action" logo was larger than it had ever been and Spinball endeavoured to thumb its nose up at its dissenters. However, there was a visible concession; the regular page count dropped from four to three. Ron Turner continued to stroke his enviable pencils that actually complemented the series despite a pedestrian script. The writer, Tom Tully, must have afforded the story little conviction considering his efforts on his contemporary strip: Johnny Red. Additionally, Tully was supplying scripts for Roy of the Rovers of which the football drama was actually more engaging than a game of spinball.

Without doubt, the reader's poll must have fuelled the ongoing exploits of Spinball. Yet, pitted against the colourful characters of Johnny Red and Crazy Keller, the stirring companionship of the Sarge, and the irresistible drama of Charley's War and HMS Nightshade, Spinball appeared more anomalous than ever. Surprisingly, by the 200th issue, Spinball held eighth position as regards series with most episodes and was closing in on the mighty stalwarts of the past: Major Eazy and D-Day Dawson. Its longevity was quite startling indeed.


Sat Jun 10, 2017 1:40 pm
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I've managed to read several Battle issues lately but there has been nothing of note on which to comment other than repeat previous posts with regard to the ongoing, sublime drama of Charley's War and HMS Nightshade. However, on reading the letter pages, I was hit with inspiration and wrote this:

One of the most enduring features that flourished throughout Battle's history resided in its letter pages (Battle Stations) where readers would recount their father's, grandfather's and uncle's experiences in both world wars. Back in the mid-seventies, many veterans from the Second World War in particular were still living and provided a vast source for humorous and irresistible anecdotes. The outpouring of these letters overshadowed opinions and reaction to the actual content of Battle. Incredibly, the first recorded letter to comment on a specific strip didn't appear until several months after Battle was launched. Eventually, a small segment within Battle Stations (Crossfire) would reserve a space for commentary on certain stories but, in the main along with a couple of submitted drawings, the exploits of a forefather's tale would rule supreme.

However, a precedent was set by the sub-editor: Steve Macmanus. As early as Battle's second issue, several letters of this nature appeared which, considering the timeline of six weeks between a printed issue and its sale date, was implausible. Obviously, these initial letters were "ghosted" and Macmanus confirmed this in his book "The Mighty One: My Life in the Nerve Centre". Thereafter, the readers would respond in a similar vein and establish an enduring trait.

Additionally, Battle Stations would exploit any lazy writer or artist who deigned to overlook a spot of research. Many letters were quick to seize upon any discrepancy with regard to weaponry, aircraft and other military hardware that was illustrated. Even erroneous dates and locations were summarily brought to heel. Thankfully, Battle possessed a team of contributors and staff who were also veterans of the Second World War and at hand to assist with such a potential minefield for inadvertent ignorance.

When Valiant merged with Battle, its spearhead hero (Captain Valiant) commanded Battle Stations and his replies to many letters provided much mirth and more than consolidated his presence in an otherwise cameo role. Unsurprisingly, a young Garth Ennis would supply Battle Stations with its most famous letter.

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Above, the first star letter in Battle No. 2 that sub-editor Steve Macmanus "ghosted".


Mon Jun 26, 2017 1:33 am
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I read the 24/3/79 cover date of Battle today and, beyond the obvious flag bearer that was Charley's War which introduced Charley to the hell of the Somme, something else twitched at my senses. For this week in particular, HMS Nightshade had taken a week off in absence, The Sarge ran a close second as regards my personal poll. This series since the departure of both Gerry Finley-Day (writer) and Mike Western (art) has actually matured into something far more than originally premised. The Sarge seems to take a far less role as opposed to his unassuming members of his section, so much so that the reader is led to believe that the section is actually thee protagonist of the series rather than the titular's namesake. And it works! Since Scott Goodall assumed script duties, the series has developed a far deeper narrative than it should have accrued. The members of the section in question aren't introduced summarily to be killed off in the next episode - they exist to establish an ongoing comradeship and, in some cases, friction. Recently, the Sarge has taken a background existence to allow certain members of his section to flourish. Of course, a few of these engaging characters will be killed off but, when it happens, the impact will be resounding; so much more than the characters that Gerry Finley-Day chose to die. With hindsight, many observers viewed Scott's command of script duties as inferior to Gerry's. I disagree. They are superior and the ongoing series of The Sarge is a revelation. Whereas I could more or less ascertain where Gerry was going with the series, I'm completely baffled as to where Scott is going - essentially, that is the key. I really have no idea as to who will survive this ordeal. And when a reader starts caring about the fate of certain characters, the writer has achieved his objective. Hats off to Scott Goodall.


Sun Jul 02, 2017 1:58 am
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On reading an issue of Battle, cover-date April 1st 1979, I was struck by this star letter before which I'd never considered such consequences of warfare.


Tue Jul 11, 2017 3:22 pm
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Heading into the month of April 1979, I was somewhat bemused that not one Battle Stations letter had addressed the new line-up of Battle-Action from the first week in January with Charley's War, H.M.S. Nightshade, Glory Rider and the fresh creative input on The Sarge. Initially I assumed that the letters were too preoccupied with imparting the anecdotes of forefather's experiences in warfare (as reported in the last post). Then, in Battle's cover date issue - April 7th 1979 - Captain Hurricane's almost plea-like request for replies to the new stories (posted below) implied that not too much in the way of reaction to the brilliant drama of Charley and Nightshade had been received. Perhaps the pre-pubescent boys of the day were still trying to comprehend the finer intricacies of warfare with these series.

The daring subterfuge of both Pat Mills and John Wagner to manipulate a thought-provoking territory for an unsuspecting audience on which to dwell was obviously proving troublesome. Of course, eventually, Battle's Godfathers would triumph in their subliminal manifesto. An unnerving maturity was developing within Battle's ongoing golden era at this juncture, and the readers would inevitably heed the subtle nudge to accommodate a different type of drama. I will post the first letter in recognition of either Charley or Nightshade as soon as I read it. It will appear... eventually.

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Thu Jul 13, 2017 1:00 am
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The Charley's War episode within Battle's cover date issue of April 14th 1979 entertained a hackneyed, background narrative throughout Charley's and his regiment's horrendous storming of a German-fortified village, following their "over-the-top" charge during the Battle of Somme. While bullets riddled the helpless, exposed bodies of Charley's colleagues, Aunt Mable's letter to Charley not only espoused her ongoing ailments but also, toned with a haughtiness that was usually charged against minions for not paying attention, regaled against the misfortune that saddled close relatives and neighbours. At the same time, Charley was handed a box of grenades from his supposed chum, Ginger, that had jettisoned several pins. Without warning, he was forced to throw the box wholesale at the "Hun" which earned him a rebuke of, "One grenade at a time, son!" from his sergeant. Aunt Mabel went on to chide Charley for not replying to appreciate the scarf that she had sent him while he was busy saving a colleague from a booby trap.

This surreal see-saw of horror at the front while a an oblivious domesticity played out from a distance resided in but three pages and exhibited a bitter-sweet rhapsody that left the reader with a conundrum: should he or she cry rather than laugh at his diabolical interchange. This episode more than any to date at this juncture cemented Charley's legacy without doubt. With later episodes, I'm sure that I will change my mind on this opinion. If so, then I am in for a heck of a ride.


Sat Jul 15, 2017 2:28 am
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A few posts ago I commented on the star letter of Battle's issue 2 that was penned by Steve Macmanus. Curiously, four years later in Battle's 28th April 1979 issue, I came across a star letter that... well, I've attached the two scans below.

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Now, surely Battle hadn't run out of original letters to print. Perhaps Rustin was a real person and successfully hoodwinked Battle out of £2?


Wed Jul 19, 2017 3:59 pm
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geoff42 wrote:
A few posts ago I commented on the star letter of Battle's issue 2 that was penned by Steve Macmanus. Curiously, four years later in Battle's 28th April 1979 issue, I came across a star letter that... well, I've attached the two scans below.

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Now, surely Battle hadn't run out of original letters to print. Perhaps Rustin was a real person and successfully hoodwinked Battle out of £2?


Perhaps the original writer saw it and wrote in to complain.

The letters pages in girls' comics had constant warnings about such cheating and printed several letters from readers who also condemned it. I think I saw a letter entitled "Fed Up Boss" twice, about an employee who mishears his boss's order to go heat his dinner for him as go eat his dinner for him.


Thu Jul 20, 2017 2:54 am
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There was an usual festive spirit within Battle's cover date of May 12th 1979 - no less than three strips embraced Yuletide for this week but, of course, none of them yielded gifts with ribbons and bows. Although Charley's War recounted a flashback tale, it mirrored the Glory Rider plotline wherein a temporary truce was brokered on Christmas Day only for treachery to literally kill the season of goodwill. Curiously, on both accounts, the Germans were the victims. H.M.S. Nightshade weathered both Christmas and New Year in Murmansk, Russia and focused on the subject of bullying.

By now, Charley and Nightshade were established at the front of Battle (first and second strips, respectively) while Johnny Red commanded the centre colour pages. Unsurprisingly, this trio were the top series of the day and more than equalled 2000 AD's contemporary, leading heroes: Dredd, Strontium Dog, and Robo-Hunter - exciting times for a boy of this period. And, in this particular issue of Battle, at last... the first printed letter to mention Charley's War (posted below). Alas, Brendan was too preoccupied with nit-picking rather than heap praise on either the brilliant story or art. I can't decide whether or not this letter should count.

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Wed Jul 26, 2017 10:44 pm
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Within Battle's cover-date issue of 02/06/70, Spinball Wars was again maligned and, yet, as Captain Hurricane replied to the letter that's posted below demonstrated: it really was a popular series despites its incongruous position in what was a war comic. Unlike One-eyed Jack and Dredger, Spinball endured against all the odds.

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Fri Aug 04, 2017 12:59 am
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I'm currently exhausting my time and resources in moving into my new home after ten weeks of squatting at my parents. There's a great loft conversion that nicely accommodates my 60+ plus boxes of British comics nostalgia and more if (definitely) required. I have a bedroom that is no longer under siege. Of course, in the interim, my pet past time: "Reading, reflecting and reporting on Battle's history" has somewhat stalled. Please don't adjust your PC settings; services will be resumed very shortly. There's still a long road on which Battle drives. I'm restless and impatient, but the following exploits of Charley's War, Nightshade, Johnny Red and The Sarge (even Spinball Wars) will be attended to as soon as I put away my feather duster.


Sun Aug 13, 2017 1:24 am
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Within Battle's cover dated issue of May 26th 1979 there was a fleeting insight into Johnny Red's personal life that flew in the face of his usual rousing, passionate call-to-arms offering. Suddenly, Johnny had depth that threatened to blow away his one-dimensional façade. After successfully completing a mission to fly a Russian minister from Stalingrad to London over which he barely survived, he decided to visit his hometown of Liverpool where upon he witnessed the bombing of his parent's house. His father was killed outright; his mother was taken to hospital unconscious. Johnny, at her bedside, bemoaned his shortcomings with the RAF, left her with his Russian medal and, on leaving, was unaware that his mother had heard every word that he had said and was oblivious to her heart-felt cry - a very touching moment.

Thereafter, following his viewing of a cinema newsreel of his fellow Falcon's plight in Stalingrad, Johnny resolved to return there and carry on the good fight. Over the next couple of episodes, Johnny endeavoured to return to the airfield where his injured comrades were last left and fly back to his adopted motherland while evading military police who, owing to his fly gear that he was still wearing, suspected him of desertion. During these issues, the reader could be forgiven for neglecting Johnny's incumbent mother. Johnny had seemingly erased his mother's plight from his mind as he cajoled his comrades for take off. Tom Tully, the writer, almost forgot until he allowed Johnny one latter panel to report that he had been in touch (off panel) with an auntie who would care for his mother before he took the controls to fly back to Russia.

Although it would have been interesting to delve more into Johnny's past and garner an insight into his psyche, perhaps, with hindsight, Tully thought it best to whisk his mercurial character back to where he belonged: brooding in a cockpit rather than lamenting his woes back in Blightey. Tully had a character that, against all the odds, could engage a cracking good storyline without the need for depth. The readers certainly preferred Johnny in the air over Stalingrad than hovering over a hospital bed. Tully played to his strengths with this series for, by no means, could an action-packed series guarantee success, especially with regard to conflict in the air. As with sea warfare , stories in the air were troublesome. Early Battle series of a similar nature: Lofty's One-Man Luftwaffe, Y for Yellow Squadron, King of the Yanks were average at best. It is a testament to Tully that he was able to engineer such a gripping series without apparent effort: Johnny Red simply flowed and ruled the skies for ten years.

The ability to seamlessly blend action with a deeper narrative was left for superior writers: Wagner & Mills who were busily succeeding with their respective classics: H.M.S. Nightshade and Charley's War, which is in no way an affront to Tully. But, it would have been interesting had either Wagner or Mills been given a stint on Johnny Red... very interesting.


Wed Aug 30, 2017 1:04 am
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Hi, Geoff. I just wanted to thank you for compiling such an interesting thread.

I only started getting Battle-Action a week after Starlord merged into 2000AD in 1978 as I wanted a comic to replace the former title. I enjoyed it even though traditionally I was not a war comic fan at the time. My allegiances may have showed, however, as my favourite strip was the aforementioned Spinball Wars plus another tale drawn by Eric Bradbury involving an alien invasion (can't remember the name).

However, by 1982, I started losing interest. It didn't help that the dynamic name (to me) of 'Battle-Action' shrunk to just plain 'Battle'. Also maybe I could sense what was coming since a year after I abandoned it, it was relabeled Battle Action Force which was aimed at a much younger audience.

I have since collected the full Battle-Action run of the comic.

Anyway, Geoff. Looking forward to reading your next posts. :)

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Loving comics since 1969 including: Action, Battle-Action, Captain Britain, Champ, CLiNT, Cor!!, Cracker, The Crunch, The Dandy, Doctor Who Comic, Eagle, Eagle, Hotspur, Hurricane, Jet, Lion, The Magic Comic, Red Dagger, Revolver, Scream!, Smash!, Spike, Starblazer, Starlord, Strip, Thunder, Valiant, Vulcan and Warrior.


Mon Sep 04, 2017 5:49 pm
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Hi, Sid, thank you for your kind comments. I started this thread after procuring the first two years of Battle. For me, from the early issues, The Terror Behind the Bamboo Curtain and The Bootneck Boy stood out as the most engaging stories. After trawling the internet for more information on these series, I was somewhat disappointed. Google "Battle" comic, you will find plenty of commentary on Charley's War and Johnny Red; to a lesser degree - Darkie's Mob and Major Eazy. After that, there's not much else despite Battle's enduring legacy among British comic enthusiasts. So, I took it upon myself to at least impart a little more info on the lesser publicised series. By no means comprehensive, I still hope this thread sheds a little more light on Battle's history where else it isn't available. I just happen to be in a situation where I'm reading Battle from start to finish as if I were reading its history for the first time and, therefore, report my opinions in a retrospective, chronological manner. The beauty of all this is that I am now reading and commenting on Battle as an adult rather than recollecting a by-gone nostalgia from the perspective of a young boy. For my sins, as a boy, Charley's War passed me by without much reflection on my behalf. Now, as an adult, I perceive a bigger picture and, therein, the magic kicks.

Don't worry, there's still bundle of posts yet to come... after I've settled in my new home and a forthcoming holiday in Benidorm next week. Sadly, at the moment, I've dropped to reading one issue of Battle per week as opposed to three or four. I'll get back on track. Thank you again, Sid. On a personal note, its nice to know that there are folk out there who are waiting for the next post... much appreciated :wink:


Tue Sep 05, 2017 10:51 pm
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