World War II
Battler Picture Library Holiday Special 1982
Medium: comic
Year: 1982
Country: UK
Keywords: World War II
Format: at least 42 pages long, probably 64
Website category: Comics UK
Review date: 26 February 2021
As far as I can tell, this is one of the last Battler Britton stories. His main era ran from 1956 to the 1970s, but he got an annual Picture Library Holiday Special from 1978 to 1982 and then another in 1988. Garth Ennis briefly revived him in 2006, but that's likely to end up being his last appearance.
Anyway, the story I have here is incomplete. I only have its first 42 pages. I don't know who wrote or drew it. I can still talk about it, though.
There's a little-known British comics format, still used today by DC Thomson's Commando. The total number of panels is similar that of a 22-page U.S. comic, but it's 64 pages long and the page size is tiny. It's only 7 by 5.5 inches, compared with the U.S. format of about 6.5 by 10, or the British newsstand format of 8.5 by 11.5. The idea is to be easy to read (and probably also cheap to print). You'll only have 1-3 panels per page, with no or few sound effects.
Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised. The characterisation's more sophisticated than I'd expected. Battler Britton himself is only introduced on p9, with the story's main character being a half-German Canadian called Carl. "I guess I'm half-hearted about this war. Maybe I don't care whether the Germans conquer Europe. It seems such a long way off, anyway."
He doesn't want to be a pilot, but he likes the idea of becoming a radio operator. He signs up with the RAF and soon is going on a bombing raid with Britton. The carnage terrifies him. When the plane crashes, Carl ends up surrendering to the Germans and volunteering to work for them. "Don't send me out! I'll do anything. I'm a skilled wireless technician..."
When my pages run out, he's at Gestapo HQ in Oslo and being given a job by them. (Refusal is not an option.)
I like this. That's a story worth telling, although a lot would depend on how it ends and I know nothing about that. It's certainly more interesting than the one-dimensional heroism I'd been expecting. The art's respectable, too. Nothing wrong with it. I've since bought a few Commando comics, to see more of what I've been missing all these years.