EXTRACTS: The Art of Commando (illustrators special) © 2019 The Book Palace (144 PAGES in Full edition)

99 My day job was working as a science journalist and I’d been reading a lot about rocket history, so I put something together about rival rocket scientists—the bad guy ends up working on Nazi V-2 launchers, while the good guy tries to stop him. A week or so later, a typewritten letter came back fromeditor George Low saying that the idea was promising, but the outline was much too short. He suggested adding in some extra subplots and action sequences, and suggested some possibilities along those lines. I’d thought my outline was plenty long already, but I’d had the wrong type of comic of mind. A standard Commando script is composed of 135 frames (DCThomson calls them ‘pics’), which is roughly the same as a 22 page American comic of six frames per page. Except that Commando packs far more plot into those frames — probably because it is the ultimate in compressed story- telling. There is no “show-not-tell” here. Each and every frame is expected to have a panel caption as well as dialogue – editorial lets you get away with a single panel-free frame once in a while, but certainly not more than one. The captions make sure the storytelling is absolutely crystal clear, and alsomake up for the lack of sound effects balloons, which simply don’t exist in Commando . The closest you get are the blood-curdling cries of the dying, which one way or another has become the title’s trademark: “Arrgghh!” (I find the exact number of letters differs depending on the severity of the injury). When it comes to it, Commando really comes from a different tradition than current American comics. These are captioned stories in pictures of a type closer to the likes of Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant or Alex Raymond’s original Flash Gordon in the US. Over in the UK Rupert the Bear is probably the most prominent surviving example of the ‘picture story’ format, whose lineage goes back to Victorian funny papers that Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill referenced in one cover of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen . Plus, of course, each issue is half the size of a standard comic, with two or more frames per page – so very little room for panoramic art-heavy spreads. George once gently pointed this out when I pitched a “widescreen” story involving a hurricane barrelling into fighting US and Japanese battle fleets. The plot’s the thing! Once I