Better Than All The Rest 1980s

Now that you have my choices for the honourable mentions for the 1960s and 1970s, let’s move on to the 1980s.  The 1980s is another decade that does not disappoint and with 96 issues being published in each year of this decade, I am not surprised that the decade produced another batch of great stories.

In 1981, we get our first honourable mention with issue 1530 Father and Son.  This is a story that spans both World Wars and I think it is the only one to start with a baby being found on one of the battlefields of the Great War. The baby is adopted by a British officer and ends up averting one of the atrocities that seemed so prevalent in the Second World War.

Another great cover by Ian Kennedy with some solid internal art by Carmona and another great script from Cyril G Walker where Cyril subverts the growing sub-genre of the good German and makes us consider one of the more interesting social science questions about nature versus nurture.

As you can see, my next offering features a cover by Jeff Bevan which is one of my favourites.  So simple yet such a powerful image for the reader.  This beast hails from the 1983 crop and is from issue 1711 The Monster.  This is a car that few in the local village will drive for fear that it will takes its’ revenge on those with evil in their heart.  And who amongst us can ever consider ourselve to be as pure as the driven snow? To quote the great Mae West “I used to be Snow White but I drifted.”

This is a great tale that would not have been out of place in either Commando, Spellbound, Misty or Scream and for that I want to thank the great Mary Feldwick for this and the other stories that she added to the Commando Library.  And I think that Franch who illustrated this tale never turned in a duff page during his 15 years of contributing to Commando.

Moving on to 1984, I have a couple of issues to recommend to you.  The first is issue 1793 Once An Eagle which features a pilot from a famous British RFC Squadron that is treated with such disdain on his return from the Great War that he goes into a bitter self-imposed exile in the Far East where years later, the Second World War makes him realise that while he may no longer be a fighter pilot, he can continue to contribute.

This features another great cover by Ian Kennedy and he adds so many elements of the story to make a very effective cover.  The internal art is by Nebot and it is another rock solid script from Cyril G Walker.

I especially enjoy the science fiction stories so it is no real surprise that I have picked issue 1855 Spaceman In A Spitfire as one of my honourable mentions.  In a galaxy far, far away, two races of aliens battle each other using computers to work out the most effective strategy and those fighting the battles use pills to suppress their feelings.  The humanoid race are hopelessly outnumbered and send one of their number to Earth to see if he can learn anything from the way the constantly warring Earthlings do battle.

To me, this is one of the iconic covers from Commando and the fact that it reminds me of the dozens of gate guardians that you could find around the RAF stations doesn’t exactly hurt.  Here is an example of the one that filled my life for four years while I was at RAF Uxbridge.

And in case you had not guessed the cover for 1855 was another example of Ian Kennedy’s work and the internal art was the work of the talented Gordon Livingstone and the script was the work of Roger Sanderson.

My next selection takes us to 1987 and with three honourable mentions and the top issue of the decade, it’s made me double check my assumption that 1978 was still my favourite year as there were some awesome issues coming out in this year and the first one that I have picked is issue 2061 Big Trouble for Corporal Hubert! is a story that will make you chuckle as a story about the Catering Corps sounds as interesting as watching a cake rise, but Corporal Hubert shows that while he may not have been the usual shape of a frontline soldier, he was made of sterner stuff and could hold his own when he was reminded that he was in a shooting war!

The Jeff Bevan cover shows Corporal Hubert as being way outside his comfort zone but the script of Roger Sanderson and the story art of Terry Patrick shows us that he comes to terms with the new situation more swiftly than we would have thought.

Our next candidate for a honourable mention is issue 2073 Brigand Squadron.  On the face of it, many will dismiss it as a tale of crack squadron builds up reputation, squadron loses its’ reputation and then redeems itself by regaining the reputation.  But in this tale, the strength is in the journey of the fall and rise of Brigand Squadron.

This is another great cover from the brushes of Ian Kennedy with the story being drawn by Terry Patrick and the story comes from the pen of Ian Clark.

Moving onto the last issue from 1987 that I am going to highlight is issue 2142 No Ordinary Tank and this is a supernatural tale with a difference. This is a haunted Sherman and it gave many people nightmares, but for those that relied on her, she was the stuff that dreams were made of.

And the creative team that brought this issue to life is a bit of a dream team as it was two staff artists that illustrated this issue with Jeff Bevan doing the cover and Gordon Livingstone drawing the story art.  And once again, we have another great script from Alan Hebden.

Moving on to 1988, I believe that we had another great year with the issues coming out that year and the first one that I am going to mention is issue 2149 VLR Very Long Range where a Commando mission to Norway is used as a field test for a new sniper rifle and to disrupt the German attempts to extract heavy water.  There are enough touches of humour that lift this story above the rest of the stories and the added element of field-testing a new weapon are enough to make sure that any discerning reader is going to come back to this issue time and time again.

This is where we see Jeff Bevan’s covers becoming classic examples of how to create a brilliant cover with the minimum of elements.  And with the story being illustrated by Denis McLoughlin and written by Alan Hebden, it’s hard to see how this issue could fail to impress.

My second pick from 1988 features the same creative team of Jeff Bevan, Denis McLoughlin and Alan Hebden so can you be surprised that I enjoyed issue 2176 Warship On Wheels?  This is a case of what if Von Ryan’s Express had featured one of the amoured trains that featured on the Eastern Front and then you add in a dollop of humour with Hitler’s personal astrologer being captured by the escaping POWs.

This is one of the stories that has you smiling from panel one and feeling sympathy for the hard bitten German veteran that is trying to recapture the POWs.  I heartily recommend seeking this one out on your auction site of choice and defy any fan to read this and get through the whole thing without a cheeky chuckle or three.

My final pick from 1988 is a little unusual as it is issue 2181 On Active Service.  I bring it forward for a few reasons.  One is a personal one as my mother’s first job was in service and the subtle play between being in service and on active service is one that always bring a wry smile to my way of thinking.

The second reason is that I will often overlook this issue when doing these type of lists but every time I dig out the box that holds this part of my Commando run, I rarely fail to dig this one out as one to read again.

The third reason is that in most of these stories, there is a righteous anger in the one from downstairs and in this take on the story, Cyril transfers the anger to the rebellious son of the manor.  And in an interesting twist of the trope, the son becomes batman to his butler.

As you might have guessed, I think that this is great writing from Cyril G Walker with another subtle Jeff Bevan cover and the story art being drawn by Manuel Benet.

My last two for the 1980s are from 1989 and the first one that I am putting forward is issue 2264 Phantom Panthers.  This was a story that had its’ roots in World War One when a Royal Military Policeman is killed leaving his son fatherless and orphaned when his mother dies.  Fast forward to the last 12 months of World War Two and a troop of Panther tanks are on the loose and causing mayhem.  It takes the work of another Royal Military Policeman to track them down.  And if the ghost of the man killed during World War One helps his son to solve the mystery then who could be spooked by that?

As you can tell, the cover is another great one from Ian Kennedy with story art by Denis McLoughlin and this time the story is written by veteran Allan Chalmers.

And my last nomination for the 1980s is issue 2296 His Worship Goes to War.  This is a tale that mixes the humour with equal dollops of action and nods to the historical record.  During the early part of the war, communities were encouraged to contribute as much metal and money as they could to help the war effort. And one small town manages to contribute so much that they are able to equip the local regiment.  The mayor, who is a canny operator, sees this as a golden opportunity to improve his popularity by volunteering to deliver it to the regiment during this quiet part of the Phoney War.  Unfortunately for our mayor, the German forces have other plans!

This issue reads like one of the great Ealing comedies and should be in any fan’s collection of Commando comics.  As you can see, it’s another great Ian Kennedy cover with the story art drawn by the talented Alejandro Martinez Ruiz and the script provided by that ever talented Alan Hebden.

For all of you out there, these are my choices for best of the rest and people will have other issues that they think are head and shoulders above the rest and I ask you to share those choices with me and the other three readers of this blog.

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