Boy Commandos

Boy Commandos was a 1940s comic book series created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for DC Comics. A combination of "kid gang" comics and war comics, the title starred an international cast of young boys fighting Nazis — or in their own parlance, "the Ratzies".[1]

Boy Commandos
Boy Commandos 1
Boy Commandos #1 (Winter 1942-43). Pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon.
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
ScheduleVolume 1
Quarterly:
#1-13
Bi-monthly:
#14-36
Volume 2
Bi-monthly:
#1-2
FormatOngoing series
Publication dateVolume 1
Winter 1942 to Nov.-Dec. 1949
Volume 2
Sept.-Oct. 1973 to Nov.-Dec. 1973
No. of issuesVolume 1
36
Volume 2
2
Main character(s)Boy Commandos
Creative team
Written byJoe Simon, Jack Kirby, Joe Samachson, Francis Herron, Don Cameron, Gardner Fox
Penciller(s)Jack Kirby, Louis Cazeneuve, Curt Swan, John Fischetti, John Severin, Arthur Peddy, Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane
Inker(s)Joe Simon, Louis Cazeneuve, Steve Brodie, John Fischetti, Gil Kane, Charles Nicholas, John Giunta, George Klein, Frank Giacoia, Arthur Peddy
Editor(s)Jack Schiff

Creation

Simon & Kirby were hired away from Timely Comics by DC towards the end of 1941, primarily due to their success on Captain America, but without there being a clear purpose to the decision, nor title to work on.[2] Finding themselves initially embroiled in the Captain Marvel lawsuit, Jack Liebowitz gave them free rein to create or revamp DC heroes. Initially, the duo created new versions of The Sandman, and Manhunter (both of whom bore strong resemblance to their Captain America work), before deciding that "kid gangs seemed to be the way to go".[2] Teenage sidekicks (Batman's Robin, Captain America's Bucky, etc.) were fast becoming a comics staple, intended to provide young characters with whom youthful readers could identify.[3] Simon & Kirby's own Sentinels of Liberty (later the Young Allies) had already succeeded in this mold, and had an influence on their subsequent creation.

Detective Comics Issue 65 - debut Boy Commandos
Detective Comics #65 (July 1942). Art by Jack Kirby, Jerry Robinson and Joe Simon.

Having already created the "Sentinels of Liberty" for Timely, they now created for DC the Newsboy Legion ("a Dead End Kids-style group led by a police officer in a Captain America-like blue-and-yellow costume, toting a shield"[2]). Although America had not yet entered the war, headlines and news stories highlighted the role of British commandos, so Simon and Kirby fused the kid gang with the commando, and created The Boy Commandos.

Debuting in the pages of Detective Comics[4] #64 (the issue #65's cover (left) shows Batman presenting the gang but they appeared first in the issue before) cover-dated June 1942, the team became extremely popular, also appearing in World's Finest Comics (#8-41, 1942-1949) and were then soon spun off into their own title,[5] launching with a 'Winter 1942' date. The title sold "over a million copies each month," and was one of DC's "three biggest hits" alongside Superman and Batman.[2] Kirby drew around five pages a day of the title, but Liebowitz requested an even faster turn-around - fearing (as happened) that the two would be drafted, as had many other industry professionals. Simon & Kirby hired "inkers, [letterers], colorists, and writers, striving to create a year's worth of tales" (Boy Commandos was also a quarterly title until Winter, 1945). Among those hired was a young Gil Kane, who recalls being:

"hired to do as many Boy Commandos, Newsboy Legion, and Sandman stories as I could... they gave me scripts and they would do the splashes and they would have it inked."[2]

Boy Commandos ran until issue #36 (Nov/Dec 1949), and was edited throughout by Jack Schiff. Among the individuals who assisted Simon and Kirby on the title (and its covers) were future-Superman legend Curt Swan, as well as Steve Brodie, Louis Cazeneuve and Carmine Infantino.

Fictional team biography

The eponymous characters were André Chavard from France; Alfie Twidgett from England, Jan Haasan from the Netherlands, and "Brooklyn" from the United States. An elite commando squad of orphaned children, led by grown-up Captain Rip Carter, they fought on all fronts of the Second World War.[1]

In September 1944, the Newsboy Legion teamed up with the Boy Commandos to stop armed and armored traitors based out of New York City.[6]

The team's adventures continued well past the war, even though there were many roster changes. Jan left first, having found relatives in his homeland to stay with. Alfie was replaced by a Texan named Tex. Percy Clearweather, a glasses-wearing genius, replaced André.

It was revealed years later that Brooklyn was Dan Turpin, that André Chavard had become the head of the French Intelligence Département Gamma, and that Alfie Twidgett was now the head of the firm Statistical Occurrences Ltd. (SOL), with his daughter Twiggie.

Subsequent appearances

Boy Commandos Issue 1 (reprint) 1973
Boy Commandos #1 (Sep/Oct 1973). Art by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon.
Reprints early BC stories. Compare artwork to #1 (1942) above.

In addition to the aligning of Metropolis Special Crimes Unit's Detective Dan Turpin with "Brooklyn", the team have seen print in a couple of titles since the late 1940s.

In the 1970s, during Kirby's involvement at DC, several of their stories were reprinted in various books, particularly those written and drawn by Kirby himself (e.g. Mister Miracle #6 in February 1972. A reprint Boy Commandos title was published in Sep/Oct 1973 under editor E. Nelson Bridwell, but lasted only two issues before disappearing.

The four original members, minus Brooklyn, reappeared late during the run of Len Wein's Blue Beetle, which reintroduced Alfie as the founder and president of Statistical Occurrences Ltd., an insurance company specializing in properties which may attract the activities of superhumans. Using his daughter "Twiggie" as a mediator, Alfie hires Murray Takamoto, an ex-S.T.A.R. Labs administrator (and college roommate of Ted Kord) who'd worked on a "Star Wars" satellite program, which S.O.L. had received a contract concerning its protection. Joining Alfie in this venture are his old teammates Andre, now head of the fictional Department Gamma of the French Secret Service, Jan, now a professor working for the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, and their former mentor "Rip" Carter, now a general. It was implied that they would eventually come into conflict, along with the Blue Beetle, with corrupt European industrialist Klaus Cornelius, who had already used his influence to disband Europe's lead super-hero agency, the Global Guardians, and was working to resurrect the Boy Commandos' old enemy Agent Axis. However, the series ended before the storyline could reach fruition, and no further developments have been mentioned since then, although Cornelius did make a brief cameo during Kurt Busiek's Power Company miniseries.

They made an appearance in the most recent incarnation of The Brave and the Bold (issue #9, February 2008), in which they teamed up with fellow World War II heroes, the Blackhawks.

Collection

DC published the first of 2 hardback collections of Simon and Kirby's work on the series:

  • The Boy Commandos Vol. 1, 2010, ISBN (reprints Detective Comics #64-73, World's Finest Comics #8-9 and Boy Commandos #1-2).
  • The Boy Commandos Vol. 2, 2015, ISBN (reprints Detective Comics #74-83, World's Finest Comics #10-13 and Boy Commandos #3-5).

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Greenberger, Robert (2008), "Boy Commandos", in Dougall, Alastair, The DC Comics Encyclopedia, London: Dorling Kindersley, p. 59, ISBN 0-7566-4119-5
  2. ^ a b c d e Ro, Ronin. Tales to Astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and the American Comic Book Revolution (Bloomsbury, 2004)
  3. ^ Doubt has been cast of the veracity of this - ostensibly editorial - opinion (that child readers desired or required a child character with whom to identify). Notable comics commentators including Jules Feiffer have noted:
    "The super grownups were the ones I identified with. There was still time to prepare. But Robin the Boy Wonder was my own age. One need only look at him to see he could fight better, swing from a rope better, play ball better, eat better and live better - for while I lived in the East Bronx, Robin lived in a mansion...", Feiffer, Jules The Great Comic Book Heroes (Crown, 1964) as quoted in Van Hise, James, Batmania (Pioneer Books, 1989), p. 10
  4. ^ Although that title had previously stuck largely to characters who were, as the title implied, detectives of some kind, the onset of war (and America's subsequent involvement in it) both inspired and was requested of comics companies to create patriotic heroes, such as Simon and Kirby's Captain America a year earlier.
  5. ^ Wallace, Daniel; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1940s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. The inaugural issue of Boy Commandos represented Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's first original title since they started at DC (though the characters had debuted earlier that year in Detective Comics #64.)CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  6. ^ The Newsboy Legion Boy Commandos Special (Oct. 2017)

External links

1942 in comics

Notable events of 1942 in comics. See also List of years in comics.

1949 in comics

Notable events of 1949 in comics. See also List of years in comics.

Agent Axis (DC Comics)

Agent Axis is the name of two fictional comic book supervillains from DC Comics.

Blackhawks (DC Comics)

Blackhawks was a monthly series launched by DC Comics in September 2011. The series had no direct ties to previous incarnations of DC's long-running Blackhawk characters. The book is set in the present day with no appearances by or mention of prior Blackhawks, although there is a new "Lady Blackhawk". The book shares the setting of the rebooted DC Universe continuity set up in the Flashpoint mini-series and is a part of DC's New 52 initiative.The series ended with Blackhawks #8 (April 2012) to make way for a "second wave" of New 52 titles.

Blitzkrieg (DC Comics)

Blitzkrieg was a short-lived 1970s war-themed comic book published by DC Comics.

Crazy Quilt

Crazy-Quilt is the name of different characters in DC Comics.

Curt Swan

Douglas Curtis "Curt" Swan (February 17, 1920 – June 17, 1996) was an American comics artist. The artist most associated with Superman during the period fans call the Silver Age of Comic Books, Swan produced hundreds of covers and stories from the 1950s through the 1980s.

DC Omnibus

DC Omnibus is a line of large format, high quality, full color, hardcover editions published by DC Comics since 2007, reprinting comics previously printed in single issue format. Individual volumes tend to focus on collecting either the works of profilic comic creators, like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko; major comic book events like "The Death and Return of Superman" and "Infinite Crisis"; or chronological reprints of the earliest years of stories featuring the company's most well known series and characters like "Batman" and "Justice League of America".

Dan Turpin

Daniel "Terrible" Turpin is a character published by DC Comics. He first appeared as Brooklyn (due to him being born in New York City) in Detective Comics #64 (June 1942), and first appeared as Dan Turpin in New Gods #5 (November 1971).

Gravedigger (comics)

Gravedigger is a codename used by two fictional soldiers published by DC Comics. Captain Ulysses Hazard the first Gravedigger debuted in Men of War #1 (August 1977), and was created by David Michelinie and Ed Davis. Tyson Sykes the second Gravedigger debuted in Checkmate vol. 2 #25 (June 2008), and was created by Greg Rucka, Eric Trautmann and Joe Bennett.

Jack Kirby bibliography

Jack Kirby was a prolific comics creator who created a large number of American comic books and characters, particularly for Marvel Comics and DC Comics.

Joe Simon

Joseph Henry "Joe" Simon (born Hymie Simon; October 11, 1913 – December 14, 2011) was an American comic book writer, artist, editor, and publisher. Simon created or co-created many important characters like Captain America in the 1930s–1940s Golden Age of Comic Books and served as the first editor of Timely Comics, the company that would evolve into Marvel Comics.

With his partner, artist Jack Kirby, he co-created Captain America, one of comics' most enduring superheroes, and the team worked extensively on such features at DC Comics as the 1940s Sandman and Sandy the Golden Boy, and co-created the Newsboy Legion, the Boy Commandos, and Manhunter. Simon and Kirby creations for other comics publishers include Boys' Ranch, Fighting American and the Fly. In the late 1940s, the duo created the field of romance comics, and were among the earliest pioneers of horror comics. Simon, who went on to work in advertising and commercial art, also founded the satirical magazine Sick in 1960, remaining with it for a decade. He briefly returned to DC Comics in the 1970s.

Simon was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1999.

John Severin

John Powers Severin (; December 26, 1921 – February 12, 2012) was an American comics artist noted for his distinctive work with EC Comics, primarily on the war comics Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat; for Marvel Comics, especially its war and Western comics; and for his 45-year stint with the satiric magazine Cracked. He was one of the founding cartoonists of Mad in 1952.

Severin was inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 2003.

Liberty Belle (comics)

Liberty Belle is the name of three fictional superheroines. Two are from DC Comics: Libby Lawrence and Jesse Chambers, the other is from Charlton Comics: Caroline Dean.

Louis Cazeneuve

Luis "Louis" Cazeneuve (August 18, 1908 – August 1977) was an Argentine-born American comic-book artist best known for co-creating the Marvel Comics character Red Raven and for his prolific work on the DC Comics characters Aquaman, Shining Knight, the Boy Commandos and others during the 1940s period fans and historians call the Golden Age of Comic Books.

His brother, Arturo "Arthur" Cazeneuve (1919–1992), was also a Golden Age comic-book artist, and became an illustrator and assistant art director for the overseas edition of Time magazine in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Newsboy Legion

The Newsboy Legion are fictional characters, a kid gang in the DC Comics Universe. Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, they appeared in their own self-titled feature which ran from Star-Spangled Comics #7 (April 1942) to Star-Spangled Comics #64 (January 1947).

Our Fighting Forces

Our Fighting Forces is a war comics anthology series published by DC Comics for 181 issues from 1954–1978.

Young Love (comics)

Young Love was one of the earliest romance comics titles, published by Crestwood/Prize, and later sold to DC Comics.

Young Romance

Young Romance is a romantic comic book series created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for the Crestwood Publications imprint Prize Comics in 1947. Generally considered the first romance comic, the series ran for 124 consecutive issues under Prize imprint, and a further 84 (issues #125-208) published by DC Comics after Crestwood stopped producing comics.

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