Battle Picture Weekly
|This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (May 2009)|
|Battle Picture Weekly|
Cover to first issue
|Publication date||March 1975 – January 1988|
|No. of issues||673|
|Written by||Gerry Finley-Day
|The Best of Battle: Volume 1||ISBN 1-84856-025-7|
|Darkie's Mob||ISBN 1848564422|
|Johnny Red||ISBN 1848560338|
Battle Picture Weekly, at various times also known as Battle Action Force, Battle and Battle with Storm Force, was a British war comic book magazine published by IPC Magazines from (issues dates) 8 March 1975 to 23 January 1988, when it merged with the new incarnation of Eagle. Most stories were set in World War II, with some based on other conflicts.
A notable feature of the comic, suited to its era of circulation, was its letters page with readers sending in stories of their fathers' and grandfathers' exploits during the First World War and the Second World War, often in an effort to win a nominal star letter prize. The comic at various times printed colour pinups of tanks, planes, ships, etc. in the centrefold or the back page (inner or outer).
In 1974, in response to the success of the D. C. Thomson & Co. Ltd war comic Warlord, IPC hired freelance writers Pat Mills and John Wagner to develop a rival title. Mills and Wagner brought in fellow freelancer Gerry Finley-Day to help develop stories. Dave Hunt was made editor. Doug Church also was very involved as a 'Creative Editor' on covers, layouts, features. When the title proved a success, Mills went on to create Action and 2000 AD, while Wagner was asked to revive Valiant. The attempts to breathe new life into Valiant were unsuccessful, and it was merged with Battle on 23 October 1976. For some time afterwards the merged comic was entitled Battle Picture Weekly and Valiant. Action also merged with Battle on 19 November 1977, the resulting comic being named Battle Action. In 1979, Terry Magee was appointed editor while Dave Hunt became editor of the new "Eagle". Barrie Tomlinson was the Group Editor and Gil Page was the Managing Editor. The Director of the Youth Group was John Sanders. In 1982 the comic was retitled again, to Battle.
- Assistant Editor (for most of Battle comic's life): Jim Storrie
- Art Editors included Roy Stedall-Humphrys and Peter Downer
- Editorial assistants included Barrie Clements, Roy Preston, Richard Burton
- Art assistants: Tim Skomski, Martin Goldring
The details of title changes are:
- Battle Picture Weekly (8 March 1975 [issue #1] – 16 October 1976 [issue #85])
- Battle Picture Weekly and Valiant (23 October 1976 [issue #86] – 1 October 1977 [issue #135])
- Battle Picture Weekly (8 October 1977 [issue #136] – 11 November 1977 [issue #141])
- Battle-Action (19 November 1977 [issue #142] – 1 July 1978 [issue #175])
- Battle Action (8 July 1978 [issue #176] – 4 October 1980 [issue #283]) : indicia still reads Battle-Action
- Battle Action (11 October 1980 [issue #284] – 25 July 1981 [issue #325]) : indicia now reads Battle Action
- Battle (1 August 1981 [issue #326] – 1 October 1983 [issue #439])
- Battle Action Force (8 October 1983 [issue #440] – 29 November 1986 [issue #604])
- Battle (6 December 1986 [issue #605] – 17 January 1987 [issue #611])
- Battle Storm Force (24 January 1987 [issue #612] – 23 January 1988 [issue #664])
Tie-in with Action Force
From 1983 through to 1986, the comic ran a series of stories relating to the Palitoy range of action figures, Action Force. The Action Force characters initially guest-featured in a comic strip serial in Battle for four weeks in July 1983. The strip proved to be so popular that a further five promotional mini-comics were included free with every IPC publication in the weeks to follow. On 8 October 1983, Action Force joined the pages of Battle full-time and the comic was retitled Battle Action Force.
Eventually, in line with the increasing popularity of the toys, the focus of the comic moved towards Action Force (at the expense of some of the longer-running and more traditional wartime stories) and providing the back-stories to the action figures in circulation at the time.
During 1984 to 1985, Palitoy increasingly used the comic as a promotional publication, running competitions, mail-in offers and fan-club elements of the Action Force toy range through its pages. As Action Force itself transmuted to its G.I. Joe equivalent (see Action Force – Third generation), the comic took on the role of providing continuity with regard to the diverging storylines and characters. By the end of 1986, Palitoy had lost the Action Force licence to Marvel UK and the comic was again re-titled first as Battle (1986) and then Battle with Storm Force (1987) prior to its eventual merger with Eagle (1988).
Notable stories included:
- Rat Pack, written by Gerry Finley-Day and initially drawn by Spanish artist Carlos Ezquerra, about a group of convicts released from prison to carry out suicide missions, inspired by The Dirty Dozen.
- Major Eazy, by Alan Hebden and Ezquerra, a laid back, cigar-smoking British officer who drove a Bentley, visually based on James Coburn. For a time Major Eazy became the commander of Rat Pack.
- Darkie's Mob, by Wagner and Mike Western, a violent series set in the jungles of Burma, with the renegade Captain Joe Darkie leading a group of lost soldiers in a personal guerrilla war against the Japanese.
- Johnny Red, written by Tom Tully and drawn initially by Joe Colquhoun, later by John Cooper and finally by Carlos Pino, about a British fighter pilot Johnny "Red" Redburn flying for the Russians in a Hawker Hurricane fighter. Later Redburn flies with the RAF and United States Army Air Forces in England, before returning to the Eastern Front in a Hawker Typhoon nicknamed The Red Death. Johnny Red ran continuously for ten years and was Battle's longest-running series.
- HMS Nightshade, by Wagner and Western, about the crew of a British Royal Navy Corvette at the height of the Battle of the Atlantic, protecting Allied supply convoys against the German U-Boats.
- El Mestizo, by Hebden and Ezquerra, about a former slave turned mercenary in the American Civil War.
- D-Day Dawson, written by Finley-Day & Ron Carpenter and illustrated by Geoff Campion and Colin Page, about a British army Sergeant who is wounded on the D-Day beaches by a bullet that is lodged near his heart, sealing his eventual doom. However, the doctor that diagnoses the injury is then killed and Dawson rejoins his unit, no-one else aware of his terminal condition, having decided to fight with his platoon until the end.
- The Bootneck Boy, written by Ian MacDonald and later by Wagner and illustrated by Giralt, about Danny Budd, a young orphan who, having been reluctantly raised by his unpleasant uncle, enlists in the Royal Marines where he is picked on because of his small physique but he remains determined to prove himself.
- Hellman of Hammer Force, written by Finley-Day, starring a German tank commander who fights throughout the Second World War from the invasion of Poland in 1939 to the fall of Berlin in 1945. This series was an intermittent one, drawn by several different artists.
- Yellow Jack, by Terence Magee, about a cowardly British soldier Jack Loot hungering for gold in the North African desert war.
- Charley's War, by Mills and Colquhoun, this series told the story of 16-year-old Charley Bourne who enlists in the British army during the First World War. He serves in the trenches on the Western Front 1916-1918 and later in the Russian Civil War in 1919. The series was continued for a short period into the Second World War under a new writer, Scott Goodall but the series was then ceased due to the ill health of artist Joe Colquhoun.
- Cooley's Gun by Gerry Finley-Day and Geoff Campion
- Kommando King by Gerry Finley-Day and Geoff Campion
- War Dog by Alan Hebden and Mike Western and later Cam Kennedy
- Death Squad by Alan Hebden and Eric Bradbury, bunch of German no-hopers on the Eastern Front
- Fighting Mann by Alan Hebden and Cam Kennedy, a veteran US Marine Colonel embarks on an un-authorized mission in the Vietnam War to locate his son, a Navy pilot, who has gone missing and has been accused of desertion.
- The Commando They Didn't Want by Terence Magee (written under the pseudonym John Richard) and Carlos Pino
- The Nightmare by Richard and Mario Capaldi and later Carlos Pino, boy of the Blitz pursued by Nazi assassin
- Invasion 1984 by John Wagner and Eric Bradbury, aliens from outer space
- Invasion! by Richard and Jim Watson, Falklands war
- The Hunters by Richard and Carlos Pino and later by Geoff Campion, secret agents
- One-Eyed Jack by John Wagner and John Cooper, a Dirty Harry like character. Originally a cop in Valiant, he became a spy when he came to Battle.
- Storm Force – a non-stop action strip about a squad of elite anti-terrorist warriors, inspired by Action Force
- Gaunt – set in World War II, about an unbalanced "hard man" given a superhumanly strong artificial hand to replace one lost during torture
- The General Dies at Dawn- by Finley-Day & Cooper, a Wehrmacht General, due to be executed for treason, spends his final hours describing his wartime experiences to the sympathetic guard outside his cell.
- Hold Hill 109- written by Steve MacManus and drawn by Jim Watson, a mini-series set in North Africa about a ragged group of 13 Eighth Army soldiers who have six days to hold a vital hill against a vastly superior force of Afrika Korps.
- Fighter from the Sky- by Finley-Day & Campion, in 1939 a German Paratrooper Paul Fallman is demoted back to private after his father is executed for treason, leaving his son determined to restore honour to his family name.
- Panzer G-Man- by Finley-Day & Campion, a Panzer-Grenadier Kurt Slinger fights not only against the Allies but against deadly rivals among his own comrades.
- Joe Two Beans- by Wagner & Bradbury, a Blackfoot Native-American serves in the US Marine Corps in the bloody Pacific War.
- The Sarge- by Finley-Day & drawn by Mike Western, a British Sergeant Jim Masters, veteran of WW1, has to shepherd his rookie, over-confident platoon during the Second World War.
Garth Ennis has stated that Battle was "one of my favourites as a kid and a big influence on my own work. I used to enjoy Darkie's Mob, Crazy Keller, Hellman, Cooley's Gun, the later Rat Pack stories, Death Squad, The Sarge... the list is endless" and he wrote a letter to the comic pointing out an error in tank identification.
In November 2015, the character of Johnny Red was revived by writer Garth Ennis and illustrator Keith Burns for a new 8-part mini-series published by Titan Comics. 
- The Best of Battle: Volume 1 (288 pages, June 2009, ISBN 1-84856-025-7)
- The Best of Land Battle - This edition was originally planned to be released in 2010 but was postponed and has yet to be published.
- Rat Pack: Volume 1 (128 pages, September 2010, ISBN 1-84856-035-4)
- Major Eazy: Volume 1 (120 pages, November 2010, ISBN 1-84856-441-4)
- Johnny Red: Falcons' First Flight (128 pages, November 2010, ISBN 1-84856-033-8)
- Darkie's Mob (112 pages, April 2011, ISBN 1-84856-442-2)
- Johnny Red Volume 2: Red Devil Rising (96 pages, June 2012, ISBN 1-84856-034-6)
- Johnny Red Volume 3: Angels over Stalingrad (104 pages, February 2013, ISBN 1-84856-438-4)
- Garth Ennis Presents: Battle Classics (255 pages, January 2014, ISBN 1-78116-741-9)- Features the entire series of HMS Nightshade and The General Dies at Dawn.
- Garth Ennis Presents: Battle Classics-Volume 2 (240 pages, August 2016, ISBN 1-78276-794-0)- Features the entire series of Fighting Mann and War Dog.
- Johnny Red Volume 4: The Flying Gun (160 pages, September 2016, ISBN 1-84856-444-9)
From 1 April 2009, Egmont UK (who now own the rights to Battle picture strips) in conjunction with W H Smith announced 4 special reprint collections from their stable, including a collection of Battle strips. (The other collections are Roy of the Rovers, Misty and Buster).
- When buying second-hand copies, these should be checked, as the pictures may have been removed from the comic.
- History of Battle at sevenpennynightmare.co.uk Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
- Darkies Mob: John Wagner interview, 3 September 2002
- The Reader's Letters Page, Battle Stations
- "Egmont bringing back mag classics | Licensing Industry | News by". Licensing.biz. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
- 'Battle Picture Weekly' at the Grand Comics Database
- 'Battle Picture Weekly and Valiant' at the Grand Comics Database
- 'Battle Action' at the Grand Comics Database
- 'Battle (1982) at the Grand Comics Database
- 'Battle Action Force' at the Grand Comics Database
- 'Battle (1987) at the Grand Comics Database
- 'Battle Storm Force' at the Grand Comics Database