Wolf of Kabul

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William Sampson or Samson, the Wolf of Kabul, was a literary character in British boys' papers published by D. C. Thomson & Co. He first appeared in The Wizard in 1922.[1]

Publication history[edit]

When the Wolf of Kabul series began, The Wizard, like the other D. C. Thomson titles, was a story paper with illustrations. The series reappeared in comic format in issue 102 of The Hotspur in 1961, and ran there until 1975. It appeared in Buddy from 1981 to 1983. Meanwhile Warlord included a prequel series, Young Wolf, about Sampson's childhood, starting with its first issue in 1974.[1][2]

Description[edit]

Second Lieutenant Bill Sampson was an agent of the British Intelligence Corps on the Northwest Frontier.[1][3][4] Disguised as a native[5] (but given away by his blue eyes), he was armed only with two knives,[1] while his Oriental sidekick, Chung, made devastating use of a cricket bat bound with brass, which he called "clicky-ba":[6]

Clicky-ba thundered, and men with crushed heads squirmed on the path. Dreadful sounds echoed up the cliffs as the vanguard of Yahaw Khan's army swung this way and that, retreating and advancing in turns ... In sheer desperation they attacked, but found themselves opposed not only by Chung, but by the twin daggers of the Wolf. He used those blades with a skill that had yet to be equalled. When he struck it was as sure as the attack of a snake. Men dropped. The daggers in the hands of the Wolf were red to their silver hilts.[6]

Chung often apologised for his headbashing: "Lord, I am full of humble sorrow—I did not mean to knock down these men—'clicky-ba' merely turned in my hand".[1][7]

One scholar has suggested that Samson and Chung were based on Major Lumsden and Dilawar Khan in the first year of the Boy's Own Paper, 1879.[8] Chung,"apparently a Tibetan", was depicted as being as much a hero as the Wolf.[9]

During the Second World War, like other D. C. Thomson comics heroes, the Wolf and Chung combatted Nazis.[10] In 1941 they went behind Italian lines in Libya, and Chung stopped an Italian officer from torturing prisoners:

It was the last command that ever passed his lips. The foliage of a nearby tree rustled and a strange object flashed down. It landed with a thud on the soldier's helmet and even his steel helmet failed to protect his skull.

The object which had hurtled down was a cricket bat, much battered and ominously stained. The blade was split and bound in places with lengths of brass wire.

'Ho! I crack skulls!' howled a terrible voice. 'Tremble, little men who serve He-of-the-Chin! The Shadow of the Wolf falls upon you!'[11]

In popular culture[edit]

In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the Wolf of Kabul appears in Black Dossier as William Samson, Jr., son of the League's coach driver in Volume II, William Samson, Sr.[12] He joined a hastily strung-together version of the League commanded by Joan Worralson, but her repeated rebuffing of his advances strained relations, albeit not for long, because Worrals's League collapsed on its first mission.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Mike Conroy, "Of Clicky-Bas & .303s", War Stories: A Graphic History, New York: Ilex/Collins, 2009, ISBN 978-0-06-173112-9, p. 158.
  2. ^ Denis Gifford, The International Book of Comics, London: Hamlyn; New York: Crescent, 1984, ISBN 0-517-43927-1, pp. 146–47.
  3. ^ Andrew Kirby, "The Construction of Geopolitical Images: The world according to Biggies [sic] (and other fictional characters)" in Klaus Dodds and David Atkinson, Geopolitical Traditions: A Century of Geopolitical Thought, London: Routledge, 2000, ISBN 0-415-17248-9, uses his "dim recollections" of this series as an example of "long-standing imperial themes" that remained popular in comics until the 1950s (and in this case "was still going strong in the early 1960s"): p. 56, note 3, p. 69. A.H. Halsey, Change in British Society, Oxford University Press, 1978, 3rd ed. 1986, ISBN 0-19-219218-3, p. 54 refers to it as "the imperial ethic in its purest form". A scholar writing in Historical Research Volume 67, Issue 163 (1994) points out that this was a common theme in the boys' story papers in the interwar years: p. 154, note 47.
  4. ^ Michael Paris, Warrior Nation: Images of War in British Popular Culture, 1850–2000, London: Reaktion, 2002, ISBN 1-86189-145-8, p. 164 emphasizes the violent solution to problems, quoting a description of the Wolf as "the man who makes peace by starting wars".
  5. ^ Alan Shelley, The Colour Was Red, Brighton: Book Guild, 2008, ISBN 978-1-84624-247-2, p. 277.
  6. ^ a b The Wizard issue 665, 31 August 1935, quoted in Dorothea Flothow, Told in Gallant Stories: Erinnerungsbilder des Krieges in britischer Kinder- und Jugendromanen 1870–1939, Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2007, ISBN 978-3-8260-3497-8, p. 185 (German), emphasising the brutality of the stories.
  7. ^ William Oliver Guillemont Lofts and Derek John Adley, The Men Behind Boys' Fiction, London: Baker, 1970, ISBN 0-09-304770-3, p. 10.
  8. ^ Robert Leeson, Reading and Righting: The Past, Present, and Future of Fiction for the Young, London: Collins, 1985, ISBN 0-00-184413-X, p. 114.
  9. ^ "Boy's Own adventures", Yorkshire Post, 29 April 2006.
  10. ^ Kate Agnew, Geoff Fox, Children at War: From the First World War to the Gulf, London: Continuum, 2001, ISBN 0-8264-4849-6, p. 26.
  11. ^ Joseph McAleer, Popular Reading and Publishing in Britain 1914–1950, Oxford: Clarendon, 1992, ISBN 0-19-820329-2, p. 201, quoting The Wizard 29 March 1941.
  12. ^ "Waking the Dead," Cinefantastique Volume 35, Issues 1–6, 2003, p. 21: "This is supposedly the father of an obscure, but interesting British boy's character from the 1930s called 'The Wolf of Kabul' who is this brutal British colonialist, but nevertheless, that was how we liked our heroes back then".

Sources[edit]

  • "Batting for England". The Spectator. 3 February 1973. p. 145.

External links[edit]