Publication Dates: 19 November 1977 – 20 February 1982
Number of Issues Published: 223 (#19 November 1977 – #20 February 1982)
Color: Colour cover;
Black and White interior
Dimensions: Standard Modern British size
Paper Stock: Newsprint
Numbering continued from Battle Picture Weekly and Valiant (IPC, 1976 series).
Numbering continued in Battle (IPC, 1982 series).
Battle Picture Weekly, at various time also known as Battle Action Force, Battle and Battle with Storm Force, was a British war comic published by IPC Magazines from (issues dates) 8 March 1975 to 23 January 1988, when it merged with 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 in 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 are:
Battle Picture Weekly (8 March 1975 [issue #1] – 16 October 1976 [issue #86])
Battle Picture Weekly and Valiant (23 October 1976 [issue #87] – 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 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, about a British fighter pilot Johnny “Red” Redburn flying for the Russians. 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.
El Mestizo, by Hebden and Ezquerra, about a former slave turned mercenary in the American Civil War.
Hellman of Hammer Force, written by Finley-Day, starring a German tank commander.
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, a First World War story set in the trenches of the Somme.
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, Vietnam war
The Commando They Didn’t Want by John Richard* and Carlos Pino
The Nightmare by John 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 John Richard* and Jim Watson, Falklands war
The Hunters by John 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
pseudonym for Terence Magee
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.
Battle Picture Weekly Summer Specials were a total of 17 from 1975-1991. Battle Picture Weekly Annuals were a total of 14 from 1976-1989. (Information thanks to Jack)