Publication Dates: September 1, 1958 – December 1984
Number of Issues Published: 2103 (#1 – #2103)
Color: Colour cover; Black and white interior
Paper Stock: Glossy Cover; Newsprint Interior
Publishing Format: Was ongoing
War Picture Library was a British 64-page Pocket library war comic title published by Amalgamated Press/Fleetway (now owned by IPC Magazines) for 2103 issues. Each issue featured a complete story, beginning in 1 September 1958 with “Fight Back to Dunkirk” and finishing 26 years later with “Wings of the Fleet” (3 December 1984). The Editor was Ted Bensberg(one of the best Editors at Fleetway). Assistant Editors included Geoff Kemp and Brian Smith. Other Editorial Staff included Pat Brookman, Terence Magee, Clive Ranger, Tony Power, Clive McGee. Art Editor was Mike Jones and Art Assistant was his brother Dave Jones.
Companion titles Air Ace Picture Library (1960–1970) and Action Picture Library (1969–1970) were both folded into the longer-running War Picture Library in later years.
Launched in September, 1958, the Amalgamated Press/Fleetway title War Picture Library was one of the earliest (arguably the earliest) “pocket library” titles, and in particular one of the first to feature stories set during World War II. Comprising 64-pages, the tales were, according to Steve Holland “page turner[s] of the first order, a shilling shocker that grabbed [the] attention” of a – primarily – young audience. Written and illustrated, at least in early years, “by creators who had lived through the war themselves, many on the front line,” War Picture Library was able to show clearly to its target audience “what [the reader’s] fathers and uncles had been through in combat.” War Picture Library brought the Second World War to life “in all its grim glory,” according to writer and editor Steve Holland.
The stories were not limited to tales of combat, some set in “the bomb-torn streets of London during the blitz,” although the bulk of the stories released several times a month for over two thousand issues were set in all fields of combat. Crucially, reflecting the cultural shifts in popular fiction, the war stories did not always feature “a heroic journey,” nor yet were all characters automatically “gung-ho” stereotypes: “a diversity of characters,” human emotion and even some considerable sympathy for ‘the enemy’ was not out-of-place in some tales.
Uncredited from the start, as were the vast majority of comic books written and drawn in the late 1950s and early 1960s, War Picture Library continued the trend of UK-based comics publishers such as D. C. Thomson and publisher Fleetway in continuing not to credit on-page the names of its creators.
Many names – and before them, styles – became familiar to UK comics readers, however, and still more names have been documented over recent years. Contributors to War Picture Library included artists such as Giorgio Trevisan, Harry Farrugia, George Heath, G. R. Parvin, Nevio Zeccara, Annibale Casabianca, F. Solano López, Juan Gonzalez Alacreu, Jose Ortiz, Ramon de la Fuente, Jorge Moliterni, Renzo Calegari, Luis Ramos, Gino D’Antonio and Hugo Pratt.
Writers are often harder to identify, but among those identified by Steve Holland (et al.) are Donne Avenell, Ian Kellie, Douglas Leach, Willie Patterson, Alf Wallace, David Satherley, Roger P. Clegg, A. Carney Allen and S & J Thomas., also Gordon Brunt, author of 40 Air Ace Picture Library issues between 1961 and 1969.
Stories written for all the war comics were able to bring attention to lesser-known battles and actions, as well as highlight those instantly memorable. In addition, in one issue, a narrative could be followed from training, through action to heroism – and/or death. WPL No. 22 (July, 1959) featured “The Invisible Enemy,” set during the Battle of the Bulge, and dealing with Nazi war crimes such as the execution of prisoners; Issue No. 54 (June 1960)’s “Umbrella in the Sky” provided a fictionalised account of RAF pilots flying Hurricanes to Russia providing aid to Britain’s then-ally during the German assaults. Issue #1151 “Fix Bayonets”, (December, 1975) followed four conscripts from their initial training until their eventual action in Italy, where two are killed: one heroically, one pointlessly – aptly highlighting the dichotomy between different forms of ‘death in action,’ and providing a story all the more poignant for having followed their careers for so long.
Holiday Special 1974,1978