Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Guest post: Charley's War - a graphic novel review

In what my six year old son calls ‘the olden days’aka my childhood, (don’t laugh teenagers, he also talks about ‘the middle olden days’ when his seventeen year old brother was little!), war was cool. We had war films and war toys and most importantly, for me, we had war comics. Lots of them.

Most war comics were about the Second World War and had lots of shooting and Germans shouting, ‘Nien! Nein!’ or ‘Achtung!’. It was all good fun but a bit samey after a while. What was not samey was Charley's War, a strip that ran in the awesome Battle Picture Weekly.

Charley’s War was different in many, many ways. Not least was the fact that it was so blatantly anti-war. 

Reading Charley’s War it was hard to miss the fact that being forced to live in the industrialised meat grinder that was the Western Front was not fun times. Of course that didn’t stop us lapping up stories about slaughter in the mud and trenches, or the psychotic nature of some upper class English officers, or the life and times of young Adolf Hitler, (yes, that Adolf Hitler), or mutiny in the allied army or the nature of field punishments inflicted on conscientious objectors. In fact the series, now that I think about it, attempted to cover the whole gambit of that awful conflict and never flinched from depicting its ugly, vicious exploitative nature.

The series has been recently reprinted and is available from Auckland Libraries. Totaling nine volumes, (so far), these are not only an excellent read but also quite useful as far as homework and study are concerned. 

Each volume has an excellent essay covering aspects of the war depicted in the volume concerned and in the back there are notes by series writer Pat Mills in which he gives useful background information about the strips and waxes lyrically about Joe Colquhoun, artist extraordinary, who illustrated the comic from its start and right through to its end.    

- Kelly from Information Services

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