My ebay wanderings turned up another oddity a while ago. The Boys Adventure Annual 1984!
Fantastic painting, the back cover is the same picture
The cover promises the usual fare of the British boys’ adventure comic, cowboys, World War 2 air battles and hard-boiled cops. The annual is actually pretty thin:
I don’t imagine the 1984 Beano Book was much differently sized!
It’s published by “Opal Quill Limited”, who seem (from a cursory Google search) to have published a batch of annuals in the mid 80’s and then disappeared.
Anyway, the art. The title page is promising, suggesting an action-packed story of Commando’s fighting across occupied Europe after a sample of a lethal new poison that the Germans have invented which could alter the course of the war…
Pictured: What you were going to do when you grew up, at age 8.
…so it’s a shame that story doesn’t actually appear in the book! What we do get is a mystery story about a boxer. All of the strips in this annual are in colour. Though to paraphrase Animal Farm “some are in more colour than others”!
Pictured: The comics you drew about what you wanted to do when you grew up. At age 8 and a half, when you’d lost half the felt tips you got for your birthday so made so with what you had.
When I first clocked the bars across the top of the page (on other pages they alternate between the top and bottom) I immediatley thought “US Reprints”. But I’m not so sure, surely by the 70’s, in which this story is set, US comics were rather more “sophisticated” and didn’t just have plain rows of square panels like that? Also they would have been in colour already so wouldn’t need re-doing!
To add to the confusion other strips do fit on the page! Some things about them, especially the sound effects, put me in mind of the Franco-Belgian “European style”. However the detail of the faces looks more like “British adventure” style. But as a great deal of the “British adventure” style comics were actually drawn in Spain or South America, it’s possible these are reprints from Spanish comics.
A great western story
As you can see here they’ve gone for the “Modern ‘British’ Classics Illustrated” style of colouring, where contrasting different objects is more important than giving them realistic or sensible colours!
One of the strips is credited, as shown above. And the names sound a bit Spanish. The others aren’t which suggest they have been collected from several sources and put together.
Welcome to 1980’s Britain!
The final strip is the weirdest of all. It’s presented in a grid of 12 small panels to a page, it was possibly originally printed bigger. It carries no indication of it’s location or setting so we can assume it’s set in Britain in the 80’s, however it looks like a weird amalgamation of Britain and America. The hero breaks out of a very US-style prison and is followed by the heroine in her big 50’s Chevy. The steering wheels of cars seem to be on whatever side the artist found convenient at the time!
In addition the policemen have British uniforms but some of the distant backgrounds look like New York, however others look like grotty market towns. Still the story is pretty cool, secret agents have broken out a man who has been framed in the expectation that he will track down and expose the big crime lord who framed him.
The book also contains several articles and puzzles, almost all of which are about World War 2
The polish unit in question now has an emblem featuring a bear carrying a shell!
I do actually know most of those too!
Fact not included here: The first ever sea-launched air raids against a land target were from the Japanese “seaplane tender” Agaki in 1915. The planes were French designs and bombed a German colony in China, they also fought the colony’s one fighter.
Whenever Commando is mentioned in the media they dredge up a comment from a German diplomat (the comment itself is probably many years/decades old and the diplomat herself has probably retired) saying Britian is “obsessed with” World War 2. Let’s hope she never saw this!
There is also an article about horses in war, which of course came to an end in the mire of World War 1. And after the western strip there’s also a nice article about American Indians, illustrated with photos.
In all this is a pretty interesting book and the stories are good enough. Any more information about their origin would be appreciated! The same company seems to have produced, among other things, two “Mighty Heroes” annuals for 1984 and 1985. I’ll keep an eye out and see what they turn up!