On this day, 23 October 1976: Battle Picture Weekly and Valiant
On this day, 23 October 1976 … All of a sudden, IPC’s boys’ adventure range was reduced from three titles to one. While Action was being withdrawn, temporarily, from service, two of its stablemates were getting it together. Valiant, no longer quite ‘Britain’s top adventure paper’ (or perhaps it was once again, by default and very briefly, given Action’s travails), ended after fourteen years – many of which, in the 1960s, had been quite glorious – despite a late, valiant attempt to turn things around by its final editor John Wagner. It was merged into Battle Picture Weekly, which in its first eighteen months had begun the process of redefining and reinvigorating the British comics scene and was to a large degree responsible for Valiant’s decline.
I’ve written before about my secret fondness for a good merger issue, while recognising the agonies felt at the time by readers of the vanquished title, and this one must have generated a fair bit of excitement at the time. I love the drama of the front cover, with all its flashes and arrows and captions and the free gift. Inside there is a very satisfying introductory page listing all the stories that made it into the merged issue, and there’s an attempt to placate disgruntled readers with an opportunity to win all manner of chunky seventies gadgets. I like the ‘Don’t miss it, lads!’ plug for the second part of the ‘Breakthrough!’ poster that will follow next week.
Of the stories, the Battle brigade is represented by Major Eazy, D-Day Dawson, Darkie’s Mob and The Bootneck Boy, all of which continue from where their previous weeks’ episodes left off, with little establishing re-cap for new readers. There is one new story, Panzer G-Man by Gerry Finley-Day and Geoff Campion, which, rather like Action’s Hellman of Hammer Force, attempts to show the humanity of war by taking a German WWII soldier as its hero.
The three strips that made it over from Valiant (along with Captain Hurricane, who has been relegated to managing the letters page) are each given more of an introduction. Soldier Sharp begins with a re-cap of The Rat of the Rifles, Corporal Arnie Sharp’s various character flaws: Cowardice!, Cunning!, Violence!, Theft!, while The Black Crow features a very brief introduction to the members of the Crow’s French resistance cell. One-eyed Jack (with, I believe, Scott Goodall taking over the scripting from John Wagner) makes more of a fresh start. Jack McBain’s run in Valiant ended with his leaving the NYPD, and in Battle starts with a decision to start a lone campaign to take down communist terrorists on US soil. His story begins with an extended flashback to his service in the Vietnam War, presumably to establish his military credentials and justification for Valiant’s best strip to make the move into Battle Picture Weekly.