Monday, February 20, 2006

Comic Book Letters Pages Aren't What They Used To Be...

Trawling through some old comics this weekend, I came across "Forces In Combat", Marvel UK's short-lived attempt to emulate the success of war-based anthology titles such as "Battle" and "Commando". A reminder of how amateur 'cut and paste' techniques looked when you literally had to cut and paste, "Forces In Combat" was also notable for 'Sergeant Mike', who would personally answer readers' letters. Some, as you might expect, were run-of-the-mill, expressing a preference for Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos over Rom Spaceknight or Shang Chi, Master Of Kung Fu. Some were just plain weird:

"Dear Sergeant Mike, I would like to tell you a story that happened to my grandfather during the first World War. My great grandfather was called up along with his three brothers. Before the army came to collect him, he ran away, while his three brothers went to war. He hid in an old mine pit and stayed there for months, until one day he was walking when he thought he saw his three brothers. As he drew closer the brothers seemed to be walking away, when he got to where he saw them last he could not see them anymore, so he ran home, only to find his mother crying. He asked her what the matter was, and she said "Your brothers are dead". After that no-one would talk to him. I am looking forward to next weeks Forces In Combat! Joseph Trumper, Swansea"

If this had been submitted as a homework assignment, any self-respecting English teacher would immediately be inclined to give a mark of D- and ask Joseph to: (a) get his story straight - is it his grandfather or his great grandfather?; (b) look up the phrase 'urban myth’ and (c) work on his ending. However, the hapless editor masquerading as ‘Sergeant Mike’ could only offer the following response: "Thank you for your story Joseph, that certainly is a strange one! We're glad that you are enjoying our comic!!". Presumably, Joseph's (great) grandfather never knew that his story had finally been told, as no-one was talking to him anymore.

You may have also spotted that the same issue of "Forces In Combat" (cover date 24th July 1980) saw the first instalment of "I Was Adolf's Double". Is that the sound of a barrel being scraped...?
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