BEFORE sci-fi went massive with Star Wars, male youngsters read World War 2 comics. And while they were pretty xenophobic they taught you a lot, even if it was wrong. Like these things.
World War 2 was still incredibly relevant
Defeating the efficient, ruthless Germans was still very important in 1978, for some reason. You later realised Europe was full of normal, modern nations, but some people didn’t, and we got decades of childish jokes, shit war films like Escape to Victory and finally Brexit. Thanks, war comics.
War is mainly a matter of sneaking up on your enemy
Comics teach you that all sentries are worse than useless, as they always turn away conveniently to be garroted or have their throat cut. Then you simply storm their base, toss grenades through windows, turn their own machine gun on them and run off jovially saying something like: ‘That’s one in the eye for Adolf, eh, Mac?’ Goodness knows why modern armies make it so complicated.
Germans (‘krauts’), the Japanese (‘japs’, ‘nips’ or ‘yellow-bellies’) and the Italians (‘eyeties’) each had their own peculiarities of speech. Germans would say ‘Aaargh!’ when shot, while the Japanese would use the more exotic ‘Aieee!’. Italians would surrender. It also turns out that 90 per cent of German speech is the words ‘Achtung!’, ‘Schnell!’ and ‘Sieg Heil!’. You still believed that until a work trip to Frankfurt in 1996.
Death is instant
The aforementioned krauts, japs and eyeties (yes, you were learning these words in 1980) instantly dropped dead when shot, bayoneted or grenaded. They never got a chunk of their head blown off then writhed around screaming for their mother. Good on them for not spoiling everyone’s fun.
World War 2 was suspiciously like films of the 60s and 70s
The writers pretty obviously ripped off films they’d seen, such as Peckinpah’s Cross of Iron, where good-guy Wehrmacht troops hate the SS. Warlord comic had a spy who was basically a 1940s James Bond, although there was no Pussy Galore or Holly Goodhead, because DC Thompson would have been inundated with letters from angry mums.
No actual military tactics are needed in combat
Comics never mentioned flanking manoeuvres or waiting for artillery support, possibly because those were less effective than simply running at the enemy with a machine gun blazing from the hip. Other dubious tactics included POWs saying ‘I’ll create a diversion by starting a fight!’, which in real life would probably result in a fractured skull from a rifle butt, and donning enemy uniforms, which meant instant death.
There were lots of decent Germans
This was a thoughtful reminder to children not to be totally prejudiced. However historians would point out that a hell of a lot of Germans were extremely in favour of Hitler, at least to begin with, and their main criticism of der Fuhrer was that they were losing. Still, a comic strip about the slow process of postwar denazification would have been a pretty ballsaching read.
Soldiers aren’t interested in getting laid
Actual young men in WW2 were extremely keen on shagging prostitutes, nurses and unfortunate German women who’d do it for food or fags. By contrast, the heroes of war comics were utterly uninterested in women. It’s almost as if they somehow agreed with their seven-year-old male readers that girls were silly and they smell.