Friday, December 17, 2010

DAK RELATED COMIC BOOKS - Hellman of the Afrika Korps

Hellman of Hammer Force tells the story of Kurt Hellman, a German panzer commander who is not a member of the Nazi Party and offers no affiliation to Hitler or his minions. Hellman wants to fight a clean war for Germany, and so avoids the excesses of his Nazi SS and Gestapo comrades. He fights fairly and avoids taking life wherever possible, preferring to take prisoners instead.

Hellman was one of the first stories in a comic to see the war from a German perspective, a brave move for a boys’ comic of its era. This didn’t suit every reader, indeed some wrote in to complain in no uncertain terms.  “How is it that a German can be a hero?” they asked, especially when their grandfathers had fought the Germans in the war. This problem needed to be addressed, and the editorial team had to tread carefully. Consequently, Hellman engaged with British troops in only the first few episodes. In all probability this negative reader reaction was a factor behind the move from France to different theatres of war, including the Afrika Korps and the Russian Front. Hellman faced off against Australians, New Zealanders, Americans, Russians, Poles, Native Americans and Sikhs, to name but a few, but hardly ever troubled the British Tommy again.

Gerry Finley-Day delivered a high-quality script week after week, and may have continued to impress had it not been for the imposed change in tone and content. Therafter, Hellman felt a far weaker story, unable to push the boundaries as it had in the past. Much of the content from the relaunched Action is forgettable, if entertaining. Characters became more reliant on stereotype, and the plots stretched belief on many occasions. An SS-officer-of-the-week became Hellman’s latest threat, and it took some time for the story to find its feet again. Following the merger, Finley-Day worked from a blank canvas, unconcerned with what had happened previously. Without the confines of continuity, creativity returned to the title, a few later episodes were handled by Alan Hebden, and with the return of Kastner towards the climax, the conclusion was more satisfying than much of the previous year.

Hellman of the Afrika Korps
3rd April 1976 – 10th July 1976
Writer: Gerry Finley-Day
Artists: Mike Dorey, Alex Henderson

Hammer Force transfer to Africa, under the command of Irwin Rommel, but Hellman’s new campaign is soon rocked by the return of Gauleiter Kastner. The Nazi officer has a new sidekick, the ruthless sniper Jakel. Like many associated with Kastner, Jakel is a party fanatic and a cold-blooded killer. Before long Hellman and Jakel are at odds, and it can only end badly for one of the men. Hammer Force eventually run out of momentum at El Alamein, and Hellman becomes involved in a personal conflict with American tank commander Colonel John T. Rock of the Alabama Armoured, a man who has no respect for his enemies and uses deceits and foul play to gain the upper hand. The Afrika Korps are defeated, and as the Germans flee Tunisia, Hellman goes to great lengths to ensure his command is not captured by Rock and his men. Kastner has a final sting in the tail for Hellman, and repays the Major for an earlier slight with a posting to the Russian Front.

Hellman of the Afrika Korps marked a change from the regular series, focusing on an early failure for the mighty German armoured divisions. Hellman lost with dignity to a superior force, even though the Americans depicted failed to play by the rules of engagement. Finley-Day’s scripts were of a high standard, and Mike Dorey’s work was its usual gritty and dirty self, but the African adventures marked the end of his regular run. Alex Henderson filled in for an issue before becoming the regular artist from 6th June.  His work had a more cartoonish feel to Dorey’s realism and, whilst functional, lacked any flair.


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