The War Picture Library consisted of a British series of 64-page single story comic books with a World War Two setting. Many of the stories were actually created by men who had served in the war itself, and therefore brought an eye for detail and experience that is rarely replicated in war comics.
Conception and history
The series began in 1958 with a story entitled 'The Flight To Dunkirk' and ran for 2103 issues until December 1984, some 26 years later. 'Wings of the Series' was the concluding story. The stories were not always conventionally jingoistic, uncomplicated tales of violence with one-dimensional heroes.
The creators of the series aimed to include a diverse range of experience and type for the characters, with some far from conventionally heroic types. Characters were often shown saving life in the midst of the horror and carnage of 20th Century warfare rather than blasting their way through it with a brick-like moral sense, giving a more realistic picture of life and death in the combat zone. The series was also possibly the first 'pocket library' of comic books which would be released at the rate of several titles a month, forming a genuinely interesting kind of library in your pocket.
Hallmarks and influence
The War picture library stories were some of the first to actually use the names of real military units in order to better place the historical context of the stories, unlike the very similar Commando comics.
The stories were still in themselves fictional however. The stories certainly influenced British youngsters, especially boys, for two generations after the war, the universality of the war experience, touching every family in the country whatever their class and outlook, contributing to the success of the comics. The actual writers and artists responsible for creating the stories are often hard to discover, as the publishers, adopting the rather mean-spirited convention of the time, did not give credit to them. Keen eyed readers of the comics were often able to spot 'styles' that pertained to particular individuals. Many of the artists were Latin Amercans as well as British, while the writers, to whom it is even more difficult to accredit work, where exclusively British. There was often a sympathetic attitude towards ordinary German soldiers caught up in the action at the front line, although, due to the residual patriotic propaganda of the war years, some portrayals of foreigners do verge on the stereotypical and occasionally racist. In general though, the stories had a strict moral code, and celebrated acts of self-sacrifice and courage which contributed to the victory over Nazism.