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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Darkie’s Mob – The Secret War of Joe Darkie

Darkie’s Mob – The Secret War of Joe Darkie
John Wagner, Mike Western
Hardback: 160pp
B/W comic strip
Dimensions: 296 x 220mm
ISBN: 9781848564428
Publication date: 1 April 2011
RRP £16.99Buy now

In the hellish, humid jungles of Burma, renegade Captain Joe Darkie leads a rag-tag squad of British soldiers behind Japanese lines, transforming them into the brutal “Darkie’s Mob”! Hapless Private Shortland narrates how the squad face hardship, horror and vicious combat at every turn, as their Captain’s mania threatens to engulf them all. But how many will have to die before his bloodlust is finally sated?

And Terry’s Sunday War Time Double Feature concludes with Darkies Mob.

I’m not a fan of the “sanitised” language version because I never saw the point. Yes, this was written back when memories of World War II were still fresh but we are talking about jungle warfare and men who hate the Japanese Army. My mother (who was German and saw a lot of nastyness) used to laughed at Captain Hurricane’s “You sons of Dresden sausage noshers” or “You flat-headed sauerkraut suckers”.  When I interviewed Mike he said that cutting out the various bits of dialogue for political correctness did spoil it a little BUT he understood why it was done. The question of “war time” language is dealt with in the introduction.

Is that my only beef with this book? Well, yes.  If you have ever seen the movie The Long And The Short and The Tall, set in the jungle during the same period as Darkie’s Mob then you’ll know what you are in for.  The British public were somewhat shocked at the way our troops were portrayed in the film but it was grim jungle warfare and I knew one jungle veteran who told me “it’s a bit tame compared to what we did”!
Captain Joe Darkie just hates the Japanese.

The intro to the strip says it all:
“This is the story of a madman. A hard, cruel son of Satan who led us into the very pit of Hell -and laughed about it.  Then he began to turn us into animals- the most savage fighting force the Japs had ever known…Darkie’s Mob.”

By now you MUST understand what the strip is about. Darkie is, essentially, a psychopath. Was he a psychopath before the war? Did something happen at the outset of war to turn him? Japanese feared him. The Allies feared him -on reading this after so many years I kept unintentionally saying outloud “F****!” at certain scenes and thinking “This is far better than I remember it!”

Wagner’s script/story are beyond reproach. Combined with Mike’s artwork they make one hell of a book.  Seriously, Sergeant Rock is a limp-wristed palm-priest compared to Darkie. In a fight my money would be on Darkie -even if both arms and one leg were tied up around his neck.  The jungle wars of the Far East had no white flags or the ‘niceties’ of war in Europe and I’m glad that the introduction makes this clear. There are stories of British soldiers out of ammunition knowing what their fates would be and using finger nails, teeth and anything else to kill their enemy.

Total “uncivilised warfare” as one person put it.  This is NOT anti-Japanese. If you think that then you’ve failed to understand anything. It ain’t a documentary. But if you do research the war in the Far East you’ll see that this is not far from reality. It puts neither the Allies nor the Japanese in a good light.  It is a fictional comic story that is very, very hard to put down -you must read it in one go!

And for us fans, particularly those who hate scans, we have the chance to see how the series started and then sit in silence looking at that last page…(lot of dust in this room).

I can’t think of any higher praise than to say EVERY person calling themselves a comic fan or fan of war comics, must have a copy of this book. Thank you, Titan.

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