Bomb with lit fuze

The Bombs with the Purple Stripe - a review

An appreciation of a Victor comic war strip

See The Victor Issues 310 to 321 (January 28th 1967 to April 15th 1967 ; Twelve stories, 46 pages)

Writer:- Not known. Artist:- Not known.

Main cast:- Lieutenant Felton, Corporal ‘Jumbo’ Whalen, Lance-Corporal Sam Singh.

Occasional cast member:- Admiral Bowater, senior officer assigning the team their various missions.

Temporary team member on one mission:- Private Andy Jacobs, Special Boat Service (SBS).

Time period:- Second World War.

The series was reprinted using the original scripts, but with new artwork in The Victor issues 1215 to 1226.

The strip stories in The Victor had originally appeared in The Wizard as text stories. The first episode was published in issue 1807, 1st October 1960. Please visit Vic Whittle's website to view the text story here - Purple Strip text story

Element K, a new, powerful explosive contained within mortar bombs and identified with a purple stripe. An unstable explosive which had to be kept at a low temperature at all times. When the bombs were being carried on missions they would be kept in a refrigerated backpack. The bombs could only be handled out of the ice for short periods. There was no room for mistakes. This series chronicles the adventures of the mortar team carrying and firing the deadly Element K bombs.

The mortar team consisted of Corporal ‘Jumbo’ Whalen , who could fire a mortar bomb with pin point accuracy if he could get within range and Lance Corporal Sam Singh. Occasionally they were joined by Lieutenant Felton, who had created the Element K explosive. (See the image below). Their missions took them to occupied European countries, as well as the Middle and Far East. Each character (including guest characters appearing in each episode), were provided with a small amount of characterisation. 'Jumbo' was a large man, driven to complete a mission ; Singh, was an Indian born in the UK, with a laid back attitude. (He probably had to be as he usually carried the Element K mortar bombs!) Felton was more of a technical nerd than soldier, and a terrible driver of vehicles.

© D.C. Thomson & Co. Ltd.

Unusually in war stories in comics of this period, the characters occasionally came under psychological pressure. For example, in issue 312 'Jumbo' agonises about the loss of life and destruction he has caused after firing his first mortar bombs in anger. He’s just sunk a boat and says, ”Don’t you see what I’ve done? I’ve just killed nearly three hundred men.” To which Per a Norwegian resistance leader replies, “It was your duty and anyway many of them would be on shore.” In the same story 'Jumbo' and Singh are reluctant to torture a captured German soldier. Per though isn’t and tells them he is not so squeamish and advises the men to take a walk for ten minutes, while he has a ‘chat’ with the soldier.
The series also evolved. For example, at the beginning of the series the mortar bombs had to be carried in a wooden box, packed in ice, which required 'Jumbo' and Sam to carry it between them. (See the image below). By the third episode, Lieutenant Felton had invented a special refrigerator backpack which could take up to three bombs and one man could carry on their back. The backpack was even designed with a special booby trap in case it fell into enemy hands.

© D.C. Thomson & Co. Ltd.

Lance-Corporal Singh removing a purple bomb from its ice cold packing case, very carefully!

Each week the mortar team were given a different target to destroy for example, a bunker or a U-Boat pen or an ammunition dump and so on. But it’s how they completed their mission and overcame the problems each week that was of interest. For example, in issue 317 the team are in Malaya on a mission to destroy a dam. Guiding them to the dam is District Officer Hazard and two Dyak (native) trackers. One of the Dyak’s whilst out scouting the dam area has to kill a Japanese soldier. The death does not go unnoticed by the Japanese. A Japanese Sergeant realises that the enemy are out to destory the dam, probably using a mortar. He then works out the only place that a mortar can be fired from and sets a trap. Can 'Jumbo' and Sam avoid the trap and find somewhere else to fire the mortar from?
This series (as far as I am aware there was only the one), was one of the better war stories to appear in The Victor. The writer was allowed four pages per episode, except for two weeks when the episodes were only three pages. (Suspiciously, one of those stories reads as though there should have been a fourth page, but that it was not published for some reason). And the writer made maximum use of these four pages, introducing a small number of characters in addition to the main leads each week. For example in issue 316 Jumbo and Sam are captured early on in the story and only reappear in the last panels of the story. It is left to Lieutenant Felton and a temporary fourth member of the team Private Andy Jacobs, of the SBS, to rescue their colleagues and carry out the mission. In other episodes, other characters introduced for a particular story sacrifice their lives in order to ensure that the mission is a success.
The writing and plotting of the stories is excellent, the writer obviously spending time on creating the various characters and stories. The scripts are a cut above the usual “Take that Jerry” type of script. The artwork though slightly lets the strip down, (not everything appears to be to scale for example, some of the figures in relation to the buildings and occasionally some of the figures could be confused with other figures). But these are minor complaints. The artist knows how to draw and overall the artwork complements the scripts.

The episodes below are from issues 315, 316 and 321.

Artist unknown. © D.C. Thomson Co. Ltd Artist unknown. © D.C. Thomson Co. Ltd Artist unknown. © D.C. Thomson Co. Ltd Artist unknown. © D.C. Thomson Co. Ltd

Artist unknown. © D.C. Thomson Co. Ltd Artist unknown. © D.C. Thomson Co. Ltd Artist unknown. © D.C. Thomson Co. Ltd Artist unknown. © D.C. Thomson Co. Ltd

Artist unknown. © D.C. Thomson Co. Ltd Artist unknown. © D.C. Thomson Co. Ltd Artist unknown. © D.C. Thomson Co. Ltd Artist unknown. © D.C. Thomson Co. Ltd

© Adrian Banfield, 2008.