Who Are the Boy Commandos?

Who's This? Child soldiers.

The facts: After Simon and Kirby defected to DC, they noted the success of teenage sidekicks and decided "kid gangs" was the way to go. They created the Newboy Legion and then the Boy Commandos, a group of war orphans who, under Captain Rip Carter, fought the Ratzies and other villains during the war and after. Their first appearance was in Detective Comics #64 (June 1942), and they soon became very popular because they were also appearing in World's Finest (as of issue 8) and got their own quarterly series in '43, which was apparently a million-issue seller on par with Batman and Superman. 1949 seems to be the end of the line for André, Alfie, Jan, Brooklyn (very Blackhawk, this), and later replacements, as their comic folded, and they left the pages of World's Finest and Detective. Thanks to reprints in Kirby's 1970s books, they fell back into the public eye, but they didn't show up in DC's Bronze Age war titles. Sending kids to war made sense in a more innocent age. Later, not so much. So they didn't get a whole lot of appearances in the modern era.
How you could have heard of them: Though you might catch them in the new Brave and the Bold, or Howard Chaykin's 2017 Newsboy Legion/Boy Commandos Special, you're most likely to know Brooklyn who grew up to become Dan Turpin of the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit, particularly since he shows up in the Superman animated series looking a heck of a lot like Kirby himself. With the sliding scale, it becomes less and less likely that any version of Dan would have been fighting Nazis as a boy in WWII.
Example story: Boy Commandos #1 (Winter 1943) "The Town That Couldn't Be Conquered!" by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon
This issue marks the first appearance of Jan, the Dutch member of the team, and they really center the story around him. The story starts at their HQ in England, filled with Nazi trophies that almost make them LOOK like Nazis - gotta be careful with that kids.
The conversation also makes me wonder if they have pre-teen boys outright KILLING people. I guess we'll find out, it's bad enough the Commandos are OFFICIALLY part of This Man's Army. We really shouldn't think about it too hard. Or about André askin Jan why he's not making whoopee. Jan goes into his origin story and how the Nazis bombed and invaded his home village of Vannders. And then killed his parents. People have been know to dress up as a bat for less.
Jan was already a heroic kid, trying to get into burning houses and get people out at, what, 10 years old? So it's not too surprising that he managed to escape and find his way across the English Channel. He's still getting mail from the underground over there, and the kids are quick to jump on the idea of giving these Ratzis a well-deserved visit. They're on NOTICE!
Using the comics page as a righteous bulletin board is fun, but that's what's happening in Vannders too. The underground is just plain ANNOUNCING that the Boy Commandos are coming!
Is such a campaign of terror a good idea? Are the Boys already well feared across the Reich? Maybe it makes the Nazis fortify for an all-out attack, not expecting the team to get themselves smuggled into town separately along with food and other goods the Germans are taking cuts of. That night, they are totally unprepared for an attack FROM WITHIN.
To date, just a big punch-up and the required humiliation of the Commandant (if you can throw a brick, you can throw a grenade, right?). If you're wondering about the purplish blue color the Commandos have been colored in, I did too. A later story in the book actually shows them getting into the unfortunately-named "blackface" to better hide in the night. I believe the better word is camouflage. Anyway, the result of their night's work is still something out of Batman (they DID start out in Detective Comics) or Friday the 13th.
The cowardly Gestapo go hide out in a boat on the canal, and becomes the Commandos' first actual victims.
Explosions are bloodless, so it's okay, right? Then they climb up high and drop on the demoralized soldiers. Many run away. Some even go mad. And not the kind of madness the Nazis embrace:
The net effect is that it emboldens the underground and they take to the streets. And THEY'RE adults, so they can kill in the open.
And though the Commandant tries to escape, he does so in a truck full of explosives with the Boys in pursuit. Well at least it's Jan who makes him lose control, crash and explode. Holland can sleep better tonight. At this rate, it's a wonder the war dragged on another couple years.

I could do without the purple faces, tough they seem to have been a trope in the early days, but otherwise, yeah, Jack Kirby's fingerprints are all over it - high octane action and a concept that can only really be done in comics. By his Fourth World, remixing comics genres will have been distilled to its very essence, but we see it here already. Putting the Little Rascals in a war comic isn't obvious to anyone but mad comics geniuses like Simon and Kirby. Just don't let anyone do a gritty reboot about child soldiers, okay?

Who's Next? A villain in a jar.



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