Clockwise from top: Rip Carter, Andre, Jan, Brooklyn, Alfie. Artists: Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.


Original Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1942
Creators: Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
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Comic books about kid gangs go back almost as far as comic books themselves. The first in English-language comics may have been Ball's Pond Banditi, which debuted in an 1893 issue of …

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Ally Sloper's Half Holiday. By the 1940s they were well established, and the leading lights of the genre in American comic books were the legendary team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

By the middle of 1942, Simon and Kirby had already created The Young Allies for the company now known as Marvel Comics, and The Newsboy Legion for DC. Their second DC kid gang was The Boy Commandos, which began in Detective Comics #64 (July, 1942).

Detective Comics, where Batman got his start (and which, incidentally, DC Comics itself is named after), had hitherto concentrated exclusively on characters that could, in some sense at least, be construed as — well, detectives. Slam Bradley, Flat Foot Flannigan and the like had formed its early fare, and the more superheroey detectives like The Crimson Avenger and Air Wave had represented a departure into new directions. A feature like The Boy Commandos seemed very much out of place there.

But the U.S. had just entered World War II, and it was getting so military-oriented features like this one weren't really out of place anywhere. In any case, The Boy Commandos took up residence in Detective Comics a few months after Pearl Harbor, and stayed there seven years. They also appeared in World's Finest Comics for roughly the same period and, starting with a cover date of Winter, 1942-43, their own comic.

The boys were an international group, kind of like a junior version of the Blackhawks, but without airplanes. Their names were Andre Chavard (French), Alfie Twidgett (English), Jan Haasan (Dutch), and "Brooklyn" (American — no other name given). They started as "mascots" (a familiar comic book excuse for putting juveniles in danger) of U.S. Army bases in Britain, until, in Detective Comics #64 (June, 1942), Captain Rip Carter gathered them together and led them into action against the Nazis. Three of them wore uniforms like Rip's, but Brooklyn, easily the dominant personality of the group, always wore a green turtleneck and red derby.

They remained in action throughout Europe, except for an occasional excursion to the Pacific front, for the remainder of the war. Afterward, they went to America (minus Jan, who unexpectedly found living relatives in The Netherlands), and continued their activities. Without a war going on, tho, they wore regular clothes (Brooklyn alone looked the same) and found it increasingly difficult to maintain their raison d'etre.

They gradually became an all-American bunch — first, Alfy was replaced by a young Texan named, of all things, Tex; then Andre left and a predictably-bespectacled genius named Percy Clearweather took his place. Still, the postwar world was not kind to their circulation figures. By the middle of 1949, they'd lost their gigs in Detective and World's Finest to a couple of westerns (Pow Wow Smith and The Wyoming Kid, respectively). At the end of that year, after 36 issues, their own comic was discontinued.

The next time they were seen was in the early 1970s, when DC reprinted a few of their stories, some in their own brief title and some in the back pages of Mister Miracle. About the same time, in his DC series New Gods, an older Kirby introduced Metropolis police officer Dan Turpin, who later turned out to be Brooklyn as an adult. "Terrible Turpin", as he's called, is still seen as a minor character in an occasional Superman story. Other than that, The Boy Commandos, once among DC's best sellers, have faded into complete obscurity.


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Text ©2002-06 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.