When Hellman of Hammer Force exploded into the controversial Action weekly in 1976, it was a war tale the likes of which comics had rarely seen – and now Hellman’s finally getting the reprint treatment from the Treasury of British Comics!
Hellman of Hammer Force was one of the highlights of the oh-so controversial ’70s Brit comic, Action – a strip doing the classic anti-hero thing of taking a very unlikely subject for kids comics – a German tank commander, albeit one vehemently opposed to the Nazis – and making him the star of the strip.
And it was strips like Hellman that made Action a huge 1970s hit here in Britain, scaring the powers that be out of their skins – The Sun called it “the sevenpenny nightmare” and Mary Whitehouse and her National Viewers and Listeners Association launched a campaign to “protect” the kids from reading it (the same kids who were absolutely loving the comic.)
Action certainly burned bright but short, being pulled from sale with the 16th October 1976 issue to return in November ’76 in a watered-down, relatively toothless version of what had come before. With the writing on the wall, it was no surprise that Action went the way of so many comics of the time, merging into Battle in November 1977.
Hellman of Hammer Force ran through the entire Action run, the only toning down coming with the removal of a little of the real-world figures, such as Stalin, and a little less of the political overtones. It then carried over into Battle, running until 8 July 1978 – and those Battle tales are well worth reprinting as well – focusing first on the earlier adventures of Hellman, before then going back to the Russian Front to take the adventures of Hellman and his Hammer Force from Russia to deep into the heart of Berlin in the end days of the war.
But here we have 130 intense pages of the complete Hellman of Hammer Force strips from the pages of Action by Gerry Finley-Day, Mike Dorey, and Alex Henderson. Incredibly, it’s the first time they’ve been collected in full this way and have the same top-notch reproduction and presentation we’ve come to expect from all of these Treasury of British Comics books.
Major Kurt Hellman is a Panzer commander whose adventures here will take us from 1940 to 1943, through Belgium, on to the Allied retreat at Dunkirk, the war in Greece in ’41, the invasion of Crete, North Africa in ’41 and ’42, Tunisia in ’43, Eastern Germany and the Russian Front in ’43.
Refusing to join the Nazi party and maintaining a strict code of honour on the battlefield, Hellman frequently falls foul of the Gestapo and the Waffen SS, particularly the Gestapo Officer, Gauleiter Kastner, assigned to oversee him.
In these pages, you’re going to find out just what it was that made Hellman one of the very best strips in Action, following Hellman all the way to the Russian Front, where Hellman’s fabled Hammer Force is filled with the worst of the German army as a penal battalion.
It’s all thrilling stuff, with the unusual viewpoint, certainly at the time, of following the exploits of the Germans (and you have to remember, in the 70s, the war was still very fresh in the memory for so many in Britain). But that just added to the mystique of the strip.
It’s held up remarkably well after all these years, with the art, especially from Mike Dorey, just so strong and bold. Sure, there’s moments of jumping tanks and other “huh” moments to get over, but within these 130 pages there’s a wonderful number of excellent stories.
If you’re after more Action with Hellman, the character did return in the 2020 Action Special from Rebellion, in a strip by Garth Ennis and original Hellman artist Mike Dorey – there’s an interview I did with them here.
Hellman of Hammer Force – written by Gerry Finley-Day, art by Mike Dorey and Alex Henderson, cover by Carlos Ezquerra
Originally serialised in Action 14th Feb 1976 – 18th Dec 1976
Published by the Treasury of British Comics on 8th December 2021.
Now, preview time…