Teen writer and comics illustrator team up to create new WW2 graphic novel “Johnny Recruit”
Set in wartime Canada, England and Germany in 1941-2, Johnny Recruit is a story about hope, heroics and youthful ambition. When 14-year-old Big Johnny learns his uncle’s been captured by Nazis, he’s sure the only person who can rescue his mentor is – himself. Stellar bush pilot and expert game hunter, Johnny lies about his age and joins WW2 to find his best friend. But when a rival British pilot threatens to expose his secret, Johnny faces tough decisions no young kid should have to make…
Theo is set to become Markosia’s youngest ever published writer and publisher Harry Markos had no hesitation signing the young boy to a book deal.
“Markosia is all about offering great comics that explore new ideas and concepts from creators everywhere,” says Markos. “Johnny Recruit is full of emotion, energy and lots of fun. This is an exciting project, an excellent story from a very talented team.”
Both the writer and artist are fascinated by 20th century war – and soon after meeting discovered they each had a great uncle named Bert who fought in WWII: Theo’s was a distinguished Canadian RAF flying ace whilst Tom’s a heroic soldier who spent three years in a German POW camp.
“We all have great relatives in our family trees, people who’ve lived amazing lives and done amazing things, says Behe. “My great uncle Bert was one of them. He shot down lots of enemy planes – even got shot himself. He has made our family proud. So I wanted to write some fun adventures around him – create some new characters and heroes that might match up to what he did.”
Their approach of inking a retro WW2 comic in a black and white double page scenic spread fits nicely with the overall vibe of the story.
“I love the challenge of having no words and single landscape panels to tell this story,” says Canadian artist Tom Muzzell who’s been creating comics for over 40 years. “There’s lots of detail in the script, plenty going on each page – so lots of planning needed. And I love the story – this book would be on my shelf even if I wasn’t working on it.”
“I like to read pretty much everything – comics, novels, history books, Insta posts,” says Behe. “Now my friend Tom has made this story into these amazing comic pages – they’ve turned out great, just the way I imagined.”
Facts about Johnny Recruit
- Writer Theo Houle Behe is a 14-year-old Canadian student. The Johnny Recruit concept was originally a school project submitted years ago in primary school – the inspiration coming from his great uncle’s heroics in WW2. Theo sought to explore how far any (super-obsessed) man-sized 14-year-old would go to save his uncle (brave heroism, naive recklessness or something else?) He’s in Grade 9 at Highgate School in London and loves reading, writing, his History and Biology classes – and playing football.
- Thomas Muzzell is a 63 year old Canadian illustrator with 40 years experience creating comics. He does all his art and inks by hand (old school) – with a passion for inking scenic landscapes featuring…real people!
- Johnny Recruit’s double-page “propaganda poster” approach emulates a time when many comic covers resembled WW2 recruitment, war bond or blood donation drive posters. Canadian Whites sold alongside American “dime comics”, both hugely popular in the 40s – with Canadian and now-classic superheroes such as Superman and Wonder Woman battling Nazis, the Japanese – or sometimes just their leaders!
- Both Theo and Thomas had great uncles named “Bert” who fought in WW2. Tom’s uncle Bert fought several successful missions as a ground soldier before capture in 1943 – he remained a POW until the end of the war. Theo’s uncle Bert was a RAF flying ace with 13 ½ Nazi kills and two Distinguished Flying Crosses to his name.
- “Johnny Recruit” was a term used by seasoned troops in reference to soldiers new to the war – Camel cigarettes ran a successful ad campaign around the term. Pilots from the Canadian and British air forces fought side by side throughout WW2 and were notoriously strong adversaries
- Thousands of Canadian and British underaged kids (<18s) signed up to fight in WW2. Grammar school Brit Tom Dobney was the youngest pilot to serve in WW2 – sneaking into the RAF at 14. He completed his training in Canada and he flew 20 bomber missions – but was caught out after his father spotted him in a newspaper shaking hands with the King.
- Johnny Recruit features our hero participating in the famous Dieppe Landing – one of WW2’s most brutal, badly-hatched raids where on 19 Aug 1942, 3,623 of the 6,086 (mostly Canadian) troops were either killed, wounded or taken prisoner.