One of the books from the earlier Valiant universe that really touched a chord with me was the Eternal Warrior Yearbook #1.
The story is about a protege of (Geomancer) Buck McHenry who failed the test of attaining the mantle of becoming a future Geomancer on the Gallipoli Peninsula with the Australian forces in 1915, and withdrew to the priesthood to escape the Pain. He confronts Gilad in the present (1993), after the pain reawakens within himself when Geoff McHenry takes on the mantle as the new Geomancer. He wants to kill Geoff and take over the role of Geomancer, but Gilad will sacrifice anything or anyone before he will let that happen. Remember Gilad came from an age before chivalry. The storyline even has a bit of ironic comedy of frustration, as every weapon he tries to kill Gilad with, sparks in his mind, memories of the original owner, who also happens to be Gilad, and the moment he shared with that weapon, against past servants of Christ. This only antagonises him more for it was the priesthood he turned to escape after the voices of the Earth left him all those years before.
What connected with me was the Australian connection to this story, written by Australian writer Dave Devries (actually born in New Zealand and raised in Australia). When the priest asked Gilad why so much needless death, Gil replied "In war the victory is how we master defeat, The Australian's bravery at Gallipoli gave birth to a legend. It was the last time your countrymen fought under the flag of another".
This is true in sorts, but also it was more than that. April 25th, the day of the landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey 1915 is our day of remembrance, ANZAC day (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) for all our fallen servicemen and women in all the wars Australia has been a part of, from the Boer War, World War I, 1919 Russian Revolution, World War II, Korean War, Malay Emergency, Vietnam, 1st and 2nd Gulf Wars and presently in Afghanistan, as well as all the minor actions and aid programs our service personal have been sent, to aid other countries rebuilding. I have noticed over the years in the ANZAC day marches, even as the original WWI returned servicemen have all gone and the veterans from WWII are dwindling in number, the respect from all sectors of the Australian community have not diminished but increased over the years.
Pilgrimage to the Gallipoli Peninsula every ANZAC day by Australians of every age is increasing as well. The bond between the Allied forces and the Turkish has a long lasting legacy in that in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, there is an inscription from Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the first President of the Turkish republic who commanded the Turkish forces at Gallipoli, and in 1934 he wrote:
"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives...You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours...you, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."
ANZAC day is a special day of remembrance, just like every other country honours their fallen on their own special days. In the comic, Gilad says that it was the last time Australian troops fought under another flag. This is true only to a sense, as in reality Australia is a Commonwealth country and it was only during WWII that we started to stop blindly following England's orders regards the placement of our armed forces, as since WWII we now blindly follow the U.S.
. What really mattered here in Gallipoli in 1915, was that it was the first battle we fought (with the New Zealanders) as Australians, as before we had fought under the title of our separate State regiments, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia during the Boer War. Australian Federation occurred in 1901 and from then on we fought under Federal title as Australians.
The Gallipoli Campaign lasted approximately 9 months with an estimated loss of life, injured and missing in action of close to 30 000 men, but perhaps the greatest victory was when the call was given to evacuate the area. It was with a sense of foreboding that the Australians had to leave their dead behind but perhaps one of the greatest successes of the Campaign. The use of water filled snares attached to the triggers of the rifles was successful to keep the illusion going that soldiers were still there, and was one of the methods used that prevented the Turkish forces overrunning the allied positions as they left. My grandfather was wounded there as well, and thankfully was evacuated to Alexandria before the final evacuation. The surviving Australian divisions were sent on to the killing fields of France.
Whilst this and other battles where Australians fought and died are never forgotten in our hearts, it is the Gallipoli campaign that is revered the most, perhaps the Kokoda campaign in New Guinea in 1942 where the Australian troops pushed the Japanese army back over the ranges and into the sea could be as closely revered.
The essence of the legend that grew from this campaign I thought was captured nicely in a comic. This story was one of the first I found to actually present to a small degree, an Australian point of view which had really bothered to get past the typical Australian stereotype. I was quite surprised that Dave Devries managed to explore this angle in the Eternal Warrior comic. The fact is, that this was already my favourite comic of that time and it was definitely a wow moment after I had read that. Still to this day it remains one of my favourite issues.
Sure there were things it got wrong as well. Little things like the command office should have been a dugout into the trench walls, not a crisp clean office, but more importantly was the priest's shock about the men going over the top. This was a part of trench warfare of that period, when a push was called, men went over. Was this Captain (the priest) new to the front line trenches (even though he knew it was Gilad who had made it to the enemies lines and gave the all clear), why was he so shocked? Anyhow these things are easily overlooked as the main crux of this story was highlighting the importance of how wartime sacrifice became entrenched into the psyche of Australian culture. I guess his shock was needed to allow the reader to empathise with the situation.
I recently bought some pencils by Stu Suchit of the original cover, it may have even been sold from someone here on the boards. I was amazed when I saw this on ebay and am very happy to have this memento from a very special issue.