Monday, 28 September 2015

Space 1999 Annual 1975



One of the best of Gerry Anderson's TV shows was the live action Space 1999 series from back in the seventies. This programme which ran from 1975 to 1977 was a firm favourite of mine back in my youth (I'd just left school by then).

Surprisingly Space 1999 only ran for two seasons though there were 48 episodes in all which told the story of Moonbase Alpha on a one way journey through space after an accident hurled Earth's satellite out of the solar system and into deep space.

Starring Martin Landau, Barbara Bain and Barry Morse this series certainly caught the imagination of many viewers and like many programmes in the sixties and seventies caught the attention of publishers. The age of the Annual continued.

This, the first of at least five contained mainly magazine style features about Space 199 but there were two (rather poorly drawn and written) comic strips.

There were some comic book adaptations of Space 1999 including two titles published by Charlton Comics in the USA. It was these I was searching for when I came across the Annual.

 

The first (illustrated above) was a traditional "four colour comic" aimed at the general comics market and lasted just 7 issues. The second was in a "magazine" style format and had more "adult" content aiming at older readers. Unfortunately I have never been able to get hold of copies of these.... but one day!

Space:1999

British readers were able to follow Moonbase Alpha's adventures in Look In, something that up until now I have never read. Something I will shortly rectify.

Space:1999

The fifth Annual carries a number of reprints of the Charlton series. That'll be worth looking out for.

 

Since this is the last of a weekend of Gerry Anderson related posts I just have to end with a video. This time it's the opening sequence.

Wonderful stuff that surely deserves repeats on one of the myriad of channels that broadcast today!



Sunday, 27 September 2015

Action 21 #1 (1988)



Action 21 was a short lived title that was published for just 10 issues in 1988/89. A valiant attempt to relaunch what was in effect a sort of TV Century 21, this monthly comic had all the great features that made that Gerry Anderson orientated comic famous.

This contained all the favourites not just Stingray and Thunderbirds but also Fireball XL5, Captain Scarlett and Lady Penelope

Right down to treating the front page as a newspaper.



I have to say this completely passed me by when it came out and until I found one (just the one) in my local comic shop I'd not even heard of Action 21.

To be honest since there are so few issues it would probably be better to try and collect the more famous TV Century 21.

 

One for the "completists" I would guess.

And since it's Gerry Anderson there just has to be a video. So for fans both old and new here's my personal favourite: Fireball XL5 with a complete episode.



Saturday, 26 September 2015

Thunderbirds: The Comic (1991/95)

Comic

Thunderbirds are go once again as a new revamped series hit CITV earlier this year. The most iconic and popular of the Gerry Anderson shows reaches out to yet another generation. Such revivals shows the continuing popularity of this children's programme, though it's best to forget about that "live action" film which bombed a while back.

Originally launched in the sixties following then end of Stingray, Thunderbirds was a mainstay of the TV Century 21 comic that was produced in the sixties from which all the material in this new comic was taken with some new added "feature" and "fan" pages.

Thunderbirds

The first issue carried several continuing stories including The Earthquake Maker (above), Atlantic Tunnel and The Big Freeze. All great fun with excellent artwork.

The 1992 Summer Special (below) contained a complete story Solar Danger which is based around the team going to try and cool down the Sun and then crash landing on Venus which includes monsters and the like as they sink into a sulphur lake.....

The artwork is by the most famous of comic book British artists Frank Bellamy.

My copy had some pages printed out of sequence but  enjoyable none the less!

Special Last issue Poster

Launched in October 1991 Thunderbirds: The Comic lasted 89 fortnightly issues plus several summer specials and poster editions before being cancelled in 1995.

However this is not the end it would seem.

I discovered from fans on  the Mighty World of British Comics Face Book page that DC Thompson (the publishers of the Beano and Commando) are launching a new Thunderbirds comic in October.

To finish here's a little reminder of the wonderful show itself!



Friday, 25 September 2015

Stingray: The Comic (1993/95)

 

Every so often a new generation gets introduced to the characters created by the late, great Gerry Anderson.

Currently there is a revival of Thunderbirds with new animation on CITV. Back in the nineties there was a similar happening and despite the decline of the British comics that had become so obvious by then, Stingray was given a comic.

This fortnightly contained only a small amount of new material in the form of features whilst the comic strip itself was a straight reprint of the content that appeared in TV Century 21 back in the sixties.



Confusingly they did not reprint whole adventures at a time but several continuing strips.

So for example issue 13 started off with a three page conclusion to The Big Gun, followed by part 2 of The Medallion Mystery, part 2 of Junk Jeopardy and two episodes of The Monster Weed touted as "part 3".

Additionally there was the continuing story of how the "mysterious and beautiful Marina seems to have lost the ability to speak. Yes the Aqaphibians seem to be the culprits with some kind of poison.

Great stuff, some of which I remembered reading and some that I didn't. Worth picking up if you can find copies. They are a lot cheaper than the original TV Century 21 series.

Stingray: The Comic ran for 22 editions between 1992 and 1995 before merging with companion title Thunderbirds where it appeared for a further 20 issues.

Just to end here's a peak at the wonderful Stingray series itself:

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #133 (1973)



Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #133 (DC Comics)

Arnold Drake (w) John Rosenberger (a)

Feeling somewhat unhappy with current events in the Superman range of titles I decided to take a quick break and go back in time to when Superman and his friends lived in a very different world. Lois Lane #133 provided such an opportunity being close to hand amongst some unfiled comics.

Like most comics of this period the cover is somewhat misleading but don't let that put you off!

Set in the seventies (just check out those fashions) this comic tells the story of Lois Lane's brush with death as a man with a grudge (and a bomb) takes her hostage. Superman who as usual is keeping an eye on Lois sees her plight but is unable to act directly as the bomb being controlled by Ronald Devon could "wipe out Metropolis".

Instead using "super-ventriloquism and clues left by our intrepid reporter Clark tries to track down the culprit for this villains grudge.

So just who double crossed Ronald? Three main culprits are visited by Superman as he tries to prevent a disaster in the making.

Those in the Frame?

Dr Trevors his old University Professor, an unnamed Choir Master and finally ex-girlfriend Lena Kerwick.

Just who or what was the reason? You'll have to read to find out.

This was actually one of the last few issues of Lois Lane in her own title. Changing market conditions and poor sales saw Lois, along with Jimmy Olsen move into a "giant" title Superman Family where she starred alongside Supergirl and Krypto, Superman's pet dog.

 

Friday, 18 September 2015

The Eagle (1990)



The Eagle with it's main star Dan Dare is probably one of the most famous comics ever produced. Although the original title had been merged with Lion (back in the seventies), Dan Dare had survived both in that comic until the merger with Valiant and then was revived for 2000AD.

When the new Eagle was launched in 1982 Dare came home. I do recall picking up some of those early issues but was not impressed with the "photo stories" that were originally used in "girls" comics to great effect. They were eventually phased out as the editors realised these didn't appeal to their mostly male readership.

However by the nineties the Eagle was one of the few surviving boys comics. The boom in the American comics industry which was taking place after comics "grew up" with Alan Moore's Watchmen and Frank Millers Dark Knight was matched by the sad decline of the British comics industry.

By this time the Eagle had absorbed several other comics including  the short lived Scream, the long running Tiger, Battle and the much newer Mask and Wildcat. The writing was on the wall.

Like many others I had given up on British comics and for a while even took a break from collecting American comics as reckless cashing in on comics popularity and the money grabbing speculators wrecked the hobby.

I recall being mightily pissed off by someone picking up the last two copies of a comic in The Forbidden Planet (then in Denmark Street) when he only really needed one. The other was to wrap in plastic and gamble on it increasing in price.

The Eagle was very much an anthology which I probably appreciate more now as an oldie than I did back then. Like many men I seem to be going through my "second childhood"!



There were eight strips in the Eagle at this time leading off with Computer Warrior which seems to have drawn in readers who were featured in the story based on computer games. Never been one for games consoles but these things are very popular and have probably contributed to the decline of the comics market.

Next up was Toys of Doom. I just love tales involving toys  coming to "life" through evil machinations. There had been others, this one involved more "nineties" toys whilst the others seemed to mechanise those old Airfix kits we all used to build.

There was a strip called Storm Force whose origins I would guess might be from Mask (open to information from readers on this) and the gritty Charley's War set in the trenches of World War One and a survivor from Battle.

Dan Dare got the colour treatment in the centre and back pages with a tale of a crashed UFO in the shires of England. There be monsters!

Doomlord, a creation for the new Eagle continued. I always found him a wee bit to omnipotent, but his popularity was clear. Rounding off with the rather bizarre Rat Trap in which readers were invited to send in ideas on how to catch this rodent based criminal.




The last story featured Loner, a strip from Wildcat slugging it out with bandits on some god forsaken planet..

One last thing I noticed was that Max, the computer from The Thirteenth Floor (an excellent feature in Scream!) had become the "Editor".



The Eagle was to remain a weekly comic until May 1991 when in a last ditch attempt to save it, became a monthly.

Sadly even that came to an end with an issue cover dated January 1st 1994.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Valiant and Smash Summer Special 1971



The summer of 1971. Two great boys comics had combined and the Summer Special was duly released. The only one as it happens, the next two were Valiant & TV 21 after those two titles merged.

Kicking off with the obligatory Captain Hurricane story (there are two in this issue), this exiting adventure where our Captain rescues a fair maiden from the Japs courage is quickly followed by His Sporting Lordship. I'm not usually a fan of sports related stories but this was a little different and amusing.



Then there's some humour from Banger and Masher....



A cracking adventure with Erik the Viking.



And the sole surviving strip from the former Power Comics days of Smash!, The Swots and The Blots.

Presented here in full colour and complete for your amusement.


 

There's more besides these including my personal favourite Kelly's Eye.

If you find copies of any of these Valiant Specials, grab 'em kids they are a cracking good read!

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Hornet (1960's)



DC Thompson was one of the major comics publishers back in the sixties and produced world famous titles like The Beano and The Dandy. They also published Boys adventure comics, the best known being The Hotspur and The Victor (the latter running until 1992). They also produced one, less well remembered adventure title The Hornet.

This was a comic that I'd almost forgotten about, having read just perhaps a handful of issues when I was a child.  Although it lasted 648 issues between 1963 and 1976 The Hornet never seemed to be able to garner the attention it deserved.

I chose to pick up copies from the mid-sixties a period that I was most likely to have read. Whilst my memory isn't that good from that far back, there was one story that did stir the "little grey cells" as Poirot might have put it.

V for Vengeance.


A group of masked men fighting the Nazi's known as the Deathless Men.

I wonder if this strip inspired a certain young Alan Moore later in life?

Most of the other stories are normal fare for a DC Thompson title and some like The Blitz Kid, The Blind Boxer and The Limping Man are worth a read, though you could give Ugg a miss. Like most titles the strips changed over the years and only in later was there a recognisable character Captain Hornet (yeah I know).

 

Some things don't change. All the issues I picked up contained anti-smoking ads. Pity I didn't listen then when I had the chance...

Still you won't be disappointed if you manage to pick up The Hornet. Sadly the comic never produce the usual Summer Specials and Annuals which suggest a lower sale than it's better known siblings.

The first issue contained a Free Gift of a "Magnificent balsa wood glider". I wonder what today's kids would make of that?

What's "balsa wood mum" do I hear.

Sad, but today's comics for the young ones are just packed with plastic. A sign of the times.

The Hornet

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Strange Planets #1 (1958)



Strange Planets #1 (IW Enterprises)

Various (w) & (a)

This comic and the company that printed it are new to me, but then I'm sure there's lots of stuff in back issue bins like this that generally get passed over and ignored. I only came across it by chance when one of the guys in my local comic shop was sorting some stuff out. At £3.25 for a comic of this age (and in a quite reasonable condition) what was there to lose?

In fact I rather enjoyed this comic which is itself a reprint of old sci-fi stories from earlier in the fifties which I might never have had the chance to read.

The first story Clean Start is illustrated (and credited to) Wally Wood and is one of those morality tales which were so common in this and other formats back in the day. The alien races of the universe considered us too savage to mix with them and feared our imminent expansion into wider space.

So two protoplasmic creatures or scientists I should say are sent to try and make us more peaceful. They do not succeed and make a choice that leaves mankind wiped out much to their ever lasting horror.

Up next comes Marbles with art by Bernard Krigstein which shows how easy it is for man to lose his marbles or sanity when sent into deep space.

The remaining two features Conditioned Reflex and Barrier contain the same theme as the lead story. Mankind is a threat. However the aliens who try to prepare for conquest in Conditioned Reflex are beaten by a case of simple nicotine addiction. Moral? Do not strike a light in a mainly methane atmosphere.

Barrier is as it seems. There's a force field around Earth that prevents mankind from getting off planet. Only when the two warring sides of man get together can they get through, only to be beaten back by an alien warship which promptly seals the barrier.

I'll be looking out for other issues, and keeping my eye on the stars..... cracking stuff from a different era.

 

Monday, 14 September 2015

Charlton Highlight: Wild Bill Hickok and Jingles #71 (1959)



Wild Bill Hickok and Jingles #71 (Charlton Comics)

Various (w) & (a) (all uncredited)

The Western, a long out of favour genre these days but when I was a child they were all the rage. Everybody seemed to play "Cowboys and Indians" and watch TV shows such as Bonanza, The High Chaparral and Alias Smith & Jones.

Memories flooding back?

There were numerous other Western shows and films many of which became comics.

Wild Bill Hickock and Jingles was one of these.

A TV show that became a short lived comic. The fact this edition is numbered #71 is down to Charlton Comics changing the title from Cowboy Western and continuing with the numbering. This title lasted just 8 issues.



The stories and art are pretty average, even for the time. But my copy was quite cheap being in a "well read" condition, not that I'm complaining. It's fascinating to see stuff from this era. I'd have been two years old when this was published.

And no I've never heard of the TV series either, so I've included a video underneath, though be warned it's not a very high quality recording. Pity really.

 
First & last issues

And now your sponsor presents....



Sunday, 13 September 2015

Warren Comics: Vampirella #42 (1975)



Warren Publishing aimed it's black and white horror anthology titles at a more mature market, in other words comics for adults and because of this were outside the rather restrictive Comics Code Authority that was responsible for censoring the mainstream publishers such as DC and Marvel.

In addition to their horror anthologies Creepy and Eerie, they also published  Vampirella, the tales of a Vampire from the Planet Draculon who came to Earth to fight vampires and other evils in the skimpiest of costumes possible. As such it did have a certain appeal in those less than politically correct days, but compared to the graphics produced by some modern publishers such as Avatar, the scenes are in fact quite tame.

Like Warrens other comics Vampirella is an anthology title led by tales of the vampire herself  and contained another ongoing series Pantha about a woman who turned into a Panther which could be gruesome. You really didn't want to make her angry.

Subscriptions came with a free gift of the poster below. I have a modern reprint of this and it is in fact life size and will fit on your bedroom door.



In this issue, Vampirella and her companion Pendragon crash land in the Amazon and face The Mountain of Skulls built by cannibal women who eat their victims and then plate the skulls in gold. Whilst Vampi wanders off to try and find help her fellow survivors are captured and the noisy one gets his head lopped ready for dinner.

Vampi manages to locate assistance in the form of some gold hunters so you just know things are not going to end well.

This is followed by an odd tail called ...Just beyond Eternity, best described as a tale of survival and love during and after the first world war. Laugh Clown Laugh! comes next with the downfall of Barnum's most famous clown because of man's mistrust of those who are different. A morality tale if you wish.

Pantha appears in the seedy world of strippers, used and abused by those around her until one ftal advance causes her to turn and tear her harasser apart. This story (which involved lesbianism) did cause some consternation in the letter pages a couple of issues on.

The final tale, The Whitfield Contract is about an assassin with a bit of a twist as he decides to retire and renege on his last assignment.

These comics actually stand up to the test of time and are well worth reading.

Vampirella ran for 113 issues from 1969 to 1988.

However her story does not end there. The rights to this character where first taken over by Harris Comics and today the licence is with Dynamite Entertainment.

Vampirella continues her fight against evil!

 

First and last issues of the Warren run.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Wildcat #1 (1988)



One of the more unusual British comics was the short live Wildcat launched in late 1988. A glossy fortnightly, Wildcat differed from other titles because the whole issue though segmented was not an anthology as most of us were used to. Wildcat was in fact the name of a spaceship containing the last few hundred members of humanity looking for a new home.

The different "strips" inside were about different landing teams on a newly discovered planet that they hope to make their new home....

Readers of other Fleetway titles had been been introduced to Wildcat through a free preview comic inserted in 2000AD, Buster, Whizzer, Oink, Eagle and even Roy of the Rovers in an attempt to give this title a chance of success.

So after picking up my first issue, I now have the problem of tracking down on of those comics with the preview to catch up with the story, which to be fair is abridged on page two.

The art and stories inside are good quality with plenty of aliens, man eating plants and electrified "Tribbles" to keep one occupied.

Wildcat lasted just 12 issues before merging with Eagle, though a Summer and a Winter Special were published after it's cancellation so collecting isn't too daunting.

This copy wasn't too dear costing £12 and did have the free gift, a poster of an "alien zoo" to which stickers were added from future issues.